(Dan's) basic method of preparing and smoking an
Turkey is as follows:
is going to be a topic that is very short and simple. There is
not too much to smoking a turkey that takes a lot of information or
space to describe.
TYPE, COST, & WHEN TO BUY
typically like to go with a Hen and have a weight of 10 - 12
pounds. However, in reality, ANY sex or weight will do
fine. Just if you happen to have your preferences satisfied.
course Turkey tends to be a seasonal thing. I like to buy my
Turkeys for under .59 cents per pound, or get them free for buying $20
worth of other supermarket groceries. That is to say around
September people start to discuss Turkeys and BBQ's Galore will start
putting a smoker outside their store on Saturday mornings with a
turkey in it smoking all day to attract people. The subsequent
holidays seem to be a time to have the basic food items we all like
around that time. In my household and amongst my friends it is
Prime Rib roast bone-in, Turkey, Ham, Lasagna, Pork Butt, Pork Ribs,
and Brisket. The latter 3 being the least requested.
that is a loaded question. There are folks out there that swear
if you do not brine your bird (turkey or chicken) will not be
moist. The brining effect will chemically cause the moisture to
remain in the bird. Go to a brining article or watch Alton Brown
on Food TV to get the specifics. I relate my own experiences as
much as possible and what I will do.
will brine every Thanksgiving Turkey I do. Now, if you asked if
I benefited from it I will tell you that I honestly have never felt I
have. Lets understand what we are brining for. First is
taste and the other is moisture. A very basic brine will consist
of enough icy water to cover your bird in a plastic or stainless
bucket of some type. Needs to be icy so the bird does not grow salmonella
(between 40 - 140 degrees). Which also happens to be the range
that the smoke flavor enters meats that you are cooking in a
smoker. Then to that amount of water I would add 1/2 - 1 cup of
kosher salt and sugar (or sweetener of your choice) to balance out the
salt. Then add additional herbs and seasonings to please your
taste. That is what a basic brine consist of. To benefit
most from it your bird needs to be in the bring for 24 hours at
least. Maybe that is why I don't benefit that much from my
brining as I do them for only 12 hours typically.
the brining period is over I then pull, pat dry with paper towels so
the addition of seasonings will not run off, and proceed to a normal
cooking and smoking process. Maybe one of the reasons I can get
away without brining and have a moist bird is that I will keep a
temperature gauge in the bird the last hour or two and ensure my
temperature in the thigh does not exceed 162. For me
that means a very moist bird, brined or not!
to be quite honest I cannot always detect the taste of the herbs or
seasonings I used after the bird is smoked. I will use a bunch
of fresh, chopped, crushed Rosemary, Basil, Lemon zest, garlic, and
onion ingredients in my brine, smells great going in the brine, coming
out, and while putting on the smoker. Might catch a waft of it
at the table, sometimes.
use your best judgment and do what pleases you reference to
brining. I will continue to do so and see if I can improve my
birds. After all, sometimes it is the process that is more fun
than the outcome.
One last method that is
very easy and makes a great product is to split the turkey in half,
season, and lay both halves, skin side up, on a smoker shelf.
Makes for a very nice end product, in less time, and cooked very
like to inject a turkey. Typically I don't however inject a
chicken. For chicken you can use Teriyaki, Soy, butter, or
whatever. But, it does cause what might be perceived as an unpleasant
color or pockets of strong flavoring. For turkey however I like
a simple solution of about 1/3 honey, 1/3 maple syrup, 1/3 butter with
some garlic and onion granules or paste along with some fine pepper
added to taste. The Maple syrup helps thin out the honey so it
can be injected easier. Also, heat the mixture via the microwave
or stove top so of course the butter will be melted but especially to
get the honey to flow through the needle.
injection I then apply my rub and put in the smoker on a vertical
vented wire turkey stand. I will stand the turkey straight up on
the stand, neck up, wings folded back, and that is about
it. No real preparation to do other than that. Oh,
don't forget to remove the giblet pack behind the neck skin. I
forgot it was there once and it totally threw my cooking sequence
off. My turkey just would not cook properly due to air flow
problems and the temperature gauge not reading correctly.
Finally I removed the turkey from the smoker and found the
problem. Sliced some done breast meat for the guests, then stuck
the rest in the oven to finish cooking while the guests all waited now
for what was to become an overdone and dry turkey.
PROCESS OF SMOKING
putting the turkey in the smoker (I like to use Weber Smokey Mountain
Water Smokers) on a vertical wire vented turkey stand just ensure your
fire is at around 240, your water pan is full, the fire is going well,
then add some nice flavoring woods like Apple, Oak, pecan, or Hickory to suit
your tastes. I have found that a 10-12 pound turkey (which is
the weight that I almost use) will most always come to 166-168
degrees, measured in the thigh area, in 4 hours to 4 1/2 hours ( +/- a
few minutes ). I also put a small bowl, being careful not to
block hot air flow through the turkey, under the turkey stand.
Usually on a shelf below. This will then catch the drippings for
making gravy later. However, be aware, this can be some strong
stuff with the smoke flavor it has obtained.
few things to be very aware of while smoking:
- Typically the rule of thumb is to not start basting until you are
half way through your cooking cycle. This prevents you from
washing off your rubs or seasonings. They will have adhered at
that time due to the heat and cooking process.
So, in the case of the Turkey I typically baste with melted
butter. While adding, or using, the captured drippings in the
bowl I have placed below the bird. You might want to use a foil
bowl or coat the bowl in foil so you don't have to try and get the
smoke stains off.
Every time you take the top off the smoker, or open a door, you might
set your total cooking time back 15 minutes so I typically would only
baste every 30 - 45 minutes once I start.
I might very loosely cover the top half of the turkey in the last hour
with a piece of foil to prevent extreme darkening if the smoking
process, or woods/fuels used seems to be getting the bird extra
dark. That usually does not happen.
When determining temperature use your favorite quick-read thermometer
and stick the probe down, from the top, behind the skin around the
neck, through the breast, all the way down as low as you can
get. Try and get down to the thigh area. NEVER penetrate
the skin while doing this as if you do all juices will run out
of the bird at that penetration hole and you will definitely have a
dry bird. If you stay behind the skin you can try many different
locations and never cause moisture loss. Remember, the turkey is
standing vertical and on a stand at this time (neck up).
The breast always will cook first. I however want to at least
get the rest of the bird done while not drying out the breast and
keeping them moist. So, I will typically pull my bird at 166-168 in
the thigh or joint. I just will then put it in a food warmer
till the rest of the dinner is ready. That can be as long as an
hour or two. It will still be fine.
Not too much to be said about trimming and slicing other than let
the bird rest for at least 20 minutes outside the smoker so you don't
lose all your juices. Typically mine will rest in a Cambro
(professional food warmer) for an hour or two.
it like you like. We happen to like turkey legs a lot and go for
them first. If you are not going to eat it all at your current
meal don't slice it all as it will dry out. Just slice what you
are going to eat. I might even take the entire breast
portion off the carcass the slice it. All a matter of
Something my family likes a lot, and we cook fairly often, is
smoked turkey legs. We can pick them up at the local Mexican
market for .49 - .69 cents per pound. If you just put some rub
on them, put in the smoker for 3-4 hours, baste occasionally with your
favorite liquid (seasoned melted butter will work), you will have a
very tasty and easy to prepare horsdoeuvre. We often cook them
to eat as a snack until the normal dinner is ready. They also taste
great the next day. They sell them often at special events and
fairs for $6 - $8 each.