Turkey being smoked. Looks amazing, right?
Turkeys are widely enjoyed and loved in the United Kingdom and the United States. But you will be surprised to know that Israel consumes more turkeys than the US. Yes, you got it right. Israel. Well, turkeys are iconic and compulsory dishes for Thanksgiving but guess what? You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving anymore to enjoy a turkey.
You can smoke it, grill it, bake it or use any other cooking method. But have you ever tried smoking a turkey? I know it sounds hard but trusts me, it is not. In fact, if you for once try this you will never want to cook it any other way.
Map things out
Now smoking a turkey is absolutely the best way to cook your turkey as a whole. It keeps your turkey tender and juicy bursting with flavor. Smoking but is a slower process than roasting so make sure to read the whole procedure and map things out so you can do the math with your timings. But the result will be worth all the patience.
CHOOSING YOUR TURKEY
Now for smoking a Turkey, a fresh, free-range turkey is recommended. Buying a frozen turkey is not at all compulsory in fact a fresh turkey tastes more tender and delicious. But if you do buy a frozen turkey make sure you don’t thaw it quickly. Give it some time and slow thaw it over one to two days because if you quick thaw it, it will cause the bacteria in the turkey to activate at a quicker pace.
Make sure you select a medium-sized turkey. If it is too large, the risk of overcooking the outer skin and leaving the inner skin undercooked will increase.
It will make a serving for 10 to 12 people but if you are making it for yourself or lesser people you can store the leftover in freezing packets and freeze it. You can use it in shawarmas, curries, rice or sandwiches. However, it is better to use it as soon as possible.
BRINING YOUR TURKEY
So the first step is to brine your turkey. Brine is basically a highly concentrated solution of salt and water however many other things can b added as a plus point. Brining is just like marinating your bird. It basically makes sure that the inner part, outer skin and every part of your bird is rich with flavor.
There are a lot of recipes for preparing the brine. One of the most used is this.
INGREDIENTS FOR BRINE
- 2 gallons of tap water
- One cup of brown sugar
- One cup molasses
- One cup honey
- One and a half cup salt
- One-fourth cup of your favorite BBQ rub
- 3-4 bay leaves
- Fresh thyme bundles
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorn
Mix your 1 gallon of water, sugar, molasses, honey, salt, BBQ rub and bay leaves in a saucepan. Turn the heat on when you see that all ingredients are dissolved, turn the heat off. Leave it on the side and wait for it to cool.
Place your turkey in a big plastic bag (if you can’t find XL size, you can use clean trash bags. No jokes, it works the same way). Pour your brine in and add the other gallon of water in it. Make sure your turkey is fully submerged in the liquid.
Now put your bag containing the turkey in your fridge and let it rest for 24 hours.
TIME TO STUFF!
Once you have brined the bird it is time to wash it thoroughly. Make sure that you wash it properly so that there are no pieces in neck and cavity. Now for the stuffing, cut some apples and onions in half and stuff them into your bird along with celery.
It helps to maintain the plump look of the bird and ensures that the bird is cooked evenly and adds that extra bit of flavor. You can try adding herbs such as sage or rosemary.
Traditional stuffing is not required and it is better to keep it this way because the cavity may not high enough temperatures to ensure that the stuffing is cooked too.
Now for the rub. Firstly spray some cooking spray or oil on the turkey to make sure that the seasoning sticks to the bird properly.
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated garlic
- Any poultry seasoning that you find from a nearby utility store.
- You may add a BBQ rub for extra taste. Sprinkle it all over the word and make sure it covers the whole turkey properly.
INJECTING YOUR TURKEY
Now injecting your turkey is totally up to you. It is not compulsory. But if you choose to inject your turkey, here is how to do it
- One stick real butter
- One cup chicken broth
- One tablespoon hot sauce
- One teaspoon granulated garlic
- One teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the broth, Cajun, garlic and hot sauce. When they all are incorporated, remove from heat. It is not compulsory to boil it. Once it has cooled down, hit the turkey 3 to 4 places in the breast and the same for the thighs and legs.
SMOKING THINGS UP
The first thing you want to do is assemble the smoker and for that, you need to look at the manufacturer’s guidelines.
FOR A WATER SMOKER
If you are using wood chips, make sure that you soak them before putting them on the coals. Place your turkey on the top rack (breast side up). Now you have to maintain the temperature at around about 250 F. to that you have to manage your water and briquettes.
Cook until the bird reaches about 165 F in the breast and about 175-180 F in the thighs and legs. If the bird is over 12 lbs it will take approximately 6 to 10 hours for it to cook properly.
FOR AN ELECTRIC SMOKER
For this set the temperature to around about 225 F. cook until the temperature in the inner thighs reaches 180 F. this will take about 8 to 12 hours. Within the first four hours, the turkey must reach 140 F or else you would have to finish it up in the oven.
A probe thermometer will allow you to that when is the meat safe to eat by inserting it in the thighs and the breast. If you don’t have one, you can easily get one on Amazon.
You can also use a regular grill with a smoker box. You can also use a combination grill as long as it has a lid and you can maintain the temperature from 250 to 300 F. if you got your temperature maintained, you are good to go!
DON’T FORGET TO TURN IT
Baste and turn your turkey after every thirty minutes. Apply more of melted butter mix.
CHECK AFTER EVERY HOUR
Check your turkey after every hour. Juice should come pouring out every time you prick it with a skewer or anything similar and there should be traces of blood or pink fluids. If you think that the skin has started getting dark before it is properly cooked, place a piece of aluminum foil over it.
It works pretty well and prevents it browning up further. When you see that the internal temperatures are just perfect, you can remove your turkey from the smoker. It is all done. VOILA!
TIPS AND TRICKS
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you out so that you have everything done just the right way.
ALLOW IT TO REST
Make sure that before you start carving your turkey when you take it off the smoker, let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t let it rest and start carving right away all of the juice will come running out as soon as you start to carve it and it will result in a dry turkey.
You can baste your turkey with apple juice. It adds a little more flavor. But it is totally up to you. You can use melted butter too.
KEEP CHECKING THE TEMPERATURE
Make sure to keep a check on the temperature. Keep checking it after an interval of an hour or so.
BE PATIENT! The process takes a lot of time so you need to hold your horses and show some patience. I know that it is hard but the results are worth it.
Now you can enjoy a smoked turkey anytime. You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to impress your friends and family to impress them with your very own smoked turkey. You can use them, eat for sandwiches, curries or anything else.
Once you try smoking a turkey, I am sure that you would not want to make your bird any other way. So, the next time you smoke a turkey, don’t forget to smoke it this way!
Image credits via Flickr creative commons: Chris