Given that it hasn’t been long since my evangelical post, “Smoking Meat–It’s time you tried it yourself“, and it isn’t too long until Thanksgiving, I thought I’d pass along my favorite technique for smoking a crowd-pleasing turkey. It isn’t the easiest smoked dish, but like most smoked items, it isn’t as hard as it looks, either. And if you do it right, it will be the one of the moistest turkeys you’ve ever had. I’ve always used my cheap charcoal water smoker successfully for this in the past, but I’m certain you can use a larger off-set firebox style as well. In fact, I’ll probably do my turkey that way this year just to see how it does (post publication note: it worked great).
One of the secrets I learned after a few less-than-great efforts (though admittedly still good), was to brine the turkey first. And this goes for cooking it any other way as well. It makes for a moister, more tender turkey. I got my current “Out of this World Turkey Brine” recipe from allrecipes.com. As you can see, it is quite simple. If you don’t have canning salt (who does?), use Kosher salt rather than iodized salt. I usually line a utility bucket with a plastic bag, and mix the brine in there, and then place the turkey in it. I let the air out of the bag and seal it, and then put it in the refrigerator over night (you can pour ice over the top of the bag in the bucket if you don’t have room in the fridge). The recipe says to brine for two days, but I’ve done fine with one. When you are ready to start smoking, drain the brine from the turkey, rinse it in cool tap water, and pat it dry. Oil it, season it, and you’re ready to go!
The basic “Ultimate smoked turkey” recipe and “super smoking sauce” recipe I use are both from the Cook’n Cajun Water Smoker Cookbook, which appears to be out-of-print, but still available. Because it is out-of-print, I don’t feel too guilty sharing these recipes from there, though I do highly recommend the book if you get a water smoker. I’ve modified the turkey recipe a bit, but the sauce recipe is identical to the one in the book.
MILDLY MODIFIED ULTIMATE SMOKED TURKEY
Modified from: Cook’n Cajun
WW PointsPlus (New): 2 Points (without skin: 1 slice, 1/2 cup cubed, or 2 oz. shredded)
WW Points (Old): 2 Points (without skin: 1 slice, 1/2 cup cubed, or 2 oz. shredded)
- 8-12 pound turkey, brined
- Canola oil or margarine
- favorite seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s or Emeril’s Essence)
- 2 Medium sweet or yellow onions, quartered
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp dried)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried)
- 1/2 cup white wine or apple juice
- Super smoking sauce (recipe below)
- Wood chunks (easier than chips)–I prefer apple, pecan, or hickory, in that order–but hickory is easiest to find
- Start charcoal (preferably with chimney, rather than lighter fluid)
- Rinse brined turkey and pat dry
- Rub with oil
- Sprinkle with seasoning inside and out
- Stuff turkey with one of the quartered onions, and half of the thyme and rosemary
- Fill smoker water pan with hot water, wine or apple juice, the other onion, bay leaves, and remaining thyme and rosemary
- Place turkey on cooking grid
- Add 2-3 wood chunks to charcoal pan/box–I add more when it stops smoking, about every hour or so for the first two or three hours
- Maintain the heat of the smoker at between 225-250 degrees. You’ll need to add charcoal about every two hours or so
- It will take 30-45 minutes per pound to cook the turkey to the safe “done” temperature of 165 degrees. You must use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and thigh to figure this out. I have one that has a wire that runs from the probe inside the meat to the digital read-out on the shelf outside of the grill, so I can watch the temperature without opening the lid and letting out the heat (each peek can add 15 minutes or so to the cook time)
- Halfway through cooking time (estimate), brush turkey all over with warm Super Smoking Sauce (recipe below) and check water pan level–refill with hot water if running low (it will be)
- When your turkey is at the finished temperature, baste with the sauce one more time. Let sit on the smoker another 15 minutes.
- Remove turkey from smoker, cover with foil, and let sit another 15 minutes on counter or table
- Carve–Note: the meat will be pinkish in color. If one of your obnoxious guests says “Hey! That turkey looks raw! Is that safe?” simply look at them with confidence, tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about, quote the internal temperature, and tell them that’s what it is supposed to look like. Hypothetically, of course…
- Save wings and carcass for awesome Smoked Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
SUPER SMOKING SAUCE
Source: Cook’n Cajun
WW Points: Not Applicable
Note: This version is halved from the original.
- 1/2 pound margarine
- 1/3 cup sherry or red wine
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1-2 clove garlic, finely chopped (book says one, I use two)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil
- Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes
- Keep warm (or reheat) for turkey basting half-way through cooking time and 15 minutes before finishing
Not too far from what I do. I stuff mine with onion, carrots, celery and green apple. Smoked turkeys are super moist!
Your smoked turkey breast is the best we’ve ever had. Turkey is usually my last choice for meat because it can be dry, but I could eat yours with a smile all day long! We actually wrote up a review of it here when we last saw you at the Torrance Farmers Market: http://www.thetasteplace.com/2010/08/22/torrance-farmers-market-worth-the-trip/