Hello and welcome to this special Thanksgiving edition of the
Smoking Meat Newsletter.
I have had a ton of questions over the past several weeks on smoking the holiday bird and while I have tried to answer a few, there is no way I can answer all of them due to time constraints.
Hopefully this write-up will answer most of your questions and if not.. you might consider checking out the Smoking Meat Forums.
P.S. I have included free a link to my newest ebook entitled "How to Smoke Meat".. enjoy!!
One quick thing I would like to mention is that this is a special issue in that, there is so much information on smoking the turkey that all the other usual articles and topics are not included.
This free newsletter as well as the smoking-meat.com website and the forum at SmokingMeatForums.com are all supported by donations and sales of recipes from good folks like yourself.
If you have benefited in any way from this newsletter or any or our other resources, please consider purchasing my very special Rib Rub and Barbecue Sauce recipes.
The recipes are out of this world good and is an excellent investment at any price.
I ask a very modest $18.95 for these two recipes and you will find that they work extremely well on almost anything and the rub is amazing on turkey!
Do your best in supporting smoking meat.. it is greatly appreciated!
The Holiday Turkey.. Step by Step
Purchasing the Bird
To start with you will need to purchase a bird that is preferably labeled as "MINIMALLY PROCESSED" and weighs in at 12 pounds or less.
The minimally processed label simply means it is fresh and has not been shot full of a salty solution in an effort to make it more flavorful and juicy.
If all else fails, any turkey will do but the label carrying birds are the best in my opinion.
The weight as I mentioned above is extremely important for safety reasons.
Above 12 pounds or so and the bird stays in the danger zone (between 40 and 140 degrees) for too long and stands a chance of spoiling before it is done cooking.
Brining is a process that I highly recommend and simply entails soaking the bird in a brine made from water,salt, sugar and possibly other flavorings for about 12 hours.
I will not go into the scientific details of why this works so well but many will attest to the fact that it will produce the juiciest and most flavorful turkey you have ever eaten.
I will not smoke a turkey without doing this personally.
I have never liked oven-turkey and always felt like it was too dry and tasteless to bother with.
After learning to brine and then smoke the turkey many years ago, I now look forward to the thanksgiving meat of choice.
I recommend you try it.
My personal recipe for the brine is:
2 Gal Water 2 Cups Kosher Salt 3 Cups Sugar 1/4 Cup Zatarains Liquid Crab Boil (optional) 4 TBS Black Pepper 1 TBS Dried Rosemary 1 TBS Thyme 1/4 Cup Molasses 1/4 Cup White Wine (not Cooking Wine) 1/4 Cup Worcestershire
I like to put all the ingredients (except the water and salt) into a sauce pan and get a good mix going before adding it to the brine solution.
For a turkey, I recommend a 5-gallon bucket that has never been used for anything else. You can get these at Lowe's or Home Depot for under 5 bucks.
If the turkey tries to float, you can place a clean brick inside of a large ziploc bag and place it on top of the turkey to hold it under the water.
If you need more detailed information on the brining process, see my page on brining meat at the smoking-meat.com website.
Preparing the Turkey
Once the turkey is done brining, rinse it really good under cold water and set it aside to drain off the water.
Now we get into some optional steps but highly recommended I might add..
I have decided to include some tips and tricks on how to get the skin crispy even while smoking at lower temperatures.
I cannot claim this trick as my own unfortunately but it is a good one and I think it is worth a try if you really like crispy skin..
Coat the outside of the turkey with MAYONAISSE, rub in some good rub, I usually use my special Rib rub just because it is so darn tasty but if you have your own or want to do without, that will be ok too.
The eggs in the mayo tends to do an excellent job of crisping up the skin as it cooks and your friends and family will be fighting over the skin when it comes time to eat!
If you prefer Miracle Whip over Mayo then that will work just as well.
You may also want to place some veggies or fruit inside the cavity.. not a lot as you want the heat to be able to get in there and do a little cookin' as well but a couple of apple halves or some celery and carrots, even some onion slices would do a great job.
These items will steam flavor into the meat from the inside and add a nice aroma once you bring it in.
Just remember.. no stuffing in the cavity! This is a health hazard at the low temperatures of smoking.
If you want to stuff the turkey, you can make the stuffing in a pan in the oven or smoker and then add it into the cavity of the turkey once it is finished and brought into the house.
I also like to try and get some of the rub up under the skin. You will be able to lift the skin up and get under it a little bit in some places and this is too much of an opportunity to pass up.
Once the rub, flavorings, mayo, etc. are in place the turkey won't mind sitting there for a few minutes while you go get the smoker ready.
Preparing the Smoker for the Bird
Now some of you will be using stick burners and others will be using either charcoal, electric or gas.
All in all, the process is pretty much the same. You will need to either light the charcoal with a charcoal chimney, weed burner (my favorite method here lately), turn on the gas for your propane unit or plug in the cord for your electric unit.
Spend a few minutes getting your smoker up to temp, placing your smoking wood into the smoker and setting the water pan into place if applicable.
If you need detailed instructions for using smoking wood in a charcoal, gas or electric unit then be sure to read my newest eBook on "How to Smoke Meat" which is chock full of tips, tricks, ideas and instructions for various types/models of smokers.
Smoking the Turkey
Once the smoker is ready and maintaining your target temperature you can go get the turkey from where you left it and set it right on the grate breast side down.
I like to leave it breast side down for about an hour then flip it to breast side up however, this is not that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things, in my opinion of course, and if you want to place it breast side up or even hanging by the feet, it will still turn out better than any oven cooked turkey by a country mile!
I don't always baste the turkey but if I do it is melted butter with some rub added to it or Cajun seasoning about once every hour or so.
Add about 6 wood chunks to the charcoal or a small 2 inch split about 12-16 inches long will work also. Just make sure you have plenty of airflow as usual.. meaning the intake of air into the firebox area should be open about half way or so and the exhaust of smoke (chimney, vents, etc.) should be open 1/4 to 1/2 of the way.
These things are somewhat subjective however, the main thing is that you can see very light smoke flowing through the smoke chamber and out the chimney or vent at a fairly rapid pace.
Slow smoke will get stagnant and create creosote on the surface of the meat.. this is not good.
Maintain about 250 degrees and keep the smoke flowing at least until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees.
You may have a unit which does not have any temperature settings and that is fine too. It will most likely be able to maintain around 225 to 275 and that is not bad for poultry.
For a 12 pound turkey, the cook time will be around 6 hours at 250 degrees. Obviously, if you maintain a higher temperature then the cook time will be less.
I have given you an idea of the time you should be looking at however, ultimately it is the temperature of the meat that will tell you when the bird is finished.
In spite of what you may have heard, 165 degrees is the safe temperature of all poultry. Once it reaches this temperature you can remove it from the grate and bring it into the house for a time of resting before you carve it.
I generally like to allow about 15 minutes but 20 to 25 minutes would be ideal to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Enjoy the turkey that you have worked so hard to bring to the table and most of all, enjoy the company
If you have a hankering for some excellent sides for your Thanksgiving meal, I have several of my favorites listed below:
Whipped Sweet Potato Recipe
(makes 5 servings)
Our rule: NEVER use canned sweet potatoes. Yuck!
5 large sweet potatoes, baked, peeled and cut into chunks 1/2 stick butter, softened (Real butter please) 1/2 c. brown sugar 1/2 c. whipping cream (more if desired) 1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. ground cloves 1 c. pecans (optional) 2 Tbs. melted butter
In a mixing bowl, beat together butter & brown sugar. Gradually add chunks of sweet potatoes alternating with cream until mixture is smooth. Add cinnamon and ground cloves. Pour into a buttered glass baking dish and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle pecans on top, and brush with melted butter. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Serve with whipped cream, if desired
Holiday Green Bean Recipe
(Taking green beans to the next level)
(makes 8 servings)
3 lbs. fresh green beans, rinsed, ends trimmed 2 Tbs. olive oil 1 onion, chopped 1 1/2 tsp. salt 2 Tbs. coarsely ground black pepper 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 1/2 c. cooking wine
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add green beans and sauté for another 5 minutes, tossing with onions, and adding oil as needed. Pour cooking wine into bottom of pan and sprinkle beans with salt. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with kosher salt and coarse pepper.
Turkey Stuffing Recipe (See Variations Below) ( No more stuffing out of the box.. make your own using my favorite family recipe)
2 stick butter 4 onions, coarsely chopped 2 c. coarsely chopped celery 2 tsp. dried sage 2 tsp. salt (+ more to taste) 4 tsp. coarsely ground pepper (+ more to taste) 6 1/2 c. chicken broth or turkey drippings (you can use more or less, depending on how moist you like your dressing) 2 loaves stale white bread, cut into cubes (9-10 c.) 2 bunches fresh parsley, coarsely chopped 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onions and celery for about 10 minutes. Add spices and stir to coat onions & celery; cook for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 c. chicken broth or drippings and cook for about 5 minutes, until broth has reduced, stirring often.
Remove onion mixture from heat. In a large dutch oven or very large mixing bowl, combine onion mixture with bread cubes, parsley, eggs and chicken broth. Mix well.
You can then stuff your turkey loosely with the stuffing, and cook the remainder in a buttered baking dish for 30-45 minutes at 375. However, we recommend that you cook your stuffing separately, and if you are smoking a turkey, you'll want to do this anyway.
Cornbread Stuffing – use 4 1/2 c. each crumbled cooked cornbread and cubed white bread.
Fruity Stuffing – Add 1 c. each walnuts & dried cranberries or 1 c. each raisins and pecans.
Other tips – For "wetter" stuffing, use 1/2 c. more broth and 1 more egg; for dry stuffing, use less broth and brush top with butter 5 minutes before removing from oven.
Add 2 c. finely chopped green apples.
Perfect Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Tired of using the canned cranberry sauce? Here is how to make the real stuff! Super easy and super impressive!
1 c. sugar 1 c. fresh cranberries 1 c. water
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened. Makes about 5 servings.