Good day and welcome to the October edition of the Smoking-Meat.com monthly newsletter. I am your host, Jeff Phillips and we will be talking about some special turkey smoking tips in this issue.
Fall is upon us here in Oklahoma with much cooler days and wonderfully cool nights bringing with it the wonderful thoughts of the holiday season that lies ahead of us. It is the time of year when I do more smoking than anything else.. I love smoking them turkeys for christmas and Thanksgiving and I usually throw on a lot of ribs, chicken and pork shoulders all in between the actual holidays. What can I say.. the cooler air just gets me in the mood!
I don't smoke pumpkins or we would definitely be dealing with Halloween in this edition of the newsletter but just around the corner is Thanksgiving and time to start thinking about smoking the perfect turkey. For those of you who have never attempted this let me assure you that it is not as difficult as you may think and after you do it a time or two you will feel like a pro. We have about 6 weeks till the turkey day and plenty of time to pick one up and give it a full practice run. I am going to be giving you some tips to help you out so keep reading.
How to Smoke the Worlds Finest Turkey
As with anything else that we tend to smoke, there are as many turkey smoking tips as there are guys and gals who like to smoke turkeys and if you have your own special way of doing it.. you know that tried and true method that always gets great results then by all means don't change things up but for those of you who are new to this and are not sure where to get started then listen up. I am going to give you a few tips on how to smoke that gobbler like a professional.
Let me encourage you to stick with a turkey that is at or below 12 pounds.. anything bigger than this and it takes too long to smoke and stays in that danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees for way too long.
Smoke Now Stuff Later
Another thing is to not stuff the turkey.. when smoking at lower temps the heat needs to be able to circulate inside the cavity as well as the outside and this is impossible when it is stuffed full of mama's homemade dressing.. just make it on the stove and if you want it inside the turkey you can put in in after the turkey is done.
What to Look For When Purchasing
When buying a turkey, get one that says "MINIMALLY PROCESSED" on the outside of the package. This means it has not been injected by anything and is certifiably fresh.
How to Thaw the Turkey
If the turkey is frozen then you will need to thaw it out in the fridge where it is safe and NOT in the sink with cold water or any other dangerous method. Make sure the turkey stays in an environment that is less than 40 degrees until it is time to place it in the smoker.
The first thing you should do is remove all of the giblets, neck and other body parts from the cavity of the turkey. You can throw these away or save them for making gravy or whatever. Wash the entire turkey real good with cool water using your clean hands to scrub the outside of the turkey. Remove any visible fat and set the turkey aside on a flat pan like a cookie sheet.
Stuff it With Veggies
I like to cut up a few onions, carrots, celery and apples, with some brown sugar and worcestershire sauce and place it in the cavity for some extra flavor. (note: this will be discarded once the turkey is done smoking.)
Don't Remove the Skin
Be sure and leave the skin on the turkey as this protects the meat during smoking.. if you are smoking a breast or other part of the turkey that is skinless then you can wrap it in cheese cloth using some twine to hold it on. This will still let the smoke through to flavor the turkey but will serve to protect the meat from drying out. You may also want to periodically mop the exterior with olive oil, melted butter or some apple juice.
To Rub or Not to Rub
Whether to put a rub on the turkey or not is entirely up to you.. I usually do not rub my turkeys and if I do I make sure to get the rub very carefully up under the skin so it will actually flavor the meat and not just the outside of the skin.
Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
When it comes to smoking the turkey I recommend a good fruit wood such as plum, apricot, peach, apple, etc. however you can also get great results using other non-fruit woods such as oak, pecan, hickory, and mesquite. I smoked several turkeys last year using plum wood and the flavor was absolutely unbelievable!
Smoking the Turkey
Use a good lump charcoal as your base for all of you charcoal smokers and be prepared to use upwards of 10 pounds or so before the turkey is finished smoking. You will want to maintain around 225 degrees and avoid opening the door or lid of the smoker any more than you have to.
Place the turkey in the smoker breast side down for the first hour or so and then flip it over for the remaining time.
When is it Done?
If you have one of those good Taylor probe thermometers then use it to monitor the temperature of the turkey by sticking the probe in the thickest part of the breast or thigh and make sure you do not pull the turkey until it has reached at least 165 degrees. My magic temperature for turkey as well as chicken is 172 degrees.. and the meat is never dry and no one has ever gotten sick from my smoked meat. Safety is a key factor in smoking meat.. don't ever forget that.
What Does a Finished Smoked Turkey Look Like?
You will know when the turkey is getting close to being done, because it will be dark golden brown.