Smoked Turkey
November 11, 2009 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I am going to smoke a turkey this year for Thanksgiving. Uh. 'Smoke' like a brisket, not 'smoke' like a cigarette. Any advice?

I have a Weber Bullet, and I am reasonably comfortable with it - done a bunch of briskets and ribs. But a whole turkey? That is out of my comfort zone. The stakes are high because, well, it's Thanksgiving. I get one shot and if I botch it we're all eating macaroni and cheese. And my appetite for turkey is not such that I care to do a practice turkey.

There are a couple of good looking techniques over on the useful website with the dumb name, and I am leaning towards the apple brine method they have, but first hand accounts, tips, tricks, recipes, or caveats would be great.
posted by dirtdirt to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Brining really does help and is worth it. Other than that, it's not much different than smoking a brisket, really. Just go slow and don't let it dry out by not letting it get too hot. A citrus/honey kind of glaze can help form a crust to seal in moisture, too.

If you've done brisket and ribs well, you'll do fine.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:34 AM on November 11, 2009

Try practicing with a large chicken. Including the brining.
Use a meat thermometer.
Do not overcook the bird or you will have dry, mealy meat.
posted by Seamus at 8:09 AM on November 11, 2009

Brining helps, a lot.

I think fruitwood is nicer with mild turkey than woods that produce smoke with heavier flavors - if you want to throw a little hickory or mesquite in there, I'd be very sparing with it.

The turkeys I've smoked, I've always done draped with bacon or salt pork over the breast. Goes a long way towards keeping the breast meet moist. If you don't want the extra smoke flavor bacon provides, check out using strips of plain pork belly (should be available at your local butcher or big Asian grocery store).

If you want to make gravy, remember to roast an extra pan of parts in the oven (wings, necks, and drumsticks work well) for drippings.

And make sure your guests understand how smoking works, and that the pink ring on the meat isn't a sign of undercooking - that it's a good thing!
posted by peachfuzz at 8:14 AM on November 11, 2009

I tried brining once and did not find it made any difference. I've smoked five or six Thanksgiving turkeys, and they've generally turned out well.

You probably know to use indirect heat. Restock your charcoal little by little every 30-60 minutes. Rotate the bird at the same time.

Do not try to do too big a bird. My wife once brought home a 17-pounder (not her fault), and it never really cooked through. I've done 12-pounders successfully though. Allow 15 minutes per pound plus some extra (up to an hour). During the last hour or so, I always cover the bird with aluminum foil.

I always stuff the bird.

Target safe temperature is 165°, although you can get away with 155° if you don't have any children or elderly at the table.
posted by adamrice at 8:24 AM on November 11, 2009

I have been using this web site since I got my smoker. He has really good info on smoking many different meats. He is trying to sell his rub, but I have never bought it. However, the info has been really helpful on all the different meats. He just updated the section on smoking turkeys.
posted by snoelle at 9:43 AM on November 11, 2009 is the website. The linky thing didn't work for me...
posted by snoelle at 9:43 AM on November 11, 2009

N-ing the is generally a reliable source, particularly those posted by the site's owner - not so much for those in the recipe forums. I've got a Weber Smokey Moutain smoker and it rocks.

Smoking, as opposed to grilling/" BBQ'ing" is all about temperature control. You have to have a reliable method of knowing what the temperature where the turkey is sitting - not at the top of the smoker and not 2" above the coals. If you're not going to practice, then you owe it your guests to look through the temperature measurement/control tips and tricks on the site. A simple, one-off, way to do this is to put a temperature probe through one of the top 3 vents on the Bullet, making sure that the tip is not touching the turkey and that it's at roughly the same height as the turkey (i.e., not just an 1" or 2" in from the dome).

As for fire control, build your fire using the "Minion Method" and you will most likely not have to restock/add charcoal. Very reliable and easy to control.

Really, if you do some reading ahead of time and follow the VWB site, you'll be fine. Just allow enough time. Low and slow can't be rushed.
posted by webhund at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2009

Start it up early and give it plenty of time to finish.

We used to smoke turkeys for thanksgiving, and the big ones could take ten-twelve hours, which meant we'd often start eating at 11 PM...
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 6:50 PM on November 11, 2009

« Older Becker and Wiley and Bisk, oh my!   |   Yes, the Mountain time zone does exist. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.