Before you wander away to the traditional oven-roasted turkey recipes, or tempt yourself with the potentially dangerous, and somewhat backwoods method of deep-frying a big bird, consider the possibility of a smoked turkey recipe. Cooking turkey should not be dangerous, nor should it be a fretful scenario in which you sweat over a hot oven, begging the thing to just get done already. Rather, a smoked turkey, with its slow cooking process, should allow the chef (who is the most important person in the house) the chance to enjoy the family that has gathered while knocking back a lager or two, while acting important by poking at musky mesquite as the bird does its thing in a smoker.
Does this sound like Thanksgiving heaven? My friends, it is all too attainable. Follow this simple smoked turkey recipe and you will not only enjoy similar situations as described above, you also will enjoy sinking your teeth into a deeply-flavored and succulently-moist bird that puts all of your previous Thanksgivings to shame.
Sweet n’ Salty Brine
There is nothing that brings out the flavor more in turkey than a sweet and salty brine. I use honey and oranges to bring out the sweet, rosemary and garlic for the savory. And of course, salt. When searching for the perfect bird to put in your smoker remember these things:
- Choose a fresh, unprocessed bird. (Or at the very least, a frozen, unprocessed one.)
- Find a turkey no more than 14 lbs.
- Pick a bird at least one day before Thanksgiving.
As you will be doing the brining yourself, you want to choose a turkey with the least amount of processing. Adding brine to an already-brined bird means one salty dinner. Anything over 14 pounds and you run the risk of accumulating bacteria while smoking. If you need more meat, plan to do two birds or another type of meat, such as prime rib.
- 4 Medium-sized Oranges
- 1/2 cup Fresh Rosemary
- 1 1/2 cups Kosher Salt
- 2 gallons Water
- 1 cup Honey
- 10 Cloves
- Brine Bag
- Large Stock Pot
- Fresh Turkey
The turkey will need to soak one hour for every pound of turkey you have, so 12 pounds of turkey means 12 hours. Peel the oranges and put the skins in the stock pot. Roughly chop the remaining fruit and toss it in for extra flavor. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and add it in with the cloves. Pour in the salt, honey and the water into pot. Give it a brief stir and then set it pot over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil for about 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Place the brine in the refrigerator and allow it to cool thoroughly. Once cooled, pour the mixture in the bag, add the turkey (make sure you remove the giblets and excess fat) and place in the refrigerator overnight. Turn the turkey every few hours to evenly brine the meat.
Now the fun begins! My smoked turkey recipe has pleased many a family member, and hopefully it will do the same for you. As you dust off your smoker, consider what wood you want to use. I personally enjoy the smokey, campfire taste of hickory, but I have heard others use a cherry or applewood with this particular brine to bring out the sweetness.
- 1 Large Bag of Wood Chips
- 1 Bowl
- Water or Honey Brandy
Stoke up your smoker by adding a pyramid of coals in the fire chamber. As they burn, add some wood chips to a large bowl. Soak the chips for about an hour in the water or brandy. (Honey brandy is very sweet, taste a little before you add it to the chips.) Remove the turkey from the brine and rub it over with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.
When the coals have cooled to a temperature of 250 degrees, add the chips. Place the turkey on the coolest area of the grill and close the lid. Cooking turkey on the grill needs somewhat of a watchful eye. You want to make sure that the temperature of the grill constantly stays between 225 and 250 degrees. Any higher and the bird will cook too quickly and dry out the meat. Regulate the heat by adjusting the flu on the smoker.
Smoke the turkey for 30 to 40 minutes for each pound of turkey. For a 12 lb. turkey this will be about 8 hours. Turn the bird every hour smoke it evenly.
Cooking turkey does not need to be a pain. Remember to enjoy a fine beer and have a few laughs. Pull the bird off the smoker once it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Let it rest for 20 minutes and then enjoy!