Turkey is always one of the most feared parts of Thanksgiving for most home cooks- which stinks, since it is the star of Thanksgiving dinner! But there is no need to be worried of dry, tasteless Turkey- this Perfect Smoked Turkey recipe has been our family’s secret for delicious, juicy, perfectly-smoky flavored turkey. And the best part is, it’s pretty foolproof. If you’re somewhat familiar with using a smoker grill, you know how easy it can be to create wonderful flavor without much actual work. All you need to to for the tastiest turkey ever is just Brine, Stuff and Smoke. Save your oven space for other foods and keep your kitchen from overheating- smoke that turkey outside!
My husband LOVES breaking out our smoker to make pork shoulder, brisket and other meats- but we don’t use it nearly enough. It is so easy to get delicious, melt in your mouth, perfectly smoky meat using a smoker grill and indirect heat. We’ve made our last few Thanksgiving turkeys on the smoker, and we should do more!
One note- your turkey will be a little pink. This isnt because it is uncooked- it is because smoking meat gives a little bit of a purple-ish color. When you carve your turkey, you will notice a “ring” of darker color around the meat. This is the coloring from the smoke- and where your flavor is coming from! You might notice in the photo above the legs look especially purple- it’s from the smoke.
If it is especially cold outside (we made the turkey photographed when it was under 40 degrees outside, not uncommon for Colorado), you can finish your turkey in the oven if you haven’t brought it up to 170 degrees yet. Just pop it in the oven and cook at 350 until internal temp reaches 170 degrees (it will continue to cook to 175 degrees when you remove it from the oven). You can baste the turkey with a little melted butter for extra crispy skin.
This method won’t make a gravy, however. Simply remove the giblets and neck of the turkey and roast those in the oven for your gravy. They take up much less precious oven space and cook more quickly.
If you’re not very familiar with using a smoker, I asked my husband to add some tips and tricks to make smoking a turkey easy. Here’s his best tips:
— Use a chimney to bring your lump charcoal up to temperature.
— Use real lump charcoal. Briquets tend to give off a petroleum aftertaste.
— If you’re using wood-chips or chucks, you can control how much smoke your meat gets. Want alot of smoke? Use more wood chips, for longer amount of time. Want less smoke? Use less chips, for a shorter amount of time.
— White oak, pecan and cherry are beautiful, mild smoking woods for poultry. Mesquite has a stronger smoke flavor, but still very tasty with poultry. Hickory is a very strong wood, which is great for beef, but I would avoid for poultry.
For the brine:
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 gallon vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1½ teaspoons allspice berries
- 1½ teaspoons rosemary
- 2 teaspoons savory
- 1 gallon iced cubes
- Bring all ingredients, except ice to a boil. After you reach a rolling boil, turn off heat and let cool.
- Combine cooled brine with ice inside a garbage bag in a beverage cooler. Submerge turkey and seal cooler.
For the turkey:
- 1 12-15 pound turkey, defrosted and brined for 1-3 days (remove giblets and use for gravy if desired)
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots, rough chopped
- 1 large cheesecloth, soaked in water
- 1 (2-3 pounds) Mesquite Chips, soaked in water
- Set brined turkey on a cooling rack on a large baking sheet (this is to allow drippings to fall down to the pan, and keep turkey up out of them).
- Stuff onion, celery and carrots in the turkey's inner cavity, keeping turkey legs tightly tied.
- Lay the soaking wet cheesecloth over turkey to keep skin from becoming black.
- Smoke for 5-7 hours depending on how large your bird is and the outside temperature (colder temps will add more time, as will larger birds). If you live in a cold area, you might want to smoke two smaller turkeys like we do sometimes- they will cook faster and smaller birds actually have a much better flavor and stay moist.