How to Smoke a Turkey
Despite our expectations, something can easily disrupt us. A few days back, we were hit by a storm. Not a major one, but a decent one. No casualties were reported, but it was strong enough to disrupt our routine life. As we waited for the bad weather to pass, the decision was made to smoke a turkey. Thankfully, we had a huge bird for the sacrifice. It was destined to be on our food table sooner or later. So, we decided to give it a shot on a stormy day. Almost everyone agreed, so it wasn’t a hard sell to smoke a turkey on the middle of an extraordinary day.
The longer I live; I am more convinced that people hardly say ‘no’ to turkey meat.
Turkey Shopping Tips
I don’t want to jump into the cooking process right away without giving away some valuable insights. As much as it’s important to smoke a turkey the right way, it’s equally important to lay your hands on the best-quality turkey. The frozen ones from the supermarkets won’t cut the deal over here. At best, they will taste good. If you want them to taste the absolute best, then don’t limit yourself to frozen stuff. Therefore, do yourself a favor and get a fresh and high-quality turkey. Furthermore, get a turkey that weighs around 12 to 14 pounds. It should be enough to serve a small gathering of 10-15 people. So, everyone will get to enjoy really tasty meat made with love and passion.
Prep the Turkey
I took offense when I was told the first-time around to soak my bird. However, it turned out to be the best cooking advice that I have ever received. Later on, I realized that there is term devoted to it called brining. Brining makes the meat juicier than before. It essentially involves soaking the bird in the salt and cold water. You can also add flavors that you like to every part of the meat. You can add vinegar, ginger, pepper, or anything else you desire. Let it relax for at least a day in a container that’s large enough to hold it in the refrigerator. Frankly speaking, it won’t require tantalizing efforts from your part. However, the difference can be like night and day. Therefore, don’t skip this crucial step.
While getting the turkey ready for brining, you need to keep a few key things in mind. Remember to use salt in proportion to the amount of water to be used and not in proportion to the size of the turkey. The salt weight should be around 6% in the water, which is nearly 1 ¼ cups of kosher salt per gallon. Submerge your turkey completely in this liquid, and it should treat you well. For best results, it’s advisable to brine the turkey a couple of days in advance. One should then let the turkey to rest in the refrigerator until it’s ready to be rinsed. The skin of the meat will be far crispier, if you do so.
Rinse, Dry, and Season
Once you remove the turkey from the refrigerator, rinse it off in cold water. No half-arsed effort over here. So, be sure to rinse it off thoroughly. The next step would be to dry the turkey with a clean towel and let it rest for 12-24 hours to allow the flavors and salt to disperse nicely throughout the meat. Now, the meat should be ready for seasoning. You can use a mix of herbs and spices of your choice for the seasoning. A delicious blend of onion, celery, honey, apples, garlic, citrus, and salt can be stuffed inside the meat by cutting the meat into half. This will add mass to your turkey. It also helps to cook evenly, and it contributes to the flavor as well. Remember, this is your bird, so you can add things based on your liking. Furthermore, I suggest rubbing softened butter under the breast skin before cooking the meat.
Smoking a Turkey
Now, it’s time to reap the benefits for your efforts. If you are using a propane smoker, your best bet would be to check the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to set up a smoker. Here’s how an ideal process should look like. To begin with, preheat the smoker to 225 degrees. Of course, oil the cooking grates before use to prevent the meat from sticking. Once the smoker has attained the desired temperature, add your turkey. If you are using a charcoal smoker ensure you are at 225 with a temperature probe. Don’t forget to use a temperature thermometer to gauge if the meat is properly cooked or not. To keep the turkey moist, apply a little bit of melted butter or vegetable oil few times during the cooking process. Allow the turkey to smoke until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees on the thermometer. At this point, remove the turkey and let it rest until it attains an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Grab the leg, and if it feels like it’s coming out, it should probably be done. As you can see, this is a no-fuss way to enjoy deliciously cooked whole turkey.
In most cases, the time will vary, so it won’t be possible to throw out an exact number. However, it takes around 7 to 10 hours to cook a bird over 12lbs. Basically, it depends on how fast or slow your smoker will attain the desired temperature. It’s advisable to check the temperature every hour. As mentioned before, when you grab the leg, and if you feel like it’s coming it, it’s probably done. Also, when you prick the meat, the juices should come out clear. There should be zero traces of blood or pink liquid. Once the turkey is ready, let it cool in the room temperature. If you feed on them immediately, all the juices will run out, resulting in a dry turkey. So, let it rest for about 30 minutes before you feed all the hungry tummies. This will allow all the juices to settle and will make the turkey tastier and juicer. Enjoy!