Smoking is a fantastic method for cooking a turkey. Turkey is extremely mild, and smoking gives it a rich, complex flavor in addition to producing moist, tender meat. Oven-roasted turkey often runs into the problem of being dry and tough. This is caused by overcooking, which is extremely easy to do when you're roasting a turkey. However, it's almost impossible to overcook anything in your SmokinTex smoker because the temperature remains low and the cooking is slow.
Which Wood to Use
The wood provides the smoke, and the smoke provides the flavor, so choose your wood with care. You can use whatever variety of wood you like best. Any kind of fruit wood, such as apple or cherry, complements turkey very well, but hickory, pecan, and maple will be equally enticing. All the woods above are available through SmokinTex.
How to Pick the Turkey
We recommend that, if you wish to smoke a whole bird, you choose one that weighs no more than about 18 pounds. Larger birds take too long to heat all the way through since the smoker cooks at the low temperature of 225°. If you choose a frozen turkey, it should be thoroughly thawed before you begin.
Food safety is of primary concern when smoking turkey. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, wings, and whole turkeys are all suited for smoking, although for safety's sake, stick with whole turkeys that weigh 18 pounds or less. A larger turkey remains in the "Danger Zone" - between 40° F and 140° F - for too long. Note: If you're using our Smokin Jr., which has a 500 watt heating element and not the 800 watt, reduce the turkey size to 8-12lbs. because of the above concern.
Thawing from the Experts
Turkey thawing hints from the National Turkey Federation:
Turkeys can be thawed using one of three methods, but the most fool-proof is in the refrigerator. The key to this method is to plan ahead and allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird weight for thawing in the refrigerator. This method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Place the bird, in the original wrapping, on a shallow baking dish in the refrigerator. The following chart provides good guidelines for thawing times:
|Refrigerator turkey thawing time (40°F )|
|Turkey weight||Days to allow for thawing turkey|
|8 to 12 pounds||1 to 2 days|
|12 to 16 pounds||2 to 3 days|
|16 to 20 pounds||3 to 4 days|
|20 to 24 pounds||4 to 5 days|
If you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, you may thaw the bird in COLD water, in the original wrapping. The cold water must be changed every 30 minutes. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound using this method. Make sure that you have removed the giblets and gizzards from the turkey, as well as the plastic pop-up thermometer.
|COLD water turkey thawing time|
|Turkey weight||Hours to allow for thawing|
|8 to 12 pounds||4 to 6 hours|
|12 to 16 pounds||6 to 8 hours|
Bring on the Brine
Brining is not an essential part of smoking a turkey, but most people agree that soaking in a brine gives their smoked meat maximum flavor and juiciness. Brine is a mixture of water and salt, and usually sugar or honey as well. Many brine recipes also include a variety of spices. A whole turkey can take up to 24 hours of brining, so plan ahead! After you remove your turkey from the brine and are ready to smoke it, rinse it thoroughly in cool water to remove excess salt, and then drain it and pat the bird dry with paper towels.
Rub It with Spice
For evenly browned skin, rub the entire bird, in and out, with oil or butter. To add extra flavor, you can also massage the turkey with a dry rub right before smoking, such as Tony Chachere's More Spice. Keep in mind that, if you have brined the turkey, you should not use any salt in the dry seasoning mixture, or your turkey will taste far too salty to eat! Unfortunately, stuffing a smoked turkey is not recommended. If you've got your heart set on stuffing, you can make it separately in the oven
You Can't Rush a Good Thing
Although smoking a turkey is pretty easy, it takes time. With your smoker running at 225° F, the turkey will need about 50 minutes per pound to cook to perfection. So, a 12-pound bird needs at least 10 hours, and even more if the smoker is at a lower temperature
Give yourself plenty of time!
When the smoker is cleaned and ready with foil on the floor, (don't forget to put your finger through the drain hole) place the oiled and seasoned turkey directly on the center rack breast-side up. Close the smoker door, and set your temperature. Avoid opening the smoker too often because you will lose heat and increase the cooking time. Using the "50 minutes per pound" rule, calculate how long the turkey will take, and start checking the temperature at the end of this time. Insert the meat thermometer deep into the thigh, being careful not to touch the bone or joints. When the thermometer reads 180°F , pull it out of the smoker, let it rest 15 minutes, and then serve.
Note: Your guests may think the turkey is raw if they've never encountered smoked turkey before. The white meat has a pinkish hue although it is cooked all the way through.
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