Break away from the traditional oven roasted turkey and try something new this year. How about smoking a turkey? You can produce a wonderfully tender and flavorful turkey, by bringing it outdoors and adding a bit of smoke. The additional benefit besides the flavorful turkey is now you’ve freed up your oven to create all those excellent side dishes.
Smoking a Turkey
You can smoke a turkey on virtually any type of grill, even a gas grill. Our focus here however will be smoking your turkey using indirect heat on a charcoal grill or using a smoker.
Whether using a charcoal grill or a smoker I suggest that you use a drip pan with a bit of water underneath your turkey. A cheap disposable aluminum pan will work great for this. Not only does a drip pan help prevent flare-ups, it helps provide a bit of moisture to the turkey while smoking.
If you are using a charcoal grill, build the charcoal up around the drip pan. Due to the close proximity to the heat source, smoking on a charcoal grill will take less time than using a smoker. A 12 to 14 pound turkey will take around 3 to 4 hours to smoke on a charcoal grill at a medium heat level.
If you are using a smoker build the heat source according to the directions for your smoker. Build your heat to a level of 225°F to 250°F. I like to aim for right around 235°F when I smoke a turkey. At the level of heat it will take about 30 minutes per pound for the turkey to cook. Expect to be smoking for 6 to 7 hours for a 12 pound turkey using a smoker. Due to the length of time it takes to smoke a turkey I suggest that you stick to a small to medium sized bird.
If you want to use your favorite rub, or brine your turkey prior to smoking feel free. However, a bit of oil rubbed on the turkey with some salt and pepper will also make for an excellent smoked turkey.
Place your turkey on the grill or smoker breast side up directly over the drip pan. If the smoker you use has the heat source toward to one side of the turkey, you will want to rotate the turkey every couple of hours to insure even cooking.
You’ve got the heat going and the turkey on the grate, now let’s add a bit of smoke to your turkey. There are several woods that you can use to smoke your turkey, but I prefer to use apple, cherry, or hickory. I’ve also used a combination of those woods. As far as mesquite goes, I find it to be too overpowering for turkey, but if you want to try it feel free. Check out some of these wood chips for smoking your turkey >> Wood Chips
If you are using wood chips you’ll want to soak them in water for an hour or so. Soaking the chips will slow the rate of burn so they will smolder and produce smoke. If you are using large chunks, there is no need to soak them. Add a couple hands full of chips or a couple chunks to get the smoke rolling. Shut the cover and let it smoke. Keep the lid closed as much as possible to retain the heat and smoke. You will want to check every hour or so if additional wood chips or chunks are needed.
If you are smoking your turkey on a charcoal grill at a medium level of heat your turkey will finish quicker. You will want to check the temperature of the turkey several times while smoking using an instant read meat thermometer. Regardless of whether you are using a charcoal grill or a smoker, you are looking for a temperature of 170°F to 180°F before taking the turkey off.
Once the turkey has finished pull it off the grill or smoker and let it rest. You should let your turkey rest for about 15 minutes covered with aluminum foil. As it rests the juices will redistribute throughout the bird creating a juicy, tender smoked turkey.
Smoking a turkey is pretty easy, and it opens up the kitchen for other tasks. Feel free to experiment a bit too. You can brine your turkey, inject it with different seasonings, rub it with your favorite spices; the options are endless. Another great idea is adding wine, beer, or juices to the drip pan for moisture. Half the fun in smoking a turkey is experimenting.
I usually like to go low and slow when smoking a turkey, so I usually use a smoker. Smokers are great and not just for turkey, you can use them to smoke a variety of different foods. I love my smoker, and wouldn’t give it up for the world, they are a must have for any serious grill-master. There are a lot of different types, you can find one that is perfect for you here >> Smokers