How to Smoke a Turkey
Ever since I got my first smoker, I have been smoking everything but turkey. I never had the guts to try to smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of those meals that you can not screw up. However, after this year of competitions and gaining more experience with my smoker, I wanted to try it. I must say, smoking a turkey is simple and fun. Plus, it tastes amazing. I have no idea why I have not done this sooner. Smoking a turkey opens up space in your oven for side dishes and also makes it so that your oven does not have to be on all day. With a few simple steps, your turkey will come out perfect every time.
- 1 Brined 10-14 lb Turkey – (See my post on how to brine a turkey – takes 12-24 hours)
- The Wet Rub
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 tbs onion powder
- 1 tbs garlic powder
- 1 tbs paprika
- 2 tsp white granulated sugar
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp powdered sage
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
The first step is to start your smoker. You want it to be at temperature before you place your bird on it. I use a mixture of charcoal and hardwood. I prefer a mixture of oak and fruit woods for smoking turkey. Today I am using white oak and apple. Oak for heat, Apple for flavor. I took the following picture and thought it was pretty cool.
While your smoker is starting, remove your turkey from the brine and rinse the inside and out. Then pat dry with a couple paper towels. Place the turkey on a shallow pan.
Next combine the dry rub ingredients into a small bowl. Then add the vegetable oil to make a paste.
Using your hands pull back the skin on the breast meat and near the thighs. Then rub the bird with the wet rub all over the skin and underneath the skin in the pockets that you just made. At this time insert your probe thermometer if you have one, into the thigh. Make sure that it is not touching the bone.
Once your smoker is chugging along at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit place the turkey breast side up onto the smoker. I have a barrel smoker and find that when cooking a thick cut of meat or a large bird it is best to place it on the half closest to the heat source. I also place a disposable pan underneath the bird with water to catch the drippings and add a bit of moisture to the cooking process.
Cook the bird at 225-250 degrees for about 30-40 minutes a pound. I cooked an 11 lb turkey and it took about 6 hours to cook. I use the time for approximating cooking time but for poultry I always use a probe thermometer and cook until the center of the thigh reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Why 170 in the thigh. After countless testing I have found that when the thigh reaches about 170, the breast meat is about 160. After resting for 20 minutes, the thigh reaches around 175 and the breast reaches the perfect 165. Remember, your turkey needs to reach 165 to be safe. Also use a thermometer to check the temperature in the breast before removing the bird from the smoker. The other reason I use the thigh, well my temperature probe sometimes hits the lid of the smoker when I use it in the breast. This throws off my readings and also starts to bend the cable.
Once the bird reaches temperature, remove it from the smoker, wrap it in foil and let it rest for 20-30 minutes. In this time, the bird will continue to cook and the internal temperature will rise 5-8 degrees.
Now it is time to eat. Carve and serve with your favorite sides.
This was one of the best turkeys that I have had. It was moist, delicious and had a kiss of smoke. You have to try this if you have a smoker at home.