Why to Smoke a Turkey?
Smoking is becoming one of the most popular methods of cooking, and turkeys are one of the best proteins to smoke. For years, the traditional way to prepare turkey was to roast it in an oven, but the results were usually less than stellar. Most birds came out over-cooked and in many cases the meat was dry and flavorless. People have realized the slow process of smoking really helps to keep the turkey moist.
Make sure to brine the turkey the day before, and this will help in the process of sealing in the juices and flavors. So now it comes down to how to smoke a turkey in a smoker and here are some steps to help make the process easy to handle.
(Check out how to add flavor to barbecue meat)
Steps on How to Smoke a Turkey in a Smoker
- Pick the proper wood
- Get the smoker and the turkey hot
- Choose a smaller bird when smoking
- Smoking the turkey
Pick the proper wood
When it comes to smoking a turkey, the wood is a key factor in the process. Hardwood should be the only wood chosen for this process. Depending on the intensity of the smoke flavor desired, will decide what wood should be chosen. Hickory and mesquite are the more traditional smoked flavors and will provide that old style barbecue flavor known around the world.
For people who like a less intense smoke flavor, fruit woods give a more subtle, sweet flavor. Apple, peach, and cherry are three of the more popular fruit woods, and they will not overpower the natural flavor of the turkey. Fruit woods allow for a more traditional flavor, and is usually recommended for smoking turkeys. We recommend checking out Western Smoking Chips for its variety of fruit flavors including cherry and apple.
Whatever wood is preferred, soak it 30 minutes prior to smoking the bird. Water works fine, but many people are now using fruit juices, which adds an extra component of flavor to the turkey.
Get the smoker and the turkey hot
Turn on the smoker and prepare the wood box by lighting some charcoal and allowing it to get white hot. This process will allow the wood to begin burning and smoking the second it hits the coals. By this time, any lighter fluid will be burned off, removing that smell from the smoker as well.
While the coals are heating up and the wood is soaking, you should pre-heat the turkey. Because turkey need to be above 165 Fahrenheit before it’s safe to consume, heating it ahead of time will get it to temp quicker for a longer period. Just put the turkey in an oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Then the turkey is transferred to the smoker, and will be ready to go.
Choose a smaller bird when smoking
For smoking a whole turkey, the bird should not be over 15 pounds. This again has to deal with getting the turkey to the 165 degree mark and keeping it there, making it safe for consumption. Smoking is a low heat process, and the larger the turkey, the longer the process takes.
In addition, do not stuff a smoked turkey. Stuffing will block the cavity, not allowing smoke to enter the bird and parts of the turkey may not cook properly or safely.
Smoking the turkey
Once the turkey is in the smoker, there’s not much to do. Place a drip pan under the bird to catch any juice that may drip down. The turkey should be rotated every 45 minutes or so, to ensure the smoke evenly cooks the bird. While rotating, baste the turkey with the juices in the drip pan. The drippings can later be used to make a gravy. Maintain the smoker’s heat between 240 and 250 degrees.
Smoking a turkey can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes a pound depending on the heat of the smoker and weather conditions outside. Just check the turkey from time to time with a meat thermometer. Always check the thickest part of the turkey. Once the turkey is done, let it rest for at least 30 minutes, covered by aluminum foil, then carve the bird and enjoy.