At Christmas time there is nothing my family loves more than tucking into a beautiful smoked turkey. So naturally, creating this meal is something I take great pride in. The smile on my family's faces when I walk in with the smoked turkey is priceless.
However, smoking a whole turkey can be quite intimidating for those of you who have never done it before.
So I will break this down as simple as I can. Personally I think this recipes tastes best when I use a propane gas smoker. However give it a try with whatever you have access to and let me know!
So lets start with me giving you a few hints to get you on your way to smoking a turkey in a propane smoker & natural gas smoker like a pro.
6 Essentials For Creating The Best Smoked Turkey
- Your turkey does not need a lot of stuffing, stuff your turkey with the minimal amount of aromatics only. Minimal stuffing will ensure you get proper airflow throughout and a nice even cook.
- You should never carve your turkey from the carcass. Deconstruct your bird into pieces and carve each piece individually.
- Along with chicken turkey needs a very mild wood for smoking. A strong wood can very easily overpower the meat. You want to go with a wood like an apple, alder or cherry. A mixture of chunks and chips is perfect.
- You should always brine your turkey overnight. This might seem like overkill but you will thank yourself when your turkey comes out lovely and moist. Basting the turkey whilst cooking won’t make it moister it will only make the skin soggier.
- Never truss the turkey. A trussed turkey is something you want to avoid. This basically means that the whole bird is cooked to the same temperature. This will result in some parts being overcooked and dry. You want your turkey breast to be at a perfect 165°F and the darker meat to be 175°F.
- Do not smoke (or roast) your turkey directly inside a roasting pan or rack, and definitely stay away from roasting and smoking in liquid. This will result in a very soggy turkey.
- The best way is to rest your turkey directly on the grill plates, with a pan filled with around 1” of water resting underneath the grates (around 3 - 4” below the meat). This will create a nice moist environment but still give you the nice crispy skin we all dream of.
Smoking Your Turkey (Actually Getting It Done)
Simple Smoked Turkey
- 1 tsp kosher salt & black pepper
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 quartered small onion
- 1 turkey around 10-15 lbs, unfrozen with the neck and giblets removed (set aside for later)
- 1 quart water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 small bunch of fresh sage
- 1 small bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 large handful wood chips I suggest apple, alder, or cherry wood
- 2-3 wood chunks I suggest apple, alder, or cherry wood
- 3 tbsp ghee melted
- 6 cloves garlic I love my garlic so you might want to use a little less
- A bunch of ice cubes
- The rind of 1 lemon/orange
Start off by pouring 1 quart of water into a very large stockpot, add the honey and kosher salt.
Heat on a high heat and stir until the honey and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour in ice, stir until the ice melts and the water has turned cold (you're looking for room temperature or below). Once at room temperature add the turkey and be sure the turkey is fully submerged (use a weight if you need to). Cover and stick in the fridge for at least 12 hours.Tip: If your fridge is not large enough, you can use a cold dark basement. If you choose to do this you want the temperature to be below 30°F.
After 12 hours remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Air dry for 30 mins on a wire racked lined with baking paper. If your fridge is big enough for the wire rack and turkey this is perfect, otherwise anywhere out of the sun is fine.
Now it's time to prepare your smoking woods. You will need to small aluminium pans, place one handful of wood chips in one and a few wood chunks in the other. In the wood, chips pan add about ½” of water. This will allow the wood chunks to burn & smoke first so you will not need to add more chips in mid-smoke. The best woods for this smoked turkey are alder mixed with one fruit wood. Mixing fruit woods can create a weird more complex flavour in my opinion, so it's best to keep it simple with just the one.
Add the aluminium pans under the grill grates, you want to place these on the side of your grill that is going to be kept hot.On the cool side place one large aluminium pan and fill with around 1” of water. This will keep the smoker nice and moist and will also catch any dripping so you can create a delicious gravy when done! (See the bottom of the page)
Once the bird has air dried, its time to prepare the aromatics for your stuffing. I find the rind of a lemon or an orange works much better than actual fruit pieces, this is because there is no moisture in the rind. Adding moisture to the inside of the bird can alter cooking times. Add the onion, garlic, lemon/orange rind, and the sage & thyme to the inside of the turkey.
Tip: don’t overcrowd the inside of the bird. If it's a tight squeeze to get everything in don’t use everything!
Once stuffed brush the entire turkey with the ghee. Start on the underside and work your way around to the top. Don’t worry if the ghee starts to harden after it has been applied. Make sure you get every inch of the bird. Now season all over with the salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Turn on your grill and heat on high for 10 minutes, You want to wait until you see wood chunks start to smoke. Once you see smoke appear turn off all the burners bar one. You want to leave one on and keep a stabilized temperature of 325°F. Once you have a stable temperature and only then, add the turkey! To prevent the wing tips from burning wrap them with foil. Cover the turkey and let smoke for one hour.Tip: Avoid peaking! The bird won't go anywhere, peaking will just let heat and smoke escape and will end up taking longer for your bird to cook.
After 1 hour you want to rotate the turkey. Take care when doing this you do not want to burn yourself! Or drop the turkey! Turn the turkey 180° so the other side is facing the hot side of the grill. At this stage, you can remove the foil from the wing tips. Be sure to pour out any liquid that has accumulated and cover up again and smoke for a further 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes open your turkey back up and pour out any liquid that has accumulated into the pan underneath. At this stage, you want to check the internal temperature of the bird. The breasts want to be around 160°F and the thighs to be 170°F (They will continue to cook a further 5 or so degrees while resting). If the temperatures are too low pop back in for further smoking, checking every 10 - 15 minutes to ensure you do not overcook. As a general rule of thumb, a 12-pound bird takes around 2 hours to reach these temperatures.
Place cooked bird on a wire back with baking paper to let rest for 20 minutes before carving. This will give the juices time to set and the bird to come all the way to temperature. So not cover with foil, this will turn your perfect crispy skin into soggy skin.
After the bird has rested it’s time to carve! Remove each section individually from the bird and carve separately. I personally like to carve the breast against the grain into ½ - ¾“ pieces and shave the thigh meat off the bone. Be sure to save any leftovers to add to the gravy broth.
Charlie's Famous Turkey Gravy
A bird this delicious is nothing without an as equally as delicious gravy.
This gravy is quick, simple & easy. You will thank me later when you are chowing down on a smoked turkey sandwich dripping with gravy!
- While the turkey is smoking take the gizzard, neck & around 10 peppercorns. Simmer in a quart of water on a low heat.
- Once your grill has cooled, carefully remove the drip pan and run the drippings through a fat separator then add into the simmering neck, gizzard & peppercorn broth. Add in any leftover meat from carving the bird.
- Fish out the gizzard, neck and most of the peppercorns and keep on a very light simmer.
- In a separate pan make a roux by melting 2 teaspoons of butter while mixing in 2 ½ teaspoons of flour. Stir constantly until golden brown.
- Stir the roux into the gravy broth and season with a little thyme, salt & pepper to your taste.
- Simmer for around 5 minutes on a low heat until thick. This gravy is best served nice and hot!
This turkey recipe is really quick & simple and is a real crowd pleaser.
I hope this step-by-step guide on how to smoke a turkey in a gas smoker has given some of you an insight on how easy it is and rewarding it is. We love making left over turkey sandwiches the next day!
For those of you who are new to the smoking world, I have created a list with (in my opinion) the best BBQ blogs of 2018 that you should keep an eye on, these blogs have a great range of information with everything from, recipes, reviews and tips and tricks.
What is your favourite Thanksgiving recipe?Happy smoking
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