Apple Wood-Smoked Turkey Recipe
The holidays just aren't the holidays without turkey. With its tender, delicious turkey breast meat and crispy skin, a perfectly cooked turkey is the only option for the main course on your Thanksgiving dinner table. The only problem is just how typical roasted turkey has become.
Luckily, there are other options. There are as many ways to cook turkey as there are ways to eat it, and one of the best ways is by smoking it. Today, we'll be taking a look at a recipe for succulent apple wood-smoked turkey. How is it made? What do you need to follow the recipe? Let's answer these and more pressing questions as we go over what to do.
What You'll Need For This Recipe
In order to make your own apple wood-smoked turkey for this holiday season, you'll need to gather a few ingredients and collect some necessary materials. Luckily, this is a fairly simple recipe without many ingredients, meaning the hardest thing to find is probably going to be the turkey if you make this last minute.
- Charcoal grill.
- Chunk charcoal.
- Apple wood chips or chunks.
- Aluminum foil.
- Aluminum baking tray.
- Heat diffuser (optional).
- Instant read thermometer.
- Large plastic gallon bucket.
- Kosher salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- Brown sugar (light or dark).
- Maple syrup.
- Apple juice or apple cider.
- Large turkey (12 to 15 lbs range).
Apple Wood Smoked Turkey Recipe
Once you've gathered all the necessary materials, you'll be ready to start cooking.
Step 1: Brining the Turkey
The easiest way to make your poultry more flavorful, tender, and moist once it's cooked is by brining it. To make your brine, add a cup of kosher salt and brown sugar to half a cup of maple syrup, two quarts of apple juice or apple cider (your choice), a tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper, and about one to two quarts of cold water.
Stir well until both the salt and sugar have dissolved into the liquid. Once that's done, submerge your turkey into the brine, adding more water as needed to fully submerge it. Let it soak like that for an entire day somewhere cool.
Step 2: Drying the Turkey
After plenty of time soaking in the brine, it's time to take the turkey out. Carefully remove it from the brine and discard the liquid. Drain any brine inside the turkey before rinsing it off with clean water, patting it dry thoroughly both inside and out.
Let the bird sit out at room temperature for an hour before you even think of cooking it so that it retains all that moisture the brining process just gave it (if you're using wood chips instead of chunks, you can start soaking them in hot water around this point, too).
Step 3: Lighting the Grill
About half an hour into letting the turkey warm up, you should start to think about lighting the grill. Fill the bottom of the grill with charcoal, making a well in the center. Light it and allow it to catch before placing an aluminum baking pan filled with water into the center.
Close the lid and allow heat to build up until it reaches a temperature of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, toss the wood on the fire, add on your grill grate and heat diffuser (if using) and get ready to smoke. Read more about cooking on the charcoal grill here!
Step 4: Smoking the Turkey
After both your grill and turkey have had a chance to warm up, you can begin cooking. Place the turkey onto the grates and close the lid. Smoking a whole turkey will take patience and careful observation, so be sure to monitor the charcoal, water, and wood levels thoroughly, as well as adjust air vents to maintain a consistent temperature inside the grill.
Additionally, if it looks like the turkey may be cooking too fast, you can tent the breast area with some aluminum foil to keep it from burning.
About halfway through cooking (an hour and a half or so) turn the bird around to help it cook evenly on all sides. It will take about 20 minutes per pound of meat to fully cook your turkey, meaning you'll be smoking it for around three hours. You'll know it's done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 5: Resting the Turkey
Once your turkey has reached the proper internal temperature, take it off the grill and let it rest inside tented loosely with aluminum foil. To ensure your meat is finished cooking all the way and to preserve as much moisture and flavor as possible, a long resting process is key when dealing with whole turkeys.
While an hour is sufficient, many chefs swear by the ideal of resting for as long as you cooked. In this case, you'd be waiting close to three hours before you got the chance to eat, though a shorter resting time would likely be fine in this case, as smoking is a much lower temperature cooking process than something like roasting. Because of that, there's less residual heat that must pass through the meat, meaning it'll take less time to finish cooking.
Step 6: Serving the Turkey
When your turkey has had ample time to rest, you can finally move on to carving and serving. Cut the meat off the carcass and plate up next to your favorite sides, and don't forget the gravy (which can be easily made using the wing tips and other scraps left over during the resting process).
Now you're ready to shake things up at your next holiday dinner with a delicious apple wood-smoked turkey. A nice change of pace from the traditional roast bird, this amazing main course is sure to come back around next year by popular demand.
How did you like this recipe? Any tips on smoking turkey you want to share? Leave a comment down below, and don't forget to share this page with a friend.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Wood Should You Use to Smoke Turkey?
If you use full flavored woods like hickory, mesquite, or pecan, you run the risk of overpowering the delicate flavors in the turkey. It is okay to blend woods, using oak as a fuel wood, but it is best to use fruit woods as the main smoking wood. Apple or cherry woods are best to use with poultry.
How Do You Brine a Turkey?
Brining turkey really brings out the most moist, juicy flavors from the meat. This is especially helpful in keeping the breast meat from drying out. To brine a turkey, combine one cup of salt to one gallon of liquid. You can use water, or you can use apple cider (or a mix of both). Add sugar and other herbs and aromatics if you wish. Then submerge the turkey in the brine and soak (in the fridge) overnight.
Should You Brine a Kosher Turkey?
You should never brine a kosher turkey. These turkeys have already been salted to remove any traces of residual blood from the animal. Brining a kosher turkey will make it overly salty.
How Long Should You Cook a Turkey?
Your turkey will take 20 minutes for each pound of meat, so a 15 pound turkey would take approximately 5 hours to fully cook. The best way to know when a turkey is finished cooking is to insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. When the thigh hits 175 degrees F (and the breast reaches 165 degrees F), the turkey is finished cooking.
Should You Rest a Whole Turkey Before Slicing?
You should always rest meat before slicing. This is especially true of a large bird, like a whole turkey. Allow the turkey to rest for 45 minutes to an hour before slicing into it. This will allow the juices to redistribute within the meat instead of spilling out onto the cutting board.