Smoked Beer Can Turkey
Even though turkey is a popular holiday meal, it can become kind of tired after a while. It might still taste good, but eating the same roast turkey every year is one tradition that can stand to be improved upon. Luckily, doing so is a lot easier than one would think.
One easy turkey-based meal that's sure to revitalize your holiday is smoked beer can turkey. If you've ever had beer can chicken before, this is a similar principle. And, to top it off, we'll be smoking the turkey while we're at it, adding even more flavor.
How is this recipe made? What do you need to get started? We'll answer these and other pressing questions as we go over how you can make smoked beer can turkey for your next holiday gathering.
What You'll Need
In order to make this recipe, you'll first need to gather some supplies. While more extensive than a typical roast turkey recipe, it's definitely worth the extra effort.
- Charcoal smoker.
- Chunk charcoal.
- Wood chunks or chips (details below).
- Instant read thermometer.
- Aluminum foil.
- Cast iron pan (optional).
- 24 ounce can of beer.
- 6 bay leaves.
- Fresh thyme sprigs.
- Brown sugar.
- White vinegar.
- Hot sauce.
- Cayenne pepper.
- Kosher salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- Whole turkey (15 lbs range).
With poultry and other delicate meats, it's important to choose a wood that won't overpower the natural flavors during the smoking process. It's for this reason that heavier smoking woods like hickory or mesquite would likely not be a good choice to use with this recipe. Instead, turn to sweet fruit tree wood like apple or cherry to lightly flavor your turkey during cooking.
Once you've gotten all your supplies together, you can move on to doing the actual recipe.
Step 1: Seasoning the Turkey
To season the turkey, you first need to make up a spice mix to rub it with. Combine together two tablespoons of brown sugar and paprika with a tablespoon of salt and pepper, mixing until well integrated. Rub this over the entirety of the turkey, including under the skin. Let the turkey sit out for an hour at room temperature after seasoning to let it warm up slightly before cooking.
Step 2: Preparing the Basting Solution
During the smoking process, you'll want to baste the turkey with a spice-infused liquid to help it retain moisture and add extra flavor. In a container (or squirt bottle if you prefer), mix together two tablespoons of brown sugar, ketchup, beer, and white vinegar with two teaspoons of hot sauce, stirring well or shaking to combine into a thick solution.
Step 3: Lighting the Smoker
About half an hour into the hour long wait on the turkey, you should start to think about lighting the smoker. You'll be cooking your bird for about six hours, so keep this in mind while preparing. Load up and light your coals and, if using wood chips, start soaking them in hot water. Close the lid to help heat build up inside. Read more about smoking on a charcoal grill the best way!
Step 4: Pre-Smoking Preparations
Once both the smoker and turkey have warmed up, you can almost start cooking. Before that, though, there are a couple things you need to take care of. First, pour off about half of the can of beer you used earlier for the basting solution (or open a new one if the one before seems to have disappeared). Cut off the top so that it's open, dropping a few sprigs of fresh thyme and six bay leaves into about 12 ounces of remaining beer.
Carefully shove the can into the opening of the turkey, trying not to spill inside it. Keep it balanced on the can the entire time, or else the beer would drain out into the carcass and onto your counter top. Toss your wood on the fire, add the grill grate, and load the water tank, and you should be ready to begin.
Step 5: Smoking the Turkey
Place the turkey onto the smoker can first, finding a way to securely balance it upright. If you're having trouble doing so, try using a flat surface like a cast iron pan, as it will both provide a stable base while conducting heat evenly.
Once you've managed to get your turkey to balance, close the lid and let it smoke. Make sure to monitor the status of the coals, wood, and water, adding more of each as needed. Adjust the ventilation to avoid overcooking, as well.
Every two hours or so, baste the surface of the meat with your basting solution, working quickly to minimize heat and smoke loss. Additionally, if it appears the surface may be cooking too quickly, tent areas like the breasts with aluminum foil.
The turkey is finished when it registers around 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone. As cooking times can vary based on any number of factors, you should start to look for this around the five hour mark.
Step 6: Resting the Turkey
After the turkey has registered the appropriate temperature, remove it from the heat and carefully remove the can (it will be very hot), then place it onto a cutting board or other flat surface to rest while tented loosely with aluminum foil.
An hour is the minimum amount of time it takes to properly rest a turkey, though many chefs would instruct you to rest for the same amount of time you cooked your meat. As this turkey was smoked, however, this isn't quite as necessary given the low heat cooking method resulting in less residual heat that needs to distribute through the protein, so an hour will more than suffice.
Step 7: Serving the Turkey
Once the resting has finally ended, you can now try a piece of your hard work. Carve up your turkey and serve it next to some of your favorite sides. Don't forget the gravy, which should be extra flavorful if you're using the wing tips and leftover bits of your smoked bird.
Now you've got the skills to make a delicious smoked beer can turkey. Though it might not be conventional, you'll soon discover how rewarding it can be to stray from tradition every once in a while.
Did you enjoy this recipe? Have any turkey smoking tips you'd like to share? Leave a comment down below, and remember to share this recipe with a friend who could use a little something extra this holiday season.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do You Cook a Beer Can Turkey?
Beer can turkey cooking times can vary on a number of factors. The cooking time greatly depends on the weight of the turkey and the temperature of your oven. If you are smoking the turkey, it should take about 5 hours. If you are cooking it over indirect heat on a grill, it should only take about 3 hours.
How Do You Stabilize a Beer Can Turkey On the Grill?
A turkey weighs a lot more than a chicken, so it can be hard to hold it upright. There are some beer can devices that you can insert into the turkey’s cavity to help stabilize it on the grill. Or, you can place the turkey in a large cast iron pan which will help keep it vertical.
What Temperature Do You Cook Turkey?
You should cook turkey until the thigh registers 175 degrees F and the breast registers 165 degrees F. Place the instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone, fat, or air pockets. It is sometimes helpful to read the temperature in a few different areas to be safe.
How Long Do You Rest a Turkey?
You should let your turkey rest for at least 45 minutes, or as long as an hour. Do not worry that the turkey will cool down. There is plenty of ambient heat to keep the turkey warm. Resting allows the juices to redistribute within the meat so you have a very moist turkey.
What is the Best Wood to Smoke Turkey?
Mild woods are best with poultry so they don’t overpower the delicate flavor of the meat. Bold woods like oak, pecan, or hickory are good as fuel woods, but make sure to balance them out with fruit woods like apple or cherry for flavoring.