Perfect Smoked Turkey For Thanksgiving
A good smoked turkey is an absolute staple for Thanksgiving. Not only is it great for the holiday season, once you figure out your own personal formula for making a good turkey, you are going to want to have it as often as possible.
Cooking your turkey low and slow in your smoker can be one of the best ways to bring out the bird's subtle flavors, especially with the right brine and rub. A Masterbuilt Electric Smoker can allow you to cook your smoked turkey in just about any weather and for any occasion.
This can help you free up your kitchen space for all types of other dishes that you want to make. This frees up the kitchen oven for dishes you need to bake or just keep warm.
Brining The Turkey
Before you get started on your Masterbuilt smoked turkey, it is a good idea to plan ahead for your brine. Making your own brine is absolutely vital to getting a good, juicy flavor on your turkey. If you purchase a pre-brined turkey, you run the risk of finding a flavor profile not suited to your needs.
A good general proportion to keep in mind is a cup of salt for every gallon of water. Use equal parts sugar in this proportion as well, though some may prefer to use more sugar to get a sweeter, more succulent flavor. Experiment here to see what flavors you find best for your smoked turkey brine.
Choosing the Type of Turkey
Before you get started with smoking and brining, make sure that you choose the correct type of turkey. The fresher the turkey is when you get started, the better the meat will come out, especially if you purchase a free range turkey. These turkeys are especially lean and flavorful because of their lifestyle.
This type of meat is also on the darker and more muscular side, and it will often be more expensive than other types of turkeys. If you have a specific budget in mind, do your best to adhere to it, but go for free range where possible otherwise.
Tips Before Smoking Turkey
One of the first and most important things for you to do is to make sure that your turkey is sized appropriately. Buy a turkey that is roughly the same size as your smoker; try to aim for between 12 and 14 pounds. If you get significantly smaller turkeys, you can always smoke them side by side.
Always remember to thaw your turkey in advance, especially if you buy it frozen. It can take as long as two to five days for it to completely thaw. Remember to remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. You can cook these individually or use them all together to make a delicious stock for gravy.
Rinse the bird under cool water and pat dry before starting. This part is particularly important with brined turkey. Wear gloves when you do this to avoid contamination, and then clean the sink with soapy water after. Stuffing the cavity with fruits and vegetables can be another excellent way to impart flavor, though the interior will need to be discarded later.
Ingredients For Smoked Turkey
Smoking The Turkey - Directions
Begin by lining a drip pan and a water bowl with enough aluminum foil to make cleanup easier. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
In another small bowl, mix together the olive oil and softened better. Once that is ready, mix in the garlic and all the other herbs and spices.
Once you are ready, rub the inside cavity with a third of the mixture. Stuff it further with the onion and fruits, and then rub the outside with the last of the fat mixture and herb blend.
Mix the apple cider and water together to fill the water pan up to its half-way point. Use more apple cider if it needs to be filled more. Afterwards, set the drip pan onto the next rack, just above your water pan in order to collecting the turkey drippings. Fill your side tray with the wood chips.
Keep the tips of the turkey's wings tucked tightly underneath it. Put the seasoned turkey in the middle rack of your smoker, and insert a digital thermometer into your bird's thigh. Set your timer for roughly six to seven hours.
You want to give the turkey roughly 30 to 40 minutes per every pound. Make sure that you get an internal temperature of about 165 Fahrenheit.
Check on the vent every hour. Add more chips to the tray if you notice that the smoke is beginning to die down. Also make sure that the water pan stays roughly around the halfway line, filling it with water and cider as you need.
Check the vent every hour for smoke. Add more wood chips if the smoke has died down. Be sure to check the water pan and add additional cider and water as needed as well.
Once you are done, remove the turkey, allowing to rest for at least 20 minutes before you begin carving. Tent aluminum foil around it to keep moisture in.
Making the Gravy
Like preparing the smoked turkey itself, making the giblet gravy takes time and practice to perfect. There is no exact recipe to make perfect gravy, but planning ahead can allow you to get a better sense of taste and texture.
While you are still smoking the turkey, set the neck and giblets into a pot of water. Make sure that the water is roughly twice the height of the content. Bring this to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for around one hour. Strain this liquid into a larger glass and set it aside.
Take the cooked giblets and dice them as small as possible. Set them aside.
While your turkey rests, pour your drippings from the smoker into a measuring cup. Remember the quantity and pour the drippings over into an empty soup pot. Simmer this over a low heat and add an equal amount of white flour to the drippings. Whisk this in until it forms a smooth roux.
Afterwards, mix in the giblets. Season with pepper and salt and add extra broth to thin out the mixture if it is too thick. Once it is done, give it a little bit of time to cool before serving with mashed potatoes or green beans.
Because of the versatility of the smoker, you can smoke just about anything else that you would want as a side. This includes a broad variety of vegetables, including russet and sweet potatoes. These delicious additions can be left on the top rack for the last two or three hours of the smoking process.
Similarly, you can also enjoy Brussels sprouts and green beans in the smoker. With a little arrangement, it can also be easy to make smoked macaroni and cheese.
Depending on what you are planning for your Thanksgiving dinner, you may not have to worry too much about overloading your kitchen. Because of the spacious compartmentalization available in your smoker, you can choose to focus on the main dish as well as a few side dishes to get the desired results.
This works especially well if you are hosting and want your guests to bring their own food over. Potlucks are another excellent way for you to show off your cooking without taking on too much of a workload. Always take the time to plan out for the dinner in order to make the most of your holiday.
Your Masterbuilt smoked turkey will be sure to turn heads at your next event. Though the smoker recipe is relatively straightforward, there are still plenty of things that you can do to change up the flavor. Be sure to experiment with different wood chips as well.
Though it may take some time to find the exact flavor that you want, all types of chips may impart a unique, subtle flavor to the turkey. Pecan and cherry are among the most popular options, though you should also consider working with classical elements like hickory and apple to get the desired results.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving?
If you’re smoking a turkey at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it should take about 30 to 40 minutes a pound to fully smoke. That means an eight pound turkey will take four to five hours until it finishes, and a 20 pound turkey will take 10 to 13 hours. Always check the turkey with an instant read thermometer to make sure it is ready to eat.
What wood chips are best for smoking turkey?
You can use any wood chips you like for smoking turkey, although we do have a few favorites. Apple and cherry wood are always good for poultry as they infuse the meat with a slightly sweet flavor. We also like using hickory, which has a stronger flavor but turns the turkey’s skin a dark mahogany color. The only chips we would avoid are using mesquite without mixing them with other chips, as this flavor will overpower the turkey.
How much turkey do you need per person?
If you’re feeding a crowd, turkey is a great way to go because it can feed a lot of people. If you’re serving the traditional Thanksgiving sides, you can plan on one pound of uncooked turkey per person. That means an eight pound turkey should feed eight, and a 20 pound turkey feeds 20. If you want leftovers, plan on 1-1/2 pounds of uncooked turkey per person.
How do you collect turkey drippings for making gravy?
If you’re smoking your turkey, you’ll need to plan on collecting the drippings for making gravy. We like roasting our turkey in a roasting pan, which lets you collect the drippings like normal and it also makes it easier to get the turkey out of the smoker. If your roasting pan won’t fit, place a foil pan underneath the turkey to collect the drippings.
What do you need to smoke a turkey?
Smoked turkey is easy! You need a smoker (like a MasterBuilt or Traeger) or a grill (like a Big Green Egg or Weber). Then, add wood chips and low cooking temperatures, and you have everything you need to produce a flavorful turkey.