Smoked Turkey – Simple & Delicious Recipe

Introduction to Smoked Turkey

The best reasons to smoke your turkey are the moist, tender meat, crispy skin and delightful flavors of herbs and delicate wood smoke. Your turkey will be gorgeous, juicy and tender, have the ideal dark skin and the sensational flavor of fresh herbs. You can make a smoked turkey at home no matter which kind of grill you have available. All you need to do is create indirect heat, keep your temperature consistent and use the right type of wood for the ideal smoke. 

Turkey is different than other types of meat because it has a tendency to dry out. This is especially true for the white meat of your turkey breast. Smoked turkey seals in the juices for tender meat on the inside and crispy skin on the outside. One of the best methods for preparing a smoked turkey is called spatchcocking. To spatchcock your turkey, you need to take out the entire backbone so your turkey can smoke flat. 

How to Prepare a Turkey for Spatchcocking

Begin by removing any moisture from the skin of your turkey with a paper towel. Removing the moisture ensures a crispier skin. Carefully place your entire turkey on a cutting board. The breast side needs to be down. Once you have found the backbone, you will need sharp kitchen shears. Begin cutting along the spine of your turkey at the tail. 

To avoid damaging any of the joints, cut as close to the backbone as you possibly can. You will feel some resistance when cutting through some of the rib bones in your turkey. Use both hands to press down on your kitchen shears to continue cutting. 

Pro Tip: If you are experiencing difficulty cutting your turkey, you can gain more leverage by standing on a stool. 

Rotate your turkey 180 degrees so your dominant hand is closest to the uncut side. Cut along the other side of the backbone using the same method. This will enable you to remove the backbone completely from your turkey. 

Pro Tip: Do not throw away your backbone. Put it into a freezer-safe resealable bag. The backbone will come in handy the next time you want to make homemade gravy or stock. 

Turn over your turkey with the breast facing upward. Using both of your hands, firmly press down on the center of your turkey until you hear the cracking sound of the wishbone breaking. You have just successfully spatchcocked your turkey. Not only will your turkey lie flat, but the wingtips will not burn.  

Another technique is called smoked beer can turkey. Start by opening a can of beer then cut off the top. Remove all but 12 ounces of beer. Put six bay leaves and several sprigs of fresh thyme into the can. Carefully push the can inside of your turkey. Be careful not to spill any of your beer in the bird. 

Make certain your turkey is balanced on the can to prevent your beer from draining out. Once your smoker or grill has reached your desired temperature, put on your turkey can first. Make sure your turkey is balanced in an upright position.  

Pro Tip: Use a cast iron grill for balancing your turkey. This will provide you with a flat base and a stable surface. The iron grill also conducts heat evenly. With smoked turkey, simple is best. Using powerful dry turkey rubs and injections will hide your bird's natural flavor. 

Brine the turkey

How to Prepare a Turkey for Brining

To brine your bird for tender turkey breast and thighs, make certain your turkey is completely thawed. Remove all giblets from your turkey. Fill a five-gallon bucket with three gallons of water. Do not use a metal bucket. Pour three gallons of water and your favorite turkey rub into your bucket. Mix thoroughly then add your chosen brine ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, sugar and garlic. Place your turkey in the bucket with the breast down. Make certain your turkey is 100 percent submerged. 

Cover your bucket and refrigerate overnight. Take your turkey out of the brine and use paper towels to pat it dry. Rub canola oil all over the outside of your bird then put it into an aluminum roasting pan with the turkey breast up. The brine will provide your smoked turkey with an extra flavor punch. Sugar and salt are ideal for flavoring your turkey while drawing out the moisture for a crisper, browner crust. The result is a smoked turkey with a beautiful appearance and a delicious taste. 

When you use garlic powder, smoked paprika and black pepper in addition to sugar and salt, your spices will be able to penetrate your turkey. As your turkey smokes, the natural juices will flavor your meat. One of the best spices to use in your brine is garlic powder. The pungent flavor will enhance and compliment your turkey while adding an extra depth of flavor. Smoked paprika will provide all types of meat cooked in a smoker with a unique and delicious smoky flavor

The combination of spices you use for your turkey is incredibly important for preventing a bland taste to your meat. The type of wood you decide to use when cooking your smoked turkey is just as important as your spices. The subtle smoke flavor will be absorbed by your smoked turkey the entire time your meat is cooking. Some woods are better than others for smoking a turkey. Each wood offers a different flavor. Your choice is based on your personal preferences. The best woods for turkey include: 

Hickory: Hickory is one of the most classic hard woods and ideal for smoked turkey. The main reason is the robust and distinct flavor of the hickory wood. Hickory is extremely popular for anyone who enjoys a nice smoky flavor. 

Oak: One of the most classic woods used for smoking meats in Europe is oak. You must be careful about which type of oak you use for smoked turkey because some of them provide such a deep and rich smoke flavor, they can overwhelm your bird. Your best option is one of the red oak varieties since it will provide your turkey with a delicious smoky taste and an appealing reddish tint. 

Maple: Maple wood is ideal for smoked turkey due to the sensation golden hue and slightly sweeter smoke provided. 

Alder: Alder is not only an excellent option, but it is very easy to find. Alder smoke offers a slightly milder and more earthy smoke ideal if you are still new to smoking. If the flavors of many of the hardwoods are too strong for your personal tastes, Alder tones down the flavor while adding delicious and unique characteristics. Alder is an ideal wood to use until you become used to smoking any type of meat. 

Apple and Cherry: Both of these fruit woods will infuse their individual flavors right into the meat of your smoked turkey. Fruit woods are excellent for smoking any of the lighter meats such as turkey and chicken. You will end up with a lighter and more delicate flavor. Fruit woods will not overwhelm your turkey by adding more smoke flavor than you want. 

Mesquite: One of the most popular woods in the southwestern states is mesquite due to the strength of the flavor. To prevent the flavor from becoming too strong, we recommend using a milder wood in addition to mesquite to balance out the flavor. An excess of mesquite smoke will overwhelm the flavor of your smoked turkey. 

Pro Tips: Always choose the type of wood you plan to use according to the type of meat you are smoking. The characteristics of each wood work best with specific meats.  

Smoke the turkey

What You Need to Prepare a Smoked Turkey

To help make certain your smoked turkey is successful, you should make certain you have all of the equipment necessary before you begin including:  

Turkey: You should purchase a turkey weighing approximately 15 pounds. Your turkey must be completely defrosted prior to smoking.

Fuel: Make certain you have plenty of fuel to smoke your turkey such as gas or propane.

Drip Pan: Your turkey will be extremely juicy. Be prepared with a drip pan so you can catch everything. 

Smoking Wood: You can use either chunks or chips. Decide which wood you want to use ahead of time and make certain you have enough to smoke your turkey. 

Meat Thermometer: You can use either a remote or instant-read thermometer. A good thermometer is essential for smoked turkey. 

Begin by taking your defrosted turkey out of the packaging. Remove the giblets and neck from the inside cavity of your turkey. If you have brined your turkey, rise the exterior carefully using cold water. Use a paper towel to pat down the entire surface of your bird. Use butcher's twine to tie the legs together. The wing tips should be tucked behind the shoulder joints to prevent burning. 

We recommend using either melted butter or olive oil to coat the entire exterior of your turkey. If you have brined your turkey, no additional seasoning is necessary. If not, make certain you season the exterior of your bird to ensure a delicious flavor to your meat. Either way, use melted butter or olive oil to achieve nice crisp skin. 

Pro Tip: We highly recommend against stuffing your turkey with any type of dressing prior to smoking. Your bird will be overcooked before the center of your stuffing has a chance to reach the ideal temperature. You can loosely fill the inside cavity of your smoked turkey with citrus, herbs, onions or apples to add more flavor. If you pack your turkey too tightly, the air will be unable to circulate properly. Throw out whatever you placed in your bird once your turkey has finished smoking. 

Your first step is getting your turkey ready for placement in your smoker. You can use either a completely thawed frozen turkey or a fresh turkey. Your best option for food safety reasons is a smaller turkey between 10 and 15 pounds. To prevent your turkey from spoiling before the meat has a chance to cook all the way through, the internal temperature must go from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit within four hours after you have placed the bird into your smoker. 

You have a lot of different options including stuffing the inner cavity of your turkey with aromatics, brining your bird prior to smoking to increase both flavor and moisture or using a rub on the exterior. For our smoked turkey recipe you will need:

  • One 10 to 15 pound thawed turkey (remove the neck and giblets)
  • One lemon (quartered)
  • One onion (quartered)
  • One-half cup barbeque rub
  • Three cups chicken broth
  • Cooking spray
  • Four fresh herb sprigs such as parsley, rosemary or thyme
  • Fresh herbs to use as a garnish

Pro Tip: If you have decided to brine your turkey, do not baste your bird with chicken broth. Your turkey can become too moist resulting in less crispiness to your crust. 

Step One: Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit prior to loading with apple wood. 

Step Two: Use cooking spray to coat a big, disposable aluminum cooking pan. Put your bird in the pan with the wings tucked beneath the body. 

Step Three: Stuff the inner cavity loosely with herbs, lemon and onion prior to tying the legs together with butcher's twine. 

Step Four: Cover the exterior surface of your turkey with barbeque rub. 

Step Five: Put your turkey into your smoker and allow it to cook for six to seven hours. Use your chicken broth to baste your bird every 45 minutes. Refill your wood chips as necessary. Insert your thermostat into the thickest section of the thigh. When the inner temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, your smoked turkey is done. 

Step Six: Give your smoked turkey 10 to 15 minutes to rest before placing it on a serving plate. Garnish your bird with herbs and enjoy. 

Smoked turkey recipe
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Smoked Turkey – Simple & Delicious Recipe

The best reasons to smoke your turkey are the moist, tender meat, crispy skin and delightful flavors of herbs and delicate wood smoke. Your turkey will be gorgeous, juicy and tender, have the ideal dark skin and the sensational flavor of fresh herbs.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time7 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Smoked Turkey
Servings: 1
Calories: 56kcal

Equipment

Smoker
Fuel
Smoking wood
Drip pan
meat thermometer

Ingredients

  • 15 lbs thawed turkey (remove the neck and giblets)
  • 1 lemon (quartered)
  • 1 onion (quartered)
  • 1/2 cup barbeque rub
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Cooking spray
  • Four fresh herb sprigs such as parsley, rosemary or thyme
  • Fresh herbs to use as a garnish

Instructions

  • Begin by taking your defrosted turkey out of the packaging. Remove the giblets and neck from the inside cavity of your turkey. 
  • If you have brined your turkey, rise the exterior carefully using cold water. 
  • Use a paper towel to pat down the entire surface of your bird. Use butcher's twine to tie the legs together. 
  • We recommend using either melted butter or olive oil to coat the entire exterior of your turkey. If you have brined your turkey, no additional seasoning is necessary. If not, make certain you season the exterior of your bird to ensure a delicious flavor to your meat.
  • We highly recommend against stuffing your turkey with any type of dressing prior to smoking. Your bird will be overcooked before the center of your stuffing has a chance to reach the ideal temperature. 
  • Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit prior to loading with apple wood. 
  • Use cooking spray to coat a big, disposable aluminum cooking pan. Put your bird in the pan with the wings tucked beneath the body. 
  • Stuff the inner cavity loosely with herbs, lemon and onion prior to tying the legs together with butcher's twine. 
  • Cover the exterior surface of your turkey with barbeque rub. 
  • Put your turkey into your smoker and allow it to cook for six to seven hours. 
  • Use your chicken broth to baste your bird every 45 minutes. 
  • Refill your wood chips as necessary.
  • Insert your thermostat into the thickest section of the thigh. 
  • When the inner temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, your smoked turkey is done. 
  • Give your smoked turkey 10 to 15 minutes to rest before placing it on a serving plate. Garnish your bird with herbs and enjoy. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2oz | Calories: 56kcal

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Smoked turkey

Our Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed your succulent smoked turkey. Keep in mind the type of wood you choose, your seasonings and anything you pack lightly in the inside cavity will affect the flavor of your meat

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