The 5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Smoking Turkey
Ashburn, VA: I went from making terrible smoked turkey to making mouthwatering smoked turkey after taking a 4-hour BBQ masterclass with a well-known Pitmaster. Here are the 5 most important things I learned:
- How To Quickly Thaw Your
- How To Easily Brine Your Turkey
- How To Pick The Perfect Sized Turkey
- How To Know Which Type of Wood/Pellet To Use
- How To Prepare & Smoke Your Turkey
1. How To Quickly Thaw Your Turkey
The best way to thaw your turkey is in the fridge because if you set it out in the open to thaw, bacteria will grow inside the meat. When thawing in the fridge, allow one day for each 4-5 pounds of turkey. For example, if your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. If you are in a pinch & need to thaw your turkey fast, watch this ThermoWorks video below
2. How To Easily Brine Your Turkey
Brining is important because it’s an easy way to make sure your bird stays moist during the smoking process. If you buy a turkey that has been pre-brined, you can skip this step. However, I learned most pit masters prefer to brine their own turkey and typically brine for at least 24 hours. There are a million and one ways to brine a turkey. You can get creative with your brine and add spices, oranges, lemons, etc. but the most important thing you need is:
Here is the quick science behind brining. The salt will push water into the cells of the turkey. The salt does this by relaxing the turkey cells which makes gaps where water can get in. Regardless of what you add to the brine, salt and water are the most important ingredients. Make sure you have enough water to completely submerge the turkey and make sure you have at least one cup of salt per gallon of water.
Note: Make sure you remove everything from the cavity before your brine
3. How To Pick The Perfect Sized Turkey
You want to have at least 1.25 pounds of turkey per guest. If you have a family that eats a lot of turkey then bump that up to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. Below is a reference chart based on 1.25 pounds of turkey per person.
4. How To Choose Your Wood/Pellets
This comes down to your personal preference. Most pitmasters use hickory because the smoked flavor is strong but not overpowering like mesquite. No matter what food you plan to smoke here is some useful information to know about wood/pellet flavors.
Alder: Delicate smoke. Great for seafood.
Apple: Mild, sweet smoke. Great for everything. May overwhelm poultry if smoked for too long.
Cherry: Medium, sweet smoke. Excellent for pork, lamb, beef, dark poultry (duck, etc.), and other gamey meat.
Hickory: Slightly stronger than the fruit woods. Good smoke flavor and can be used on everything.
Maple: Subtle, mild smoke. Great for pork and poultry.
Mesquite: Intense smoke flavor. Best for large cuts of beef and pork.
Oak: Good smoke flavor that is less intense than hickory. Great on everything.
Pecan: Similar to hickory but gives off a nutty smell. Mixes well with fruit woods and is mainly used for poultry.
5. How To Prepare & Smoke Your Turkey
How To Prepare:
- After your turkey has brined for 24 hours, remove, rinse and pat dry. Half some onions, apples, or both and stuff it in the cavity. This will help keep your bird moist. Tie the end of the legs together with butcher’s twine (optional).
- If you have the option, inject the turkey breast with melted butter. This will help keep the breast moist as the bird smokes.
- Coat your turkey with olive oil. This will help the seasoning stick and give your turkey a beautiful color after it’s done smoking.
- Here is the BEST seasoning tip I received from the BBQ Master Class: Season your turkey with 2 things. Pepper and Bald Buck: Bold Taste. When seasoning the bird, treat Bald Buck: Bold Taste as your “salt.” Meaning you want to put enough on to taste it, but you don’t want to dump tons of it on the bird. After your family tastes this flavor, I promise you they will ask what the hell you did to get this amazing flavor.
How To Smoke:
- Preheat the smoker to 225-230 degrees. Use the wood of your choice based on the information I gave you earlier.
- Place the bird on the grill breast side up. Depending on how your smoker gives off heat, be prepared to turn your bird a few times while it smokes so that it cooks evenly.
- Smoke the turkey for about 30 minutes per pound until the bird reaches 165 degrees. The breast will take the longest to smoke so be sure to check the temperature there before removing the bird.
- Remove the turkey, cover it with foil, and place it in a cooler. If there is no cooler, at least cover it with towels. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Follow these steps, and you will make a good smoked turkey. If you want everybody at Thanksgiving to taste your turkey, lose their sh*t and beg you for your secret, when you season the bird, I recommend using Bald Buck: Bold Taste as your salt. There are plenty of YouTube videos on Bald Buck but below is the best one. Hope this helps!