Bob's Simple Turkey Smoke November 11 2015

Hi Folks,

I know a lot of people who are a bit intimidated by the thought of smoking a turkey, whether due to the importance of the occasion or the thought of trying to smoke such a large bird. I have done a lot of chickens, but honestly hadn't tried doing a turkey yet myself. With the holiday coming up and our Thanksgiving Apple Wood Sale underway I thought this would be a good time to give it a go!

I started with a bird I knew would fit in my smoker and roasting rack, which in this case turned out to be slightly under 17 lbs. I could probably have gotten up to a 19 lb. bird in, but preferred to err on the side of caution. I didn't want to brine the bird, because this is supposed to be the simplest version of a turkey smoke I could come up with for the test. So to make up for it, I used a foil liner in my rack to contain juices, and cooked the bird with the breast side down immersed in the liquids from the cooking. Doing the bird upside down causes all the extra fat and juice in the thighs to migrate via gravity to the breast and foil liner.

The issue this presents is that the breast as normally presented at the table would appear pale, which I knew would be less than optimal for the visual experience and normal expectations at the dinner table. I had two solutions: Flip the bird later in the smoke to get the color on the breast in the smoker, or flip it and finish it in the oven to brown the breast skin. I decided to go with the latter for two reasons, one of which was it would bring the aromas of the smoker into the house just before dinner in conjunction with the normal smell of roasting turkey, which I feel is part of the anticipation of a big holiday meal.

I used a black pepper and garlic rub for the bird, inside and out, though you can obviously season it to suit. I personally like a lot of savory seasonings on turkey so my next bird will use different spices. I let the turkey sit overnight with the rub in the fridge, same as I would a chicken.

Turkey in the smoker, ready to go.

I did my usual low and slow, starting my run at 170 degrees. I added lots of smoke to the unit with our Small Apple Wood Chunks for about 6 hours, at which point the bird was sitting between 150-160 internal temp on the thickest part of the breast.

Apple wood in the tray, let's smoke!

Here is a quick series as the smoke progressed, taken at 2, 4, and 6 hours respectively.

Two hours into smoking.
2 hours

Four hours into the smoke.
4 hours

Six hours and ready to go to the oven.
6 hours

At that point I pulled the bird and put it in my roasting pan, then flipped the bird to be breast side up. With the oven set to 325 degrees, it took roughly 45-60 minutes to brown the breast and hit the desired 180 degree temperature for fully cooked and safe to eat.

Smoke complete, ready to flip and finish in the oven.

You can see a nice smoke ring coming in on the right side in this picture I took when I cut into the breast to see how moist and tender it turned out. Definitely juicy, smelled and tasted great! The part of the breast with the ring was a little tougher, but it was such a small part of the breast it had little impact, and was at least partly made up for by the enhanced flavors.

Finished and carved smoked turkey.

We quite enjoyed the bird, and it was almost as easy as doing a chicken! Tenderness varied a bit, but honestly felt in line with my experience with most every other turkey I've ever had.

Good luck to everyone on their turkey smokin'!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Bob Coates