Today, at Compass and Fork, we put the spotlight on smoked turkey, as cooked in the smoker, to help celebrate the festive season. Here is everything you need to know to smoke your turkey perfectly!
A little more work, maybe, than roasting your festive-season turkey in the oven, but the extra rewards make this a great reason to go the extra mile and use a smoker to cook your turkey. And here is how to smoke your turkey so it turns out perfectly!
If you are looking to cook turkey so that people will still be talking about it this time next year, read on. We will take you through the whole process of how to smoke your turkey:
- Buy a fresh turkey from your local butcher/provider;
- Brine the turkey for extra juiciness, flavor and tenderness;
- Massage a wet rub to perfectly season your turkey;
- Cook the turkey on the smoker low and slow, basting with a butter-based solution;
- Rest your smoked turkey for around 1 hour; and
- Carve your turkey masterpiece and serve.
Welcome to the festive season here in the USA. If you are not from the USA, find out what all the fuss is about with turkey over the Thanksgiving and Holiday season.
The Festive Season in the USA
I don’t know any person that doesn’t enjoy the celebrations around the festive season. In the USA, the unofficial festive season commences with the advent of fall and Halloween. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world.
Around late September, you will see all sorts of fabulous, yard decorations signaling fall, or autumn. Think haystacks, pumpkins and scarecrows. When you first observe these fall decorations, you know that Halloween is just around the corner, with its ghoulish decorations, ghosts and no end of fun parties to attend.
Although Halloween has its roots in Europe, the US is responsible for developing the modern traditions we associate with Halloween, such as trick or treating for the children and the fun “dress-up” parties for the adults. Thoughts then soon turn to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in the USA and Canada. In the USA, celebrations are the fourth Thursday in November. In Canada it is the second Monday in October. The holiday is to give thanks for everything you have with your family and friends. A time for a moment of gratitude.
And after Thanksgiving, it’s time to put up the Christmas decorations! We all know what comes in late December. More family celebrations ensue.
For people outside of the US, it is interesting to observe Thanksgiving. It seems bigger in the US than Christmas. Americans often travel to be with family at Thanksgiving more so than at Christmas.
All in all, it is a fun time of the year to be in the US.
Smoke Your Turkey in A Smoker
Within the US, turkey is extremely popular and you typically roast a turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving as well as Christmas. And why not? It is good for you and is relatively cheap compared to turkey in other parts of the world. Many other countries also celebrate Christmas with a roast turkey. This recipe offers you the chance to do something different this year!
The traditional way of cooking turkey is to roast it in the oven, but I can tell you turkey cooked in the smoker just adds a touch of class to your festive celebrations. Although any time of the year is a good time to cook turkey in the USA, Thanksgiving and Christmas offer you the opportunity to do something special with your family and friends.
It is true there is more work involved in smoking your turkey. But cooking your turkey slow and low in the smoker will reward you with taste and tenderness. You will need access to a smoker for this recipe. Several years ago we did extensive research about smokers. You want one with good heat insulation (to maintain a constant temperature) and a separate door for the wood chips (so the heat does not escape when you need to top the wood chips up).
Do you need to brine your turkey before you smoke it?
If you want tender, juicy turkey, brining really does become “essential” for larger poultry like turkey. You should brine your turkey prior to smoking and you want your turkey to be around 12 lbs (5.5kg or less), although I have successfully cooked a 16-pound turkey in the smoker. A pre-prepared brine mix makes this an easy task. For those unable to find a prepared mix you can find a good turkey brine recipe here.
You can brine the turkey in a brining bag (large strong bag, or in a brining bucket. It probably depends on how dedicated you are to continuing to use the smoker if you would like to invest in a brining bucket, but it does help to brine food evenly.
After brining the turkey, I season the turkey with a wet rub, the recipe is below.
What are the best type of wood chips to use to smoke turkey?
Generally fruit based wood chips are good for poultry as they are milder than some other hardwood chips. Apple or peach wood chips are good options for poultry or cherry wood chips also darken the turkey giving a golden brown color.
You can purchase a handy magnet which gives you a guide to the best type of wood chips and the correct temperature to know when the meat is fully cooked. (A great gift for Dad.)
Once the turkey is cooking in the smoker, I baste the turkey with a butter-based solution. After removing the turkey from the smoker, I like to rest the turkey for 1 hour before slicing to allow for maximum juiciness.
A meat thermometer will tell you when it is done. If you don’t want to open the smoker door to check, there are remote digital meat thermometers available.