Buying a turkey to smoke for Thanksgiving
Don't wait until the last minute to buy a turkey. Frozen turkeys will take 2 to 3 DAYS to defrost in the refrigerator before you can even start to brine them for 12 to 24 hours.
A 10 to 12 pound turkey is the perfect size turkey to smoke. If you need more meat buy 2 and smoke 2 - it is better than trying to smoke a single 22 pounder.
Now, there are full blown fights going on between BBQ gurus as to which type of turkey to use to when smoking a turkey. The purest say nothing but a free range, nothing added, turkey will do. While we agree with them, we also know these turkeys cost 10 times what a minimally processed turkey* does. The 12 pound turkey used for this bbq lesson cost under $19 bucks. The same size free range turkey was on "sale" for $58! Furthermore, don't believe the hype that you can't or shouldn't brine a processed turkey - that's all we do and they turn our great! *usually says % solution injected, the lower the better, but no more than 8%
We have smoked tons of turkeys and have never had a complaint or a question about how the turkey was processed. Bottom line: brine, rub, and smoke the turkey correctly and the only thing yours guests will be concerned with is can they have seconds.
Brining the Turkey
There are Ph.D level dissertations on what brining is and how it works at a molecular level all over the web. If you're looking for the theory behind the brining process you're in the wrong place. The quick and dirty is it that brining really works. Brining a turkey makes it moist and tender throughout. It is the same trick that every high end restraunt uses to make their polutry so tender and juicy.
So, what the heck brine you ask? A brine is water and kosher salt. We like to keep our turkey brine simple. No bay leaves, no magic powders. Let the smoke and rub flavor the turkey.
Patio Pitmaster's Smoked Turkey Brine:
1 gallon water
1 cup KOSHER Salt (NOT TABLE SALT)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
mix until salt and sugar are dissolved
*Double recipe if needed to cover turkey(s)
Place turkey in an extra large (the huge ones) ziplock bag and stand up in a stock pot. Place in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
1 hour before your cook, remove from brine and rinse brine completly off your turkey. Every nook needs to be rinsed and hand scrubbed with cold water. Make sure to rinse the cavity several times with cold water.
Pat entire turkey complete dry with paper towels.
Rubbing the Turkey
After completely dry, brush turkey with a light coating of vegetable oil and dust with Patio Pitmaster Cheap and Easy Rub.
Prepare your BBQ using the minion method. Turley needs to cook at a higher tempature than any other meats that you have learned to cook here. For this reason, DO NOT add any water to your Weber Smokey Mountain water pan. This will allow the your smoker to cook at a higher temperature for a faster cook. We like to use chunks of apple or cherry wood for this turkey.
Place your turkey on the top grate - no need to turn or baste the turkey for the entire cook. Brining took take of all that.
When the internal breast temperature reaches 160°, it is time to pull your smoked turkey off the BBQ (anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours).
While resting, your turkey will rise to 165° (more like 170°) and will be perfect. Our free BBQ cheat sheet will give you chef recommend temperatures for every BBQ lesson we teach here.
This cook demonstrates another reason to invest in a remote wireless BBQ Thermometer set. Check the temp of the pit and your smoking turkey from the comforts of your home. We can't say enough about this handy device.
Resting the Turkey
Let your turkey rest on your cutting board for 20-30 minutes. If you cheat this step, you may undue all your work for the last few days.
Carving the Thanksgiving turkey
After resting, carve your turkey with an electric carving kinfe (if you have one) or a sharp carving knife. This turkey is guaranteed to be one of the best you have had. Moist, flavorful, and tender are just a few things that will come to mind when you bite into your smoked turkey masterpiece. Enjoy!