First off you must choose your turkey ... the best choice is a fresh bird if possible. When you freeze a bird ice crystals will make some of the cells burst and this will make your turkey meat more dry ... it is a biology thing ... lol! Anyway, fresh is best. I also try to not use a turkey that is larger that 12 pounds ... it simply takes too long to get the meat up to temperature and stay in the bacterial food safety range.
Next, you may want to "brine" your bird. I have smoked turkey both ways, with and without brine, I think that brining gives you a moister, juicier end result, but sometimes I don't give myself enough time to brine. I normally have a 12 pound turkey and I let it brine for about 12-24 hours.
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup salt (1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 fresh tarragon leaves or 1/4 cup dried tarragon
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Preparation:The water you use should not be chlorinated .... I use reverse osmosis water. If you don't have easy access to good spring water. Boil it first, let the water cool and then add all other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Place Turkey in large non-metallic dish and cover completely with brine. Remove Turkey from Brine, rinse thoroughly and dry. Coat with olive oil.
I also like to use a dry rub ... I always say, in for a penny, in for a pound ... it just gives extra flavor. Experiment and try one of the Seasonings and Dry Rubs from Club Sauce. Do not stuff the bird ... with the extra long cooking times you never know if the dressing will reach the correct temperature to kill the 'bad cooties'. You might try putting in some aromatics, though ... this would be slices of lemons or oranges of your favorite fresh herbs.
Now you are going to get your smoker ready and up to temperature. You should have already made your choice of smoking woods and soaked in preparation. A great source of different and exotic wood chips is Uncle Robby's Great and Audacious Wood . I like to use apple or hickory myself, but as you learn how to use a smoker, experimentation is the key.
OK, bring the temperature up on your smoker to between 230F and 250F. You can plan on 30 minutes per pound at 230F or 25 minutes per pound at 250F. Remember your goal is to have the "coolest" part of your Turkey reach an internal temp of 165F ... so for this you will need a reliable meat thermometer ... you can go high tech with a digital or a simple one. Amazon offers a bunch of really cool ones including this wireless one Oregon Scientific AW129 Wireless BBQ Thermometer with Probe Thermometer and Remote
Lightly oil your grilling surface and place your bird breast side up. You will have to monitor not only the bird's temp, but the smoker temp and the amount of wood chips ... you want to be ready to add more when needed. Once the internal temperature has reached 165F in at least 2 spots, you are ready to take the turkey out and let it rest covered with foil on your carving board for at least 15 minutes. This will allow the meat juices to redistribute and keep the bird super moist YUMMO!
As you slice, you will also notice that the meat is slightly pink ... this is from the smoking ... not to worry ....
Now get ready to enjoy some of the best, lip smacking turkey around!