I’ve been smoking turkey for a good long time now. My friends love it. My family loves it and they all continually ask me how I do it.
The answer is quite simple. Patience and a little TLC. So below I decided to lay out how I do my turkeys.
Normally I get a bird that’s somewhere around 16lbs-18 lbs. I always used to go to the butcher and get it fresh but the cost is crippling especially around the holidays usually coming in at a price around $70-90. So one year I opted to go with frozen and I haven’t looked back. The frozen turkeys, if you take your time with it can come out just as juicy and flavorful as a fresh one. What I like to do is make a butter rub the night before with fresh basil, thyme, pepper and rosemary. Super aromatic herbs are key in my opinion. I mash them all together and make a butter paste and let it sit at room temperature over night.
The next day, take the bird out about 2 hours prior to getting him in the heat. just to bring the temperature of the meat closer to room temperature and during that resting time, take the butter paste you made the night before and get it under the skin. You can use your hand to separate the skin from the meat. Just stick your hand under the skin and gently move it around side to side until you’ve loosened the skin. Then cover the underside of the skin with the butter paste. be generous with it. Also I like to rub the outside with whatever little bit of the butter rub is left to moisten the skin a bit and then apply some spices. Dealers choice on what you use. I usually use a little chipotle, salt, pepper and dried thyme.
I stopped stuffing my turkey. Blasphemy. I know at first it was odd for me too but the payoff is HUGE. using a regular stuffing I found kept the turkey from cooking properly and in a timely enough fashion. I’m not saying you can’t/shouldn’t do it but I found that smoking or charcoal BBQing turkey without a full on bread based stuffing gave me overall much better results. I like to Just jam the leftover aromatic herbs into the cavity and take 1 lemon and cut it into quarters and stick it in there. As the heat rises those herbs and lemons will help to flavor the meat from the inside ans well as keep it nice and juicy.
Once I get my smoker up to 275, and I add my wet wood chunks. Mesquite and Hickory give the meat a really nice color and flavor and then it’s showtime. The bird goes on above the drip tray and then I get to drinking. I mean prepping the remainder of the meal. I add more wood/charcoal usually after about 2.5 hours and typically I won’t check the temperature until it’s been on for about 5 hours.. or if it’s starting to look like it’s pulling away in places. I don’t have an exact time frame for you because it seems that my turkeys are different every single time. Especially since I normally don’t make this unless it’s Thanksgiving in October or Christmas in December. The external temperature can make a big difference. If you happen to be lucky enough to have a super amazing BBQ, it may not take as long as they tend to be much better at retaining heat when you get to the miuch more expensive units like the Kamado Joe or Big Green Eggs of the world
When the temperature gets to about 165 – I take him off, bring him into the house then I cover it with tinfoil and then I cover it with some big heavy towels or blankets to allow the bird to continue cooking while resting and sort of crutching it the same way I do my brisket. While that takes place, I like finish my meal prep like making the gravy, vegetables, whatever and then after about 40-60 minutes, I check the temp again and every time it’s perfect and I get to cutting. Just be careful – as I’ve received some NASTY burns cutting into the bird at this time as usually the juices just spit out at me.
You can thank me later.