Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic for me. The garden is mostly crispy critters so there have been no harvests to report, unless you want me to report my failure to completely finish tidying it up before cold weather. I figure that’s what early spring days are for. Also, my daughter travelled home for American Thanksgiving, but a week early. Since Dad is supposed to pick up the airfare, a week early meant tickets half the price of Thanksgiving week, so fine with with me. And since Kate has to approve the menu, I was happy when she approved trying to smoke a turkey in my new smoker.


I got the idea from Meathead Goldwyn’s website, Amazing Ribs. I have always liked smoked turkey. We used to order a corn cob and maple smoked ham and smoked turkey breast from Harrington’s in Vermont every year. The difference in this case was the turkey would be fresh and not cured. The idea of smoking the turkey was attractive, since it would free up the oven for other things.




I purchased a 16 pound fresh turkey and prepped it Meathead’s way by removing skin flaps top and bottom and the tail and wing tips. In the cavity I placed the peel of an orange, some garlic cloves, half an onion, celery leaves, and some fresh sage leaves. The turkey is not trussed so you get good air flow around and through the entire bird. It was not brined but was sprinkled with kosher salt before putting it in the smoker.




The  giblets (minus the liver), the skin, tail, wing tips and excess fat were placed in a disposable aluminum pan that functions as the drip pan and water bath for the smoker. I also added an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk with leaves, fresh sage and thyme to the pan, then poured in a quart carton of turkey stock.





The turkey was placed in the center of the smoker with the drip pan below it. The drip pan keeps the turkey moist, regulates the temperature, and catches the turkey drippings. It also becomes the base for the gravy when the turkey is finished, so that frees up a burner on the stove usually devoted to making stock for the gravy.




The turkey is smoked at 325 °F for 3-3.5 hours, about the same as an oven, so this is a hot smoke. Turkey doesn’t have all the collagen of pork or beef so there is no need to go “low and slow” to break down the collagen. I went light on the smoke with just a small handful of apple wood chips used at the beginning of the smoke. Temperatures were monitored with a Maverick remote  temperature probe, one in the breast of the turkey set for a 165 °F alarm, and one clipped to the rack under the turkey to monitor smoker temperature.


The day was cool, about 40 °F, but very blustery. The temperature was not a problem but the wind made it very challenging. I had the propane control on high the whole time. The smoker is dual fuel and I had fortunately added a generous amount of lump charcoal to the charcoal tray. Even with the two heat sources, I had wild fluctuations in the smoker temperature with wind gusts, up and down 20-30 degrees at a time. The alarms from the Maverick were driving me crazy at times.




So with things hellsapoppin inside preparing all the sides, when it came time to bring the turkey inside, I forgot I was supposed to photograph the event. Here’s the turkey after I already carve one side of it. It was a beautiful color and the aroma was fantastic. The light apple wood smoke was perfect and not too strong. The skin was crispy and the meat was still very moist. Everyone really enjoyed it and I may do it again next year.




The drip pan was drained into a saucepan to turn the juices into gravy and the disposable pan was just tossed in the trash (actually it was cleaned and tossed into the recycle bin). It made a terrific gravy. This was a great way to do the turkey. The only cleanup was the rack the turkey sat on in the smoker. No roaster pan to wash.


Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. While everyone was running around shopping Thanksgiving week and cooking on Thursday, we were finishing off leftovers. And Kate got her flight out on Tuesday, just before the usual Wednesday snow storm that fouls up all east coast travel on the busiest travel day of the year. Thanksgiving day we went to the movies and then grilled some nice steaks for dinner. A very pleasant two weeks.


  1. Sounds fabulous and the turkey looks delicious. I'm amazed the wind could wreak such havoc with the smoker, good thing it didn't compromise the results. I love smoked turkey too and did it in the BGE this year, it turned out great.

  2. That turkey looks fabulous and nicely browned, Dave! My MIL used to serve smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving. They were so good! Don't know why I never thought of smoking my turkeys. Maybe I'll do that next year.

  3. I love smoked turkey. I used to smoke turkey breasts fairly often, when I had my Brinkman charcoal smoker. A cold wind would cause problems with it too. Glad yours turned out o.k. though. I can almost taste it!


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