I grew up with my mother always in charge of holiday meals. She always stuffed the bird and roasted it for several hours in the oven. When I got married, I took this tradition to my new family. Though my first turkey was a bit of a disaster, I fine-tuned and gained more skills in traditional holiday cooking.
Later in life, my husband volunteered to be in charge of the turkey for that year. Who would say no to this?! He smoked a turkey, and I can say it was the best choice in turkey preparation. Smoking a bird offers a next-level delicious flavor, from locked-in natural flavors to perfectly moist and tender meat. If you still roast your turkey, maybe it’s time to change that tradition.
If you are going to smoke a turkey, you should start with a brine. Simple brine for turkey can be as easy as dissolving salt in water or as complicated as a two-day process of an herb-infused brine, allowing herb-infused for an air dry for the perfect, crispy turkey skin. It plumps every fiber of turkey with moisture and flavor but also takes a good deal of space and at least 24 hours.
Simple brine for turkey can be as easy as dissolving salt in water or as complicated as a two-day process of an herb-infused brine, allowing for air drying for the perfect, crispy turkey skin. It plumps every fiber of turkey with moisture and flavor but takes a lot of space and at least 24 hours. You will need to have enough room in your refrigerator 5-gallon container or keep plenty of ice on hand to keep the turkey cold during brine process.
If you choose a frozen turkey, it is recommended it should be thoroughly thawed before you begin.
Inside turkey ingredients
To start, you will need fresh ingredients to put in the cavity of the turkey during the brining process:
- 2-3 springs of rosemary
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
- Use a 5-gallon container
- 1 bag of ice
- 1 galloon apple cider or apple juice
- 1/2 gallon of water – fill depending on size of your bucket
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- About 20 grams or 3/4 of an ounce of ginger
- 2 tablespoons of chili flakes
- 4 cut up oranges
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 8 10 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 bottle of ale
- 1/4 butter
- 1 bag of ice
- medium saucepan
- bucket for brining
- Pan large enough for your turkey
When choosing wood chips my husband prefers apple however you can also use cherry or maple. Just be sure to choose a lighter tasting wood.
If you only have small wood chips, it is recommend soaking them the day before using them before leaving them out to dry. Damp chips will take longer to burn through, meaning that you won’t have to change them as regularly as if they were dry. Just make sure that they’re damp and not soaked.
Directions for brining
Step 1. Prep Bird
Remove everything inside the bird and trim any super loose skin that may be dangling. Set the bird aside until the brine is ready.
Step 2. Brine the Bird
- Mix sugar, kosher salt, and apple cider/juice in a medium saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves
- Put fresh rosemary, thyme and sage into the turkey cavity
- In the five-gallon container, pour the cider mixture and add vinegar, garlic, ginger, orange, and chili peppers
- Put the turkey in the container and pour a bag of ice over it
- Add water to cover the turkey and set the container aside for 18-24 hours
Step 3. Next day
- Preheat smoker to 300 -325 degrees F
- Remove turkey from the brine and place it on a roasting pan. Take out the herbs from the turkey cavity and pat dry with a paper towel
- Baste turkey with EVOO, pour ale in roasting pan and place turkey on pan, breast side down
- Place the roasting pan on smoker, cover and cook for about 80 minutes.
- Flip the turkey, baste with pan juice, and cook an additional 2 1/2 hours.
- Baste again with pan juices and continue cooking for another hour.
- Apply melted butter on the turkey to get a crispy skin and continue to cook until internal temperature is 160 degrees F. Bast a couple more times while it continues to cook.
- Remove turkey from smoke and place on a cutting board. Cover the turkey with foil and let it rest for about an hour. A turkey that is fresh off smoker and hot will probably be dry. While a turkey that rests will be a bit cooler but will be moist.
Check out Health for the Holidays for tips and tricks to come out of the holidays happier and healthier.