We have less than two weeks until Thanksgiving Day and I don’t know about you but I can already taste the Turkey.
I love Turkey in all forms but for me a smoked Turkey is really were it’s at… Then again I am a Texas Girl and smoked meats are just apart of life. I also understand that firing up the smoker isn’t always for everyone. For example, if you live up North and are already under a foot of snow (LUCKY!) a smoked bird might not be for you. But in Texas where the weather can still be in the mid 70’s on Thanksgiving Day a smoked Turkey is a great option. Besides I would feel safer smoking a Turkey any day versus a deep-fried one…. Talk about scary!
Smoking a Turkey is not only easy but it also yields a beautiful deep mahogany color and delicious skin. Plus, by smoking the Turkey you also free up the oven for cooking all the other side dishes like Roasted Green Beans, Spiced Sweet Potato Gratin, Dressing, Rolls, and some Homemade Pecan Pie.
Whether you decide to Smoke or Roast your Turkey there are a few things that I do to help ensure a perfect tender and juicy bird every time.
- Brine that Bird. Brining adds flavor and moisture to the Turkey.
- Spatchcocking is the way to go. Spatchcocking is where the backbone has been removed and the breast bone cracked allowing the bird to lay completely flat. The reason I prefer a spatchcocked Turkey (or Chicken) is it cooks faster and more evenly. Also a spatchcocked bird is MUCH easier to carve.
- I like to use a smaller sized Turkey usually around 12-13 pounds.
- Buy a Fresh (never frozen) Organic Turkey.
How do you make the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey?
Texas Smoked Turkey and Homemade Turkey Brine
1 – 12-13 pound Fresh Turkey, with the backbone, neck, and giblets removed (also if your Bird has one of those pop up thermometers remove that as well). I normally ask the butcher to spatchcock the turkey for me (of course you can always do this yourself with a very sharp knife or kitchen shears and the right leverage). Be sure to keep the backbone along with the neck and giblets for stock and gravy.
2 Days before Cooking the Turkey make the brine….
Homemade Holiday Spiced Turkey Brine
8 Whole Cloves Garlic, Peeled
6 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
1 Bunch Fresh Thyme
12 Fresh Sage Leaves
1 Bay Leaf
2 Tablespoons Back Peppercorns
1/2 Tablespoon Whole Cloves
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Cup Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Gallon Distilled Water
Remove the orange zest from the orange in long strips with a vegetable peeler.
In a large stock pot add half a gallon (8 cups) of the distilled water, salt, sugar, orange zest, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, sage and garlic. Bring everything up to a boil stirring constantly until the salt and sugar has dissolved then reduce heat and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Allow the brine to cool and add in the remaining 8 cups of water and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
1 Day before cooking:
Prep Turkey removing the giblets, neck, and backbone. Then place the turkey in a large brining bag (or very large vessel) and pour all the chilled brining solution over the Turkey and refrigerate. Allow the Turkey to soak in the brining solution for no more than 12 hours.
Day of Cooking:
Prep and pre-heat your smoker to 250 degrees, according to your manufacturers directions. I use mesquite charcoal and chunks of pecan wood for smoke.
While the smoked pre-heats…
Fill a VERY clean sink with cold water. Remove the turkey from the brining solution and submerge the turkey in the cold water and let it soak for 5-10 minutes. Then remove the turkey and pat the skin completely dry. Season the outside and inside of the turkey with just a little salt and pepper (remember the bird is already salty from the brine). Then place the Turkey Skin side up on the pre-heated smoker. Cook until the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165, for a 13 pound Turkey this will take about 3-1/2 – 4 hours. Allow the Turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.