Monday, December 30, 2013

Smoking a Whole Turkey

David from Riverside, Ohio wrote:

What do you suggest as far as temperatures and length of smoking times for smoking a whole turkey? I have a Bradley Smoker.

Thanks for the question David,

Smoking a whole turkey can be really tricky, so you do need to be careful. I recommend injecting the bird with your favorite marinade or just using melted butter and inject the breast, legs, wings and thighs really well to increase the moisture content.

When I inject, I usually do it at least 24 hours prior to smoking to allow the muscle fibers to absorb the marinade that I have injected in. When smoking large products like hams, turkeys or geese, I always let them sit at room temperature for at least an hour to get all that ambient cold out of the meat before placing it into the smoker. It's such a battle for the smokehouse to take such a large, cold piece of meat and heat it up. I also preheat the smokehouse to 180F and let the cabinet remain at that temperature for 15-20 minutes before I ever place the turkey in the smoker. The best way to explain this is like warming up your house or hunting camp after the heat has been turned off or down low for several days. It just takes time to get the temperature of the walls, furniture, floors, cabinets and internal fixtures up to temperature. 

Let's get up to speed here! So we inject the bird to keep it from drying out, let the marinade soak in for 24 hours or so, then set the bird out to warm up to room temperature, preheat the smoker to 180F and allow it to remain at that temperature for 15-20 minutes.

Now you're ready to load the bird into the smoker. Place the turkey in the smoker with no smoke turned on. Large pieces of meat have so much moisture, you really don't need to be in a rush to begin smoking. I will typically dry the surface of the bird for at least one hour before applying smoke. Remember: The skin of your turkey is very moist and it's going to pick up smoke very fast! So, unless you want a really hard-smoked bird, you better dry the surface a little to keep smoke from sticking too quickly to the surface of the skin. 

After you dry the surface, you're ready to apply some smoke if you would like. I like to smoke for 2 hours at 190F. Next, you're ready to begin finishing the bird. At this time, I remove the bird from the smoker and place it into an oven bag. This oven bag, which you can purchase at any grocery store, will do wonders to keep your bird nice and moist. Place the bird into the bag and make one or two small holes in the top of the bag to allow the bag to breathe. 

Now, increase the cabinet temperature up to 300F until the timer pops or the bird reaches 180F internal temperature.

Enjoy your turkey dinner and thanks for the great question!

"The Meat Man"
Brad Lockwood