There is something about smoked meat that makes it taste so much better. This is especially true when it comes to smoked turkey—the juiciness and deep flavor can’t be beat. Fortunately, smoking a turkey at home isn’t hard to do. With an investment in a charcoal smoker (usually about $50), you’ll soon be serving up smoked turkey. In fact, you’ll probably start smoking every piece of meat you can get your hands onto.
Brining the Turkey
When smoking a turkey, don’t pick out the biggest turkey in the cooler. You really don’t want to use a turkey any larger than 12 pounds or you’ll have trouble getting it to cook fully. Though it’s possible to smoke your turkey without going through the brining process, it will make your turkey juicer and more tender. It’s definitely worth the extra effort.
You will need a plastic container that is large enough to hold the turkey and hopefully fit inside of your refrigerator. If it’s too big to fit in the refrigerator, place it in a large cooler and keep it packed with ice. You’ll need 1 cup of salt for each gallon of water, and with this size turkey you’ll need approximately 2. Add any additional spices such as pepper, garlic, rosemary, sugar, or cayenne pepper to marinate into the turkey. Place your turkey inside of the container and place a brick inside of a plastic bag and on top of the turkey to keep it submerged in the brine. Allow the turkey to marinate in the brine overnight or for at least 6 to 8 hours.
Get the Smoker Ready
Light your charcoal smoker as you normally would. This will entail soaking your wood chips in a container of water for at least 15 minutes. Choose a wood you like the taste of since it will be enhancing the flavor of the turkey. Place coals in the bottom container of the smoker and light them. Remove the water bowl and fill with water. You can also add additional herbs such as garlic or rosemary to the water, if you desire. Allow the coals to burn white, which means they are fully lit. Place your water bowl back inside of the smoker. Add your soaked wood chips right before you place the turkey into the smoker.
Smoking the Turkey
Take the turkey out of the brine and wash all the salt off the outside and inside of it. Rub a healthy dose of butter over the outside skin of the turkey. If you want to sprinkle on any herbs or spices, now is the time to do it. Make sure your smoker has reached a temperature of at least 225 degrees F before putting the turkey inside of it. Place your turkey on the rack breast side down and close the door tightly to start the smoking process.
Open the smoker door only when it starts to loose heat so you can refurbish the fire. You don’t want your smoker’s temperature falling below 160 degrees F or you run the chance of the turkey getting salmonella. Try to keep your smoker at a temperature of at least 225 degrees F throughout the smoking process. You can figure it will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes per pound to cook the turkey. A twelve pound turkey averages around 6 hours of smoking until it reaches the done state. A meat thermometer should read 175 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the turkey and 180 degrees F when inserted into the thigh.