Are you thinking of smoking or cooking your turkey on the grill? It’s a great way to go to get a really flavorful turkey, and an extra bonus is it frees up your oven for all your other Thanksgiving dinner favorites. So, let’s get into some hints and tips for smoking your turkey…
To brine or not to brine your turkey – that is the question…. Brining your turkey is essentially the process of soaking it in a flavored water and salt mixture for 12-24 hours.
- The key to brining is your water-to-salt ratio. This may sound complicated, but it’s really not that difficult. You basically want to add about 1-2% of salt to the amount of water you have. Well, how do I figure that out, you ask?…. First of all, you’ll need a food-safe bucket or container that is big enough to fully submerge your turkey (and hopefully you have a refrigerator to keep it in while it is brining.) Before you unwrap your bird, put it in your bucket or container and fill it up with water until your bird is fully covered or submerged. Remove your bird from the container, and wallah! – this is how much water you need to brine your turkey. Measure how much water you have – a gallon weighs 8 pounds. Based on the weight of how much water you require to brine your turkey you can determine how much salt to use, using 1-2% of the weight of the water.
- You can then add any herbs and seasonings you wish to help flavor your turkey. Think peppercorns, fresh thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic cloves
- Keep your turkey chilled while it’s brining. Brine it for 12-24 hours.
- After your bird has brined, rinse it off thoroughly to remove all brining liquid and pat it dry with paper towel. If possible, to help achieve the ultimate crispy skin, let the turkey air dry in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Seasoning your bird – it all depends on whether you brined it or not
- If you brined your bird and want to add some seasonings or rub to the outside, do NOT include salt in your seasoning or rub. Brining you turkey already added all the salt it needs
- If you did not brine your bird, then you will want to add salt to your seasoning.
- Be liberal with your seasonings – all outside the bird, inside the cavity and under the skin.
- You can even mix your seasoning with soft butter to apply all over, around and inside your turkey to give it extra flavor.
- Think of adding some lemon zest or orange zest to your seasoning, and then put the lemon or orange halves in the cavity of the turkey for some extra flavor
- After seasoning, let your turkey rest at least 4 hours and up to overnight in the refrigerator to let the flavors of your seasoning sink into the bird.
Poultry injection? – Again, it all depends on whether you’ve brined or not.
- If you have brined your turkey, do NOT also inject it with an injection mixture. You’ve already got enough flavor going with the brine.
- If you have not brined and want to give the bird a flavor injection, here are some tips…
- Use some of the same flavors from your rub in your injection.
- Run the injection liquid through a blender and then through a coffee filter to filter out any bits or chunks that might otherwise clog up your injector.
Spatchcock your bird! Huh, what?
- Spatchcocking a chicken or turkey is the process of butterflying your bird by removing the backbone so the bird can lay flat. Do an internet search and you’ll find all kinds of videos on how to properly spatchcock a chicken or turkey. Hint: You’ll need some good, sharp, sturdy kitchen shears (scissors)
- The benefit of spatchcocking is it allows the bird to cook more evenly on the grill or smoker, but you also lose the ability to add any citrus or apples to the cavity for additional flavor.
What temperature should you smoke your bird at?
- Ideally, you should smoke your turkey at 225-250°. But you can go as high as 325° to speed up the cooking process. At 225-250° a turkey needs about 30 minutes per pound to get to a cooked temp of 160°.
- If smoking at the lower temperature, you can raise the temp near the end of the cook to get nice crispy skin.
What about Basting? If you’re basting your bird, make sure you’re quick about it.
- As the saying goes – “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking!”
- Basically, the more often and longer you have the lid of your smoker or grill open, the longer it will take you cook your turkey.
- You’ll be also apt to get more temperature spikes as the grill tries to compensate for the loss of heat or the addition of more oxygen, depending on the type of smoker or grill you’re using.
Use a Thermometer:
- Using a dual probe thermometer (like the Meater) allows you to monitor the temp of your turkey and your smoker at the same time.
- Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and not touching a bone to get the most accurate reading
What smoking wood should I use?
- Using either pellets or wood chunks, look to use a mixture of any of the following: hickory, oak, pecan, cherry or apple
Time for a Rest!
- By the time you’re all done, both the Grillmaster and the turkey will need a rest.
- The turkey should rest inside under some loosely tented foil for 20-30 minutes. It’s worked hard smoking for all this time, so give it a little time to rest before cutting into it.
- And then I would recommend the Grillmaster to also take a 20-30 minute rest with your favorite beverage – because you’ve been working hard too!!
I hope these hints and tips help you have a wonderfully successful smoked turkey for you and your family this year. This will obviously give you some quality time with your grill, and your family. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!