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I hope everyone is having a great weekend and looking forward to spending time of thanksgiving with family and friends this week.
My wife and I are going to celebrate with her family at Steve and Suzie Bennett’s home on the West Fork River in Moss Bluff, Tuesday evening. I am not sure what I am cooking yet, as we are not doing a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
My wife and I are going to celebrate with my family at my mother’s new home in Lake Charles Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. For Thursday’s meal, I am smoking 2 turkeys, 4 pork loin and sausage. I am going to make a cornbread dressing, potato salad, Sweet Potato Casserole, butter beans, mustard greens with smoked pork belly, with homemade cranberry sauce, turkey gravy and cheese bread. Yes, desserts will be Coconut Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Peach Pie, Blue Berry Cobbler.
Since I made my blog this past week, Turkey Brine” I have received several questions about smoking turkey. In looking over the questions that I have received from my canning blog, messenger and email concerning smoking thanksgiving turkey has inspired me in writing this blog for my canning blog. I am sending this via email also.
How long does it take a turkey to thaw?
I personally place my frozen turkey in the refrigerator about 3-5 days before I need it fully thawed. I remove the turkey from the refrigerator and place it in the sink full of cold water for about 30-45 minutes then I wash it and place it in the brine to process for smoking the next day.
If you are in a hurry, you can place the frozen turkey in the sink full of cold water. Change the water every 30-45 minutes until the turkey is thawed, changing the water is very important. For a 12-pound turkey that is completely frozen, you are looking at about 5-6 hours in cold water.
Can I Brine a Turkey that I bought in the store, and has been commercially brined?
I have been brining store-bought turkeys for many years and some of them with more than 12% solution and the turkeys are never too salty. The process they do at the factory does not result in a salty turkey.
The brining I do at home does a much better job than the commercial brining. I use a mixture of 1 cup of salt to one gallon of water for an overnight (8 hours or more) brine, it will be a juicy, moist and tasty turkey. Without the brine a turkey will be somewhat dry when smoked.
Once you brine a turkey one time, you will most likely never smoke a non-brined turkey again.
What size turkey do you recommend for smoking?
I do not recommend smoking a turkey that is larger than 12 - 14 pounds, whole. A larger, whole turkey takes too much time to reach a safe temperature at the low smoking temperature. It is not good to risk the chances that your family and guests could get a food borne illness.
For safety purposes, keep the turkey on the smaller side, for smoking. If you need more turkey, just smoke multiple turkeys. I figure an average of about 1 ½ pounds of raw weight per person that I am preparing to feed. A 12-14-pound turkey will feed 8-10 adults.
If you have already purchased a larger turkey, what are the options?
Prepare the turkey, smoke it for about 3 hours at 220-240°F in the smoker then finish it in the oven at 325°F until it reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast, thigh and leg. I expect this to take an additional 2.5 to 3 hours in the oven however, use the temperature as your guide rather than the time.
Spatchcock (Butterfly) the Turkey, using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone of the turkey removing the backbone completely from the turkey. This is my personal favorite way to smoke a turkey.
You will be able to lay the turkey open in the smoker, the breastbone is the hinge.
Prepare the turkey for smoking as you normally would with seasoning under the skin, on the surface.
Smoke the turkey with the skin side up until it reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast, thigh and leg.
By laying the turkey open in this way, it will cook must faster and more evenly and that is a good thing with larger turkeys in the lower heat of the smoker.
Cut the turkey into pieces and smoke the pieces with the skin side up to start with the breast and leg smoking for the longest time.
Season each piece well under the skin and on the surface. Start with the skin side up and make sure you reach 165°F internal temperature at the thickest point of the breast, thigh and leg.
Debone the turkey pieces and smoke in the same manner with the skin side up to start and again the breast and the leg smoking for the longest time. I do not debone the wings or the legs for this process.
Season each deboned piece of turkey well under the skin and on the surface. Start with the skin side up and make sure to reach 165°F internal temperature at the thickest point of breast, thigh and leg.
What about stuffing a turkey for smoking?
Never, ever stuff a turkey for smoking…ONLY after it is already done would I ever consider stuffing.
Stuffing prevents the heat from flowing into the cavity as it needs to and causes it to take longer to cook, something you do not need at low smoking temperatures.
If you want the bird to be stuffed for presentation, make the stuffing in a separate container in the oven and stuff it into the turkey after the turkey is done cooking and just prior to placing it on the table.
It is okay to place a few pieces of onion, apple, butter, etc. in the cavity of the turkey while it smokes. Just make sure to allow the heat to flow evenly and not impeded it in any way.
Using an Electric, Charcoal or Gas Smoker, how long do we apply smoke?
My general rule of thumb for applying smoke is (minimum) ½ of the estimated cook time. I expect a 12-14-pound turkey to take about 6-7 hours so I recommend applying smoke for at least 3 to 3.5 hours.
But, long as you have a good airflow, your vents are open enough to allow plenty of air to come into the smoker and the smoke can exit quickly, you can easily and safely apply smoke for the entire time, after all, that is what happens by default in a wood burning smoker and there is no better way to duplicate that real wood smoked flavor.