Dad"s Bar B Q
The Basics
Smoked Turkey



Time for a quick walk thru on the basics of smoking, going to start off with one that everyone enjoys: smoked turkey
 
Cuisinart vertical barrel smoker

My favorite cooker for turkey is the vertical barrel type; there are several different ones available, but the style I prefer has an enclosed bottom with air dampers which allows one to control the cooking time more precisely.

First step is to prepare the bird in the normal fashion, wash it thoroughly inside and out, remove the leg binder and discard, plus the package containing the giblets and the neck; also trim as much of the skin around the neck/upper breast area off as you can.
Next step is to coat the entire bird(including the stuffing cavity)(Note: you do not stuff a turkey being smoked) with rubbed sage thoroughly, rubbing it into the meat and skin; I also use a commercially available seasoning (packaged by GEL Spice Company, Bayonne,NJ) Spice Supreme Barbeque Seasoning which I also liberally coat the bird with, again both inside and out, then place the bird in the fridge to chill for a little while as I get the smoker itself ready to go/

I prefer to use Kingsford charcoal and palm-sized chunks of hickory; place 7-8 briquets together in a pile on one side of the charcoal pan and light and let burn in; the chunks of wood I place in a container of water and let soak for 10-15 minutes while the charcoal is getting ready.When my starter coals are approximately 1/2 ashed over, I pour enough charcoal in the pan to have it level full with the top of the pan, then place enough of the wood chunks on top of it(make sure you shake off the excess water first, don't want it dripping or running down the briquets) to almost cover the charcoal; by now I will be getting smoke from the unlit briquets that are in contact with the lit ones.

Next thing is to place the drip pan inside the barrel over the charcoal pan, carefully filling it with water to within an inch of the top; the water will steam and help to keep the turkey moist as it also catches the drippings from the bird; place the rack on top of the water pan, put the turkey on the rack breast down, and place the top cover on the smoker. The bottom air vents should be approximately half open; if the lid has an air vent, start off with it half open also; the goal is to have smoke wisping out around the edges of the top cover; if more is coming out of the vent than around the lid, close the vent until the majority comes out around the lid.

If the top has a heat gauge in it, your target temperature is 225 degrees; slow, steady heat and smoke is the goal. Unlike grilling, you do not want to take the cover off every 5 minutes to check on it; look at the temp gauge every 30 minutes, if it is getting too hot, close the bottom air vents a quarter of an inch; if after an hour, the temp isn't slowly rising, open the top vent slightly, no more than an eighth of an inch; it will take 15-20 minutes for any adjustments you make to show how much they affect the heat.

DON'T take the top off more than once every three hours, and then only long enough to check the water level in the pan and to add more if needed; have a bottle of water in your hand ready to pour when you lift the lid, just be careful to not spill it into the coal pan, and get that lid back on the cooker. I generally smoke turkeys at night; if I put it on to cook at 8pm, by 8 the next morning it is done, the coals should just about be out,and you should be greeted with a turkey that is a dark,rich, caramel color. Take care when you pick the turkey up, for if it is done, it is not uncommon for the bones to pull out of the meat when you lift it up.

As always, the proof is in the taste; ideally, it will be tender, moist, and delicious; turkeys equipped with the pop up doneness indicators should be popped out, same as if you had roasted it in the oven. Look also at the drip pan, for all the juices that have rendered out of your bird are in it, and if you kept water in the pan, you have the makings for some good gravy; I do suggest that you taste it first; the flavor may not be appealing, especially if the water level became too low and it scorched.

Don't get discouraged if your first attempt does not yield a perfect bird; It takes practice; unless it is under cooked (not enough heat) or over cooked(too much heat) you will have a delicious bird ready to eat; an added plus is that smoked turkey will keep for two weeks in the fridge, and can be frozen for future use. They usually don't last that long around here.







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