Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey
Image by BBQ Junkie via Flickr

Now. May I talk you into smoking a turkey sometime soon? We have found it a most welcome way to introduce turkey into a meal. Many people prefer the taste of it.

Some say smoked meats keep better because of substances in the smoke that penetrate the surface of the flesh. It makes sense if we consider that charcoal is a good purifier and preservative. This does not mean you need not refrigerate a turkey that has been smoked, but everything we can do to make meat safer to eat is probably wise.

It’s definitely the easiest way to prepare turkey.

Besides, don’t you think the Pilgrims smoked theirs?

Smoking food is not hard but you will need a smoker.

I saw one that a friend had built of brick and it made wonderful smoked chicken. If you have natural stone you could probably build a small smoker with almost no cost. I’ve heard of hanging meat down a chimney, but I know nothing factual about that and I am a terrible climber. A stainless steel smoker with electric start costs in the hundreds, too fancy for me. The most reasonably priced smoker at our local discount store is less expensive than a stand mixer, and comes with good instructions and recipes. When I consider how often we smoke something, it is worth it to me.

Do make or buy the type that can have a water pan and a temperature gauge. Our gauge says “ideal”, instead of 170 to 210 degrees, which is the ideal temperature range for hot smoking meat. (Cool smoking can take weeks.)

In a smoker like ours, which is a cylinder about three feet tall and eighteen inches in diameter, use about five pounds of charcoal. Light it (do not use petroleum type lighters) and wait for it to turn white, just as you would if grilling food.

At this point you may add a couple handfuls of green hardwood chips, such as hickory or apple, for extra flavor, or you can buy dry chips and soak them in water for this use. DO NOT ADD PINE OR OTHER SOFTWOODS. They give a chemical taste.

Place a wide enamel pan holding about a gallon or two of hot water over (not on) the charcoal. Set a wire shelf or grill on the pan and the turkey on this shelf. Close the smoker and wait 10 to 12 hours. The turkey is done. It is that easy.

If you bought a fresh turkey (or if you raised it yourself) you can serve this luscious food guilt-free and hassle-free. It even should have fewer calories than conventional recipes because it doesn’t stew in its own drippings; they drip off.

Apart from these quality improvements, the one great benefit of smoking a turkey is that it can make the celebration of God’s  bountiful blessings much more fun. Giving thanks is supposed to be joyful and all are supposed to participate. Smoking the meat gives you more free oven space and more free time for other wonderful things like letting your children help.

I suggest you practice smoking meat a few times before trying any big important meal. You’ll need practice to learn to trust the temperature gauge and leave the smoker closed. Any loss of precious smoke and heat just slows you down. Do not open it, especially for bigger cuts of meat, unless the temperature shows that all is not well. Then you must open it and fix the fire. This rarely happens.

A smoked turkey will look raw, if you judge by color, for the meat will be pink, like ham. So the test should be for tenderness and meat temperature. Juices should run clear. Joints should be loose or separating.

It is better to plan to have your turkey done somewhat earlier than “on time”, about an hour or two. The extra time is for deboning. People want to get at the meat, not inspect a dead bird. Once deboned, it can be warmed in a pan with a few dribbles of water and a lid or foil over it, set into the oven at 350 degrees. A thorough heating should remove all doubts of safety for the cautious.

It smells and tastes good enough to eat!

Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy unto the Lord . . . Nehemiah 8:10.


Image by BBQ Junkie via Flickr

Published by Katharine

Katharine is a writer, speaker, women's counselor, and professional mom. Happily married over 50 years to the same gorgeous guy. She loves cooking amazing homegrown food, celebrating grandbabies, her golden-egg-laying hennies, and watching old movies with popcorn. Her writing appears at Medium, Arkansas Women Bloggers, Contently, The Testimony Train, Taste Arkansas, Only in Arkansas, and in several professional magazines and one anthology.

7 thoughts on “Smoked Turkey

    1. Oh, I know, it can be a worry if I think about it. I usually make sure it gets heated through before I serve it, moistening it with a bit of giblet broth, which enhances the flavor, too. Those smokers aren’t too expensive and we use ours for grilling, too.

  1. Do you think I can smoke my tofu roast? An old vegetarian at heart and LOVING turkey day anyway! My sis is here with her English husband and the most adorable niece on the planet,(Unbiased opinion, here…) for Pauls first Thanksgiving day. They just do not celebrate Thanksgiving in England (Go figure/??!!) We are having turkey and all the fixings My little tofurkey will be just fine! Happy Thanksgiving Kathy! I am grateful for YOU! xx Jen

    1. Oh, Jen, you are so kind to me. Thanks for taking time from your tragedy to bless my life. 🙂 I think tofu might be smokeable–we smoke cheeses, somehow, but I do not know how. Please have a lovely time with your family. What a blessing your sister must be for you. Thanks for your good wishes; I did have a happy day, today. Husband is shucking his illness, everyone got here safely, grandkids are just the most charming on earth, and the food was superb. Hope you, also, have a happy and thankful day. We both have so many blessings. I am thankful for you and your integrity. I could learn from you.

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