The problem with old-fashioned turkey recipes is that they can get… old.
Why not try something new, and try smoked turkey for your next cookout meal?
It has a distinct flavor from the smoking process that cannot be replicated. Here at Fire Food Chef, we are going to walk you through how this fantastic turkey cooking process first began.
We are also going to show you the many tips and tricks for preparing your very own juicy smoked turkey dishes with these 7 delicious recipes.
HISTORY OF SMOKING meat & poultry
Smoking meat has been around since humans discovered how to create fire.
For thousands of years, smoking was used as a way of preserving and flavoring food. Our beloved ancestors discovered that foods that were exposed to smoke lasted longer before spoiling.
The smoking process has been passed down through generations and is still very much in use today. Lots of electric smokers nowadays include separate areas for grilling and roasting. That means you can use the smoker to roast a whole turkey.
If you don't already own an electric smoker and are not entirely sure which one to get, you can check out our electric smoker reviews here.
21 surprising TURKEY FACTS
For lots of us, turkey is the main staple for any holiday meal.
However, while the holidays are a prime time for turkey consumption, turkey is actually a very popular food item (sandwich meats) and a healthier alternative to other meats, all year round.
With that said, here are 21 surprising turkey facts you should know.
IS TURKEY HEALTHY?
Overall, turkey is still seen to be more healthier alternative to other meats.
According to Medical News Today, dark turkey meat typically contains more vitamins and minerals than white turkey meat.
"Turkey should be cooked until its internal temperature reaches 165º Fahrenheit. Pasture-raised turkeys typically have higher omega-3 content than factory-farmed turkeys. Removing the skin of a turkey also removes much of the fat content."
Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan. Ironically, it does not have a high enough amount to cause sleepiness. In fact, all meats contain tryptophan. Therefore, eating turkey should not make you any drowsier than eating a pork chop on an ordinary evening.
The best benefit of eating turkey? It makes you happy!
The tryptophan content in turkey also helps support healthy levels of serotonin in the body, which promotes alertness and good mood.
Smoking Turkey – an easy breakdown
Hands down, the best way to cook a turkey is smoking.
However, keep in mind, the two things you are going to need is time and patience. Smoking is a slower cooking process than other methods like roasting, so make sure to read through the whole process before starting.
First things first, you need to gather up the ingredients!
What you need:
Now, prepare your fire.
Smoked turkey is incredibly flavorful. But you'll need a cooking time of roughly half an hour per pound at a cooking temperature of about 235 F/115 C to get your turkey cooked through. Now, begin by oiling your cooking grate.
As you get the turkey ready for smoking, keep an eye on your smoker. Make any necessary adjustments if needed.
For larger turkeys, you can smoke 25 minutes per pound at 250 F/120 C to reduce the cooking time. This also lessens the amount of time that bacteria can potentially grow.
Catch those drippings.
If you plan to make gravy, you'll want to place a pan under the turkey. To do this, use a disposable aluminum pan that is bigger than your turkey.
Pour about 4 cups/1 litres of water into the pan to keep the drippings from drying out and burning in the middle of the smoking time.
Preparing your turkey!
You'll want to start by removing the neck and giblets from the inside. Next, rinse the turkey to make sure it is good and clean (especially if it is brined). Inspect the turkey for loose pieces that need to be trimmed.
Turkey wings tend to dangle on the sides, so to prevent them from overcooking or drying out, pin them to the body with a toothpick.
It is also recommended to take the skin from the neck, fold it and pin it down with another toothpick.
Before you start smoking your turkey, you'll want to add some flavor.
You can use whatever favorite ingredients in this rub that you prefer. What's most important is applying these flavors where they are most effective, such as under the skin.
To do this, start where the leg connects to the body, then slip your hand under the skin and loosen it around the breast and body of the turkey. Now, push your turkey rub into this space and spread it out evenly.
The consistent smoker temperature for the duration of the cooking time is critical.
Depending on the type of smoker that you use to smoke your turkey, you may need to adjust the cooking temperature.
Smoking at a glance:
At 235 F/115 C
30 to 35 minutes per pound
At 250 F/120 C
25 to 30 minutes per pound
At 275 F/135 C
20 to 25 minutes per pound
Now place the turkey in the smoker
Place your turkey in the smoker where the smoke can flow at an even distribution all around.
It's recommended to place the turkey squarely over your drip pan to catch all the drippings and help keep your smoker clean.
As the turkey hangs out in the smoker, this would be an excellent time to clean up everything to prevent cross-contamination.
Make more smoke!
Did you know that meats take in more smoke early on during the cooking process than it does later? That is why now is the time to get all that smoke really going.
Any wood (except maybe mesquite) is an excellent choice for your smoke. You won't need to soak the wood If using large wood chunks.
If you are using smaller wood chips, on the other hand, soak them first. Soaking the smaller wood chips slows down the burn rate and gives a longer, more consistent smoke.
Shake off as much water as possible form the wood chips. They should be damp, not dripping.
After you've placed the wood type of your choice into the smoker, close the smoker up and keep an eye on the temperature.
Unless you have to rotate the turkey during the cooking time, go ahead an open the smoker. Otherwise, there isn't any reason to open the smoker for several hours.
Basting your turkey
You're going to want to wait until the last hour of cooking time if you're going to baste your smoked turkey.
To do this, apply the baste onto every inch of the surface, including the insides of the turkey. For double the basting, repeat after 30 minutes, giving the first coat time to sink in.
Don't forget to check the temperature.
As the cooking time nears, you need to check the temperature. A turkey is a motley collection of meat, so checking in one place isn't going to do it.
To do this, start by looking for the center of the breast and push the meat thermometer into it. You'll want to avoid getting it on the bone as bone tends to heat faster than meat, giving you an inaccurate reading.
Now, check the thigh between the leg and the body. You are looking out for an internal temperature between 175-185°F (80-85°C). When the thermometer reads this temperature, it is time to get the turkey out of the smoker.
Check out our best instant read thermometer Reviews Of 2023 here.
Have a big platter or cutting board and some aluminum foil ready!
Rest your turkey Zzz (15-30 min)
The secret to juicy, tender, adequately cooked meat is resting. Resting allows the heat to even out and most importantly, lets the meat relax.
Under the heat, meat contracts and squeezes out the juices. By allowing the meat rest before you cut into it, the meat can reabsorb some of the moisture.
Make sure to cover the turkey tightly to hold in the heat and moisture while as it rests. Once the resting period is done, you can get started on carving your turkey.
Carving Turkey – an easy breakdown
It's time to carve up the turkey and serve it!
This step intimidates a lot of people. No one wants to wreck a beautiful smoked turkey with sloppy carving.
But, if you follow a few simple steps, you'll have a perfectly carved turkey in a few short minutes
Step 1: Head over to the kitchen
When it's time to carve the turkey, you don't want to do it at the table. The carving process involves a certain amount of wrestling with the turkey that is best reserved in the kitchen.
Plus, you don't need the added pressure of a captive audience.
Using a carving board with a moat around the edge will help catch any moisture.
Step 2: Use a sharp knife.
If you've cooked your turkey correctly, the joints should come apart pretty easily, so your knife should be more than able to do the job.
Keep in mind that when carving a turkey, you want to slice through the skin without shredding it.
The aim is to ensure that each slice of meat has its skin still attached, and this calls for a sharp knife.
Step 3: Remove the legs first.
So now you want to pick a leg.
Taking your sharp knife, gently slice through the skin between the leg joint and the body while at the same time pulling the leg away from the body.
As you pull, you'll notice the natural seam between the leg and the body open up. That seam will naturally guide your knife right around the thigh bone until it pops right out.
Keep in mind that you're not cutting through the joint, you're simply just popping it out while using your knife to cut through the skin and connective tissue.
Now repeat with the other leg and when done, set the legs aside.
The breasts are going to take up lots of space on your platter, so you'll want to plate them first and then arrange the drumsticks and dark meat around them.
Step 4: Now remove the wishbone.
This is a neat step for all you fire food chefs! You can always carve the breasts without removing the wishbone, but then you won't be able to make a wish.
Some chefs like to remove it before cooking the turkey, but for wish-making - as well as food safety - purposes, you want it to be cooked, not raw.
To remove the wishbone, follow these steps:
Check out the video below for a quick fun demonstration!
Step 5: Time to carve the breasts
The breast is a large piece of meat that stretches down to the wing joint. You want to be cutting and pulling away until you've removed the whole breast with the skin still intact.
When referring to the "grain" of a piece of meat or poultry, we're talking about the long strands of muscle fibres that run throughout the meat. Slicing against or even across these strands shortens the muscle fibres, making them more tender and more comfortable to chew.
Step 6: Now you'll want to separate the drumsticks from the thighs.
Step 7: debone and carve the thighs with these following steps.
Step 8: Now remove the wings and separate them.
The wings are best saved for last because they are what supports the turkey on the cutting board.
The wing consists of three parts: the pointy wing tip—the flat or "wingette"—and the "drumette," because it looks like a miniature drumstick.
Congratulations! You've just carved a turkey.
For a visual tutorial on how to carve a turkey check out this neat video from BuzzFeedFood:
Well, there you have it novice turkey chefs!
We've gone over all the many noteworthy turkey facts we bet you didn’t know before.
Plus, we have included lotsa tips and tricks to getting perfect smoked/carved turkey every time. But now for the best part, let's get cooking.
Here are 7 smoked turkey recipes you absolutely need to try!
1. Applewood smoked turkey with cider bourbon gravy
Before you start, make sure your bourbon, water and chicken stock are cold. To make the brine, blend the salt syrup, sugar, peppercorns, bourbon and water in a large bucket. Remove any pieces from the turkey reserved for the gravy and put it in the liquid. Refrigerate it for 8 to 12 hours.
Now remove the turkey from the brine and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Place it on a baking sheet then refrigerate it for an hour or two so it dries.
Preheat your smoker to 300-325 degrees F and add your wood chips for smoker to the burner.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, paprika, chilli powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin, mixing well to combine.
Slowly lift the skin and rub the melted butter all over the meat. Rub the rest of the mixture all over the skin, making sure to cover the entire turkey.
Next, combine the water and bourbon in a glass and pour it into the water pan of the smoker. Place the turkey in the smoker and shut the door. According to your turkey size, adjust the cooking time.
Once the turkey is done smoking, be sure to let it rest before slicing.
Steps for gravy:
Roughly half an hour before the turkey is finished, you can get started on the gravy.
Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.Now add the shallots and the apple with the salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring until the shallots and apple are soft.
When soft, add in the garlic and the turkey neck and brown it on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes per side.
Now, increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the bourbon. You want to be stirring continuously, scraping any brown bits from the pan – you'll notice it's ready when there is a thin layer of it left in the pan.
Now add in the cider and bring it to a simmer. Pour the cold broth mixture into a shaker bottle.After the broths been put in the container, add the flour and place the lid on the shaker. Shake continuously for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Now, remove the neck from the pan and begin to whisk the cider continuously. While whisking, slowly pour in the stock and flour. Continue to stir for about 10 to 15 minutes while the gravy thickens. Don't stop stirring!
Finally, carve your turkey and serve it with the gravy 🙂
2. Juicy double rum smoked turkey recipe
Using a thawed turkey, clean out the cavity, and rinse thoroughly inside and out with cold water. Set aside.
make the turkey brine: Add 2 quarts water, onion powder, ground cloves, sea salt, maple syrup and bay leaves in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat for 5 min or until heated through and salt is dissolved.
Remove from heat and allow it to cool.Now, place the cooled down brine in a covered container that is large enough to hold the turkey. Whisk in the dark rum, cold water, and whole peppercorns. Add the turkey and make sure the brine entirely covers it.
Allow the turkey to brine overnight (for at least for 12 hours but no more than 24 hours).
Afterwards, remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brining liquid. Place your turkey on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet for at least half an hour to drain and dry.
While the turkey is drying, you can prepare the injection sauce:
Melt the unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir together the stock and rum, remove from heat, and allow to completely cool.
When the turkey is finished drying, fill an injector with the sauce and inject it in numerous places in the breast, thighs, and drumstick areas.
Smoking the turkey: Set up the smoker and preheat to 275F/135C degrees and use your favorite wood in the smoker.
Place the turkey on a rack in the smoker. Start basting the turkey with the melted butter after 2 hours of smoking and continue to baste every hour. Smoke the turkey until browned and when the temperature registers 165F/74C degrees in the deepest part of the thigh.
Remove turkey from the smoker, place on a cutting board or serving tray, and tent with a large piece of foil. Allow resting for at least 20 minutes before carving.
Check out this savory rum turkey gravy recipe to go with this smoked turkey dish:
3. Smoked bourbon & orange brined turkey
Mix the orange brine seasoning with one quart of water. Boil for 5 minutes.
Take it off the heat and add 1 gallon of cold water and bourbon. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
Now you want to place turkey breast side down in a large container. Pour cooled brine mix over it. Add cold water until the turkey is immersed. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove turkey and discard brine. Blot turkey dry with paper towels.
Mix butter and Grand Marnier and coat outside of turkey. Season outside of turkey with turkey rub.
Start the smoker with the lid open until a fire is established (4-5 minutes). Smoke the turkey breast up, for 2 hours. Increase temperature to 350 degrees F and smoke the turkey until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165F.
Let rest 20-30 minutes before serving.
4. Apple brined & hickory smoked turkey
In a pan over high heat, mix together the juice, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Cook for roughly 1 minute, remove from the heat and skim off the foam. Let cool to room temperature.
In a 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket or another large container, combine the water, oranges, ginger, cloves, bay leaves, and garlic. Now add the apple juice mixture and stir well.
Next, remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the turkey and reserve for gravy or another use. Remove and throw away any fat from the cavity.
Immerse the turkey in the brine, topping it with heavyweight if needed to keep it wholly immersed. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Soak four handfuls of hickory chips in water for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the turkey from the brine and get rid of the remaining brine. Pat the turkey dry and tie the legs together with butcher's twine.
Prepare the smoker. Drain two handfuls of the wood chips, add to the smoker box of a gas grill and close the lid.
When you start seeing smoke, place the pan with the turkey on the cooking grates and begin smoking it with the lid closed.
When the wings are golden brown, wrap them with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. When the turkey breasts are golden brown, cover the turkey with aluminum foil to stop the skin from over-browning.
Drain the leftover wood chips, add to the smoker box, and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey is about 165°F, 12 to 14 minutes per pound.
Now move your turkey to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Don't forget to use the drippings to make gravy!
Turkey is generally safe to eat when the thickest portion reaches 165˚F. However, this is not the temperature to look for when the turkey is still on the smoker.
Instead, remove the turkey at 155˚F, and cover loosely with foil. The meat will continue to "cook" as it rests and will remain tender and juicy.
5. Cajun Smoked Turkey Recipe
Mix together kosher salt, light brown sugar, paprika, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl, set Cajun rub aside.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey. Reserve for gravy or another use.
Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Rub one tablespoon Cajun rub in the cavity. Sprinkle outside of turkey with the remaining Cajun rub.Remember to rub into/under the skin.
Chill turkey for 10 to 24 hours.
Stir together butter and Cajun rub. Loosen skin from turkey breast without detaching skin and spread butter mixture under skin.
Tie ends of legs together with kitchen twine, tuck wing tips under, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare a charcoal fire in smoker according to manufacturer's instructions, bringing internal temperature to 225°F to 235°F. Maintain temperature inside smoker 15 to 20 minutes.
Place hickory chips on coals. Smoked turkey, breast side up, covered with smoker lid, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of turkey registers 155°F, 5 to 6 hours.
Remove turkey from the smoker, cover loosely with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and let stand 20 minutes before slicing.
6. Bacon-Wrapped Smoked Turkey
Making the brine: Mix all the brine ingredients and 8 cups of water in an 8-quart pot; bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
Take off from heat, cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until cold.
Brining the turkey: You'll want to place the turkey breast side down in a pot large enough to hold it and the brine. Now, add the brine (the turkey will float, but that's fine), and refrigerate for anywhere from 6 hours and up to 20 hours.
Making the broth: Cut the turkey neck into 3-4 pieces and chop the giblets. Now, heat the oil in a 4-quart pot over a medium-high heat. Afterwards, you want to cook the neck and giblets with a pinch of salt, often stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes.
Next, add the carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, 2 tsp: salt, and 6 cups of water. Now, bring to a boil and lower heat. You'll want to skim off any foam and simmer, while covered until flavorful (roughly 1 hour) Strain the broth through a fine strainer into a large bowl.
Making the spice rub: Mix all of the rub ingredients in a small bowl, breaking up any clumps with your fingers.
Smoking the turkey: Rinse and dry the turkey and discard the brine. With veggie oil, rub the inside of the body and neck cavities and then sprinkle each cavity with the spice rub. Place the onion pieces inside the body cavity.
In a small bowl, mix 4 oz softened butter with 1 Tbs. of the spice rub. Slowly and gently slide your hands under the skin of the turkey to loosen it. Using your fingers to spread the butter mixture directly on the breast meat.
Tie the legs together with twine — tuck the wing tips behind the neck, security any loose skin over the neck cavity. Rub the outer part of turkey with the leftover veggie oil, then the honey, and the spice rub. Put a flat wire rack inside a foil-lined roasting pan.
Line the rack with enough bacon slices (don’t overlap) to cover the area the turkey will occupy. Place the turkey breast side up on the bacon and then lay enough bacon slices across the top of the turkey to cover it, securing the slices with toothpicks.
For a charcoal grill, disperse 1/2 cup of the drained wood chips over the coals. For a gas grill, make two heavy-duty aluminum foil packets, each filled with 1 cup of the drained chips. With a fork, poke holes all over the packets. Smoke the turkey until the bacon darkens.
Generously season the turkey with the remaining spice rub.Place the butter slices on top of the breast and thighs and continue the smoking process. Spray the turkey with the apple juice and rotate the pan every half hour, until the temp in the middle of the breast registers 165°F. If the turkey becomes too dark, loosely tent it with foil.
Now, remove the pan from the grill and tilt the turkey. You'll want the juice in the cavity to run into the roasting pan. Move your turkey to a serving platter or cutting board and loosely tent it with foil. Let the turkey rest for at least half-hour before carving.
Steps for gravy:
Heat the turkey broth until hot. Next, pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a fat separator or heatproof measuring cup. Now, allow the fat to rise to the top and then transfer 1/4 cup of the fat to a 12-inch skillet. Throw out the remaining fat and reserve the rest of the drippings.
Season the turkey broth with the drippings to add flavor, making sure not to make it too salty. Heat the fat in the skillet over a medium heat and whisk in the flour for 2 minutes. Add the remaining spice rub and cook, whisking, 1 minute more.
Slowly whisk the broth into the skillet until smooth, and then bring to a simmer. Whisk in the cider vinegar and simmer for about 5 minutes — season with salt and pepper to taste.
Now carve the turkey and serve with the gravy!
For a video demonstration, check out this smoked bacon wrapped turkey breast method on an electric smoker:
7. Garlic smoked turkey
In a bowl, mix the softened butter with 1/4 cup each of chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary, and garlic. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside and outside of the turkey.
Rub or brush half of the butter herb mixture over the entire turkey and loosen the skin over the breast so you can put some of the butter between the skin and breast.Place the rest of the fresh herbs and the lemon halves in the turkey cavity and place the turkey on the grill. Cover with the grill lid or, if you don't have a lid, cover the entire grill with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Maintain the grill heat at 350 degrees (you may have to add additional charcoal) and plan to smoke the turkey for about 2 hours or 15-20 minutes per pound. About every 20 minutes or so, brush the turkey with the herb butter mixture. There are lots of variables when smoking a turkey, so use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165 degrees F, or the thigh registers 170-175 degrees F. When done, move the turkey to a platter, cover and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving and serving.
That's all, Folks!
If you're tired of old-fashioned turkey, then you're going to absolutely love these juicy smoked turkey recipes.
Although the holidays are a prime time for turkey consumption, this article has proven that it can be the ultimate cookout classic too!
We really you hope you enjoyed all these fantastic tips and tricks, and savoury turkey recipes that will ensure that you get perfect smoked/carved turkey, every single time.
And If you'd like more information about smokers, recipes, cooking tips, or more, then check out our website and explore all our really cool product guides.
Until next time fire food chefs!