Secrets for Juicy Smoked Turkey + 7 Smoked Turkey Recipes That You Absolutely Need to Try!

smoked turkey recipe

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. 

smoked turkey recipe
  • Turkeys lived almost ten million years ago
  • The Native Americans hunted turkey for its sweet, juicy meat as early as 1000 A.D.
  • Turkeys are native to northern Mexico and the eastern United States.
  • They were domesticated in Mexico and brought to Europe in the 16th century.
  • These birds were believed to have been brought to Britain in 1526 by Yorkshire man William Strickland.
  • In 1920, turkey growers produced one turkey for every 29 people. Today turkey growers produce nearly one turkey for every person in the country.
  • The male turkey is called a tom, whereas the female turkey is called a hen.
  • Turkey hens are often sold as whole birds. Toms are processed into cutlets, deli meats, and turkey sausage.
  • In 1970, 50% of all turkey consumed occurred during the holidays, now just 29% of it is consumed during the holidays as more turkey is eaten year-round.
  • In 2011, the top three turkey products sold were whole birds, ground turkey and cooked white meat (deli meat)
  • Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio were the leading producers of turkeys in 2011-2012.
  • 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, 22 million on Christmas and 19 million turkeys on Easter.
  • In 2012, turkey was the fourth protein choice for American consumers behind chicken, beef and pork.
  • The turkey industry employs roughly 20,000 to 25,000 people in the United States.
  • The average weight of turkey that's purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 lbs.
  • The most massive turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.
  • Commercially grown turkeys cannot fly.
  • Wild turkeys spend the night in trees. They prefer oak trees.
  • Sadly, turkey breeding has caused turkey breasts to grow so large that the turkeys fall over.
  • June is National Turkey Lover's Month.
  • The five common ways to serve leftover turkey are in a sandwich, stew, chilli or soup, casseroles and as a burger.

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 

smoking turkey tips

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:


  • One turkey
  • a good turkey rub
  • Fuel for your smoker
  • Wood for smoke
  • An aluminum drip pan
  • A reliable meat thermometer
  • Aluminum foil
  • Three toothpicks
  • Something to baste the turkey with

  • 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.

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    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.

    Turkey rub-a-dub-dub


    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.

    Smoking temperature


    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:


    Temperature

    Time

    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.

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    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 2020 here.

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    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

    smoked turkey recipe

    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.

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    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.

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    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:
    • You'll want to turn the turkey, so the neck is facing you.
    • Cut an upside-down shape V in the flap of skin covering the neck cavity.
    • Now reach in with your fingers and pull out the wishbone.
    • It'll be located in the same position as your upside-down shape V.
    • Don't forget to make a wish!
    Check out the video below for a quick fun demonstration!

    Step 5: Time to carve the breasts

    • Find the breastbone, running down the middle of the body. This is also called a "keel bone" due to the fact it's shaped like the keel of a boat.
    • Now, slice through the skin just to one side of the keel bone and continue slicing downward.
    • You want to cut close to the breastbone while pulling the entire breast away with your other hand.
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    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.

    • Now you want to turn the breast skin-side up on your cutting board and slice it on a bias against the grain, about half an inch thick.
    • Shave the slices on your cutting board in an attractive manner.
    • Repeat with the other breast.
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    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.

    • Turn the leg pieces over. You want the skin side down, looking directly at the meaty part of the joint.