Smoked Turkey

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Smoked Thanksgiving Day turkey with a BBQ rub.

This was one of my first smoked BBQ turkeys; the other one is on the bottom grate. I was trying to get out of doing the turkey all together just because of all the craziness that having a new baby brings, but my family wasn’t going to allow that. Plus, the baby isn’t that new anymore and I should be able to work within this so-called “craziness-”
I must say, that I was impressed with the results and nothing could have been easier. This was especially true of the clean up, no roasting pans to scrub! YAY!
My smoker (WSM) fits two small birds, about 12lbs. each. I like the smaller birds for a few different reasons. First, they cook faster. Second the meat to skin ratio is more to my liking. Third, the drumsticks are way more manageable. They’re smaller and you have four of them.

What I did:
Generously rubbed some BBQ seasoning all over the birds (nothing special, just some extra BBQ rub that I had in a jar).
Got my smoker up to temperature and added some hickory chunks to the coals.
Smoked two turkeys at about 230º for about 9 hours (the time will vary)
Placed them in an aluminum tray, wrapped them in foil and sent them to the in-laws.
Tada!!!

If I were to make some adjustments here is what I would do next year:

Brine: First off, the birds were still a little frozen the day before the smoking, so I ended up not brining them…which I usually do. The meat could have used a little more saltiness and moisture, but isn’t that what gravy is for?

Inject the bird: I didn’t bother to inject, but I should have. This would have delivered some additional flavor deep into the meat. Especially in the breast.

Gravy: find a way to get some pan drippings from the smoked bird and make the gravy. This is one advantage of doing an oven roasted bird.

BBQ Sauce: consider offering some as a condiment to the smoked bird. This seems a bit heretical, but it may be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving Day table.

28 Responses to Smoked Turkey

  1. The Survival Gourmet November 26, 2007 at 12:27 pm #

    Nothing wrong with putting a bird that is still a little frozen in the brine. It will help keep the brine cool in your cooler. You won’t have to add ice to keep it at a safe temp.

  2. BBQ Junkie November 26, 2007 at 6:05 pm #

    Yeah, but these birds were still pretty frozen. Next time I’ll brine for sure.

  3. The Survival Gourmet November 27, 2007 at 4:37 pm #

    Are you gonna come visit me and Shu at Hawthorne?

  4. Smokin' Steve December 22, 2007 at 1:45 pm #

    Hey BBQ Junkie,
    Stopped by to say Hi! I smoked our turkey and was able to put a drip pan below it (in cookshack fec100) and the drippings made for a great gravy with some good smokiness & turkey flavor. Our bird was a little bigger than yours, I bbq’d it for about 6 hours and it was a little over cooked. I helped a group smoke a bunch of brined turkeys and they came out very good. A little salty at times, but great flavor with the bbq rub & brine combo. I agree, that is the way to go!

    So what are you cookin’ for Christmas?

  5. BBQ Junkie December 22, 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    I’m smoking some pork butts tonight and going to use them in some tamales. doing the same with a few chickens tomorrow. I’ll post pictures and recipes.

  6. Erika January 3, 2008 at 7:27 am #

    Wow. Missed this recipe prior to Thanksgiving, but will plan to try it next year. Sounds delicious.

  7. Nick January 6, 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    Just smoked a Turkey yesterday and it was the best I have ever made – the guests were ooing and ahhhing – big bird too 23 lbs. It took 8 hours. I have best results when I brine over night, rub it up, and cooked at a low heat. I have never injected, but made (for the first time) this incredible Maple/Madiera/Coffee gravy that I will make next time for sure.

    Sandwiches the next day will be delicious.

  8. fabooj January 17, 2008 at 11:25 am #

    Back in 2005, I smoked my first turkey for Thanksgiving. That was about two weeks after giving birth.

    I did what Smokin’ Steve did and use the drippings for gravy. I was thinking of smoking a turkey this weekend, and I thought, “Hey let’s click over to BBQ Junkie and see what’s up.” I think I’ll use your rub for my turkey.

  9. Chuck January 21, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    Ever Thanksgiving we always have a deep fried Turkey, which I love. But, that smoked Turkey sure looks good! 9 hours to cook you say! Well, I think I’m going to give it a try.

  10. kmcgra March 17, 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    That bird looks pretty tasty. Last year we deep fried ours. I am itching to get smoker and give this a try this year.

  11. Bill March 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    Love this! I tried smoking a birdin 2006… I did brine… but.. I don’t like the texture of brined meat. My wife however likes it better.

    I also had a tough time with the skin (getting it crispy). Tried drapiping bacon on top of the bird to mixed results… Your’s lo0ks GREAT!

  12. John April 3, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    I brined and rubbed – with a rub that included course salt – nice texture – needed lots of beer to wash it down though – SALTY!

    I can’t believe I have never deep fried a turkey – Gotta be next on the list. Thanks for the pics of an awesome looking bird.

  13. Keith May 10, 2008 at 7:21 am #

    For best results I’ve experienced, use a mix of herbs like sage, thyme and a bit of rosemary; and some garlic salt and crushed black pepper as a rub. Get most of your flavor from your wood. I like making a big fire with Mesquite(honey locust) and letting die down to embers with some flame and use Pecan for the duration of the bbq. Small birds are best

  14. Keenbbq May 20, 2008 at 5:48 am #

    I would have to agree with you Keith. As good as it is to cook a large bird you cant always be sure it is fully cooked so I alway select a small bird to cook and alway keep the skin as this prevents the meat from dying out.

  15. Smoked Texas Barbecue July 26, 2008 at 3:57 pm #

    That’s a massive bird. Did your in-laws like them? At any rate I hope to smoke my first turkey soon. I hope it tastes as good as that looks.

  16. Mark July 30, 2008 at 7:10 pm #

    I have found my New Thanksgiving Project! The past few years we have deep fried the bird (doesn’t everyone nowdays?) but I will really impress them this year.

    Wonder if I can get him to stand up on a Fosters Can?

    Thank you,

    Mark

  17. Sophie August 11, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email sophiekiblogger@gmail.com if interested. Thanks :)

  18. BBQ Guy Too November 3, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    If you buy a kosher turkey, there’s no need to brine it. It’s already brined. Cuts out quite a bit of prep time. A bit more expensive, but worth it.

  19. David January 2, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Good info. I smoked a premium fresh real butter basted 15lb tky as heard they are the best. covered it in rub and put onion and garlic and halved orange inside, Weber running full blast, 325F+. Breast down and bird temp began at 65F and 3 hours later at 145F I moved it to the oven to finish. It was -20 outside and was short on good briquets so used some crappy ones and temp was dropping and had to have it done.
    Was excellent and made gravy from foil lined pan I put on bottom rack. Meat was amazingly moist and skin was nice and crispy. Had to skim butter off gravy but lots of compliments on taste. Going to brine next one and see how it differs. Best of 2010 to all.

  20. Jonna Lloyd December 25, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Smoked Turkey is my favorite dish, I love it so much that makes me remind of the Thanksgiving has been gone.

  21. Hey BBQ Junkie,
    Stopped by to say Hi! I smoked our turkey and was able to put a drip pan below it (in cookshack fec100) and the drippings made for a great gravy with some good smokiness & turkey flavor Good info. I smoked a premium fresh real butter basted 15lb tky as heard they are the best. covered it in rub and put onion and garlic and halved orange inside I really like this post thanks you are sharing a great article info.

  22. Pultruded Fiberglass Gratings, July 13, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Our bird was a little bigger than yours, I bbq’d it for about 6 hours and it was a little over cooked. I helped a group smoke a bunch of brined turkeys and they came out very good. A little salty at times, but great flavor with the bbq rub & brine combo.

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