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Smoked Turkey for the Holidays

por Harlan Chang (2019-10-15)


Turkey is a tradition for Thanksgiving and other family festivities. You can stuff it, or not. You can bake it in the oven following the directions on the package. For something special, try smoking a turkey. A little extra time and effort delivers a special taste sensation.

Yes, you can smoke a whole turkey on a standard size grill. A smoker is nice, but any grill big enough to hold the turkey with the top down can be your smoker for the day.  You'll get a turkey they'll remember, and have your oven free to cook the rest of the meal.

A deep fried turkey is a big bird. That usually means lots of people and lots of pressure. The turkey is the long lead item in almost any dinner, so start it first. Figure 20 minutes per pound cooking time in your meal planning. Once its started, you can move on to the rest of dinner, and just tend to the turkey once every half hour or so. Many turkeys come home from the grocery store frozen. Be sure yours is thoroughly defrosted before starting to cook it.

Smoke the bird on the grill, but monitor its temperature. If dinner is an hour away and the turkey doesnt look like it will be ready, pop it in the oven at 350°F to finish cooking it. (I only had to do this one timewhen it rained on the grill all afternoon.) Youll get that great smoky flavor and aroma, and have it on your schedule.

1 turkey, defrosted if frozen
1/4 lb butter
1/4 cup white wine
garlic salt
black pepper

Soak two handfuls of wood chips or chunks in water. Apple, peach or mesquite work well with poultry. Prepare the grill for smoking.

Charcoal grill method

Smoking over charcoal is almost like smoking over a genuine wood fire.  First, clean the grill. Then light a charcoal pyramid with a six briquette by four briquette base.

While the fire is getting ready, lay the turkey breast side up on a board. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the wine, deep fried turkey the garlic salt and the pepper. Set aside.

When the coals are ashed over, about half an hour, use a shovel or a trowel to move the coals into two fires: one along each side of the grill. Top each of the fires with a half dozen new briquettes. Dont use the easy light kind. Place an aluminum foil drip pan full of water between the two fires. Add about a 1/2 of water to the drip pan.

Scatter the soaked chips or chunks over the fires, lay the turkey in the center of the grill. If the bird is small enough you will be able to turn it in the middle of cooking, lay the turkey breast side down. If its too big, lay it breast side up, and cover the breast with foil. Baste the bird with the olive oil/wine mixture, and close the grill cover.

Soak more wood chips or chunks. Baste and add chips every half hour. Chunks will last an hour or more. Halfway through cooking, turn the bird over or remove the foil. Cook until an instant-read thermometer shows a temperature of 165°F for the thighs. Remove from the grill and let rest fifteen minutes.

Gas grill method

Clean the grill. Preheat the grill on high.

While the fire is getting ready, lay the turkey breast side up on a board. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the wine, the garlic salt and the pepper. Set aside.

If using wood chips, make a smoker pouch. Wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil, and poke a few holes in the top. Place the pouch directly over one of the outer burners and wait for it to begin smoking. Turn the middle burnerif you have threeoff. Turn the front burnerif you have twooff. Lower the remaining burners to medium.

If using wood chunks, place the chunks directly on one of the outer burners and wait for it to begin smoking. Turn the middle burnerif you have threeoff. Turn the front burnerif you have twooff. Lower the remaining burners to medium.

Place an aluminum foil drip pan under the area where you will cook the chicken. Add about a 1/2 of water.

Lay the turkey in the center not over one of the burners that are on. Scatter the soaked chips or chunks over the fires, lay the turkey in the center of the grill. If the bird is small enough you will be able to turn it in the middle of cooking, lay the turkey breast side down. If its too big, lay it breast side up, and cover the breast with foil. Baste the bird with the olive oil/wine mixture, and close the grill cover.

Soak more wood chips or chunks. Baste every half hour. Renew the smoker pouch or the chips when the smoke dies down. Halfway through cooking, turn the bird over or remove the foil. Cook until an instant-read thermometer shows a temperature of 165°F for the thighs. Remove from the grill and let rest fifteen minutes.