Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Turkey Smoking 2008
I'm excited because I'm smoking a turkey for the second year in a row in honor of Thanksgiving. Last year, it was for a Friday-night-after-Thanksgiving get together with a dozen people or so, and I cooked a 20 pound bird. Smoking is an indirect cooking technique, so it takes a very long time-- last year I was up at 5:30 AM and wasn't done cooking until after 7:00 PM. This year it's for a smaller Thanksgiving day gathering so I'm doing a smaller turkey and will spend less time cooking. Of course, you don't have to sit by the smoker the entire time... but I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cooking outdoors. And it's a great excuse to sit around outside, listen to the radio, read and drink a couple beers.
Prep is pretty simple, just a thorough washing and salting the night before. With smoking, the key is to allow the wood to create the flavor-- too much flavoring through a rub or similar, and you might as well not smoke it. I keep it pretty simple as far as dressing goes for that reason. As for the actually smoking, with a turkey I'll stick with hickory; some prefer apple, but with this kind of commitment (in both time and importance) I like to stick with something reliable. For the pan I prefer a whiskey mix to beer in pretty much anything, except some kinds of sausage and occasionally ribs. I use the drippings from the pan and a little flour to make gravy, and the whiskey really gives it that something extra.
The key is to avoid the temptation to look. Every time you pull your lid off, you're drying out the turkey a little bit. You've got to trust to your liquid pan and your technique to keep it moist. I might baste a couple times, once every few hours, straight out of the pan, but I really prefer the natural steam moisture.
I'll try to take a picture of the turkey before I carve it so you guys can see the finished product. You can really see the difference in the dark and reddish pigmentation.