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Holiday Smoked Turkey Surprise!

Aug 17, 2007
Tired of the same old traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners that you've had each year since you could walk? It's time to break tradition and do a little something different this year! For your holiday dinner, spice up the feast; smoke a turkey and surprise the crowd!! The folks over for dinner will love it and you'll receive a round of applause for cooking such a scrumptious dish. Once you've heard applause from an overwhelmed audience cheering your smoked turkey, you'll never go back to sticking the bird in the oven again!

For me the task of smoking a turkey begins the day before the big event. Since Thanksgiving is in the fall, there is usually a foot of leaves on my back deck where I cook the bird. With a charcoal smoker, it's not a good idea to strike a match close to an abundance of leaves. It's a wise thing to use your leaf blower and clean up the deck before you begin.

In some areas of the country, instead of bushels of leaves on the deck, you'll have tons of snow. You really don't have to do any porch cleaning. Just brush the snow off of the top of the smoker, throw out the old ashes from last summer and you're ready to go. It is nice to have a little walking around room, so I would clear a suitable area for the grill. Some of you would like to try out the new snow blower I know, but it's really not necessary.

I use one of the tall water smokers; the kind that have two trays. One tray is for charcoal and the other is for water, which helps keep the turkey moist as heat pushes the vapors upward. There are different kinds of smokers, but if you don't have one, you can use a grill by putting the charcoal on one side and directing the smoke toward the other side where you have the turkey. If you use this indirect method of cooking be sure to put a container of water near the coals.

Fire in the hole! Now it's time to light the charcoal, pour the water in the pan, secure the grill tops in place and start cooking. Wait until the coals have a dusting of white ash before you put on the turkey. If you use a liquid charcoal starter, and the coals have not burned down sufficiently, you'll probably get a taste of lighter fluid in your turkey. Don't be impatient!

Smaller turkeys seem to taste better when smoked than larger ones. Smaller ones are more tender. On a safety note, I don't use large turkeys for smoking because they take much longer to reach the proper internal heat of 175 to 180 degrees. Smaller turkeys cook better, faster.

After placing the turkey on the grill, then apply seasoning. Some folks soak their turkey in a brine solution the night before while others coat the inside of the turkey with about one tablespoon of salt. The reason for this is that an unsalted smoked turkey tastes terrible. Yecch! Apply any seasoning you prefer. I use a heavy dusting of lemon pepper, mixing the citrus flavoring with the smoke.

That special aroma of wood smoke is something that is specific to the person smoking the meat. Some folks use hickory, pecan, or fruitwoods in their smokers. Others pour wine in the water pan so that the fumes from the wine will mingle with the smoke, thereby making the turkey more delicious! Try it some time!

I'm partial to hickory, myself. Soak the hickory chips or chunks for at least 30 minutes before you toss them onto the coals. You can even pour the water that you soaked the chips in, in the water bowl to give the smoke an even better aroma of hickory smoke.

To many, cooking on a smoker is a vague and mysterious proposition. Instead of being difficult, it really is quite simple. Noted chefs and smoking experts say to cook the turkey about 30 minutes per pound in the winter when it's cold and about 25 minutes per pound when it's warm. This rule of smoking works if all conditions are perfect; no wind, not rain or no snow. This rule also applies to adding charcoal at the precise time for optimum heat, making sure the water in the pan has not evaporated. These are good instructions, but they have never really worked for me.

To be more accurate, when a meat thermometer placed under the inner thigh reaches 180 degrees, the bird is done. With a 12-14 pound turkey, the average cooking time for me is around 12 hours. I add charcoal every 1-2 hours if I remember to do it at a certain time. I rarely take the meat thermometer out of its holster under 12 hours. When it registers, 180 degrees under the wing, it's ready. Make sure you don't touch the bone with the thermometer, because the bone will be hotter.

Resist the temptation to check on the turkey every hour. Every time you open the top, you lose some of the heat. It doesn't take a genius to smoke a turkey and do it well. Have a little patience and you'll smoke like a champion!
About the Author
Bob Alexander is the author and owner of this article. He is well experienced in the art of barbeque cooking, outdoor activities and leisure living. Visit his sites:
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