Smoked Turkey
November 23, 2010, 7:54 pm
Filed under: How To Land A Man, Meat, Philosophical, Technique

Smoking takes a little bit of skill. Not alot, just a bit and some specilized equipment. ok fine I’ve seen Iron Chef enough to know that you can fake it with a foil packet of chips and a blowtorch…but in the words of someone I forget who…”bitch, please.”
That is not smoking. That is making some smoke and blowing it on the food so it tastes sorta smoky. Smoking take a LONG time. It takes a smoker, or a smokehouse, or a smokebox. I have a smoker. I had a smokebox but decided a cheap little Brinkman smoker is better. I want a smokehouse. I want 100 acres of forest and fields and a 200 year old farmhouse, too…but instead I have a $60 Brinkman smoker. Seriously y’all, it’s all you need (other than some good charcoal and a chimney starter) to make yourself some fine, fine smoked meats.

Today, I am smoking the turkey for Thanksgiving. Because we are having over the entire Ethiopian population of Bulloch County and some Philipinos and a transplant from Ohio, it’s a huge turkey weighing in at 22 pounds…in fact it’s so big I realized it might be too big to fit into the smoker but I prevailed and with some tucking and cursing it fit in. So, here’s how I am smoking it:

First, get the smoker set up according to the manufacturer’s directions. Light a chimney full of charcoal using paper/pinecones/whatever. DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID. It would make your turkey taste like kerosene. I know this. I’ve done it and it’s a tragedy. Use hardwood lump charcoal NOT briquets (sorry Kingsford). Briquets will also make your turkey taste like kerosene. When the coals are red hot (you can tell, trust me) dump them over into the bottom of the smoker. DO NOT put the rack over the coals. You will need to be able to access them. Put some chunks of smoking wood in a bowl or can or something full of water so they can soak. They need to be wet so they’ll make smoke. Get chunks, not chips.

Second, set up the water pan. This goes in the smoker and helps keep the heat even, it also provides moisture so the meat doesn’t dry out. It’s important. In the pan of water, add a couple of oranges, cut into 1/8ths. Slice about 2 inches of ginger root nice and thin (you don’t have to peel it) and put that in the water pan too.

Third, clean the turkey up. Take the fresh (or thawed) turkey, you want it pretty close to room temperature. Wash it off and dry it with some paper towels. Get all the bits of plastic off of it- that popup thermometer thing, the whatsit that holds the legs in, all that. no plastic on your turkey. Cut up a couple of oranges and slice some more ginger. Stuff all this up in the body cavity of the turkey.

4th. Make the glaze. Mix together the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate (do not dilute it! Scoop it right out of the can of frozen into the bowl)microwave it 30 second to thaw it, or use already thawed, whatever.
1/2 cup vegetable oil (NOT olive. you want an oil with no flavor to it)
1/2 cup honey
2 heaping tablespoons of dried ginger powder
Mix all this together to make a gloppy mess.
Flip the turkey back side up and smear it with the stuff.
Flip it breast side up and do the same. Go on, use your hands. Don’t get all precious on me and want to use a brush, hands will wash, that’s why God invented soap. Make sure the turkey is nicely coated. I used about 2/3 of the glaze on a 22 pound turkey so you should have plenty.

Now, it’s time to set up the smoker. The Brinkman smoker (link above) has little rests in it for the water pan. You’ll want to set the pan in it BEFORE you put the smoker over the coals. Otherwise you’ll burn your hands. After you’ve done that, set the smoker unit on top of the base filled with hot coals. Then put the rack on the top and set your smeared mess of a turkey on the rack and put on the lid. Soon the thermometer will indicate “ideal” which is the temperature you want to keep it at. t’s a range, not a specific temp. If your smoker has a thermometer with numbers, you want it at about 200 degrees.

Now, let it do it’s thing. Check on it every 2 or 3 hours to make sure the temperature is staying in the “ideal” range. If it starts to drop, once it gets to the low end of “ideal”, start another chimney full of charcoal. You’ll need to do that on a concrete or brick slab, or even on a grill if you have one. When the chimney coals are hot, carefully set the top part of the smoker to the side (you might need help)-be careful with this because the water pan is in there and you don’t want to slosh it. Add the hot coals into the pan with the other coals, and throw a couple of wet wood chunks in there with the coals. Carefully put the top part back on the coal pan, and check the temperature every now and then to make sure it’s hot enough. It’s OK if the temp gets up into the “hot” part of the gauge, you just don’t want it in the “warm” bit.

It will take about 8 hours to smoke a 10 pound turkey. 4 hours for a couple of chickens, 2 for pork chops, maybe 3 for a beef roast.
I am not entirely sure how long it will take to smoke a 22 pound turkey, but I am anticipating having to get up with it in the middle of the night to add coals. That’s ok. I might, instead of nursing the smoker all night long, take the turkey out and put it in a 180 degree oven, covered with foil and a bit of the water pan water in the bottom of the roasting pan. If it’s done in the morning, great, if not, I’ll cook it in the smoker tomorrow without the wet wood, just kind of gently bake it over the coals.

The glaze combined with the smoke will make a deep brown bird with a distinct ginger-sweet flavor.

Now, a word on woods for making the smoke. I like to use mesquite, because I am from Texas and wish to retain my right to visit there. However, oak, hickory and pecan are WONDERFUL for smoking. So are any kind of fruitwoods. We have these horrible weedy plum trees that invade all the time, and they make for wonderful smoking wood. We also have a butt-ugly (even tragically ugly) maple tree in the front yard that is always dropping limbs, and those make great smoking chunks. There are myriad peach orchards around here, and when they prune he trees in the winter, they sell the trimmings for wonderful fragrant firewood…and amazing smoking wood.o you live someplace where there’s apple or cherry orchards? Go for it! So, in my experience, trees that grow nuts or fruits or have some kind of culinary value generally make for good smoking wood. Do not EVER under any circumstances use pine or cedar. Gross. Your meat will taste like turpentine or furniture polish. How sad would that be?

Also, snooty charcoal advice…i’m serious about the hardwood lump charcoal for smoking. Briquets are fine if you’re grilling hamburgers, but smoking is like this long term relationship the meat is having with the charcoal and why invest in a long term relationship that’s going to leave a bad taste in your mouth? Terry was pondering getting all Mountain Man on me and making our own charcoal out of the butt-ugly maple tree in the front yard, and I think that would be kinda awesome, but we live in a Golf Club Neighborhood and have already fielded some ridicule for the White Trash backyard aesthetic (I swear we got rid of the truck on blocks *and* the blue rubber swimming bowl) and I just don’t know how a Dakota hole would go over with the Country Club set. So, for now we buy the stuff in bags, and it works really well. you know what? It lights faster than briquets, too. And seems to last longer when lit. Go figure.

P.S. I promise to put up some pictures, but I can’t find the cable for the camera and the computer that will accept the chip from the camera is in use by someone who is giggling maniacally and I don’t want to get involved.


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