Smoking a whole turkey is a delicious way to prepare this bird, as it imparts a wonderful smoky flavor and keeps the meat tender and juicy. Here are a few pointers:
CHOOSE YOUR TURKEY
Whole turkey, whole turkey(pre-brined), or turkey breast. If you're using a frozen turkey, make sure it's completely thawed before smoking. Allow enough time for the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator, usually about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey's cavity if they are included. Some folks remove the skin but we prefer to keep it on.
DO IT! (maybe?) Brining is the process of soaking the turkey in a water solution with salt and other spices. This soaking will not only infuse some flavor into the meat but will also help the turkey come out moist after cooking. Some of the turkeys you will buy will come "pre-brined". The package must state this and it would say something like "8% water solution with salt, spices.....". Now here comes the debate...some folks insist on brining a pre-brined turkey while others do not. Our experience is that it is not necessary and can lead to a much saltier turkey. However if you search the internet you will find plenty of others that argue the other way. Like most things BBQ, trial and error is your friend. We recommend not brining a pre-brined turkey and see how it works for you and your set-up. If you purchase a whole turkey that is not brined then we absolutely recommend brining it. Another point of reference, at Franklin BBQ in Austin, they cook just the turkey breast and do not brine, allowing the smoke, rub, and their incredible talent to do the trick.
Here is a typical brine recipe:
Submerge the turkey in a brine solution (5 gal bucket, brining bag, etc, just ensure its clean and sanitized for food) for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator. Its very important it remain refrigerated. Your brine can be as simple as 1/2 cup of salt and 1 gal of water. That's our preference since we will be adding our amazing Hot Turkey rub later. Other brines will include salt, sugar, and assorted spices(depending on your preferred tastes). Rinse and pat dry before proceeding.
SEASON THE TURKEY
Apply your My BBQ Box Hot Turkey rub to the turkey. If you are cooking a whole turkey make sure to season both the inside and outside of the bird and get plenty under the skin if its still intact. We also add some butter under the skin as well. There are also those that inject melted butter into the meat but we think it takes away from the meat flavor.
GRILL/SMOKER SET UP
We recommend a target temp of 300-350. You can smoke at a lower temp, it will just take longer. We don't find the results to be any better. A 12-14 lb turkey will only take 3-4 hrs at 300-350. Focus on the internal temp of the meat which should reach 160-165.
Start a fire with your choice of wood in the firebox. Don’t use a waterpan, you want a “dry” smoke.
Put your charcoal on both sides of your grill with the middle section void of any coals. Soak your wood chips in water and sprinkle on the coals once you place the meat on the empty middle section of your grill.
Only turn the burners on the side of the grill your not cooking on. Place your chips in a foil packet with holes poked in it and place them on the burners turned on when you place the meat on your grill.
A WORD ABOUT WOOD
We prefer Oak, Pecan, or Hickory. We have tried stronger woods like Mesquite before and they came out great but we limited the amount of of wood used or mixed with other milder woods. You don't want to overpower the flavor of the meat and rub which is easy to do with turkey.