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How to smoke a turkey like a professional



This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 201

9 with tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Based on recent search trends, it seems that many people this year want to know how to smoke a turkey. If you are tired of the same old roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, but too scared of fireballs to try frying turkey, a smoked turkey can be your lucky medium. You can go outside, free up oven space for side dishes and pies and enjoy a wonderfully different taste than you are probably used to.

Smoked turkey is not for the faint hearted – it does require care, and it has a bold taste that purists reject. Consider roasting a turkey breast backup for them and know that for a classic gravy you need to make a batch out of turkey spare parts in advance (always a good move). You can also use the reserved turkey neck to make a gravy with bourbon, apple, apple cider and onion; that recipe is included in the smoked turkey recipe from Chowhound.

According to well-known Chowhound members, you might want to smoke a training bird, or even just smoke the turkey breast for an easier time (although who among us can resist smoked Disney-style drumsticks?).

We also recommend taking some tips from a pitmaster about how you generally smoke meat, especially if you have never smoked before.

Make sure you have your game plan in place and give enough time to get the process going. Then you are ready to tackle a turkey. Below are some essential tools, tips and ideas for what you can serve alongside your mahogany masterpiece.


If you have a smoker, great! If you don't, you can do it like us and use a charcoal grill for smoking turkey.

Read more: Traeger & # 39; s wood pellet grill is so good it hurts

You also need two sets of tongs, a few different disposable aluminum pans (two serve drip trays, the other a steam pan), a baking tray, oven gloves, a few buckets of water, an oven thermometer and a meat thermometer. More about this later.

Read more: The most popular grilling tools on Amazon

Last but certainly not least, you need wood and a good fuel source.


We love apple wood for smoking turkey because it has a more delicate and fruity taste than hickory or oak.


We also strongly prefer hardwood lump charcoal instead of briquettes. These charred pieces of wood burn hotter and cleaner than briquettes, but if you have to follow that route, at least avoid the self-relieving ones, which are full of chemicals.

Brine the turkey

Brining turkey can be a controversial topic but we like to do it, especially for a smoked bird that can dry out. You must pickle the night before – but make sure the turkey is completely thawed first. And if you make brine water wet, make sure it is dry and leave it at room temperature for a while to ensure crispy skin (or two hours in the refrigerator, uncovered).

Read more: This Whole Foods turkey discount is too good to miss

Enjoy your wood chips

This only takes about 15 minutes, but every second is precious when you are hangry guests waiting for food – so don't forget to put your fries in a bucket of water before you prepare your grill or smoker. (And already have Thanksgiving snacks available to the public.)

Heat up your grill or smoker

This is the easy part; maintaining the temperature costs a little more finesse. This is why the oven thermometer is needed (it is not surprising to tell when the turkey is ready) – and the steam pan, which retains water and helps lower the grill temperature, is also a necessity. [19659031] http://www.cnet.com/ "height =" 425 "width =" 756 “/>


This inexpensive device is indispensable for measuring the temperature of your barbecue.


These inexpensive, single-use brownie pans are also essential (for catching drippings). You get 20, so they will last a while – or just get a few at your local supermarket in the baking pad.


These longer than average bread pans are the kind that we use to retain water to make steam . These come in a package of 50, so you may have something about next summer.


The turkey is done when a thermometer registers 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the chest and femur. (but make sure it doesn't get blunt). This digital model is a favorite of many chefs.

Truss your turkey

This is another technically optional step, but we like it because it makes it easier to maneuver the turkey on the grill (we also fill the cavity with onion and apple and truss helps keep them in place). Moreover, you look even more impressive. Here's how you can bundle the bird:

You can do that while the charcoal is warming up. Once scrubbed, we rub the outside of the turkey with vegetable oil (but don't worry, it is also printed with butter several times during cooking) – and then start smoking.

How long does this all take?

The entire operation (excluding the brine during the night and the drying time of one to two hours for the turkey) will take at least four hours, perhaps closer to five, so plan accordingly.

You will be making fire, adding more wood chips and adjusting water level levels during the smoking process. Full instructions for preparing the grill and maintaining the temperature are in the recipe below, but if you have a smoker, consult the manufacturer's instructions for best results.

Get Chowhound & # 39; s recipe for smoked turkey for step-by-step details.

What should you serve with smoked turkey?

The recipe from Chowhound above contains instructions for a bourbon apple gravy using the reserved turkey neck, but even on Thanksgiving the bird is not alone.

For a smoked turkey, all the classic sides still taste great, although it makes sense to choose stronger flavors and dishes with a southern feel. Here are a few suggestions (but don't forget classic buttery mashed potatoes.)

Cornbread and apple stuffing

  apple-cornbread-stuffing-recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https: //cnet2.cbsistatic .com / img / SWibgJ-t_F4fFwE2U7QqkWxv25s = / 2019/11/22 / b6c33b31-71f8-44a8-a6cd-6bd94bf4b6b6 / apple-cornbread-filling-recipe-chowhound.jpg

The sweetness of apple and corn bread works well with the smoky turkey, and because it does not cook in the bird, you can make it in advance (and you get a much crisper surface). Get the recipe for corn bread and apple filling from Chowhound.

Bourbon sweet potato casserole

  bourbon sweet potato casserole recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/C0rY8QvYBYPpboID7pgfK_mBBpo=/2019/11/22/e58f53cf - 424a-463a-97e-eb0a3d2ad34b / bourbon-sweet-potato-casseroler-recipe-chowhound.jpg [19659060] bourbon-sweet-potato-casseroler-recipe-chowhound [19659056] Chowhound
<p>  Mini marshmallows have their place (in hot chocolate), but for casserole with sweet potatoes we prefer something more mature. This is set with bourbon – following the turkey gravy – and topped with a nutty pecan streusel that has just enough brown sugar to supplement the natural sweetness of the vegetables. Get the recipe for the Chowhound bourbon sweet potato. </p>
<h3>  Cranberry spread </h3>
<figure class=  maple-cranberry-sauce-recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet3.cbsistatic.com/img/H66_H5-4elM_EsgfPRRQIA9xvxs=/2019/11/22/bd354e89-7852- 4514-889e-0d0a4ce1a9ee / maple-cranberry-sauce-recipe-chowhound.jpg [19659065] maple-cranberry-sauce-recipe-chowhound [19659056] Chowhound
<p>  Canned cranberry sauce is fine if you feel like it, but we would opt for this hearty fresh cranberry spread for a smoked turkey dinner (or another, frankly) – it is nicely in balance between sharp and sweet (thanks to maple syrup) ) and also has a little warmth of red pepper, plus candied orange peel and allspice for an even more festive atmosphere. Get Chowhound & # 39; s cranberry spread recipe. </p>
<h3>  Simple baked green beans </h3>
<figure class=  baked-green-bean-recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/_6SswPbByDkd9txZ8zxI-tFQYBk=/2019/11/22/1bac6dbb- 6bb6-4cbe-ADEB-79f675a36eb5 / baked-green-bean-recipe-chowhound.jpg


A fresh green vegetable is a must, so we say we skip the green bean casserole for crispy baked beans with sweet, soft onions and a little spark of red wine vinegar. Get the simple baked green bean recipe from Chowhound.

Pumpkin-chiffon cake

  Pumpkin-chiffon-cake-recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/MSwzPprKYortjtDQ0u8fCnpWOlk=/2019/11/22/a38a2f1f-51df- 4da1 -8df5-1208cc6ac469 / pumpkin-chiffon-pie-recipe-chowhound.jpg [19659075] pumpkin-chiffon-pie-recipe-chowhound [19659056] Chowhound
<p>  Consistent with the idea against palate fatigue, try a light and airy pumpkin chiffon cake for a change to end the meal. You can poke the filling and topping with rum, or use non-alcoholic apple cider if you prefer. Get Chowhound & # 39; s pumpkin chiffon cake recipe. </p>
<h3>  Maple pecan pie </h3>
<figure class=  melissa-clark-pecan-pie-recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/IMzYDBVDJ4RmQ5ErEXTnXjEYJs0=/2019/11/22/b8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8 -7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516-7f8a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a84516lef65a74516le pie-recipe-chowhound.jpg


But if you are a team pecan pie, try this version with aniseed-soaked maple syrup filling and a spicy whipped cream with fraiche for contrast. Get the Melissa Clark maple pecan pie recipe.

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