Most readers won't be too surprised to learn that the majority of turkeys are consumed during the Thanksgiving season. In fact, on Thanksgiving Day, as many as 46 million turkeys will be served to people across the country. Sadly, many of these turkeys will be dry and overcooked. Even experienced cooks can accidentally dry out the turkey, but there are some ways to reduce the Thanksgiving dry-out tragedy. Smoking your turkey, in particular, is the key to its culinary success. Smoking a turkey is the perfect way to get that delicious, crispy skin with tender and juicy meat. Here are some tips for smoking your bird using one of our pit barrel cookers.
Choose the Right Turkey
When selecting a turkey, you'll want to consider its size, of course. Williams Sonoma suggests that cooks stick to the pound-per-person rule. Consider the number of guests who will be at your feast and choose a turkey that's at least as many pounds as guests--larger if you want to ensure there are plenty of leftovers (and you do when the turkey is as delicious as it's going to be).
You can choose a male or female bird--both are commercially sold. Although more hens tend to be enjoyed on Thanksgiving, you'll want to select a Tom turkey if you have a large crowd coming for dinner. Hens are widely sold in smaller size ratios (15-20 lbs). So, if you are inviting fewer than 15 guests, you will probably be searching for a hen.
There are also different types of turkeys available today from self-basting (these birds are injected with their own marinade) and basting (you do the work) to free range and organic. Organic free range turkeys are going to be the creme de la creme, but more expensive. Choosing natural turkey is a good choice since the "natural" label indicates that no chemicals or preservatives have been used.
Frozen vs Fresh Turkeys
A frozen turkey is a convenient option; although, you'll have to remember to thaw it for days (24 hours for each 5 pounds of bird) before you intend smoking a turkey on a charcoal grill. Foodies prefer fresh turkeys as the freezing process can actually lead to dry meat when the bird is cooked. If possible, opt for a fresh bird and store in your refrigerator before cooking.
Choose a Rub
Treat your turkey to a rub before you smoke it. The rub will add immense flavor, but be sure to select a quality rub, not all rubs are created equal. Our All-Purpose Pit Rub is thoughtfully designed for smoking a turkey. Its balanced flavors will complement the natural flavor of the turkey. It's a good idea to score the turkey before adding the rub using your hands to rub it into the skin. To ensure the rub adheres well to the bird, coat it in olive oil or butter first.
Directions for Smoking a Turkey
If you've never smoked a turkey before, it's helpful to follow step-by-step instructions, which we have outlined in the link above. These instructions will help you master our Pit Barrel cookers. Be sure to note the section on sealing the bird if you intend to smoke a stuffed turkey (and why wouldn't you?). However, if you do smoke a stuffed turkey, allow for a longer cooking time as it will take longer for heat to cook the center of the bird.
Smoking a Turkey: Time and Temperature
While it's not tasty to overcook your turkey, you definitely don't want to undercook it either. To that end, you'll likely want to smoke your turkey anywhere from 3.5 to 7 hours, depending on its size. Plan to smoke it at roughly 225-250 degrees. A good rule of thumb is about 30 minutes per pound. According to Butterball, you should use a thermometer to make sure your turkey goes from 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F in four hours or less. The finished internal bird must reach 165 degrees to be fully cooked.
Smoke Your Perfect Turkey This Year
Thanksgiving is a delightful time of year. Your meal can enhance your holiday's enjoyment as you dine with family and friends. Search the Pit Barrel website to find your next affordable charcoal smoker. We feature different size cookers to suit our customers' wide range of smoking and cooking needs. You'll also find lots of helpful videos, recipes, and links on our site. These resources will help you make the most of your Pit Barrel cooker!