If you’re looking for a way to make your Thanksgiving dinner more exciting this year, try smoking a turkey! Celebrate the harvest with a turkey that tastes of the great outdoors. With our thermal tips you can be sure that you’ll get a delicious, safe to eat turkey unlike any you’ve served before.
Making a smoked turkey can be daunting because it’s such a large object—a rack of ribs is tiny in comparison—so it is understandable that many people have never tried it out. But in reality, the principles behind smoking a turkey are the same as those behind, say, a pork butt. The main difference is that we want to cook a pork butt to 195°F(91°C) to break down all the connective tissues, but we only want to cook a turkey to a pull temp of 160°F(71°C). Turkey breast is naturally tender and low in connective tissue, and will toughen and dry out if it cooked too high, as we’ve all tasted before. (It is true, however, that the dark meat in the turkey back, thighs, and legs does have connective tissue. For more on this topic, read our post White Meat vs. Dark Meat Turkey Cooking Methods.)
To make sure our smoked turkey comes out juicy, we need to make sure we’re only cooking it to our target pull temperature and not any farther. To do that, we need to make sure we’re placing our thermometer probe correctly. Place the probe in the thickest part of the breast, in the center of the meat. This is the coldest part of the bird, when it reaches our pull temp we know the rest of the bird should be good too.
With all of this in mind, let’s smoke a turkey!
Smoking a Turkey
Compound butter and rubbing the skin
- Prepare a compound butter by softening a stick of butter (using a rolling pin works very well), then mincing herbs—sage, rosemary, and thyme, for instance—and kneading them together with the butter and some ground black pepper.
- Separate the skin of the turkey from each breast with your fingers and hand. Stuff one third of the compound butter under the skin of each breast, smoothing it down under the skin to cover as much meat as possible.
- Melt the remaining herb butter and pour it over the top of the turkey breast. Rub it into the skin with your hands to coat the turkey.
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F(121°C) and choose your favorite wood for smoking.
- Place a Pro-Series® High Temp Cooking Probe in the thermal center of the turkey by finding the thickest part of the breast and inserting the probe in its center.
- Clip the Pro-Series® High Temp Air Probe With Grate Clip in your smoker.
- Have a Thermapen® Mk4 or other instant read thermometer at the ready to spot check the turkey at the end of cooking.
Smoking the turkey
- Place the turkey in the smoker and set the alarms on your Smoke™. Set the high-alarm for the meat probe to 160°F(71°C). Set the air probe high alarm to 275°F(135°C) and the low alarm to 225°F(107°C). Close the lid and let it smoke!
Monitor the cooking
- To monitor the progress of your turkey and your smoker temperature without having to stick by the smoker all day, use the Smoke receiver (which uses radio frequency), or try the new Smoke™ Gateway with the free Smoke Gateway app (which you can find in the iTunes or Google Play app stores). The Smoke Gateway connects to your existing Wi-Fi network to enable you to track your temperatures with your smartphone or tablet anywhere you can get a Wi-Fi signal.
- When your Smoke’s meat probe high alarm sounds at 160°F(71°C), check it with a Thermapen Mk4 in a few places to be sure it is thoroughly cooked. Make sure the lowest temp you see is 160°F(71°C).
- Note: If you see lower temperatures with your Thermapen, either continue smoking and check it again in a little while with your Thermapen OR, using hot mitts, you can reposition your Smoke meat probe until it shows a reading similar to the lowest temperature you’re seeing with your Thermapen and wait for the 160°F(71°C) alarm to sound again.
Rest and enjoy
- Finally, let your turkey rest at least 20 minutes before slicing and enjoying. That rich smokey flavor is amazing with turkey.
With proper monitoring, smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving is no more difficult than making barbecue pulled pork. Treat the family this year. And right now, if you buy a Smoke and Smoke Gateway bundled together, you get a free zippered case to keep them in.