Smoking a Turkey

Using a meat smoker

Most smokers are cylinder-shaped devices and use either electricity, gas, or charcoal for heat. Follow manufacturer's directions for gas or electric smokers.

Charcoal smokers have two pans—one for charcoal and one for liquid. Smokers require a liquid to create the moist, hot smoke needed for cooking. When using a charcoal smoker, fill the pan for liquid with water, wine, apple juice, or the liquid you desire. Fill the charcoal pan with a good quality charcoal. Light the charcoal and place the cover on the smoker. When the smoker has reached an internal temperature of 225 to 300 °F, quickly place the turkey on the smoker rack and replace the cover. (Some smokers have built in temperature indicators. If yours does not, place an appliance thermometer on the smoker rack before starting your heat source.) Add charcoal every 1 to 2 hours, as necessary, to maintain 225 to 300 °F. Replenish the liquid as necessary. Heat and liquid are critical to maintaining the hot smoke that cooks the turkey.

When cooking with a smoker, start with clean equipment. Place the smoker in an area shielded from winds to maintain a safe cooking temperature. If desired, add water-soaked hardwood or fruitwood, in the form of chunks or chips, to add flavor to the turkey. Do not use a softwood (pine, fir, cedar, or spruce) as it gives the food a turpentine flavor and coats it with a black pitch or resin.

Cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature from the coals, and temperature of the outside air. Completely thaw the turkey before cooking. Estimate 20 to 30 minutes per pound if using a smoker. Do not stuff the turkey. Because smoking cooks at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach 165 °F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Home Smoker Safety Tips

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