For years my Dad has been the bird-master. He smokes the turkey overnight in a small smoker he has had for probably 40 years, and it is always delicious!
Several years ago, Mom and Dad got us a smoker of our very own for our anniversary.
It has been used exactly once.
The summer after receiving the smoker, we decided to try smoking a turkey–you know, in case we ever had Thanksgiving at our house. Well, it didn’t go all that well. The turkey was WAY under-cooked on the inside and WAY over-cooked on the outside. That was the last time we tried using the smoker. You know it can be expensive to ruin meat!
With Thanksgiving finally at our house, we got our official lesson on how to cook the Thanksgiving turkey!
First things first–Buy a turkey.
Martha Stewart says allow for 1 1/2 pounds per person.
I didn’t really listen to her. I bought an almost 22 pound bird. Mom had told me about a 15 pound turkey would be fine for the 6 of us. I had kinda forgotten that little tidbit when I was at the store. Better to have too much than not enough, right?!
I bought my turkey the week before Thanksgiving. Be sure you clean out your refrigerator before going to the store, so there is plenty of room to defrost your turkey. I knew my turkey would take a while to thaw. Allow a day for every 4 pounds.
Mom and Dad arrived at our house a little after 7:00 and brought spend-the-night necessities.
We got straight to work.
While the guys got the smoker ready, Mom showed me how to prep the bird.
Remove all the packaging and give the bird a rinse with cold water. Be sure to remove all the yucky stuff from inside the cavity of the bird. Save it though. You will use it later. (A light meal would be my recommendation for Wednesday night, YUCK!)
My turkey had this brace inside. It was a little tricky to remove. Apparently, preparing a 22 pound turkey burns some calories! Bonus!
Next, pat the turkey dry and rub all over with butter. I felt like a turkey-masseuse. My bird was happy–first the jacuzzi then the massage table.
You’ll want to truss the turkey legs. I didn’t have any kitchen twine, so I used dental floss, of all things. Hey, it worked great! Just wrap the string around the ends of the leg. Go back and forth and all around. Tuck the wings back behind where the neck used to be. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that. (Looking at the pictures, I think I actually did the trussing before the buttering.)
Then Dad came and took the turkey to the smoker.
Soak 2 “good” handfuls of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes.
Fill the bottom of the smoker as full as you possibly can with charcoal.
Light the charcoal and let it burn down.
When the charcoal is ready spread the soaked wood chips on them.
Fill the smoker’s water pan with water — this will steam the bird as it smokes.
Put the water pan in place.
Put the metal grill right above the water pan.
Place the bird on the grill and close the smoker.
It should slowly burn all night.
Now go to bed and get a good night’s sleep!
That was a short night!
In the morning the bird looked great!
Ahhhh! So nice and golden! I’m so thankful Chip’s co-worker, Jen, gave me this hand-me-down pan (along with many others, too!). It was the perfect container to transport my giant turkey. Thanks, Jen!
Based on past experience, Dad suggested we go ahead and take a little peek to make sure the turkey was cooked all the way.
Sure enough, it was a little too pink on the inside. We stuck it in the oven at 350˚ for about 30-45 minutes. It’s a good thing that we used that pan instead of the cutting board. No transfer necessary.
When it came time to carve the turkey, Chip followed the instructions on this video:
It was a great method!
Be sure your knife is good and sharp. Knife sharpening is not my favorite thing to do. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I do like my little sharpener/honer. I have never used a honing steel. I have watched Mom use one for years and it terrifies me!
Remove the leg.
Remove the breast.
Repeat on the other side.
Slice the breasts.
Since the turkey finished cooking in the oven, plenty of drippings were available for gravy making! In the smoker, the fat just drips down into the pan.
Sprinkle flour all over the fat in the pan.
This is my flour of choice.
Wondra is nice and fine. Which means less of a chance for lumps.
Let the flour and fat bubble up a little, just enough to cook out some of the flour flavor.
Add your turkey broth. Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about that.
Remember all that nasty stuff you pulled out of the turkey? Put it all in a pot with enough water to cover it. Add a little salt and pepper and, if you like, a little poultry seasoning. Then boil it.
Ta Da! Turkey broth!
Keep stirring the gravy on the stove until it all looks like gravy is supposed to look. Turkey gravy is not nearly as pretty as roast beef gravy.
I really hate to end this post with an ugly picture of turkey gravy. Here, look at the turkey again.