I worked for years to find a good recipe for smoked meat and this one was the best. I tried every kind of smoker in existence but found that an electric smoker works best of all - it keeps the temperature even and constant and the results are the most consistent. It also has a water pan just above the heating element that adds steam to the smoke to keep the meat moist. I add apple cider, Angostura bitters, and some bourbon to my water pan to give the steam a great aroma.
I've recently been buying a fresh brined turkey from Trader Joes up to a week before Thanksgiving. These brined turkeys keep well in the refrigerator up to a week and always turn out very tender and moist.
Rinse the turkey and remove the neck and giblets. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel and coat the turkey inside and out with oil - I like toasted sesame seed oil. Liberally apply your dry rub to the outside of the turkey - I use my own Mike's Carolina Dry Rub #2, but you can use seasoned salt or your favorite BBQ rub. Quarter a small apple and an orange and place the pieces loosely inside the cavity for flavor and moisture.
To prepare the smoker, wrap 4 or 5 chunks of hickory wood in aluminum foil and poke a few holes in the foil to let the smoke out (this will make clean-up easier). Try other kinds of hardwood for smoking - I have used apple, pecan, oak, and maple with good results. Each produces a different flavor.
In the water pan of the smoker, place a mixture of water and apple cider with a tablespoon of Angostura bitters, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a couple of shots of bourbon or whiskey. The steam from this pan will keep the turkey moist and the aroma you get from the mixture is just incredible and will delicately flavor the meat.
Place the foil-wrapped hickory chunks near (but not on) the heating element. Place the pan of water and apple cider in the smoker. Place the rack in the smoker and the turkey on the rack. If it’s cold outside, place a couple of towels over the top of the smoker to insulate it and keep the heat in. Plug in the smoker and relax for a few hours. Keep the lid closed to retain the heat - checking on the turkey too often will increase the cooking time. The turkey will take 5 or 6 hours to cook and you may have to replenish the water/apple cider after a few hours. If you use a turkey with a pop-up timer, it will tell you when it’s done, otherwise twist the thigh to see if it is loose or wait until the temperature is at 165 degrees in the thick part of the thigh.
I have tried some variations on this recipe. One very good version was to coat the inside of the turkey as well as the apple and orange pieces that go inside with Grand Marnier® liqueur or American Honey® liqueur.
Smoked turkey always comes out moist and tender with a terrific smoky flavor. I guarantee that this is the best turkey you will ever eat and you won’t even mind eating the leftovers.
Copyright © Mike Perry, 2011