0 This Thanksgiving, be thankful for barbecue!

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Smoked Turkey

In theory, Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday for the chef. It’s a time to showcase your culinary prowess while hanging out with family, watching football (The Detroit Lions are actually worth watching this year!) and looking forward to the approaching holiday season. However, to those of you that host the Thanksgiving gathering every year, the holiday scene can seem more like Groundhog Day. No matter how much prep you do, you always end up spending more time in the kitchen then you wish. Before you know it, the day is over and you are left with a stomach full of food and a kitchen full of dishes.

So how can you add a new flavor to Thanksgiving this year? By smoking your turkey! Smoking the turkey gives a distinct flavor that your guests will love. The meat comes out more tender and juicy than it does straight from the oven.   It’s also safer, easier, and healthier for those who deep-fry their turkey.

Of course, smoking a turkey isn’t as easy as following the same directions on the Butterball packaging every year.  But it is much more delicious – and worth it.  So what do you need to smoke a turkey?

  • Start with the smoker. We use the Onyx Barbeque Oven, our very own temperature controlled smoker that can easily accommodate a large turkey.  (You can also use a large grill like a Big Green Egg or Weber Smokey Mountain.  If you’re starting small with a 10-12 pound turkey, you could probably use your regular backyard grill.)  Whatever smoker you use, make sure you use a drip pan to catch all the delicious juices.

Note: Separate the drippings from the fat and use for gravy!

Onyx Oven

  • Choose a smoking wood. Smoking can make food even more delicious when you use wood chips.  I like using apple or pecan for turkey. You can also try cherry, hickory, or mesquite – any fruit woods are a good choice with poultry and Thanksgiving flavors.
  • Select a turkey. The most ideal turkey for smoking, and eating, is one that is fresh without injections or solutions.  Just like any other time you BBQ, the quality of the meat makes a difference.  Of course, frozen turkeys will also work well.  Just make sure they’re thoroughly defrosted before you begin smoking.  This may take days – plan for it.
  • Make a great brine. I will keep this simple. Brining is a great way to ensure a moist turkey, be sure to cool your brine below 40°F and use cold water and ice in your brining bucket. I brine for a total of 8-10 hours.  Here’s a recipe for brine:
    • Ingredients:
      • 1 1/4 cup salt (2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
      • 1 cup brown sugar
      • 2 lemons squeezed
      • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
      • 2 cloves chopped garlic
      • 1/2 tablespoon ginger
      • Enough ice and water to submerge bird completely in a 5 gallon bucket
      • Preparation:
        • Pour 1 gallon of water into a large pot over high heat. Add salt, brown sugar, and spices and lemons. Bring to a light boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour in ice water and stir to combine.
        • Place turkey in a clean, large plastic container (at least 4 gallon). Pour brine over top and fill with ice water to submerge completely. Refrigerate and brine for 1 hour per pound.
        • Thoroughly rinse all the brine from the turkey before cooking.
  • Set your cook temperature. For a 20-pound turkey, you’re smoking temperature really can be around 275 degrees.  It is absolutely critical that this temperature is consistent throughout the 7-8 hours it will take to smoke your turkey (20-25 minutes per pound).  Note: Your turkey may cook faster when brined. One of the best things about cooking a turkey in the oven is the ability to set it and forget it on your oven while you prepare all the fixin’s.  You can still have this – even when you’re smoking!  Our DigiQ and PartyQ temperature controls give you the same predictability and consistency of an oven.  Just set the digital temperature read-out and start in on the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
  • Monitor your done temperature. Smoked turkeys are finished when their internal breast temp is 165 degrees at their coolest point.  Having a good meat thermometer is crucial.  Of course, if you have a DigiQ, you already have one of the best meat thermometers around – and an alarm to let you know when your turkey is ready.  Remember that smoked turkey will look different than an oven-baked turkey.  It will be a little pink and the flesh will be a little smoother.  But if the DigiQ says it’s at temp, trust it and enjoy.

The BBQ Guru products – Onyx Oven, DigiQ, and PartyQ – were designed so that you can smoke your Thanksgiving turkey while still spending time with your family (or TV). Your kitchen won’t be the hottest place in your house from opening the oven every ten minutes. Also, it makes for a great conversation piece as your friends and family will surely be impressed with your new take on Turkey Day.

Try something new this Thanksgiving. You’ll thank me Black Friday.

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