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Holiday Smoked Turkey

By David Bowers
Published: November 1, 2009
Photo by John and Tanya Bäck

Step 1: Brine the Turkey

  • 2 celery stalks, sliced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, unpeeled, quartered
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 8- to 10-pound turkey (not self-basting or kosher), thawed if frozen

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add all the brine ingredients.

2. Stir to dissolve the salt, then simmer for five minutes.

3. Pour the brine into a vat large enough to submerge the turkey, such as a stock pot.

4. Add 4 cups of ice and stir to dissolve. When the brine is completely cool, add the turkey to the pot and then top up with another 4 or 5 cups of water, stirring around the turkey with a large wooden spoon.

5. Brine at least 4 hours or overnight, always keeping the turkey below 40 degrees F. Fit the vat in the refrigerator if possible, or put it in an unheated porch or garage if the weather is cold enough. You can also put the pot in a cooler and pack ice around it.

6.While the turkey brines, soak 2 cups of wood chips in a bowl of water.

Step 2: Rub the Turkey

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Blend 1 stick softened butter with 2 teaspoons dried whole sage, ground between your fingers as you add it, and 1 teaspoon dried whole thyme (not ground).

2. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it, and dry the outside with paper towels.

3. Loosen the skin over the breast with your fingers and rub 2 tablespoons of the butter between the breast and skin.

4. Rub another 2 tablespoons all over the skin, and reserve the rest for basting.

5. Tie the drumsticks together with cotton string.

Step 3: Smoke the Turkey

1. Seal the soaked and drained wood chips in a heavy-duty foil package and make several slits on the top with a knife so the smoke can escape. Set this directly over the burner on one side of the grill, underneath the grill rack and right on the lava rocks or metal bars.

2. Turn that burner to medium and leave it until the packet starts to smoke.

3. Reduce the heat to low and close the lid. When the temperature in the lid registers 225 degrees, put the turkey in a disposable aluminum pan on the opposite side, as far from the lit burner as you can, and close the lid.

4. Smoke for one hour, making sure the temperature never climbs above 250 (or below 225).

5. Melt the remaining seasoned butter and baste the turkey after the first hour. You’ll likely need two more hours of cooking time, basting the turkey every 45 minutes or so and rotating the aluminum pan when you do. (Tent with foil if it’s getting too brown by the third hour.)

6. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer in the deepest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees. Allow to rest under foil for 15 minutes before carving.

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