SMOKING A TURKEY
Most smokers are cylinder-shaped devices and use electricity, gas or charcoal
for heat. Follow the manufacturer's directions for gas or electric smokers. The
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends the following pointers for
smoking a turkey.
- Turkey breasts, drumsticks, wings
and whole turkeys are all suited for smoking.
- Whole turkeys that weigh 12
pounds or less are the recommended size for safe smoking. A larger turkey
remains in the "Danger Zone" - between 40° F
and 140° F - too long. If a larger turkey has been mistakenly purchased,
detach the dark meat sections (leg and thigh portions) from the breast
and smoke the turkey parts separately. This procedure should result
in the best
- When purchasing a whole turkey or
turkey breast, the structure is as important as the weight. Generally,
a turkey that is broad and
flat will fit
the covered smoker than one that protrudes too high in the breast
area. Remember there should be at least one-inch of space between the turkey
and the lid.
- Do not stuff the turkey. Because smoking
is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the
reach the required
of 165° F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.
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.
the charcoal and place the cover on the smoker. When the smoker has reached
an internal temperature of 250° F to 300° F, quickly place the turkey on
the smoker rack and replace the cover. (Some smokers have built in temperature
indicators. If not, place an appliance thermometer on the smoker rack before
starting the heat.) Add charcoal every hour, as necessary, to maintain 250° F
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 consistent cooking temperature. To
the flavors, add chunks or chips of water-soaked hardwood or fruitwood. DO
NOT use softwood (pine, fir, cedar or spruce) as it gives the food a turpentine
and coats it with a black pitch or resin.
Smoking time depends on many factors:
the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature
of the coals and the outside air temperature.
20 to 30 minutes per pound if using a smoker. Always use a food thermometer.
The whole turkey is done when the food thermometer, placed in the inner thigh,
reaches 180° F. The breast is done when the internal temperature reaches