How to Smoke Thanksgiving Turkey

The Holidays are right around the corner. Nothing gets us more excited than to smoke 30+ turkeys for Thanksgiving. So let’s get started explaining how we go about smoking Thanksgiving turkeys.

First, you want to start out with a quality bird. We get our birds from Otto’s Turkey Farm in Middleville, MI. These are fresh, antibiotic free, free range turkeys who eat a diverse diet. The best turkeys around, in our humble opinion. Sure, we could get frozen birds and save ourselves a one hour road trip, but nothing but the best for our customers.

Second, we are big believers in either injecting or brining poultry, but since we are short on space we are going to be injecting our birds. What do we mean about brining/injecting and what are the differences? Brining means pulling in moisture into something via osmosis. Since a piece of meat is like a classic membrane the presence of salt acts to pull water (moisture) inside the membrane. This is a good option, but you need a lot of space and you also run the risk of cross contaminating anything else that you might be serving. If you would like a ratio to create your own brine recipe a simple ratio to get started would be 4 tablespoons per 1 quart of water. The process of osmosis will also take any other flavorings through to your protein and we would recommend making a kind of chicken soup with carrots, celery, onions and garlic in your brine. Thyme always works with poultry as would tarragon, rosemary, marjoram and feel free to experiment, poultry is a blank slate that works well with lots of different seasonings.

Since we are not able to brine our birds due to space limitations, we will be injecting them using a Chopps Injection system. This bad boy has 4 needles that pump injections into anything in seconds and since we are going to be doing 30+ turkeys we are going to need that extra power. Since injections don’t take salt to help moisture through a membrane you can really use anything you want to inject. Lots of times we will use our rub in our injection to get that flavor all the way down to the bone. This leads me our next point, we are able to control exactly where we are putting our flavor into our protein. Sure you have to be careful about how you go about this, but we definitely see the benefit of doing it this way. If you are going to be injecting your protein, make sure that you start by going into the protein as far as you would like and then slowly push the injection in as you slowly pull out your injection needle out. Spread your injections about a ¼ in. apart and if you are doing tougher cuts like brisket make sure that you are injecting with the grain so that the injection works its way through your meat.

Third, what kind of rub should you use? Well, since your protein won’t be in the smoker long enough to develop that awesome bark we all love, you don’t have to use as much sugar in your rub if you don’t want too. We use a complex blend of different spices that I can’t share here, but a good place to start would be brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper and chili powder and any other spices that you think that would work. Poultry skin can be a tricky thing in a smoker and you have to be careful that you don’t come out with rubbery skin. One simple solution is to finish off your bird in an oven at 400 degrees long enough to crisp up that skin. If you do try this be careful if you have a lot of sugar in your rub, it will burn if you are not careful.

Lastly, Thanksgiving is about bringing people together to remember what we are thankful for, each other. Sure the Lions are in first place this Thanksgiving, reason enough to celebrate, but nothing brings people together like good food. Nothing is as good as injected, rubbed and smoked turkey fresh from the farm. If you didn’t get the chance to check out one of our smoked birds, make sure that you make plans for next year. You will not be disappointed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Go Lions.