Ah fall what a wonderful time of the year, the smell of wood smoke, air so crisp it taste like that first bite of a red delicious or granny smith apple. Wait did I say wood smoke? There is lots more to do with wood smoke than just smelling it. Taste it, serve it up for the holidays. No need to go to the deli and order that holiday bird. Specialty smoke houses that deliver to your door, are fine and dandy, but the price will set you back. Spend less on your meal and have it taste as good or better than a professional, and know that you did it all by yourself(with a little help from me, I won’t tell if you won’t). Read on I am going to tell you how to smoke and get results like a professional this holiday season!
Before I get to carried away lets get a few things settled. First off you either need a charcoal grill or a propane grill, used outdoors only. Size of the grill is of no concern, you simply cook portions according to your grill size, smaller grills obviously won’t be able to smoke a 25 pound turkey, so scale back the size accordingly. Electric outdoor grills simply do not generate enough heat on the cooking surface to smoke meats. Never ever put anything on or around the electric cooking element! Danger severe fire hazard! I never attempt to smoke indoors, under any circumstance, whether the appliance is designed for indoor smoking or not. I subscribe to the notion that any fossil/carbon fuel will severely harm you if burned indoors.Consult with your local fire department for more expert advice. Sorry I know this is keeping you from your smoked turkey, but there is a reason snowblowers have warnings about using them on your roof!
What else will you need, well first off dig out a coffee can, can be plastic or metal (it will be used to hold water to soak the wood chips/chunks in). Next hunt down 2 metal cans (these will be used to put chips in, they will be introduced to high heat). Make sure the paper labels are peeled off, rinse well (soup cans work well for this, some say tuna fish cans but I simply don’t care for the size, to shallow for me).If your grill does not have a thermometer in the lid have a reliable meat thermometer handy, you will need it. Go to the store get charcoal or propane, nothing worse than running out of gas halfway through the cooking process. While at the store browse the charcoal section, most grocery and home improvement stores have these sections. We are looking for wood chunks, if putting directly on the fire or wood chips if putting in the can (the can is primarily used for propane grills, more about that coming up). What flavor? well what do you like, hickory, apple, try anyone, they all have a great flavor. Certain woods impart a certain flavor, you just need to experiment with different kinds. I never recommend foraging for wood along side of the road or wandering in the woods, there is no telling what kind of wood you are getting, how seasoned it might be and so on, it is best to stick with store bought, or a reputable individual who can sell wood by the bundle. Unless you plan on a lot of smoking, a rick of wood would rot before you could use it all, so consider that before you buy a big amount.
OK you have your charcoal, or propane, now what, no you are not lost yet. Let us go indoors for a bit and talk about the meat, you haven’t gotten the meat yet, ok well run back out then and pick out a nice bird. Look first to see how much bird you can handle on your grill, you can always get one cut up. Depending on how many you plan to feed a 12 pounder works well and will smoke in about 6 to 8 hours. I will at the end of my rambling on about smoking meats give you a favorite recipe of mine. Oh by the way put some wood chips/chunks in your plastic or metal coffee can and cover with water, just let the wood soak.
OK we have the meat, we have charcoal, do we have wood chips/chunks? Do we have our meat thermometer with us, unless you have a temp guage in the lid.Yes we do, how about the coffee can? soup can? All there OK we are ready to start the fire? Yes we are, charcoalers you know what to do as do you folks that prefer propane. Call me when you have them fired up. I have made some assumptions here, I have assumed you have a grill for you charcoalers that has a pit for charcoal and a grate, and you do not have a box for wood offset? I suppose if you had a professional wood smoker handy you probably would not be reading this.
OK remove grill grates, this is for you charcoalers, take your tongs and move the coals to one side of the grill, does not matter what side, the idea is to put the meat over the side that does not have the coals under it. Take the chunks of wood that you have had soaking and place a few on the hot coals. Steam will come off the wood be careful it will be hot. Replace grate, now the turkey needs to be in a shallow pan, baking pan that is not glass, and one that you will probably not want to use in your indoor oven again. You can use aluminum foil, use several layers, the idea is that you will have to remove the turkey several times to lift the grate to add more charcoal and soaked wood chunks. No one ever agrees probably on how hot to smoke at, I go with about 225 to 250, use the lid guage to determine the temp inside the grill or use the meat thermometer and slide it under the lid to check. you control the temp by opening or closing the vents on the lid, if no vents slide you tongs under the lid to get more air or make sure the lid is tight to cool down, this is how you regulate the temp. Slow is the name of the game, by now you see the smoke billowing up around the lid, this is good. Put your bird on, as far from the heat as possible. Check temp every hour or so, you will see the skin on the turkey change color, you want to maintain a constant heat or as much as possible. Maintain the heat by adding more charcoal and wood to ensure plenty of smoke flavor, the amount of smoke flavor is in direct correlation to how many wood chunks you use. I would shoot for six hours of smoking. Depending on how well you maintain the fire it may take longer or shorter. Above all else ensure your bird is fully cooked internal temp must be at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If it cooks in a shorter period of time no problem you still will have a nicely smoked bird.
Keep in mind you do not want a roaring fire, you can always add more charcoal to build it up some, maintain the heat, and check often. This is the dry smoke method, if you want take that second metal can I talked about and fill it with water and set on the grates, not on the coal but on the grates. This will produce steam, some adhere to the notion this makes for a less dried out bird, frankly I never have been able to see the difference using such small containers, but give it a shot if you want to experiment. Try not to over cook so you will have to check internal temperature often to insure you don’t, again 170F is the ideal temp no less than that as a matter of fact. When the bird is done let set for 20 minutes before carving, this will settle the juices and helps keep it juicy.Notice that red tint when you slice the meat about a half of an inch in? That is a good thing that is caused by the smoke, job well done!
OK OK I hear the propane griller’s stirring, I have not forgotten you guys. SO you all know your grills, the cold spots the hot spots. Your bird is on foil or a shallow baking dish, not glass. You have your soup can filled halfway with wood chips. Place the can on a hot spot, not so hot it burns the wood to fast, the idea is that the wood in the can will smolder and not actually flame, this creates wonderful smoke. Place the meat on the coldest part, maintain temp, you read about that earlier. Keep an eye on the can of chips and don’t let run out, and make sure the chips stay wet until you are ready to use. Wet chips will smoke better and won’t flame up as quick and you will see nice smoke roll out of the can, this smoke is engulfing your bird for a wonderful smoked flavor.Oh by the way use pliers or good gloves designed for heat to pick the can up, you know it is too hot to handle, remember that!! Enjoy your holiday bird and I look forward to giving everyone more tips and just general ramblings, oh read on for my favorite bird recipe!
My Recipe for smoked turkey.
One 10 to12 pound turkey,clove raw garlic sliced into slivers, salt and pepper, lemon cut in to wedges, one decent sized lemon works,one onion wedged,one apple wedged.
Take your whole bird and slit the skin here and there and slide the slivered garlic into the slits
lemon wedges and apple wedges stuff inside the bird with the onion wedges
lightly salt the outside of the bird and go a bit more on the pepper, you want a crust
that seals in the juices. The lemon and apple with onion will steam and really add a great
combo of flavors. The lemon also acts as a tenderizer.
Enjoy, never to early to start those holiday plans! I hope you enjoy my methods and recipes!