Christmas…Jesus, family, gifts, eggnog, decorations, and TURKEY! Over the years I have passed the preparation of the turkey on to one of my son-in-laws, but this year decided to try something different and smoke one.
We have a wood smoker but they can be a pain in the rear when you are smoking something that takes a long time. You are constantly having to check the temperature and try to keep it consistent. One of our daughters has an electric smoker and we decided to try it out. It was wonderful not having to constantly check it. Just set the temperature you want to smoke on, feed it wood chips occasionally, and go on to other things. Guess what our next purchase is going to be?
INGREDIENTS (FOR THE BRINE)
8 quarts water
1 cup sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup bourbon
2 oranges, quartered and juice squeezed into water (place parts into water as well)
1 lemon, quartered and juice squeed into water (place parts into water as well)
1/3 cup peppercorns
3 bay leaves
12 whole cloves
14-16 pound turkey
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add the water, sugar, salt, and bourbon. Heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
Place your cleaned and prepped turkey into a large container. I used a 5-gallon bucket with a lid. Pour the brine over the turkey, cover, and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse, and pat dry.
Prepare an herb butter using softened butter and your herbs of choice. I used fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage. Rub the butter under the skin of the breast portion being careful not to tear the skin.
Into the cavity of the turkey, place 2 oranges quartered, 1 lemon quartered, 1 medium onion quartered, 5 cloves of garlic, several twigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.
Rub the outside of the turkey well with olive oil. Coat with your favorite dry rub, as much or as little as you like. My favorite is a sweet and spicy rub. Tuck the wings under the bird and tie the legs together.
The key to a tender, moist smoked turkey is to cook it low and slow. I began smoking at 180 degrees using applewood chips and apple juice in the pan. After 4 hours, I increased the heat to 225 and finished smoking the turkey until it reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Your time will vary depending on the size of the bird. Ours took 11 hours but it was so worth it!
This is definitely one of the best turkeys we have ever eaten. I will warn you though, there won’t be as much leftover as you may have expected. Everyone went back for seconds, even thirds.