This obsession started back in 1986 when my sister brought home a real smoked turkey for Thanksgiving and since that day we have been hooked on them. The first few years we did small birds for Thanksgiving on a cheap "Little Chief" smoker and have since moved up to a "Sausage Maker" 20# smoker that has been modified with the stainless steel base. We now do multiple turkeys ever year throughout the fall and winter for family and friends.
*When smoking at such low temperatures product safety is a MUST, always buy the freshest meats you can get your hands on, keep your brine below 38 degrees at all times and never allow the bird to warm towards room temperatures when prepping the meat and getting it ready for the brine. We always make the brine up a day ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for 24 hours to cool, just to make sure when we put the bird in there that we are not entering the danger zone which is anything above 40 degrees. Making the brine ahead of time also allows the sugars and salts to fully dissolve. We have found the best container for brining a turkey is a cheap plastic 5 gallon bucket from "Home Depot", just make sure you thoroughly clean and sanitize it before each use. The use of "Insta-cure" is mandatory in this recipe!!!
The best size turkeys seem to be in the 12-14# range, plus these are normally the easiest to get fresh in the market, avoid any frozen turkeys and any that have been previously injected. We have worked with both of these problems and they do come out good in the end, but you are always playing with safety when dealing with anything besides the freshest available products. My recipe originally came from Rytek Kutas's book "Great Sausage and Meat Curing", if you do not have this book, please get it! I consider it the "BIBLE" of meat curing because of all the invaluable information it contains.
All measurements are done by weight because the density of salt varies according to the type used, we always use "Kosher" salt because it does not have any added ingredients and does possess a "clean" chemical-free taste, DO NOT USE "Iodized" salt. Dextrose can easily be found in any health food store, the reason for using this product rather then regular table sugar is because it quickly dissolves and penetrates deeper into meats.(Hint, hint, BBQers).
- 3 gallons of cold water
- 14.4 ounces of Dextrose
- 19.2 ounces of Salt
- 9.6 ounces of "Insta-cure" #1
- 1/4 cup of coarse black pepper
- 20 Bay leaves
After your turkey is fully cured(4-5 days) remove it from the brine and rinse VERY well, again under cold running water, failure to thoroughly rinse it could result in your turkey being just a little too salty. Preheat your smoker to 130 degrees. Once that step is completed it is time to dry the bird, so grab a few paper towels and blot all of the excess moisture, inside and out. In order to get a pretty, even colored skin once the bird is completed the turkey needs to be as dry as possible.
This is an important step if you want a nice looking turkey, place the dry bird into a stockinette bag. The netting of these bags keeps the legs and wings tight against the body and can be purchased cheaply from the "Sausage Maker".
We prefer to use Alder chips when smoking turkeys after experimenting with different woods in the first few years. Hickory wood gives the bird too much of a ham flavor so we try and avoid any strong smelling woods to keep the turkey with a clean smoky flavor. Besides, nothing "says" the Pacific Northwest as well as Alder smoke.
Because of the long curing process and low temperature smoking the meat will have a really nice pink color through-out. The amount of moisture remaining in the turkey is breath-taking. And for the bonus, WOW, Smoked Turkey Sandwiches!!!!!