How do I prepare a turkey in a smoker?

First things first, DON'T STUFF IT! It'll take too long to get to temp and the possibility of food poisoning increases. You can do stuffing in the oven, if you want a recipe let me know, I have a really nice one.

Get an injector of some form (the stainless steel baster from Chef's Catalog has/is one, some folks get a horse syringe from a vet). Heat up about 1/4 cup each, sweet white wine, butter and honey until all is mixed and flows easy. Take the bird and inject it straight into the meat in many locations - try not to inject any air. As you inject it you'll see it bulging as it fills. Make sure you get the breast real good and the drumsticks. Use about 1/3-1/2 of the mixture for it. Here's where you can do it two ways. I usually spray it with a garlic/buttery flavored oil.

  1. Put it in the smoker and keep it in heavy smoke until the skin turns a nice golden brown. Line a pan large enuf to hold the turkey with foil and leave enuf foil hanging over to wrap the turkey real good. Put the turkey in the pan and pour the remaining injection mixture over the turkey. Wrap it up real tite and put it in a 250-275 oven until it's done (determine either by temp [don't let the breast go any higher than 165 or you'll dry it out], shaking it's hand or when the juices run clear). I can pretty much tell now by looking at it that it's done. Enjoy dinner. :)

  2. Put it in the smoker and smoke normally keeping the temp at about 225- 250. Baste initially with some oil and rebaste as necessary throughout the cooking process. Determine doneness as in method #1.

Both methods are easy, the first one being a good solution for when you're going to get some sleep before the football games start, guests start arriving, etc. At Thanksgiving I usually start the bird late in the evening (10pm or so) and use method number one and it'll stay in the oven as long as necessary. Timing's a bit of a pain. I've done smaller turkeys during the day, probably takes about 15-30 minutes per pound (which is why the oven method is preferable - you can also play with the oven temp to control finish time. Also if it's cold outside you don't really want to be screwing around tending a fire!


Additional notes: Place a drip pan under the bird while in the smoker to catch the drippings for the gravy. The bird may very well finish quicker than 15-30 mins/pound so keep an eye on it - it will depend on your firetending and cooking temps.


Vince (bbq@eaglequest.com)