I love Thanksgiving ok let’s be honest I love cooking the food, decorating and having friends and family over. Thanksgiving tends to be the same meal at everyone’s house a turkey and a few 100 sides including appetizers. Yes I exaggerated but you get the gist of the matter. Personally I grew up on turkey as a way to stretch a meal even when it wasn’t the holiday season so I like to put a little twist on my bird. I enjoy a ham but its a no no for this holiday so I ham a bird!
This recipe is truly a smoked bird and can be made at home if you have the time on your hands and the space to keep it cold. I am giving you a notice now this is no quick easy recipe. This is a sweat blood and tears type of cooking that will bring you nothing short of a blue ribbon. If anything it is sure to weed out the people at your table that appreciate you which might just fall under the jurisdiction of Festivus not Thanksgiving.
Curing Your Bird
This process takes 6 days. Yep you read it right 6 days. If you live in a colder environment I’d advise you to use a cooler and set it outside with a block of ice that way you don’t take up your refrigerator.
First thaw you 18-20 lbs turkey enough so the you can get the bag of gizzard out. So not throughly thawed but enough to work with easily.
Pour 4 quarts of water in to a deep stock pot and set stove on medium, then add ingredients below.
2 cups coarse Kosher Salt (you can add less like 1 cup if you are worried about high salt content)
2 cups light brown sugar
3 table-spoon of curing salt Morton’s Tender Quick (can be found on Amazon)
12 whole cloves
6 bay leaves crushed
6 cinnamon sticks crushed
3 tablespoon black peppercorn
Stir until salt and sugar dissolve the let cool to room temperature. Place turkey in a zip lock bag with room. I know your saying where do I find a bag that big? No worries use Ziploc Big Bag Double Zipper X-Large you can find these at Walmart Target or Amazon in the home section. Your going to fill this with lots of water so to make things easier put bagged turkey in a high walled container so that you don’t spill brine every where. I like to place mine inside a cooler. Then pour your room temp brine water in bag then add cold water until turkey is covered then seal squeezing as much air out of the bag as you can while you seal bag. Place in refrigerator or in cooler with ice on top to keep cool. Wait 6 days periodically turning and checking on turkey.
To prep you turkey you want to remove it from refrigerator or cooler and pour out brine. Rinse turkey and pat dry. Let turkey rest for about 35 min.
Get your smoker ready! I use a Weber Smoker Mountain cooker I’m not sure if it matters if you use natural fire or electric but I like doing things the old-fashioned way. I also use 100% natural coal chunks. Once your smoker has cooled down to about 200-250 degrees ( if your smoker has a water reservoir fill this too at this time) add your chunks of apple and hickory wood they are best soaked in water for an hour but not necessary. You want to maintain this temperature throughout the cooking process.
Cover turkey in olive oil Salt and pepper to taste I like to use McCormick rotisserie chicken seasoning. Tie turkey with cooking twine so that wings and legs are safely tucked away so they won’t touch sides of smoker. cook 30min for every pound so and 18 lbs turkey takes approximately 5hrs 40 min.
Another way to smoke your bird is cover it in olive oil and make a blanket with thick cut bacon by crisscrossing bacon on top then smoke.