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How to Smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving

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We all know that Big Green Egg is one of the most versatile grills available, but have you thought about smoking your family’s Thanksgiving turkey on it? Why not try something different (and delicious) this Thanksgiving? Our method guarantees the moistest bird you’ve ever tasted!

Before you can smoke your turkey, you’ll want to make sure you have all the proper tools for the job. You will need:

  • Big Green Egg V-Rack
  • Big Green Egg lump charcoal
  • 1 fresh 12-16 pound turkey (a large sized Big Green Egg can fit up to an 18lb bird)
  • Wood chips for smoking (Most wood types pair well with poultry. We like to use Big Green Egg’s apple wood chips)
  • A drip pan
  • A digital meat thermometer
  • Ingredients for a brine and a rub (see step one for details)
  • A five gallon bucket or cooler

Koopman Lumber would like to remind you to exercise caution when smoking your turkey. Place your smoker a safe distance away from your house and anything flammable. It is not recommended to leave your home when smoking a turkey, and you should check on your equipment at regular intervals to verify that everything is functioning properly.

Smoking A Turkey Without a Smoker: It Can Be Done!

Luckily, if you don’t have a true smoker, like The Big Green Egg, you can still enjoy smoked meat! There are some clever techniques you can use on almost any grill to smoke your bird. Read how to turn your ordinary home grill into a delicious smoker here.

Step One: Prepare your Turkey

Here at Koopmans we recommend you always use a brine when preparing turkey. A fresh, unfrozen turkey is always best, but a frozen turkey will be fine (as long as it is totally thawed before brining).  If you’ve never brined a turkey before, don’t fret! It is incredibly easy to do!

After removing the innards, you simply soak your bird in a clean 5 gallon bucket or cooler filled with liquid. Our favorite brine recipe is:

  • Half water
  • Half vegetable broth
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • Juice from 3 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

You need to keep the turkey around 38 degrees (fridge temperature). If a bucket will not fit in your fridge, this can be done in a cooler- simply add ice to brine (check every so often and replace the ice as needed). You should let the bird soak for 1-2 days in this solution. Alton Brown of the Food Network has a great tutorial video that will show you all you need to know to brine your turkey.

After brining, feel free to introduce a dry rub to the bird (Big Green Egg’s Whirly Bird Seasoning is great!). We also like to rub minced garlic under the skin of the bird for extra flavor.

We do not recommend stuffing the turkey. Stuffing tends to cook poorly in a smoker. Smoky stuffing is not what we’d call delicious.

Step Two: Preparing the Fire

Start by soaking the wood chips in water for 30-60 minutes.

Heat your smoker between 250-350°F. The lower your temperature, the smokier the flavor. Your bird will cook at roughly 30 minutes per pound if you cook on the low side (250°), and 15 minutes per pound if you decide for the higher heat (350°).

Once your charcoal is lit, sprinkle the wood chips directly on top of the coals (if you are using a different smoker- add them to the tray for smoking chips).

Use your Big Green Egg’s Conv-egg-tor (plate setter) to ensure that you are using indirect heat.

We recommend you rub a light layer of oil onto the v-rack to avoid sticking. For those planning on making a gravy, you will need to place a drip pan under your turkey as it cooks. Adding 4 cups of water to the pan will keep the drippings moist and prevent burning. Most of this water will evaporate during cooking.

Step Three: Placing your Turkey

When your smoker/grill reaches your desired temperature, it’s time to get that bird in there! Remove your bird from the brine and place breast side up on the oiled v-rack in the middle of the smoker. You’ll want to allow equal room on all sides for the smoke to flow. If you are using a traditional grill, never place your turkey over direct heat, as it will overcook in no time. We place the v-rack on the cooking grate, making sure the conv-egg-tor (plate setter) is in place underneath.

Step Four: Leave it Be!

Let the bird cook- every time you open the smoker precious heat and smoke escapes. This adds cooking time, and the longer the turkey cooks increases the potential for dry meat. Remember: your bird will cook at roughly 30 minutes per pound if you cook on the low side (250°), and 15 minutes per pound if you decide for the higher heat (350°).

Step Five: Checking the Temperature

You will need to check the temperature in multiple places on both sides of the meat, but it is most important to check the temperature in the middle of the breast, where the meat is the thickest.  When all readings come at or above 150-160°F, take your turkey out and cover it in tin foil. Keep in mind the turkey will continue to cook after removing it, rising another 10-15°, so be mindful not to overcook it. As they say: “done in the pan, overdone on the plate.” Don’t forget to grab your pan of drippings! Have the picture below handy when checking your turkey’s temperature, and remember to thank Butterball when you do!

Step Six: Rest the Turkey

Your turkey has just gone through a very stressful time, so now it needs to rest. Resting the turkey will even the temperature out throughout the bird, and promote moist meat throughout by allowing juices to reabsorb. Give it 15-30 minutes covered in foil and it will be ready to carve!

Congratulations on your delicious smoked turkey!

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We hope that this recipe comes out as good for your family as it has for ours in the past! If you’re looking for last minute supplies, be sure to check in at your local Koopman Lumber location for everything you need!