First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This is one of my favorite times of the year, and has been for a long time. I get to cook food and watch football all day. If dishes would wash themselves it would be the perfect day. I smoked turkey all this week for testing at work. I am asked a lot during this time of year “how do you smoke a turkey, what settings do you use?”. It was a question until just recently, that sort of bothered me. As you know everyone likes a different amount of smoke flavor. The process of smoking, naturally, cures the skin of the turkey making it rubbery to bite into. I would tell people what I thought would be best, but deep down knew wasn’t quite perfect yet. This is not OK in my world. I love a crispy poultry skin, I demand a crispy poultry skin. My father deep fries his turkey every year and so I have become custom to the great golden bird.
So my task was to get crispy skin, and smoky flavor. What I found through lots of testing, was a few lessons to live by while cooking the great bird.
1) Do not use butter! If you must use it make sure it’s clarified butter. Don’t know what clarified butter is? Simmer butter in a sauce pan and skim out the white frothy stuff. (that’s the cream and water) Water in the butter will steam and the steam with make rubber out of the skin. What is left over is the oil that still has great flavor but lacks the stuff that steams and burns.
2) Rinse and pat dry. I’m sure you do this already, but if you don’t… Do it. As before, the water will steam the skin and make rubber out of it.
3) Please don’t stuff. When your relatives yell at you, and they will, direct the hate mail to me. But be happy that you are not making anyone sick. The majority of food poising is from the stuffing. Getting that up to 165F will dry the bird out and is unrealistic. So more often than not, people will serve the stuffing at less than 165F and full of bad salmonella from the turkey cavity.
4) Oil the skin on top and bottom. By bottom I mean gently separate the skin from the breast and legs and use oil, or that clarified butter I was talking about, and season both sides of the skin.
5) Smoke for only 30 min. This is easy peasy in my FWE Smoker. Longer smoke will give you more smokey flavor but rubber skin. I use apple wood, if you like stronger smoke flavor, try hickory for 30 min.
6) Cook by PROBE! Don’t care what the clock says. It is done when it is done. I remember asking my chef once “Hey Chef, how long do I cook the roast?” he looked at me like I asked what a fork was, and responded “Until it’s done”. Buy a probe thermometer, (you’ll use it all the time and it’s not that expensive) probe the turkey on the inside of the leg close to the breast, and down into the thigh muscle. Be careful not to touch bone or you will be measuring bone temp not flesh. Cook it at 350F to 160F turkey temp.
7) Shhhhh, let it rest. Once you have reached 160F, take it out, cover it in foil and let it rest for 30min. This is the most difficult process of all. No one in my family believes in this, or cares about this. It is a must. Hide like I do, if you have to. It makes a difference.