By way of a “back story”, it all started with a quandary of how we were going to entertain our group of church friends who meet once a month. Each member/couple selects the month they want and for whatever reason a couple years ago we selected November. We decided on a Thanksgiving menu where everyone brought their favorite side dishes, which would be rated by the participants and prizes awarded. As the hosts we would provide the turkey and it was my bright idea to smoke one on the Weber kettle grill.
This was kind of a
naive foolhardy idea having never smoked a turkey on my grill, though I had experience with roasting chickens. So with the help of Alton Brown, my buddy Mike “Master Meat Chef” Lord, and the Weber website, here is how it goes.
BRINE THE BIRD
- Combine dry ingredients (1 cup Kosher salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp whole pepper corns, 1/2 Tbsp whole allspice berries) with one gallon of vegetable broth,
- Bring to boil with stirring and remove from heat,
- Place thawed, dried turkey (have done birds to 20 pounds) in 5 gal. food-safe bucket,
- Add room temperature brine and one gallon of ice water,
- Place in cool garage overnight. Note: Due to salt content can safely leave it in house.
SETTING UP THE GRILL
Load large chimney starter about 1/2 full with briquettes and light. I use the Weber baskets for holding the charcoal to the sides of the grill for indirect cooking. Dump the briquettes evenly in both baskets, place drip pan between them, and add two cups of water to the pan. I use a remote thermometer to monitor the grill temp and food temp. I also use apple wood pellets rather than soaked wood chunks.
While charcoal is starting, remove turkey from brine, rinse thoroughly, tuck the wings, coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can get fancy by inserting fruit, onion, and herbs in the bird, but I don’t bother. To make removing the finished bird I place it on an enameled grilling pan. At this point I also insert the thermometer probe. I prefer inserting it into the thigh making sure it doesn’t touch the bone.
COOKING THE BIRD
Place turkey in center of rack, add pellets to each basket of coals, and go inside to watch football. In the spirit of full disclosure I will tell you that the trickiest part is maintaining the temperature you want. I try to cook between 300 – 350, but often struggle to keep it from going below this range at times. Coals will need to be added during the cooking time and don’t let the temperature get too low before you do this. Add more pellets when you add charcoal. In spite of the challenge, that 20-pound bird I did this year was fully cooked (180 degrees in the thigh or 170 in the breast) in about 4 hours.
Smoked turkey is delicious, but it is a process. We have found it is best to smoke it the day before you entertain because of the vagaries of the cooking process. So plan ahead to make sure if you start with a frozen bird, give it enough time to thaw in the frig before brining the night before smoking. The 20 pounder was in the frig for 5 days. Carve the finished, rested bird and place meat in a roasting pan and place in frig. Meat is warmed in the oven before eating.