Smoked Turkey Recipes

Smoked Turkey Recipes 

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For better flavor, you’ve got to smoke your holiday turkey. While turkeys are traditionally roasted, and in some southern states in the United States, deep-fried, smoked turkey recipes are also worth trying. Not only does it impart that savory smoke into the lean meat, it also makes the turkey even more tender and fantastic piled on a sandwich after the celebration.

There are two types of smoked turkey: “a cured or pumped smoked bird and a smoke-cooked bird with no added ingredients.” This is according to the “Sausage and Smoked Meat Formulation and Processing” bulletin of The University of Georgia, Athens (UGA), which was published in 1982 and excerpted on the university’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

The first type of smoked turkey recipe involves pump curing the turkey first before it’s smoked. A brine solution (composed of water, salt, sugar, saltpetre and sodium nitrite) is injected into the thickest portions of thigh and breast. The bird is then fully immersed in the same solution to cure for about 48 hours. Before it is smoked, the cured turkey must be washed in fresh water and then air dried, according to the UGA processing instructions.

The second type proceeds straight to the smoke cooking method without the need to brine and cure the meat. In smoked turkey recipes for the home, invest on a smoker (a cylinder-shaped device that runs on electricity, gas, or charcoal). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) describes a charcoal smoker as being composed of two pans, one for the charcoal and the other to be filled with liquid (water, wine, juice, etc.). The liquid, according to the USDA, “creates the moist, hot smoke needed for cooking.”

You should also have a reliable meat thermometer to check for the internal temperature of 165 °F as recommended by the USDA. When using wood fire, hickory, oak, apple or cherry, may be used as it infuses the meat with great flavors. Once the smoker reaches 225 to 300 °F, place the bird on the pan to begin the smoking process.  That temperature should be maintained throughout the cooking, usually about 20 to 30 minutes for every pound of meat. The UGA processing instructions estimates about 10 to 12 hours for smoking the pump cured turkey.

Once done, rest the turkey for about 15 minutes before carving. The UGA describes a smoked turkey beautifully: “The finished smoked pump cured turkey should have a rich pecan-nut-brown surface with a light pink color in the breast meat. The thighs should have the color of well cured ham.”

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Marinated Turkey Recipes

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When roasting or grilling whole turkeys, it is important to marinate the bird first before cooking. Since the dry heat methods in cooking also dries up the surface of the bird, marinating helps keep the meat moist. The ingredients in the marinade, most especially the acids like citrus or wine, will help tenderize the meat as well. With the seasonings, herbs and sauces incorporated into the marinade, it suffuses the meat with even more flavor.

In some marinated turkey recipes, the turkey may be brined first before marinating. Brining usually involves simple salt water although some recipes also include brown sugar, apple cider, and pepper. The brine solution keeps the turkey moist and well-seasoned. If using frozen turkey, be sure to allot at least three to four days for the process to ensure the turkey is perfectly and safely thawed and the brine permeates through the meat. Wash off the brine before applying the marinade. Though brining prolongs preparation time, brining and marinating turkey make it especially succulent. But if you prefer, you can skip the brining altogether and proceed to marinating.

The basic ingredients in marinated turkey recipes include an acid like vinegar, juice from a citrus fruit (like orange or lemon), or wine plus salt, pepper, herbs and spices (marjoram, thyme and sage are listed in a recipe for an herb marinade from the National Turkey Federation website).

The marinade for your marinated turkey recipes can be introduced into the turkey in any of the three ways. The most common is mixing the marinade and then putting it in a large plastic bag together with the turkey. Another way is to put the turkey in a glass bowl large enough to hold it and then pour the marinade. If you have a plastic bowl with cover, all the better. Turn the turkey so all the parts soak the flavor. You can also do this if using just the turkey parts like breast or leg.

Lastly, you can get the marinade deep into the turkey meat by using a meat, marinade or spice injector.  The meat injector has a syringe with a large gauge needle. With the marinade on the injector, you can inject it into the thicker parts of the meat for more moisture and flavor. Use only liquid marinade and avoid ingredients that may clog the injector.

Using any of these methods, remember that the turkey must always be marinated in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The NTF discourages using the marinade with which the bird had soaked to baste it on the grill to avoid contamination.