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.”