We host our Thanksgiving dinner the Saturday after Thanksgiving to allow us to participate in others' feasts. This year is a first for Thanksgiving at our house, smoked turkey. My family has never experienced smoked turkey on Thanksgiving before. We planned to eat around 6:00 PM.
I had an 18 pound turkey that was fully thawed. I rinsed it and removed the straggler quills from the bird, blotted it dry with paper towel. I brushed it with canola oil so the seasoning would stick to the skin and keep the skin from becoming leather. On this I put a little pork rub. I know it will not penetrate the skin, but it sure looked nice on the bird and gave off a nice aroma while cooking.
The smoker was setup at 250 F and the drip pan was my gravy mix of celery, onion, carrot, potatoes, fennel, the neck an giblets, apple, apple juice, and water. The drippings fell into this during the cook process and gave. Separating the juice from the fat rendered a light gravy (there was no need for the extra moisture from the gravy). I put the bird in at 10:30 AM.
I cooked the turkey breast down at 250 F for 3 hours and then turned it up to 300 F to finish cooking (it had reached 140 IT). It was smoked with a mix of cherry and apple woods and the smoke was applied the first 3 hours. No smoke on the remainder of the cook. Slowly by slowly, the IT came up. I planned to take the bird off at 4:30 PM and hoped the IT was at 170 or better by then. Our guests started arriving at 4:00 PM and were puzzled as to why the turkey was not cooking in the oven. I told them to go hang out in the back yard (we are in Arizona and the temp was 82 degrees). When they smelled the smoke, they knew it was the turkey.
I removed the turkey from the smoker at 4:30 PM on the dot. Let it rest for an hour under a foil tent and wrapped in towels. The skin was a deep redish/bnrown color and crisp. When I cut into the bird, juices just ran out of the cut. It had a really great smoke flavor that did not overpower the natural flavor of the turkey and it was so moist there was no need for the gravy.
I did not brine the turkey.
I did cut the wing tips off.
I did cover the wings and leg with foil so it did not burn.
I covered the neck with a flap of skin so it would not burn.
Here's a couple of pictures of the finished bird.\
See all the juices in the pan, and this was before cutting into it.
Everyone was very pleased.