As 2021 got underway, I was up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to smoke a 8kg Turkey in my new smoker BBQ. Using cherry as the wood of choice as this gives a sweet smoke flavour and would not overpower the meat itself.
Having lit the coals, I put them in two side areas to avoid the turkey getting direct heat and placed a tray of water in the middle, not only as a steam bath, but to catch any juices that may drip from the bird.
The 8kg Turkey will take around 5-6 hours to cook at a temperature of around 180 degrees celsius. To keep the smoker at that rough temperature, you need to add coal about every hour and extra wood chips at the same time.
By placing the turkey upside down to start with, the juices from the legs and wings will soak into the breast meat. While adding more coals and wood chips after the first hour I placed bacon on the skin to help prevent burning.
What I did find before and after adding more coals to the BBQ, was that the temperature did vary a bit – between 170 – 200 degrees celsius, but by altering the air flow carefully I was able to keep the temperature pretty stable.
About halfway through the cooking/smoking process I flipped the bird over to help colour the top of the bird and try to get a consistent cook across the whole bird.
As said before, every hour I added a new supply of charcoal to the smoker to help keep the temperature consistent at around 180 degrees, when adding the cherry wood chips to the coals at the same time we saw a increase in the smoke coming out of the BBQ – shown above.
After 4 hours, i moved the bacon that was originally protecting the breast meat and skin, so we could get some good colour on it for the final hour. Not shown in any of the photos is the electronic meat thermometer that I used to confirm the status of the cook. By checking the main leg, largest part of the breast and between the leg and breast areas, I was easily able to confirm the internal temperature of the bird, rather than relying on waiting for ‘clear juices’ to run from the meat. The internal temperature you are looking for is around 70-74 degrees celsius (depending on your type of bird) – What I found was that the leg meat was closer to the 85 degrees and the breast meat was around the 72 degrees range.
After removing the turkey from the BBQ, after of course confirming that it was cooked through with an internal temperature of at least 70 degrees celsius. I wrapped the turkey in foil and let it rest for just under 2 hours to allow the meat to relax and release it juices. This has the added benefit of making it easier to carve and less likely to fall apart.
In general, most people would avoid pink poultry meat, as it implies it is not cooked fully. However with smoking you get a smoke rings and this can be seen in the previous two photos – this is part of the smoking process and is not something to be afraid of. The pinkness you see is closest to the skin. You should still check the meat closest to the bone, as if that is pink, then it does need to be cooked for longer.
The taste was different from a traditionally cooked turkey, but came out much moister, in part due to the water bath in the smoker that helped steam the meat at the same time. But, while the taste was different, the whole family felt that this was a much better taste than the turkey we had a week earlier in the oven and declared that we should cook it this way next Christmas.