Smokin’ Good Turkey

I love my Masterbuilt smoker. I bought it last year at Cabela’s and haven’t had any regrets, especially when the results turn out like they did this week.

On Sunday, I threw in a couple of Alaskan red salmon fillets in the smoker that my cousin, Paul Hendrickson, brought home on his last visit. We’ve eaten part of the salmon as is, but the rest was put into a spread that’s been really tasty on crackers. It makes a great appetizer. If you don’t believe me, just look at the crowd that a plate of smoked fish or meat draws at holiday parties.

My other venture with the smoker involved about an 11-pound self-basting turkey. I smoked the turkey for 6 hours using apple wood chips and a chipotle-cinnamon rub. I didn’t brine it because it was a self-baster. It was my first attempt at smoking a turkey, and the result also was pretty delicious and another that would be a party favorite.

You don’t need a smoker to enjoy meat or seafood this way. A regular grill such as the ones made by Weber will do the trick.

Here’s a recipe for a smoked turkey using a grill. The turkey is brined for three days before it’s cooked, so make sure you have enough time if you plan on having it for a holiday get-together.

Barbecued Turkey
1 15- to 16-pound turkey
3 tablespoons kosher salt, orange-pepper salt or lemon-thyme salt
¼ pound hickory chips
Oil, for brushing the turkey
Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of kosher salt or the appropriate amount of a seasoned salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of kosher salt).
Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Salt the outside, concentrating the salt where the meat is the thickest — on the breasts and thighs. It should look liberally seasoned but not oversalted.
Place the turkey in a 2½-gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. If you can’t find a large plastic bag, use a small garbage bag. Place the turkey in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, leaving it in the bag but turning it and massaging the salt into the skin every day.
Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Wipe the turkey dry with a paper towel, place it breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Be sure the drumsticks and wingtips are secured to the body to prevent scorching.
Place the wood chips in a pan and cover with water. Start the fire: Light the charcoal in a chimney and place a bread loaf pan in the center of the coal area of the grill’s firebox (fill the loaf pan with ash to prevent flare-ups). When the coals are well lighted, distribute them evenly on either side of the loaf pan and let them burn until they are coated with ash.
Drain the wood chips and put them on top of the charcoal. Place the grill on top of the firebox.
Lightly brush the turkey with oil then place it on top of the grill, centered in line with the loaf pan. Cover.
After 30 minutes, check the fire. If the coals are starting to die down, add another half-dozen on both sides to maintain an even, slow heat. If you use an oven thermometer, it should read in the 300- to 325-degree range.
Cook, adding more coals as necessary, until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 to 2½ hours total grilling.
Remove the turkey from the grill and transfer it to a warm platter or carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.
Orange-pepper salt: In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 2 oranges), ½ teaspoon whole cumin, 2 teaspoons whole black pepper, 4 whole cloves and 6 whole allspice to a fine powder. Add ¼ cup kosher salt and grind again to distribute evenly.
Lemon-thyme salt: In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon), 1 teaspoon dry mustard and ½ teaspoon garlic powder to a fine powder. Add ¼ cup kosher salt and grind again to distribute evenly.
Yield: Serve 16.
Approximate nutritional analysis per servings: 496 calories, 68 grams protein, no carbohydrates, nofiber, 23 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 230 milligrams cholesterol, no sugar, 477 milligrams sodium.