OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGodohmyGod, Look What I Did!! Seriously, I did that. And I maybe cried a few happy tears when I saw that bronze lacquered skin, and heard the meat thermometer beep as it reached 160 degrees.
This post should be called "The Smoked Turkey Experiment," because I essentially read a few vague web pages, threw this big boy in the Weber kettle, chugged a few glasses of wine to take the edge off my fretting, and hoped that instinct and the aforementioned meat thermometer would see me through. (The thermometer is amazing, FYI--it has a pager that goes off when the desired temp. is reached. Drunk grilling just got a whole lot easier.) Hypothesis: If you can start a charcoal grill, you can smoke a turkey. Conclusion: Affirmed.
Let the record show, I have never even roasted a turkey. I've never really roasted anything--when your parents keep your spoiled ass set up with kitchen gadgets like a countertop rotisserie, you don't roast, you rotisserize. If I can pull this off, anyone can, and should.
The smoked turkey had a beautiful, flavorful skin and the meat had a juicy texture that was tender, not chewy. Mr. Luz carved the bird, and he kept sort of giggling and mumbling "..so tender...falling off the bone..." And it was so smooth, rich, and smokey in flavor. Later, after a few bottles of wine, Mr. Luz called it 1.) the best turkey he'd ever tasted and 2.) in the top 5 best tasting meats he'd ever had. (When asked to do impressions, a wine-soaked Mr. Luz did: Mama BaCon--"I got you some tupperware, and it fits the whole universe." Papa BaCon--"The Hunley is a magnificent watercraft, simply stunning." Me: "F*** you, you f****** b****." He doesn't remember doing them, but they were pretty accurate.)
1. If using a brine, thaw your turkey at least 32 hours before you cook it. Once thawed, prepare the brine and soak your turkey for 24 hours plus. This Serious Eats Food Lab article is the best I've read on how and why you brine a turkey. Before smoking, thoroughly rinse your turkey in cold water. *NOTE: I didn't get the turkey in time to brine it, and it was still fantastic, but brining would take it to the next level. *
2. If not brining, thaw your turkey in the fridge for two days, or use the cold-water method just before smoking. (Soak in cold water, in the packaging, changing the water ever 30 minutes. It takes approximately 30 minutes per pound.)
3. Soak 3-4 handfuls of mesquite wood chips in water. 1 hour minimum for chips, 4+ hours for large knots of wood.
3. Once the turkey has thawed, remove giblets/neck from turkey and rinse inside and out. Pat dry. If your turkey is 16+ lbs. you might want to cut the entire turkey in half at this time. Yes, this is the cheater way to do it, but you'll avoid black turkey skin, and you won't fret/gulp wine for 8+ hours, wondering if the damned thing is even cooking.
4. Prepare 1 chimney of hot charcoal. Place a pan of liquid on the center of your bottom grate (water, wine, beer, broth, ect.) and spread the hot coals around it. Add 5-7 cold coals to the hot coals. Put the 3/4 of the soaked wood chips on top of the hot coals, open the bottom and top vents on the grill, and close the lid.
5. Cover your turkey inside and out with olive oil/melted butter and salt, pepper, dried thyme, and cayenne pepper. Put the turkey on the grill grate, breast side up, placing the turkey directly over the liquid-filled drip pan. (If you cut your turkey in half, put the meat facing up and the bones facing down.)
6. Every hour, quickly check your coals and baste your bird with more butter/olive oil. Halfway through smoking, prepare another chimney of hot coals and add it to your Weber grill, along with the last 1/4 of the wood chips. Your bird will generally need 30 minutes per pound to cook, and if you cut it in half then count the time based on the weight of 1/2 the turkey. Every time you open the lid, you increase your cooking time so do it sparingly. Trust me, it's cooking.
7. When a meat thermometer inserted in the breast but not touching the bone (ESSENTIAL) reaches 160 degrees, your bird is done and safe to eat. Carefully remove it from the grill, let it rest at least 15 minutes, carve, and serve.