What would Christmas be without a giant roast turkey as the centrepiece to festive feasting? That said, it’s not easy to cook well as the results can often be a little dry, plus it will take up most of your oven space for hours. A good solution is to take the turkey cooking outside and gently hot smoke in your BBQ or smoker. The turkey will remain incredibly moist and the smoke halo will deliver delicious extra flavour notes.
1. Season your fresh turkey overnight with salt, pepper and spices (try a mix of ginger, cinnamon and coriander). Leave open to air circulation in the bottom of your fridge as you need the skin to dry out slightly. This helps develop a crispier skin and the smoke flavour to absorb more readily.
2. Chop the onions and chop the fresh rosemary, sage and garlic. Mix with the butter and stuff the mixture under the neck skin, this will render down during cooking helping to boost the meats juices. You can also add a traditional Christmas stuffing to the cavity with chestnuts, onions and sage. We’ve used orange slices and traditional Christmas spices.
3. Prepare your smoker. You will need to allow 35 minutes per 1lb of meat, so cooking time could be between 4 and 7 hours depending on the size of your bird. You may need a fuelling top-up partway through, so have the coals ready to go. A charcoal chimney starter is a great accessory to establish coals for quick top up without losing too much heat.
4. Select your wood flavour – we’d recommend a medium flavour, so Pear, Cherry or Maple would be our top picks, but if you prefer something a little smokier but still quite mellow, try Hickory. Chips or chunks would be great for this longer slow cook. Add a couple of handfuls or 3 chunks at the start of cooking and top up with a further handful or additional chunk about one hour in. This will be all you need as the smoke is best absorbed during the early part of cooking. Adding more could risk oversmoking.
5. Once you can establish a temperature of around 100 to 115 deg C, put the bird in and leave to smoke. It won’t need too much interference as it will self baste as it cooks. Use a water pan if you have one and add a dash of wine of sherry for some extra flavour infusion.
6. Check the temperature periodically and be ready to top up coals. Use a meat probe to check when the meat is cooked – you are looking for a cooked temperature of 73 deg C. Once it’s ready, leave the bird to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. The results are deeply coloured skin and wonderfully succulent meat, plus hopefully a lot less stress. Hot smoking really does do all the work!
Enjoy with the usual Christmas lunch trimmings.
- whole fresh turkey
- 200g butter
- 1 large orange
- salt & pepper
- fresh rosemary and sage
- one large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
Wood Chips or Chunks
- Pear, Cherry or Maple
- Hickory for something a little stronger