Well, I have one.
That's pretty much it. It was a great investment a few years ago, and I use it all the time!
And by that, I mean that I use it at least twice a year.
If you have a grill, you can make it into a smoker! I've even seen online guides for getting smoke into your regular oven - google that crap and make yourself a smoker for this weekend!
Smoking food is kind of like cooking in a Crock Pot - hard to mess up, which I love! This is my method for smoking a turkey that works really well, but you can alter the cooking time or brining method to suit your needs!
This is a bit of a long process, since it's nice to brine the turkey for 24 hours or more, then let it dry for at least 12. HOWEVER, you can cut that time in half if you're in a pinch, no worries!
Furthermore, the brining assists in speeding up turkey-thawing time, so that's a bonus if you haven't exactly thawed your turkey in the fridge for 87 days like you're supposed to.
In any event, you'll want a thawed or nearly thawed turkey between 10 and 14 lbs. The reason for this is a good one: larger turkeys take longer to cook, and smoking is a slow process. If you choose a turkey that is larger than 14 pounds, the cooking period in which the internal temperature of the bird hovers around 140F is too long to be safe. Apparently, 140F is the ideal temperature for nasty, poop-giving bacteria to have unprotected sex out of wedlock with multiple partners and multiply like Duggars. We don't want to give bacteria any more time than we have to to pull that crap in our turkey!
So, if you need more than 14 pounds of meat, smoke two 10 pound turkeys. Or, uninvite a few people to your fiesta.
Once you have selected your bird, you'll want to prepare to brine it.
I use a massive drink container to hold my bird - one of those silver cooler things that you put ice and beers in when you're being fancy, which I rarely am. Inside the drink container, I use a massive zip-loc bag. The kind you find in the clothing section. They're super heavy duty and hold raw turkeys covered in liquid really nicely!
But any kind of setup you feel will best protect your home from nasty slutty bacteria will work great.
For the brine, here's what I do:
Boil 4 cups of water with ¾ cup salt and ½ cup sugar until it's all dissolved. Then, turn off the heat and combine the brine with 1 cup vinegar (whatever kind you like), 4 cups ice cubes (so the hot brine doesn't cook the dang turkey), and a whole head of garlic cloves that have been peeled.
So now you have about 9 cups of incredibly salty liquid with some raw garlic in it. You can add citrus peel, herbs, peppercorns...anything you can think of if you're feeling fancy! I like mine plain, though.
Once your brine is made and cooled, grab your turkey.
Unwrap it, and save the neck and innards! We'll use them in a few days for the gravy.
Ew. Now, gently place your turkey in your brining setup, then pour the brine all over it. Then, add as much water as you need to fully cover the turkey.
That is a raw turkey in a clothing zip-loc bag in a drink container covered in brine. It is what it is.
Now, seal the turkey and stick it in the fridge for 1-3 days...as long as you have time for!
12 hours before you're going to start the turkey, remove it from the brine and let it drain WELL, uncovered, in the fridge. I use a deep roasting pan with a rack so that the leftover brine can drip down and the turkey dries nicely.
Discard the brothel/brine - we aren't going to use it later.
The reason we dry the turkey is because otherwise you will be smoking vinegar-logged turkey, which will be soggy, which will negate all the great brining work you did.
So, don't skimp on the drying time!
Once the turkey is dry, I like to rub it all over with butter or olive oil to give it a nice crust when it cooks. You should do that too!
Now, it's time to cook the turkey! A general rule of thumb is that, when smoking, allow for 30 minutes per pound plus one more hour, if you're smoking on low heat (180-200 degrees).
So, I start a 14-lb turkey 8 hours before I want to eat it, which is ALWAYS enough time. I find the above measurements to be a bit generous.
To smoke, follow the instructions on whatever smoking device you're choosing to use. Mine is gas, so I light it, fill a pan with smoking wood and a pan with water, stick the turkey in, and go back to sleep.
It's easy! Some people cover their turkeys to prevent the skin from getting too dark, but I'm not one of those people.
A note on wood: sometimes with these long smoking endeavors, the wood will stop smoking after 3 hours or so if you've only used 4-ish chunks. That is FINE. As long as the gas or charcoal are still going the bird will still be cooking. Frankly, things taste pretty darn smokey after 4 hours of being covered in wood smoke.
I like to test the internal temperature of the bird after 3 hours (this isn't necessary, but it gives me peace of mind that the dang smoker hasn't shut off), then again every hour or hour and a half until the bird has reached the desired temperature. Digital or standard thermometers work fine, don't obsess over it.
The ideal internal temperature for a healthy cooked turkey is 165F. Please, for the love of Zeus, do not leave your turkey in a smoker until it reaches that temperature. I promise, PROMISE, that your bird's internal temp will raise 5-10 degrees after you remove it from the smoker.
So, when your bird reaches 155 or 160 degrees, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour while you make gravy and get your act together for the rest of the meal - it'll still be piping hot when you carve it!
See? I like dark skin. It doesn't taste burned, just wonderfully smoky. Smokey. Hmm.
Some people at this point in the day had already found champagne (we smoked this particular bird at Christmas), and decided that the turkey needed to feel as festive as the rest of us.
I am surrounded by idiots.
Name that Disney movie!
Once you're done literally playing with your food, and the bird has rested, carve it and serve it with your favorite sides!
Don't be freaked out by the pink. It's not raw. It's just...what happens when you smoke things. It has to do with the conversion in the meant of nitrites to nitrates.
I looked it up.
Or, if you are my boyfriend, kindly suggest to your girlfriend's nearly-vegetarian-health-nut father that he leave one leg whole because by golly you'll eat the entire thing and want to feel like a pirate.
Oh, you thought I was kidding?
Roasted Garlic Gravy coming up next....now, go buy a turkey!