Custer's Smoked Turkey

Recipe from Carl Custer (SabMag)
Submitted by Merlin

A. Preparation:

  1. Weigh out salt equal to 0.5 % of the turkey weight.
  2. Make a saturated brine solution portion 0.26 = [salt]/([salt] + [water]; solve for water.) (A 10 lb. turkey will need ~23 grams of salt and ~ 65 ml of water.) I heat the solution (carefully with stirring) in the microwave (superheated brine is dangerous).
  3. Add a little liquid smoke to the brine (~1 tsp) to taste.
  4. Remove giblets, neck. . . . I also skin the turkey. You could skin half and see which half you prefer.
  5. Wash the turkey (warm water is a good idea because even "fresh" turkeys often have ice crystals in the interior.)
  6. Inject the brine into all muscles. I use a 5 ml syringe and a 16 gauge needle begged from the health center. Or, Home Depot has turkey injectors.
  7. Rub additional salt portion onto the turkey surface. I also add black pepper to the rub. You could try herbs compatible with the smoke.
  8. Truss up the turkey and cook it.
  9. Clean up kitchen area with detergent and warm water. Then wipe with disinfectant e.g. Lysol or ~1% bleach solution. Don't forget the faucet handles. Microwave the sponges/dish clothes wet.

B. Cooking: With Brinkmann charcoal vertical water smoker: (Alternatives below)

  1. Obtain:
    1. Taylor candy thermometer and cork to replace POS heat indicator.
    2. Good charcoal that will burn hot; e.g. Trader Joe's "Cowboy Charcoal".
    3. A poker (stick with big nail or bent rod) to shove ash & charcoal away from air hole in the bottom of the fire box.)
    4. A meat thermometer.
  2. Line fire box with cheap charcoal briquettes (to keep it from burning through prematurely)
  3. Light good charcoal.
  4. Add lit charcoal to fire box, use poker to clear air way.
  5. Add water pan, fill with hot water.
  6. Add turkey. I usually start the turkey breast down for the first hour, then flip in on its back for the rest.
  7. Add soaked chips for smoke. E.g. hickory or mesquite or get prunings from apple, peach trees.
  8. Maintain smoker temperature at 200 - 250 F. (You'll appreciate good charcoal). Check fire about once an hour; add charcoal & chips as needed (You'll appreciate both the side door and the poker.) After ~ 3 hours check water pan; add hot water if needed. You may have to shelter the smoker if there is a breeze or it's cool or raining (I've used both sheets of cardboard and a washtub.)
  9. Cook turkey to ~ 155-160F in the thigh joint and breast wing joint. A 10-14 pounder will take ~ 6-8 hours. If nasty weather springs up, you may have to finish the turkey in the oven.

Alternatives: If you don't have one of the handy Brinkmann smokers, you can also use a horizontal cylindrical grill or even a Weber-style grill.

For the horizontal grill, I place two bricks at the air inlet to direct air across the charcoal in between the bricks. Plus the bricks support a yard-sale pan filled with water. Turkey sits at the far end, neath the chimney. You can feed additional charcoal through the air inlet. Candy thermometer monitors air temperature . . .

For the Weber-style, you need to block off all but one air inlet and all but one outlet (this increases air flow velocity to keep the charcoal burning). Candy thermometer in one outlet monitors air temperature. Water pan above the charcoal. Charcoal heaped over the one open air inlet. To add more charcoal, you have to figger out how to lift the top (there is a handy hook under the lid), lift the grill quickly (1 X 2 Cm stick, 15 cm long with a slot for the grill handles will prevent burnt fingers), add charcoal and wet chips, then close it up quickly.

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