My family says I obsess over the Thanksgiving turkey. I say someone has to. A cook’s greatest nightmare is having a table full of hungry people, waiting for the annual feast and then having the bird: (1) over cooked; (2) raw in places; (3) tough, dry, and chewy; (4) under or over-seasoned; (5) dropped while in transport from oven to platter; or (6) too small to feed the group–though too large is seldom a problem. Or, heaven forbid, discovering the organ packet is still lodged in the neck cavity. Enter the smoked turkey. . . .
This year, my grandson, Austin, a college senior, has built a smoker and wants to experiment with the holiday bird. Now, I’m always up for a gastronomic adventure, but I’m worried. I’ll have more than thirty people showing up at the farm for Turkey Day, and I don’t want any “fowl” up. (Pun intended).
When I explained this to an insensitive friend, she commented, “How can you call yourself a food blogger, if you’ve never smoked a turkey?” She has a point. I’ve roasted many a bird–everything from a Butterball to a turducken to a wild turkey. I’ve brined needy fowls and run my hand into an icy cavity to retrieve poultry organs. I’ve even given the holiday bird a butter massage on Thanksgiving morn, because Julia Child said the turkey enjoys it. But I’ve never smoked one, though I’ve tasted some delicious, juicy poultry cooked in a smoker by friends.
Austin said he bought the smoker-building kit from some guy on the Internet named Big Poppa, who’s won a number of barbecue contests. The kit provides a variety of attachments; you provide the oil drum. It should look like the picture on the website once he gets the drum painted. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
To rule out a few of those surprises mentioned in the opening paragraph, I’ve proposed two options to my grandson: Run a pre-holiday test of Big Poppa’s contraption. Or cook one turkey in the oven on Thanksgiving Day and the other in the smoker.
Perhaps there are seasoned turkey smokers out there, who can give me some tips to assuage my concerns. Any warnings or helpful hints would be appreciated.