How To Smoke a Turkey
In our Winter 2023 issue, we chatted with chef Joe Kindred who gave us his step-by-step guide to putting smoked turkey to use in a gnocchi dish that gets layered with a turkey-and-vegetable sugo. It’s a dish he serves seasonally at his Davidson, North Carolina restaurant, Kindred. “It’s supposed to taste like Grandma’s turkey pot pie, with that smoky turkey being the star of the show,” he says.
Before meeting his wife Katy, Kindred had never smoked a turkey—it was Katy’s father who showed him how to do it. “He had one of those clever little smokers, a Weber Performer—it has a table attached to it and it’s on wheels. Just an OG charcoal grill. I watched him do it during Thanksgiving a couple of times and thought, you know I think I can do this,” Kindred says. Now, he smokes a turkey every year.
Not only does smoking the turkey outdoors free up precious oven space on Thanksgiving, it also results in super flavorful supplemental recipes. The smoky turkey carcass makes the base for a deeply flavored turkey broth while the stuffing gets a layer of smoky flavor to it. As Kindred says, “the best part about the stuffing is those outer crispy bits. It’s just so good.”
Joe Kindred’s Tips for How to Smoke a Turkey
- Source smartly: Kindred recommends finding your bird at a local farm. In Charlotte, he relies on New Town Farms but also recommends Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem.
- Start early: Season your bird with salt and pepper one day in advance and set it on a rack in the fridge overnight. This will dry the skin a bit, resulting in a crispier exterior. (You should also go ahead and toast the sourdough bread for the Kindred Family Thanksgiving Stuffing a day in advance.)
- Get it to temp: The following morning, pull the turkey out and let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour.
- Stuffing is everything: Kindred swears by stuffing the turkey before smoking it. Fill both end cavities with stuffing, then truss the bird with kitchen twine.
- Heat things up: Kindred sets up the fire in the smoker with jumbo lump (hard wood) charcoal, getting it to 325 degrees, and sets the turkey over indirect heat. For a 10-pound turkey, it usually takes about 3½ hours but keep an eye on the bird’s internal temperature to make sure it reaches 165 degrees.
- Rest and relax: Once the turkey is fully cooked and slightly cooled, remove the stuffing and don’t be afraid to let the bird sit for awhile—like an hour or more! “They can really retain heat,” Kindred says, and it ensures that the meat will hold in all of its juices.
- Double duty: Once you’ve carved and pulled the meat from the smoked turkey carcass, use the bones to build a flavorful turkey stock, which can be the base for Kindred’s smoked turkey sugo or other leftover dishes (like this tasty gumbo). The smoke will infuse the broth, giving it a deeper, more robust flavor.
1 (10-pound) turkey
Special equipment: butcher’s twine
- Step 1: The night before cooking, pat turkey dry and season both the outside and inside with salt and pepper. Place seasoned turkey in the refrigerator overnight.
- Step 2: The day you’re cooking, preheat smoker to 325 degrees.
- Step 3: Prepare the Kindred Family Thanksgiving Stuffing according to the recipe. Stuff both cavities of the turkey with the prepared stuffing. Secure the turkey legs by tying them together using butcher's twine.
- Step 4: Place turkey in smoker and smoke at 325 degrees for approximately 3½ hours or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 168 degrees on a meat thermometer.
- Step 5: Once turkey reaches the desired temperature, carefully remove it from smoker.
- Step 6: Allow smoked turkey to rest for a couple of hours to cool down. This step is essential for juices to redistribute and flavors to settle.
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