We raise “Heritage” turkeys. These are not the industrial type of birds bred only for quick fattening. We have two types – a Spanish Black/Rio Grande cross and Royal Palm.
This year our turkeys hatched May 3. They should be just the right size for Thanksgiving next month. To check progress, we butchered one last week along with a couple meat chickens. We smoked and roasted the turkey for a taste check. It was wonderful – honestly the best turkey I have ever eaten. Here’s a look at several steps in the process:
This turkey weighed just over 11 pounds after cleaning. The others will gain another pound or two before processing in November for an average size of 12-13 pounds. The turkey was wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for a day before we started the preparation process. Many will soak turkey in a brine for 24 hours. We decided to rub the bird with moderate amounts of kosher salt and leave it unwrapped in the refrigerator overnight. The next day we set it on the counter several hours before cooking, so it could come up toward room temperature. We then lightly basted it with vegetable oil and rubbed in a mixture of 1/3 Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, 1/3 Adam’s Dry Rub, 1/6 kosher salt, 1/6 black pepper. Again, moderate amounts, not caked on, applied just 30 minutes before going on the smoker. We stuffed it about half full with quartered onion, apple, and some garlic.
Before applying the rub, start the fire in your smoker. We use post oak in the offset fire box, letting it burn down to white coals which should give you a grill temperature of around 250 degrees. After the bird is on the grill, baste it lightly again with vegetable oil. As it smokes, watch the temperature and add wood when the temperature gets to 200. That should get it back up to around 250. Our temp fluctuated within this range, as we added wood every 15 minutes or so. The changing temperature was OK, as the bird turned out golden brown, juicy, and very tender yet not mushy.
Here’s the result 2 hours later. The internal temperature was 135. We put it in a roasting pan and covered with foil and baked it in the kitchen oven, 325 degrees.
After 90 minutes in the oven, the internal temperature was 155. We left the thermometer in and put the bird back in the oven. About 20 minutes later, it reached 165 we turned off the oven. After another 20 minutes we took it out, checked the temp in various places and found it at 170.
An electric knife works great for carving. Started with the thigh/leg, moved to the breast. This was plenty for our meal. After the meal, we took the time to get the rest of the meat from harder to reach places. We saved all the bones for making bone broth the next day.
A great experience and meal. Looking forward to doing it again in November for Thanksgiving!