Whether it’s fresh or frozen, or that free bird you got after spending hundreds of dollars at the grocery store, or a bird you forgot about in your spare freezer (recent situation), there are options for thawing and cooking your turkey. I prefer to thaw, season the night before, and then begin cooking. I wound up halving the forgotten 24 pound turkey in freezer, and rubbing it two ways.
Growing up, my family always used a Farberware Open Hearth Broiler & Rotisserie to spin the bird to juicy deliciousness. This still is a family favorite. It’s like a Costco rotisserie chicken on a whole other level.
More recently, we’ve been smoking our turkeys on a Rec Tec pellet grill. These pellet smokers are essentially electric convection ovens that smoke and maintain consistent temperatures at the touch of a button. Pellets like Cookinpellets Hickory, create a great mild smokey flavor. They produce consistent, delicious and juicy results, are super convenient and free up your oven real-estate for cooking side dishes and warming. Pellet smokers are for those too busy, distracted [by little kids], or unwilling to stoke charcoal or logs in a stick burning or off-set, kamado, or other smoker.
Here’s a basic run down of our smoked turkey.
- Thaw the packaged turkey in a pan in your fridge (it may leak so the pan saves a mess)
- Rub the turkey the day/night before with your favorite poultry rub. Get inside the cavity, under the wings and legs, etc (save the neck and smoke it for your gravy).
- Fire up smoker to 225º-250ºF at least 30 minutes before putting the turkey on
- Place turkey breast side up, directly on grates/frog mats or elevated over a pan to catch drippings
- Insert a probe thermometer (built into newer Rec Tec smokers, or use a leave in probe like Thermoworks DOT, Thermoworks Signals, Fireboard, Tappecue, iGrill) into the deepest part of the breast, making sure it’s not touching the bone.
- Smoke the turkey at 225º-250ºF for at least an hour to get extra smoke flavor
- Baste with extra light olive oil or butter (you can mix rub into the basting liquid for extra flavor)
- Increase smoker temp to 325ºF, wrap wings and cover breast with foil if starting to crisp too fast
- When turkey reaches 165°F it’s done
- Let rest for 20-30 minutes before carving
My family likes dark meat, so I make sure to buy extra legs and thighs to cook alongside the main bird. It’s also good to make extra for vacuum packing and freezing. These leftovers are great for future meals like Smoked Turkey and Apple Curry or Pot Pies.
Below are some helpful resources to help you navigate your turkey.
How To Thaw a Frozen Turkey via Butterball
Turkey thawing chart via FoodSafety.govhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTAxXyKfjJ8
How To Cook a Frozen Turkey via Kitchn