Thanksgivings… Smoked Bourbon Turkey

I tried… I really did… But I could not pull off blogging yesterday. Truth is, Thanksgving is inevitably chaotic and rushed and too much fun to sit down and knock out an explanation of how to cook a turkey for 3 hours.

However, we’re happy to do so know. Here is the end result: 

And here is how we get there…. 

Smoker Chips

For turkey you use applewood. You can also throw in a handful of hickory, if you like. Ratio should be at least three-to-one of applewood to anything else. Soak for at least and hour in water, beer, or wine.


The Bird

This year we called our bird Trina Yardbird (after the name my wife calls Trisha Yearwood when she watches her cooking show and cannot remember her name). Trina was 13 pounds.

Trina has been brining for 13 hours in bourbon and apple juice (see prior post). Pull Trina out of the brine, give her a rinse with water, and pat dry. Because Trina goes on the grill, she sits out of the fridge for at least 45 minutes before going on the grill. Then Trina gets a rub (to unite the brining vs. rub crowd): 

  • 2 tablespoons ground sage
  • 2 tablespoons ground Rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Start by rubbing the entire Trina with extra virgin olive oil, then cover in the rub. After the rub, stab an orange a few times and put it in her cavity. 


(I forgot to take an “after” photo)

We use “indirect heat method” on this for the grill, which is a fancy way of saying there is something in between flames and the thing you are cooking. In this case, it is a drip pan filled with about a liter of water that sits beneath the grill rack but above the flavorizer bars and should be big enough that it is under the entire Trina. This keeps the grease from getting to the flame (so no fire), helps moderate temperature, and keeps some moisture in the grill area. 

Throw some chips in a smoker box a couple minutes before you get the turkey on the grill, so, they will start puffing immediately. A cheese cloth (soaked in a bit of water) goes over Trina for pretty much the whole time. We haven’t much discussed brands on this blog, and we do so pretty sparingly. The exception to this might be grills. #Weber.  The end.

The goal yesterday was to  stay around 350 degrees F.  Pump the temperature up a little higher than your goal temperature before you put the Trina on, as she will drop the temperature a little. 


Here is the set up we used yesterday: 


This photos is about three-quarters of the way through. 


Cooking times depend on temperature and the size of Trina. We pulled off 350 the whole time yesterday, so, Trina cooked in well under three hours: 

  • 225-250 degrees, 23-27 minutes per pound
  • 275-300 degrees, 18-21 minutes per pound
  • 350-375 degrees, 11-13 minutes per pound

Check on Trina hourly. That is also about how often you need to add new wood chips. Trina is done when the innermost part of the thigh and thickest part of the breast hit 165. 

Then Trina rests for at least 45 minutes.  Weber says the turkey needs to rest for at least 20 – 30 % of cooking time; Weber is right. Trina cooked in 2.5 hours yesterday, which was a surprise. We killed the heat on the grill, covered Trina in heavy aluminum foil, and left her for 90 minutes. She was still piping hot for dinner. (Plus nobody wants to carve a turkey straight out of the oven.)


My brother gets credit for excellent carving on this one.

Gather the troops and enjoy. It’s Thanksgiving, for heaven’s sake. 

Here is the guest appearance turkey from my brother-in-law. This one is a real snap. Turkey breast, rolled around a sage stuffing, and five hours in a sous vide. He doesn’t have a blog. If he did, we agree it would be called Tedius, Inaccessible, and Delicious.

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