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Slow-Smoked Turkey with Cane Syrup-Coffee Glaze

If you have a grill with a lid and a bag of hickory chips you can smoke a turkey. Braising the bird first in a mix of coffee, apple cider vinegar and cane syrup or brown sugar results in marvelously complex flavors--sweet, bitter and herbaceous.


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  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 10, with leftovers

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  • 2 gallons water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ground coffee, preferably chicory coffee
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 12 large thyme sprigs, tied together
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 cups light brown sugar or 3 cups cane syrup (see Note)
  • One 11-pound turkey
  • About 3 cups hickory chips
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing


  1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 gallon of the water to a boil; keep warm. In a large stockpot, combine the cider vinegar, coffee, onion, thyme, salt and peppercorns with 1 3/4 cups of the brown sugar and the remaining gallon of water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Holding the turkey by the legs, carefully ease the bird into the hot brine, neck end down. Add enough of the hot water to the stockpot to cover the turkey and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Carefully remove the turkey from the stockpot. Strain 2 cups of the braising liquid into a heatproof bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Discard the remaining braising liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, light a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill. A few minutes before the turkey has finished simmering, add 2 cups of the hickory chips to the coals. When the chips start smoking, brush the turkey breast with oil. Set the turkey, breast side down, on the grill. Cover and smoke over a low fire or flame for 15 minutes. Baste the turkey with the reserved braising liquid; turn it breast side up and baste again. Cover the grill and continue smoking the turkey for about 40 minutes longer, basting occasionally with the braising liquid and adding more coals or hickory chips to the grill as necessary. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 165°. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest 20 minutes before carving.


Cane syrup is available by mail order from Steen's (800-725-1654 or steensyrup.com).

Contributed By Photo © Petrina Tinslay Published November 2005

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