Josh Vogel’s smoker allows him to start cooking the bird as low as 130°, and then finish smoking at 180°, but other smokers can be almost impossible to keep that cool. This adapted recipe calls for a constant temperature of about 200°. Since times will vary based on smoker temperature, the only reliable way to judge doneness is by cooking the turkey until its inner thigh registers 165°. Make sure to have plenty of hardwood charcoal or wood on hand.
Slideshow:More Smoked Food Recipes
3 gallons water
1 1/2 cups fine sea salt
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
12 thyme sprigs
5 dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
One 10-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved for another use
2 pounds cherry or other fruitwood chips, soaked in water overnight
How to Make It
In a very large pot, combine the water, sea salt, maple syrup, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Stir the brine until the salt is completely dissolved. Add the turkey, breast side down, top it with a plate to keep it submerged and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Light a hardwood charcoal or wood fire in the firebox of a smoker. Heat the smoker to 200°. Scatter some of the soaked wood chips around the coals; the chips should smolder but not flare. Set a drip pan filled with water on the bottom of the smoke box.
Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey and tie the legs together with string. Set the turkey over the drip pan. Smoke the turkey for about 5 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in an inner thigh registers 165°; monitor the coals throughout the smoking process and add more coals and/or wood, soaked chips and water as needed to maintain the temperature and smoke level. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes before serving.
Fresh, berry-rich, medium-bodied California red.
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