Recipe video by Vic Chin.
Living in California really does open up your options when it comes to how you decide to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. Growing up in Texas, it was pretty much freezing by November, so the turkey took up the entire oven for most of the day while it roasted, packed with my family’s traditional sage-spiked bread stuffing. But now that I’ve lived in California for well over 25 years (!!!) I have had the opportunity to experiment with a multitude of methods for getting that bird on the table for our Thanksgiving feast.
For many years, I grilled the turkey on my trusty Weber charcoal kettle grill over indirect heat. I discovered wet brining, then dry brining, and have since deconstructed, braised, chile-rubbed and roasted, spatchcocked, and even deep fried a turkey once (I don’t recommend that, too messy, too dangerous, and, just…no). After many iterations, here is our Bay Area Bites guide to preparing turkey six different ways for Thanksgiving.
This year, just to shake things up, I’m smoking my turkey. This is slightly different than grill roasting it as it involves more smoke. And I’m doing it on my awesome new Weber charcoal smoker. You can certainly simulate this in an electric smoker or a classic kettle grill. Make sure you don’t buy a turkey that is bigger than your grill though or you’ll have to resort to wrapping the lid with aluminum foil to extend the height like I did one year (it still worked).
For smoking poultry, I’d recommend a sweeter, mild wood like cherry, pecan, or apple wood. Avoid strongly smoky woods like mesquite, hickory, or oak. You can either use chips or chunks. Chips, being smaller will obviously burn faster than bigger chunks.