Smoked Wild Turkey With Sweet Tea Brine
One of my favorite cooking methods for wild turkey is to smoke a whole plucked bird. There is just something about wood smoke that sets off the flavor of a wild turkey. But when the subject of smoked turkey comes up at camp, it seems that, all too often, the method results in a dried-out and chewy bird. These tips and tricks will help to keep your turkey moist and tender.
One whole wild turkey, plucked and spatchcocked
2 gallons warm water
1 1/2 cups salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 gallon brewed sweet tea
3 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
3 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
A sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary, or a half teaspoon of each dried
I cup of either beef or chicken broth
1 stick of butter
1 Tablespoon of Better Than Boullion brand Chicken Base
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Your favorite BBQ rub
Since wild turkeys aren't inherently moist to begin with, that juice has to come from somewhere. My go-to method always starts with a brine. Two gallons of warm water, a cup and a half of salt and a half a cup of brown sugar form the brine's base. To that, I like to add aromatics like a few lightly crushed garlic cloves, a handful of peppercorns, three to five bay leaves and a couple sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary if I have them handy, a half teaspoon of each in dried form if I don't. From there, my turkey brine takes a bit of a different twist. I add a gallon of strongly brewed sweet tea.
Inject the mixture into the turkey breast, thigh and leg meat about 30 minutes before the bird goes on the smoker.
Spatchcocking a bird simply means to cut down either side of the backbone and press to flatten out the turkey like an open book. This helps the bird to cook a bit faster and more evenly, preventing fast-cooking areas from drying out while the thicker parts come to temperature.
Bring your smoker up to 250 degrees. I like a mixture of pecan or hickory and a fruitwood like cherry for turkey and pork. While I don't always use the water pan on my smoker, I do with turkey. The extra moisture in the smoke just seems to help keep the meat from drying out. Place the bird onto the smoker and cook for three to five hours, depending on the size of your bird. Carefully monitor the internal temperature to prevent overcooking.