Cooking Smoked Turkey:
Instructions, Tips, and Cooking Times
Cooking smoked turkey is easy... and results in just about the best-tasting meat you've ever eaten.
Smoked turkey is a turkey that's flavored and cured over a long period of time in the smoke of various types of fragrant woods (like mesquite or apple). This results in a bird with a unique aroma, tenderness, and a lovely flavor.
In general, smoked turkeys for special holiday dinners like Christmas or Thanksgiving can either be purchased or made at home. Making a smoked turkey in your own home is surprisingly simple if you have the right equipment-- and is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying one. You can read all about turkey smoking at home right here.
If, however, you've purchased a smoked turkey at home, all you have to worry about is cooking smoked turkey. And that's not difficult at all! The bird is already fully cooked so it doesn't require the same amount of time and babying. A definite bonus.
Again, if you're looking for instructions on making your own smoked turkey at home, you'll find them here. Or check this page for some fun recipes for smoked turkey. But the page you're on now is all about how to cook a smoked turkey that's already been smoked.
Thawing Smoked Turkey
While you can find fresh smoked turkeys for sale, most purchased smoked turkey comes frozen. (You can also smoke your own turkey at home and freeze it for future use-- a great option if you don't have a lot of time.)
As with an uncooked turkey, the best way to thaw a smoked turkey is, for safety reasons, in the refrigerator. Thawing a purchased smoked turkey will take more or less the same amount of time in the fridge as a raw turkey-- about 4 hours per pound of turkey. So be sure to allow for enough time! Check here for a full list of turkey thawing times and methods.
Short on time? If you're in a hurry and plan to use the turkey right away when it's thawed, you can use the cold water method. In this case leave the turkey fully covered in its wrapping. Immerse in cold water for half an hour per pound. You can also consider microwaving the turkey at half power for about 5 minutes per pound. You'll want to rotate the bird every so often (breast up, then breast down). This isn't recommended, but will work in a pinch.
Smoked Turkey Stuffing
While many people choose to stuff a traditional roast turkey, it's not recommended that you stuff a smoked turkey, even a pre-cooked one that's been frozen and thawed. Why? Because the extra cook time that you'll need to add when cooking smoked turkey with stuffing has a tendency to dry out the meat. Plus, your stuffing will be infused with a smoky flavor that tends to be a little overpowering.
Check here for recipes for turkey stuffing that can be cooked outside of the bird-- and turn out great every time.
Smoked Turkey Cooking Times
Cooking smoked turkey is very much like cooking a normal turkey except that it doesn't take anywhere near as long. After all, the bird is already cooked through-- you've just got to get it hot.
Smoked Turkey In the Microwave
Yep, you read that right-- you can actually heat up your smoked turkey in the microwave. Is this what I'd recommend? Definitely not-- the microwave method does affect the texture. But does it work? Sure, it does. If you're in a hurry, don't have oven space, or have no oven at all, the turkey will still have a nice taste and texture when it's warmed in the microwave. Not as good, but still tasty. To do this, use 75% power for 5 minutes per pound.
Baking a Smoked Turkey
The most traditional method of cooking smoked turkey? In the oven, of course. In a conventional oven, set the temperature to 325 degrees F. Put the turkey in your roasting dish and roast it for about 7 minutes per pound
. You can choose to baste it if you like, or leave it as is. Smoked turkeys are just about perfect as they come, so I suggest you simply heat it up.
Serving a Smoked Turkey
Be sure your turkey is heated through before serving it. Test the internal temperature to assure that it's reached 165 degrees F before removing it from the oven.
Letting it rest. Like any turkey recipe, you've got to let a pre-cooked smoked turkey rest before carving. This allows the juices to absorb back into your turkey, assuring that it stays moist. Rest it about 25 minutes while you put together the rest of your meal.
Gravy and Side Dishes for Smoked Turkey
Of course, cooking smoked turkey is wonderful-- and you'll get some of the best turkey you've ever tasted... even if you don't smoke a turkey at home
and buy one instead. However, you won't be able to make gravy from your smoked turkey, because you won't have any drippings-- and any drippings you might have will probably be too smoky-tasting for gravy.
My favorite way to make an authentic homemade gravy for a smoked turkey? This make ahead turkey gravy recipe. You can make it weeks ahead of time and stick it in the freezer-- and then just heat it up for your special dinner. Easy as pie. Actually, it's far, far easier!
Turkey Dinner Side Dishes. You'll also need wonderful side dishes with your wonderful turkey! For ideas on side dishes for smoked turkey, check out:
Or visit this page for recipes for your smoked turkey. There, you'll find both recipes for smoked turkey brines and rubs, as well as fun appetizer and meal recipes for already-smoked or leftover smoked turkey.
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