To Cook The Best Thanksgiving Turkey, Head Outdoors

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While there’s nothing wrong with preparing a traditional Thanksgiving turkey in the oven, new research suggests a rising number of consumers are ready to try something different and head outside to fire up their grills and smokers this year.

Of the 62% of respondents that plan to cook turkey outside, 74% say it’s for boosting flavor. If you’re on point to deliver the tastiest Thanksgiving turkey ever, these techniques and gear will help remove the intimidation factor.

Pitmaster Scott Henricks of Serious Que says smoking a turkey isn’t much different than cooking it in the oven.

“You’re still going to need to watch the turkey and check its temperatures, the only real difference is managing your smoke and fire,” said Henricks. “The added benefit of smoking it is that great-tasting, wood-fired flavor that you’re not going to get in an oven.”

The key to a great-tasting bird is keeping it moist during the cook, according to Henricks. Injecting the bird with melted butter, diluted with apple juice or beer and spices helps. Brining is also an option but sometimes requires up to 24 hours of prep time, and a place large enough to keep it cold the entire time.

As for nailing that golden-brown, crispy skin, Henricks recommends keeping the bird covered with foil for about half of the cooking process.

“If you leave it uncovered for too long, you’ll probably end up with a great tasting turkey, but the color will be way too dark and you’re not going to get that great presentation you want at the dinner table,” said Henricks.

The most important part of smoking a turkey is the type of fuel used. Henricks recommends mild, fruit wood like pecan, apple or cherry, and chunks over wood chips. “Stick woods like hickory or mesquite can come off too strong and overpower your turkey,” said Henricks.

One of the best turkeys Henricks ever made came off the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco. “It’s a quicker process, since they tend to cook hotter and that higher temp over a shorter period of time results in a turkey that is juicy with a crispy skin that we all love.”

Here are other bits of outdoor kit you’ll love to try on turkey.

Load the canon

The folks over at Camp Chef recently published “The Book of Turkey” to help guide you through your turkey cooking journey. They also make a nifty gadget called the Turkey Canon Infusion Roaster which you can see in action below.

Hang in there

The Pit Barrel Cooker consistently receives rave reviews thanks to its high-quality construction and enough accessories to cook an enormous variety (and quantity) of food. One of its most beloved accessories is the turkey hanger which removes the anxiety of cooking Thanksgiving turkey because it’s so simple to use and produces consistent, mouth-watering results, according to Pit Barrel Cooker founder Noah Glanville. See the turkey hanger in action below.

A full plate

Weber Kettle owners have a variety of ways to cook turkey. One of the newest kettle gadgets is the Smoke Plate, which redefines the ‘low and slow’ cooking with its large briquette hopper that provides eight hours of uninterrupted smoking. Smoke Plate recommends loading the turkey cavity with apple, sliced onion, cinnamon stick, rosemary, thyme and sage. Rub with vegetable oil and smoke until temperature reaches 165F. Place a disposable pan under the cooking grate with a mixture of water and apple juice and “you will enjoy the juiciest turkey you’ve ever had,” according to Smoke Plate.

Ditch the oil

If you’re thinking about deep frying a turkey, think again. One of the fastest, easiest and tastiest ways to “fry” a turkey is with the Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer from Char-Broil, powered by TRU-Infrared™ technology that requires no oil. Read more about it here and be sure to check out the below video.

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