Curing & Smoking
A delicious change of taste coupled with an appetizing nut brown smoked color makes this meat highly desirable as a festive treat or a special meal any time of year. There are two types of smoked turkey, a cured or pumped smoked bird and a smoke-cooked bird with no added ingredients. To just smoke-cook a turkey or other poultry simply follow the steps below for smoke-cooking the cured turkey.
Select a plump bird since they give the most satisfactory results. Check the inside of the bird and remove any bits or pieces of windpipe, lungs or other viscera which have not been removed. Remove the neck and giblets from the bird for cooking separately. The giblets are usually stuffed in the crop cavity in the front of the bird. Be sure to remove these. You are now ready to smoke-cook the turkey if the bird is not going to be pump cured.
Pump cure the turkey with a brine consisting of the following:
- (4 1/2 gal.) 4 1/2 gallons water (cool)
- (12 cups) 6 lbs. salt
- (6 cups) 3 lbs. sugar
- (6 Tbs.) 3 oz. sodium nitrate (saltpeter) or
- (1 tsp.) 0.15 oz. sodium nitrite (optional)
(Please read about Nitrates and Nitrites)
Stitch pump the brine into the thickest portions of the thighs and breast. This can be done using a large syringe with a No. 12 needle. Be sure to inject the bird uniformly in all of the muscles and joints. Inject a large bird with brine to about 10 percent of its weight. Then immerse the bird in the remaining cool curing solution for about 48 hours. The temperature of the brine and the cooler should be kept at 40ºF or slightly below. Weight the bird down to keep it covered with brine.
For smaller birds, roasters and fryer size chickens, the birds can be immersed directly into the brine without pumping and held for four to five days. This will give equal results. This is not recommended for large turkeys without stitch pumping because of the longer time required for curing.
Remove the cured bird from the brine and wash in fresh water to remove the surface salt. Allow the surface to air dry and place the bird in the smoker. Start the smoker at about 140ºF. Keep a high humidity (60 percent) and a dense smoke for the first four hours. This will prevent the meat from drying out and give a lustrous pecan-nut brown color. After four hours raise the temperature in the smoker 10ºF every 20 minutes to 190ºF and hold at this temperature until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 165ºF (175ºF for the smoke-cooked bird). Measure this temperature by probing the inside of the thigh with a meat thermometer. The total time required is 10 to 12 hours. This time may be shortened by smoking the bird for four to six hours (depending upon the color desired) and then placing it in a 300º to 350ºF oven and cooking until the internal temperature is 165ºF for the cured turkey, or 175ºF for the regular smoked-cooked bird. Be sure to cover with foil to prevent the skin from cracking and drying during cooking.
The finished smoked pump cured turkey should have a rich pecan-nut-brown surface with a light pink color in the breast meat. The thighs should have the color of well cured ham. A salt content of about four percent is expected.
Poultry which has been only smoked-cooked is highly perishable and should be handled as fresh cooked poultry. This product is bland in flavor and is less desirable than a cured smoked turkey. Cured smoked turkey or poultry is a perishable product and should be refrigerated. The cured turkey may be freezer stored ready-to-roast or ready-to-eat for as long as 10 months with negligible change in color or flavor.
This document was extracted from "Sausage and Smoked Meat Formulation and Processing", 1982. Bulletin 865, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. By A. Estes Reynolds, Jr. and George A. Schuler, Extension Food Scientists.
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