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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


Practice safety when smoking turkey


Smoking the Thanksgiving turkey is gaining popularity.


“That hot, smoky air in the smoker makes for tender meat and a wonderful flavor, but special care must be taken to assure a safely smoked turkey,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.


Smoking the turkey can be done in a covered grill. This requires a drip pan of water below the turkey on the grill. Or, it can be done in a smoker, which is an outdoor cooker that is specially designed for smoking food.


Plug in the electric smoker or light the charcoal smoker about 30 minutes before you are ready to start cooking. Place the foil-lined water pan in the smoker and fill the pan with water. If you are using a covered gas or charcoal grill, place the pan of water under the turkey to catch the fat and juices.


Soak the hardwood chips, such as hickory, apple or maple, in water for one or two hours. This prevents flare-ups. Soft woods such as pine, cedar, fir and spruce are not recommended because it can coat the the turkey with a black pitch resin and give it a turpentine flavor. While the chips are soaking, prepare the turkey by brushing the skin with cooking oil and insert a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh or breast without touching a bone. For food safety reasons, the turkey should be thawed completely and not stuffed.


You need a second thermometer for the smoker. The smoker temperature should be maintained between 225 and 300 degrees. If you are using a charcoal smoker, add briquettes every hour to hour and a half to help maintain proper temperatures.


The turkey should cook to a temperature of 165 degrees. It can take up to twelve hours depending on the weather, the size of your turkey and your equipment. An eight to twelve pound turkey will take 20-30 minutes per pound to cook.


“Every time you lift the lid, you add ten minutes to the cooking time. If the thermometer does not read 140 degrees in four hours, the turkey should be finished in the oven,” said Roberts. “Temperatures under 140 degrees for too long allow harmful bacteria to grow.”


After you’ve taken all of the necessary precautions and allowed the turkey to cook to the proper temperature, all that is left to do is savor that wonderful smoked flavor! You may be enjoying it with more side dishes than normal because of more oven space being available.


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Last update: Tuesday, November 20, 2012