At CHG Healthcare, we're dedicated to placing quality healthcare professionals in hospitals, clinics, and communities that need them most. And we work really hard doing it. But we're also just as dedicated to our outside passions. For example, Brownie Brimage, a sales manager at RNnetwork, our nurse staffing division, is THE person to ask about cooking just about anything on a smoker. Today, he's sharing his top tips for preparing a smoked turkey — just in time for Thanksgiving.
“Don’t be scared away from this if you don’t have a smoker,” Brownie advises. “You can also do this in an oven.”
If you do have a smoker, have no fear and follow Brownie’s expert advice. Every Thanksgiving he cooks at least three turkeys: one to practice on pre-holiday and two for Thanksgiving dinner itself. Trust us, this man has earned his apron. Here’s his recipe and some tips to make it memorable:
“I like fresh turkey,” he says. “It costs a bit more, but I think it’s tastier.”
He usually selects a bird that’s about 12 – 14 pounds. “Don’t get a bird bigger than 16 pounds,” he shares. “It’s hard to get out of the danger zone at that size.”
What’s the danger zone, you ask? That’s a temperature range from 40 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit when bacteria grow most rapidly. Not the side dish anyone wants on their Thanksgiving table!
“Regardless of whether you’re cooking in an oven or smoker, you want to get the turkey above 140 degrees in the first four hours or less,” Brownie explains. “That means you need to keep the oven or smoker at least 240 degrees.”
If you’re not spatchcocking your turkey, Brownie recommends this website to show you how to avoid creating dangerous bacteria from improper cooking.
Spatchcocking. Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. Most people know the term as “butterflying.”
You remove the backbone and spread the turkey out on the smoker. “It looks unusual, but it cooks more evenly and faster,” Brownie says, “typically in about two hours.”
“Your timing is going to be much longer on a regular turkey, probably three or four hours,” he adds. “And with spatchcocking, you don’t have to worry about the danger zone because the thickest part of the breast is spread out, so it’s cooked thoroughly.”
Can you buy a turkey already spatchcocked? Maybe, but Brownie usually does it himself.
“You definitely need a really sharp knife,” he says.
And possibly some help from YouTube. He says the Internet is filled with tutorials on how to spatchcock.
Brining is best
An overnight soak in a saltwater brine will do wonders for making the turkey tender and juicy. While some folks use buttermilk for brine, Brownie uses this recipe and swears it’s a must do. He adds fresh rosemary, oregano, and thyme to the brine and saves another handful for the herb butter.
When the brining time is up, Brownie rinses and dries the turkey and puts as much herb butter as he can fit under the skin. Then it’s on to the smoker for cooking.
Read and follow directions
“Follow the instructions that came with your smoker,” Brownie shares.
Sounds simple, right? Brownie says it really is. Just remember that danger zone warning and you’ll be fine.
Worried about a blackened bird that’s a little too done?
“Smoked turkeys do not all look black,” Brownie explains. “When it’s the right temperature and the skin looks golden brown, just cover the breast and wings with foil.”
Once the turkey’s cooked, don’t carve it immediately. A 20 – 25 minute “rest” will give the turkey time to lock in all those wonderful juices you worked so hard to create.
Then you’re ready to gather family and friends, count your blessings, and enjoy a delicious smoked turkey.
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