The Godfather’s Smoked Turkey recipe has been updated with new photos as part of the #ThrowbackThursday photography project where I add better photos to already delicious recipes. Thanks for stopping by!
I’m not quite sure how to introduce this recipe. Maybe I can start with the story of how, years ago the Godfather (well before he was the Godfather), set out to create a smoked turkey so we could have amazing turkey without a deep fryer or running our not-so-awesome-at-the-time base housing oven. Or maybe I could talk about how my father-in-law (who is the unquestioned meat-patriarch in his family) fell in love with this recipe so much it that he created his own variation as his go-to recipe for turkey. Or I could take you to our kitchen in California last year where we had a Thanksgiving party with friends and L turned around to find two of our guests grabbing turkey leftovers, jostling each other for space to eat over the kitchen sink even though we had all just finished a huge meal.
Or I could tell you how my mother, who “doesn’t eat” breast meat swearing it’s too dry, told Leo she would have sworn the breast meat from this turkey was dark given how flavorful it was. Or I could simply post a picture of Dolce, prancing around with excitement “guarding” the grill while the turkey cooks and waiting in excited anticipation by the table for the soft-hearted to give her treats.
I really can’t pick a story though, they all sort of jumble together like snapshots in a slideshow over the 8 years he’s been making this recipe. And maybe that’s what really makes it such a great recipe, the fact that when I think about this turkey, it’s so much more than just food on a plate. It’s a memory, an experience, something beautiful that brings family and friends (and sometimes just the two of us and Dolce) together at the holidays.
The secret is in the brine, prepared a day before smoking the turkey. It’s so incredibly flavorful, we haven’t used gravy or any additional seasonings. I hope you’ll give this brine recipe a try, and smoke the bird if you can. I promise it will be one of the most incredible turkeys you’ve ever had. The Godfather wrote up the recipe below, and we both hope you’ll enjoy one of our family’s traditions this holiday season. <3
- 1 1/4 cups kosher salt
- 1 cup Kentucky bourbon
- 1 cup orange juice, no pulp
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup garlic powder
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 lbs turkey, 10 to 14
Equipment for smoking...
- 1 quart of wood chips, preferably mesquite
- 2 disposable aluminum trays
- 1 box of aluminum foil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 charcoal grill, large enough to hold the turkey and aluminum tray side-by-side
- Using a 12-quart (three-gallon) bucket, place all ingredients except for the turkey.
- Pour enough water so that you are able to stir and mix the placed ingredients. Not all ingredients will dissolve in the water throughout the brine process.
- Ensure the turkey is thawed and all gizzards are removed. Place the turkey in the bucket breast-side down.
- Continue filling the bucket with water. The turkey does not have to be completely submerged, but the brine must be able to flow through the turkey's cavity.
- Place the bucket in the refrigerator and let it rest for 24 hours.
- Set up the grill by placing the wood chips in the aluminum tray. If you don't have mesquite wood chips, pour 1 shot of bourbon over the wood chips. Fill enough water in the aluminum tray so that most if not all the wood chips float.
- Select the side the charcoal will lie directly under the side the turkey will be sitting on. To force the convection, the side where the aluminum tray will sit must not have any charcoal under it. Ensure the distance between the charcoal sits as low as possible to have the greatest distance possible below the grill. Ensure all vents are no more than half-closed.
- Place the aluminum tray on the grill and light the charcoal.
- Once lit, lift the turkey out of the bucket and place it breast-side up on the grill. Immediately brush the turkey skin with the olive oil to get the crisp brown color.
- Close the lid on the grill. Check on the turkey after one hour. Add more charcoal as needed. Add more water to the aluminum tray if needed.
- After two hours, check with a meat thermometer to see if the turkey's temperature is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is at least that temperature, remove the turkey from the grill.
- Immediately place the turkey in the second aluminum tray and cover with foil. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil cover and enjoy.