Johnny’s Cherry-Sage Smoked Turkey

smoked turkey photo by mbeldyk

Looking for Thanksgiving recipes for turkey? Smoked turkey is better than any turkey cooked in a traditional oven. In fact, it’s extremely rare for me to cook a turkey in my kitchen. We usually cook several turkeys for Thanksgiving. One goes on the smoker and at least two go into the turkey fryer. Smoking turkeys that weigh more than fifteen pounds isn’t recommended, although we’ve done it many times without any ill effects. Just to be safe, stick with the 10-15 pound rule.

Many cooks have a problem with their turkey’s drying out during the cooking process, but on a smoker with a water pan, this won’t be a problem because you’ll be using moist heat instead of dry heat. For even tastier and more tender turkey, the bird can be brined before it’s smoked.

Something we always do when smoking a turkey is to place a piece of fattier meat over the turkey. My family loves smoked ham, so we place a ham on the top rack and the turkey on the bottom rack of the smoker. Why let all those ham juices go to waste? If you prefer not to do this, you can always place a few strips of bacon across the turkey.

If you’ve brined your turkey, rinse all the liquid off and pat it dry before following this recipe.

Johnny’s Smoked Cherry-Sage Turkey recipe

What you’ll need:

  • Completely thawed turkey
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice or grenadine
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tart apple, halved
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • Small bunch fresh thyme
  • Fresh sage
  • Cherry juice

Directions: Remove pop-out timer from bird, if applicable. Rinse turkey well and pat dry.

Make a wet rub by combining oil, cherry juice, paprika, onion powder, vinegar, black pepper, ground sage, and garlic powder. Rub turkey all over, inside and out. Loosen skin on breast and push rub under skin. Re-attach skin with toothpicks. Refrigerate turkey for several hours.

Remove turkey from fridge. In the cavity, place the apple, the sage, and the thyme.

Fill water pan of smoker with half water and half cherry juice. Place wood that has been soaked in cherry juice on burner, or add wood chips to hopper. For more cherry flavor, use cherry wood for smoking.

Place turkey on smoker. If you’re cooking a fatty meat at the same time, place turkey breast-side up on bottom rack. If turkey is being cooked alone, place it breast-side down on top rack. After cooking for 3-4 hours, check the water pan and the wood supply. Add more if you need to.

If your smoker has a thermostat, keep cooking temperature between 225 and 235 degrees. Our turkey smoker doesn’t have a thermostat, and we don’t carefully time cooking. The turkey should be removed from the smoker when the breast registers 170 degrees and the thigh registers 180 degrees.

The internal temperature will continue to rise some after the bird has been removed from the smoker.