I decided to try something a bit different this year for Thanksgiving turkey. Normally I cook it in the oven, but I like using my Masterbuilt electric smoker when I can get away with it.
At first, I was inclined to try brining the turkey, as suggested by Alton Brown of Good Eats, but when I dug down into the specifics, I stumbled across this article in Serious Eats. As it turns out, the amount of moisture loss in a salted turkey is very similar to that in a brined turkey, only that you don’t lose as much flavor because you don’t add water to the turkey.
The problem with salting two 11 lbs (5 kg) turkeys (which is about the amount of meat we want for the number of guests that we’re expecting), is that it takes up a lot of space and ideally you want it to be refrigerated. While I could make my ice chest smell like turkey, I opted instead for removing the backbone (“spatchcocking”) and then letting each piece cure in a large plastic bag. I ended up putting a half turkey in each bag.
Several days later, the turkeys had absorbed all the salt and were ready to start smoking.
I ended up using three IKEA FANTAST thermometers to keep tabs on the temperature inside the smoker. The plan was to hold them at 150F (65C) until about an hour before serving, and then crank it up to 225F (105C) to crisp the skin and remove.
As a side benefit of halving the turkeys, they can fit much more densely in the smoker.
The final result. The skin wasn’t crispy, but I think that could be fixed by finishing at a higher temperature next time.
All in all though, it was pretty well received and turned out pretty flavorful. The turkey was perfectly juicy, not too salty, and absorbed plenty of smoke flavor.