BBQ

Smoked Turkey on the Pit Barrel Cooker

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We cooked a turkey around Christmas and served it to our guests without telling anyone how we cooked it. The turkey was laid out with all the sides and fixings you could imagine. As guests lined up to get a plate of food, everyone started to sit down to enjoy their Christmas meal. Five minutes hadn’t gone by and the questions started pouring in.

Where did you get the turkey? How did you cook the turkey? You cooked this turkey on what?

You cooked this turkey in a trash can?

This is some of the best turkey you have every cooked. I think we have found the best way for you to cook a turkey.

How did you get the turkey so moist?

You are going to be in charge of the turkey from now on.

These are only a few comments we received that night in regard to the turkey we cooked on the Pit Barrel Cooker. I don’t know what it is about that little magical cooker, but it always generates a very interesting reaction. Next thing you know, one person says one thing and another will chime in “You should taste the ribs off that thing… they are the best you will ever have”. This is normal life with a Pit Barrel Cooker. Yes, it’s that good.

Most people cook turkey only once or twice a year, but there is no reason you can’t do it year round on the Pit Barrel Cooker. There really isn’t much to cooking a moist, flavorful turkey if you have the right set up. If you can trim up the skin, clean out the inside, and season a turkey, you can cook the most amazing bird by hanging it on a Pit Barrel Cooker and let it do its thing. Really, let it do its thing. Yes, it’s that easy.

The Cook

  • 15 pound turkey
  • Pit Barrel Cooker All Purpose BBQ Rub
  • Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
  • Pit Barrel Cooker Turkey Hanger
  • Briquette charcoal was used for this cook, but I prefer Rockwood Lump Charcoal

Preparing the Turkey

Raw turkey with skin trimmed up and giblets removed.
Raw turkey with skin trimmed up and giblets removed.

If you have a large frozen turkey, it is going to take several days to thaw it in the fridge. Allow for about four days of thawing if you plan on doing it inside the refrigerator. Once you have a thawed bird, it is easy to prepare it for the smoker.

Turkey giblets inside the turkey and plastic holding the legs together.
Turkey giblets inside the turkey and plastic holding the legs together.

Start by removing anything on the inside of the turkey and I also like to remove the plastic pieces that tie the legs together. Also, remove the plastic pop up gauge that tells you when the turkey is ready. I don’t like any plastic on my meat when it’s cooking over a fire. Doesn’t sound right.

Seasoning the Turkey

Turkey seasoned with Pit Barrel Cooker All Purpose Seasoning
Turkey seasoned with Pit Barrel Cooker All Purpose Seasoning

If you are smoking a large bird, go to town on the seasoning. I first start by patting the turkey dry with some paper towels. Next, put a light coat of olive oil on the bird which will help give it that beautiful brown exterior. Next, apply a heavy coat of rub all over the bird. I like to season the inside of the bird heavy to as I feel it renders out a great flavor.

Some people will work their hand under the skin on the breast and try to apply a rub between the breast and skin, but you do risk messing up the skin. It’s not always the case, but it can happen. I did not do that on this cook. I seasoned heavy all over the turkey, behind the wings, inside the bird, and that’s it. Now it’s time to hang it over a live fire.

Hang Turkey on the Pit Barrel Cooker

Seasoned turkey hanging on the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker using their Turkey Hanger Accessory.
Seasoned turkey hanging on the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker using their Turkey Hanger Accessory.

The best way to smoke a turkey on the Pit Barrel Cooker is using their Turkey Hanger accessory. This allows the bird to sit vertical in the cooker which makes for an even cook. This was the first time I had used this simple accessory, and it worked great. Once you stick the rod through the bird, you attach the hanger through the loop and hang the turkey on the rebar. If you don’t have the Turkey Hanger accessory, you can set the bird on the rack that came with the smoker.

Turkey Starting to Turn Golden Brown

The turkey is starting to build that golden brown color as the skin is rendering.
The turkey is starting to build that golden brown color as the skin is rendering.

One of the hardest things to do when using the Pit Barrel Cooker is keeping the lid on. It’s not because the lid falls off easily. It’s because everyone wants to look under the hood to see how the Pit Barrel functions. When you pull that lid off as the smoke and steam is rising, your food is suspended over a live fire cooking the way man has done it for thousands of years. It’s so simple, yet so effective.

Crack the Lid for Crispy Skin on Your Smoked Turkey

Crack the lid on your Pit Barrel Cooker to increase the temperature the last thirty minutes for a crispier skin.
Crack the lid on your Pit Barrel Cooker to increase the temperature the last thirty minutes for a crispier skin.

There are a few tricks you learn over time when using the Pit Barrel Cooker. I have been using this smoker going on almost seven years, and it is one of the most enjoyable cookers I have ever owned. It could be because there is no better bang for your buck smoker on the market today.

One of these simple tricks is to crack the lid on your Pit Barrel Cooker for the last thirty minutes of the cook. This will raise the internal temperature of the smoker around 50-75 degrees which will help to tighten up the exterior of the turkey for that bite through skin. Bite through skin on any bird is one of the hardest things to achieve while making sure the breast meat is still moist.

Turkey is Done with Beautiful Dark Brown Skin

Use your insulated BBQ gloves when removing your turkey. We use the Pit Grips Glove by Pit Barrel Cooker Co.
Use your insulated BBQ gloves when removing your turkey. We use the Pit Grips Glove by Pit Barrel Cooker Co.

There is no better way to remove the turkey from the pit than with your hands. The Turkey Hanger Accessory is designed to be grabbed right in the center. If you are cooking a larger turkey, you may need to pull back one of the rebar when removing the turkey. We use the Pit Barrel Cooker Pit Grips Gloves which work great for grabbing hot hooks, turkey hangers, and rebar. They are well insulated and flexible, so you still can grab items without any issues.

The turkey got some amazing color with the Pit Barrel Cooker and their All-purpose Seasoning.
The turkey got some amazing color with the Pit Barrel Cooker and their All-purpose Seasoning.

We cooked the turkey to an internal temperature of 165F using our instant read thermometer. Total cook time was around 4 hours, but your mileage may vary depending on how big your turkey is and what your bottom vent is set at. Remember to crack the lid at least the last 30 minutes of the cook to render out the skin. A good time to start would be around the 2 1/2-3 hour mark if your meat is starting to temp around 145F-150F.

Slice Your Turkey and Get Ready for Compliments

Moist, tender turkey breast meat cooked on the Pit Barrel Cooker
Moist, tender turkey breast meat cooked on the Pit Barrel Cooker

If you’re not one for compliments, then don’t buy a Pit Barrel Cooker. If you love compliments, then definitely buy a Pit Barrel Cooker. With any other cooker, you are begging for compliments. With the Pit Barrel, they come at you from all angles like you are under attack. The food that comes off this magical little barrel is so good it’s hard to believe. Moist and flavorful meats with a set it and forget it design that allows you to go play golf or take a boat cruise.

When you combine that with what it cost to purchase the unit, it’s even more unbelievable. The Pit Barrel Cooker is one of those fly under the radar products that will surprise the heck out of you. Just when you thought you had to spend thousands to produce awesome smoked foods, another person walks up and places their hand on your shoulder and says “Fine job sir, I couldn’t have done it any better”.

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