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Whole Turkey - Self-Basting

Originally posted: 11/01/2003
Last updated: 02/21/2014

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America's favorite: The Butterball self-basted turkey
America's favorite: The Butterball self-basted turkey

 

Barbecued self-basted whole turkey
Barbecued self-basted whole turkey

This is probably the easiest and most foolproof way to cook a turkey in the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Best of all, it requires no attention to the cooker's temperature.

Click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.


What You'll Need For This Recipe

Important: This recipe may not turn out well if you do not use Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes and a Weber Chimney Starter for measuring the amount of charcoal used.

The amount of charcoal used in this recipe is overkill, but it ensures that no matter what the conditions, your WSM will run nice and hot, and you won't run out of fuel before the chicken is cooked. You can experiment with using less fuel the next time you cook this recipe.

 

Choose The Smoke Wood

Each smoke wood chunk should be small, for example 3" x 2" x 2" or similar.

Use three chunks of apple wood, if available. Cherry, oak, or another mild fruit wood can be used if apple is not available.

Do not use hickory or mesquite for this recipe.

There is no need to soak the wood or remove the bark before use.

Learn More Later: All About Smoke Woods

Buy A Self-Basting Turkey

Frozen Butterball self-basted turkey
Photo 1
Text indicating the turkey is self-basting
Photo 2
     

Holiday turkey barbecue tipsChoose a self-basting turkey weighing 12-14 pounds. Look for the phrase "basted" or "self-basted" on the label and the phrase, "Contains up to x% of a solution to enhance juiciness and tenderness" or something similar.

When we think of self-basting turkeys, the famous Butterball brand turkey is the first to come to mind—America's best-selling turkey for over 45 years. However, you'll find other name brand and store brand self-basting turkeys at the supermarket of similar quality and perhaps lower price.

Note that Butterball also makes a fresh (not frozen) turkey that's not self-basting. Remember, look for "Contains up to X% of a solution" on the label to make sure you're getting a self-basting turkey.

Prepare The Turkey

Thaw according to the package directions. Remove and discard any leg restraint, then remove the giblets from the neck cavity and the neck from the body cavity. Trim away large areas of fat or excess skin around the body cavity, and cut off the tail (if attached). Rinse thoroughly inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.

Tuck the wing tips under the bird so they're out of the way.

Learn More Later: Turkey Selection & Preparation

Season The Turkey

Sprinkle a generous amount of your favorite barbecue rub inside the turkey's neck cavity and body cavity.

Apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the outside of the turkey and sprinkle with rub to your liking.

If you don't have a favorite homemade rub, a store-bought product like Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning is a good choice and is available in most supermarkets.

Allow the seasoned turkey to sit at room temperature while firing up the cooker.

Foil The Water Pan

Foiled water pan
Photo 3
       

Cover the inside and outside of the water pan with wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. See Turkey Selection & Preparation for tips on how to foil the pan to collect drippings for gravy without burning them.

Fire The Cooker

 

Newspaper donut
Photo 4
Two newspaper donuts inside chimney starter
Photo 5
Lighting the chimney starter
Photo 6
Flames licking at coals at top of chimney
Photo 7
Hot coals spread in charcoal chamber
Photo 8
Additional unlit briquettes spread over hot charcoal
Photo 9
Charcoal ready to cook and smoke wood added
Photo 10
     

Light a full Weber chimney starter of Kingsford charcoal briquettes:

  • Loosely roll a double-wide sheet of newspaper on the diagonal from the upper left corner to the lower right corner. Bring the ends together to form a circle that fits inside the bottom of the chimney (Picture 1). Repeat with a second sheet of newspaper.
  • Put the rolled newspaper in the bottom of the chimney (Picture 2).
  • Place the chimney on the charcoal grate and fill to the top with briquettes. Light the newspaper in several locations with a long match or a butane lighter (Picture 3). Two sheets of newspaper is usually sufficient to get things started under normal conditions. If not, repeat the process with additional sheets of newspaper.
  • It will take 15-20 minutes for the coals to light. You'll know they're ready when flames are licking at the briquettes at the top of the chimney and they're just starting to turn gray (Picture 4).

Spread the hot coals evenly over the charcoal grate (Picture 5).

Measure another 1/2 chimney of unlit briquettes and spread them evenly over the hot coals (Picture 6).

When all the briquettes are covered with gray ash, place the smoke wood chunks on top of the coals (Picture 7).

Now assemble the cooker:

  • Put the empty water pan in the middle cooking section.
  • Insert the middle cooking section into the charcoal bowl.
  • Put the top cooking grate in place.

You're now ready to cook!

Learn More Later: Firing Up Your Weber Bullet and How To Use A Chimney Starter

Cook The Turkey

Turkey sprinkled with rub
Photo 11
       

Place the turkey breast-side up on the top grate. Set the lid vent and the three bottom vents 100% open and leave them that way throughout the entire cooking process.

Cook the turkey until it measures 160-165°F in the breast, 170-175°F in the thigh. Depending on the turkey and weather conditions, this may take 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Start checking internal temperature at the 2 hour mark.

There's no need to baste the turkey during the cooking process. You may wish to rotate the turkey 180° after 1 hour for even cooking, but this isn't usually necessary, either.

Serve The Turkey

Barbecued self-basting turkey
Photo 12
       

Remove the turkey from the cooker. Let rest uncovered for 20 minutes before carving. Do not cover with foil, as this will cause the skin to go soft.

Learn More Later: See Turkey Selection & Preparation for carving tips and solving common turkey problems like dry meat and undercooked thighs.

More Turkey Links On TVWB

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