4th of July with Pastrami Smoked Turkey

“Turkey?!?” I gasped when the idea of a 4 July BBQ was tossed around.  But as a practical matter it made sense.  With the fields beginning to show abundance, this is a time to make space in the chest freezer.  Farmer Martha had a bird stashed away and so why not?

And then again, Benjamin Franklin had argued for the turkey as the symbol of the United States: “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. …For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true and original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a Red Coat on.”

So maybe turkey really does belong on the 4 July menu, but roasting was out of the question.  This is grill season.  Smoking the whole bird seemed a savory solution and – never having tried anything like this before – I adapted two recipes from Steven Raichlen’s “Barbecue! Bible”.

Not being sure the weight of the bird, I mixed up a pastrami dry rub by taking:

6 Tablespoons coriander seeds

Toast them and then grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, and combine with:

6 Tablespoons cracked black peppercorns

12 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, toasted

1 Tablespoon ground ancho chili

1/2 Cup kosher salt

1/2 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Cup sweet paprika

2 Tablespoons ground ginger

Mix the ingredients well, and then cover the bird completely, including beneath the skin on the breast, with the rub.  Wrap the turkey and let it cure for 24 hours.

Before smoking, mix up an injector sauce using:

1/2 Cup chicken broth

3 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 Teaspoon of the pastrami rub

Put everything in a sauce pan and heat just until the butter melts.  Then using a kitchen syringe, inject the turkey at the drumsticks, thighs, and three or four places on both breasts.

I don’t have a smoker, and in a fit of frugality years ago I purchased the 18.5″ Weber Grill instead of the larger model.  Today, the size really made a problem as the bird just was too big for the indirect smoking set-up.  The bird was too close to the coals

and the top wouldn’t fit.  So I tried to adapt with foil.

The apple wood smoke was intense and the air flow too great.  The temperature roared.  After 45 minutes I opened the lid and the side closest to the flames was getting charred.  Egads!  I finished it in the oven at 350 degrees for about one and one-half hours, until the internal temp was 175.

I am hoping that the injector sauce helped keep it from drying out but I won’t know how it all turned out until the picnic.

3 Comments on “4th of July with Pastrami Smoked Turkey”

  1. Mom says:

    Hysterical. Sure looks good !!!

  2. barbara says:

    you are amazing. and it is making me hungry!!!! dang i wish i could amble over for american bird on the fourth of july. or the fifth. or the sixth….

  3. Love the Yankee ingenuity, and the shot of the big turkey in the little grill, didn’t Julia Child teach the art of great cooking basted with a great sense of humor? I want a slice, please…it looks really good. 🙂 M

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