Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Smoke-Roasted Turkey with Cognac Herb Butter

Recipe by Steven Raichlen


  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10
  • Method: Smoke-roasting
  • Equipment: Butcher’s string; 3 cups of hardwood chips, such as hickory, oak, pecan, apple, or Best of Barbecue Poultry Blend, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drained; instant-read meat thermometer
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For the Cognac Herb Butter:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, including sage, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, chives, thyme, marjoram, or chervil (use at least 3)
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the turkey:

  • 1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds), thawed if frozen
  • 6 whole sage leaves (optional)
  • Smoked Turkey Jus (optional)

Step 1: Make the Cognac Herb Butter: In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and herbs and beat with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Beat in the cognac and lemon zest; add salt and pepper to taste. (You can make the Cognac Herb Butter ahead and refrigerate or freeze it, but let it come to room temperature before using it.) Set aside.

Step 2: Rinse the turkey, inside and out, with cold running water. Blot dry with paper towels. Remove the giblets, if any, and any large lumps of fat from the main cavity. (Reserve the giblets for another use.)

Step 3: Starting at the top of the neck cavity, tunnel your finger under the skin. Start with one finger, then two. Gently loosen the skin from the meat, taking care not to tear it. Gradually work your whole hand under the skin, loosening it from the breast meat, then the thighs.

Step 4: Spoon 3/4 of the Cognac Herb Butter under the skin and use your hands to distribute it as evenly as possible. (Massaging the outside of the bird will help distribute the butter.) If desired, position 3 sage leaves under the skin on each half breast. Fold the wings behind the back. Truss the turkey with butcher’s string, or at least tie the legs together to prevent moisture loss. Season the outside with salt and pepper. Reserve the remaining butter to use for basting.

Step 5: Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 325 to 350 degrees. For a smoke flavor, toss 1-1/2 cups of wood chips on the coals. (If using a gas grill, place the chips in the smoker box or make a foil smoking pouch.)

Step 6: Smoke-roast the turkey for 1 hour. Baste the turkey with some of the reserved Cognac Herb Butter. Add more chips to the coals if using. Continue smoke-roasting the bird for 1-1/2 to 2 hours more, basting every 30 minutes, until the skin is a dark golden brown and the meat is cooked through. The internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh when read on an instant-read meat thermometer should be 160 degrees. (The temperature will rise as the turkey rests.) If the skin starts to brown too much, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the bird.

Step 7: Carefully transfer the turkey to a cutting board or platter and baste with the Cognac Herb Butter one final time. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with Smoked Turkey Jus, if desired.

Tips:

For wood chips, try the Best of Barbecue Poultry Blend.