Can I Still Call Them Leftovers?
Two weeks ago a friend informed me that the local grocery store had begun their annual turkey sale. It was a brief reminder from him not to let the opportunity to save on my Thanksgiving turkey slip by me. A few days later, I ran by that grocery store with the express intent of picking up a turkey.
I knew when I was shopping that my wife and I weren’t going to be at home for Thanksgiving dinner. Karen has a sister who lives about 25 miles north of us, and they host the holiday meal at their house. So, we did not NEED a turkey for Thanksgiving.
But …. My favorite part of the Thanksgiving turkey is leftovers. Turkey sandwiches the days following Thanksgiving are amazing. Because we will be eating at someone else’s house, there won’t be any leftovers for those sandwiches. So a couple of years ago, I began smoking a turkey specifically to have meat for those favorite sandwiches. I know, I can’t really call it leftovers if the turkey was not used for the Thanksgiving meal, but that’s really splitting hairs, isn’t it?
The turkey sandwiches I love are pretty simple. I love soft pieces of bread (with it being only my wife and I at home, we usually freeze our bread when we buy it, then thaw only what we are using). But for Thanksgiving, I buy a fresh loaf of bread and do not freeze it. From there it is simply mayonnaise, garlic salt, and turkey. This may sound pretty boring, but I actually look forward to these sandwiches all year.
For a few years I smoked a turkey breast to prepare my post-Thanksgiving sandwiches with. But, I realized my wife is a much bigger fan of dark meat than white meat, so I was being a little bit selfish. I usually try to find a smaller turkey, but my only choices this year from the turkeys on sale were all 20 pound turkeys.
Because it is 20 pounds, I’ll take the turkey out of the freezer on the Friday before Thanksgiving, put it on a cookie sheet, and place it in the refrigerator to thaw. The turkey is “pre-brined” with added liquid, so I will only use a dry brine this year. On Wednesday morning, I will put a simple salt-based rub (usually a combination of salt, garlic salt, and pepper) on the exterior of the turkey then put it back in the refrigerator until Thursday morning.
When I remove the turkey on Thursday morning, the first thing I will do is spatchcock it (basically, removing the backbone), and then flatten it by pressing down on it to crack the breast bone. This allows the turkey to sit fairly flat and to smoke evenly. I will then apply a flavorful low-salt rub (we already used a good bit of salt in the dry rub).
I set my smoker up at 275 degrees and use a lighter-flavored wood to provide the smoke (I usually use pecan or cherry wood). The turkey will smoke until the deepest part of the breast records 165 degrees (usually 3 to 4 hours depending on the size of the turkey). I use a temperature probe to monitor the turkey temperature the entire time, but you can just spot check with an instant read thermometer.
Because I am smoking this turkey specifically for sandwiches, I don’t try too hard to crisp up the skin. If I were serving it for Thanksgiving dinner, I would probably brush it with melted butter several times during the cook.
Hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving together. If you have a favorite food that is part of your Thanksgiving tradition, let me hear about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Robby Richardson