Happy Smoked Turkey Day From Wisconsin! We do things a little differently than the traditional baked turkey. We love to smoke ours in the Orion Smoker. If you’ve never had smoked turkey before, then you’re missing out! It’s crispy on the outside, but tender, moist, and juicy on the inside. You may be asking, “what is an Orion”? An Orion Smoker is an outdoor stainless steel charcoal-fired convection oven. It uses three cooking methods at the same time: convection, steam, and smoke (optional). This cooking process is quick and the food turns out great. The Orion Cooker can cook a 20 pound turkey quickly ( about 2 1/2 hours) and works just as well for other meats, including chicken, ribs, brisket, and seafood.
As you can see, this Orion Smoker has been well used. When new, they are a pretty and a very shiny stainless steel. After a few uses of charcoal and heat, it loses its luster. But don’t worry, it still cooks the same. The top part with the handles is the lid that you lift off to place the food, dripping catch pan, cooking grates, or brackets to hang ribs.
What Comes with the Orion
Since this great convection/smoker is able to cook many different types of food, it comes with all the accessories needed to cook it all. You can add to it as well. Say you want to cook a couple of whole chickens instead of one. You could purchase a couple of the small chicken roaster racks and cook two birds at one time.
The Orion comes with a poultry rack, lifting handle, and a dripping pan with handles. All the accessories are stainless steel and well made. They are thick, heavy, and seem like they could last a life time.
It also comes with three cooking grates and three rib holders. If you’re a rib lover, this cooker makes great ribs quickly. Some of the best I’ve ever had!
How I cook my Smoked Turkey
Cooking or smoking in the Orion is easy and lots of fun, but it’s going to require some good weather conditions if you’re going to cook with it on Thanksgiving morning. I always have a backup plan just in case the weather is not cooperating.
- 2-12.5 lb bag of Instant-Light Charcoal Briquettes. One bag for the Orion, one for back up. See notes below.
- Wood Chips for extra added flavor (this is optional). I use apple wood. See notes below.
- Liquid in the drip pan (I use apple cider) See notes below.
- Turkey up to 20 lbs
- Spices of choice (I use Weber’s Roasted Garlic & Herb seasoning) for my rub
- 1 stick of melted butter
- Apple cider (optional)
- 1 Onion (optional)
- 2 Apples (optional)
- Basting brush
- Cotton kitchen string
- Large cookie tray
- Lifting handle for lifting the turkey in and out of the Orion.
- The included poultry rack
- 1 of the included cooking grates
- Meat thermometer
Prepping the Orion
I like to prep the Orion before I dress my turkey so it doesn’t sit out as long.
- Take the drip pan and line it with aluminum foil. This will help with clean up.
- Place the lined pan in the bottom of the cooker.
- Place the wood chips between the side of the drip pan and the inside wall of the cooker. Do not place the wood chips underneath the drip pan. The heat from the outer charcoal ring will cause the chips to smolder when placed against the wall of the cooker. This will give your food that wonderful smoked flavor. The Orion manual does not recommend soaking the wood chips in water.
- Pour into the drip pan about 2 cups of apple cider. Cut up the two apples and the onion and place them into the drip pan. I do this for extra added flavor and it helps keep the turkey moist.
- Take one of the round cooking grates that comes with the Orion and place it above the drip pan. The poultry rack and turkey will sit on top.
- Empty one of the 12.5 lb bags of Instant-Light charcoal evenly in the outside ring of the cooker. Save about 10-12 briquettes for the top of the Orion.
Preparing The Turkey
- Take the poultry rack and set it on a cookie pan. You’ll use the pan to carry your turkey out to the Orion.
- Prepare the turkey. Melt a stick of butter or more if needed. Add in a tablespoon or more of the Weber Roasted Garlic & Herb seasoning and mix thoroughly.
- Use a basting brush and slather the butter herb mixture over the whole bird. Brush the inside as well.
- Place the turkey over the poultry rack.
- I like to tie the bird’s wings close to its body with some cotton kitchen twine. This way, the wings won’t touch the inside of the cooker and burn.
Lighting the Orion
- Using the included lifting handle, take the turkey on the poultry rack out to the Orion and place it inside the cylinder onto the cooking grate.
- Remove the lifting handle once the turkey is sitting on the cooking grate.
Once the turkey has been lowered into the Orion, place the lid on and add the remaining 10-12 briquettes into the upper charcoal ring. Then, light the charcoal in both the upper and lower charcoal rings. Once the charcoal is evenly lit, leave the cooker alone.
Cooking time for the turkey.
The turkey should be cooked for 7 minutes per pound. A whole turkey at 20 lbs cooks for right around 2 hours and 15 minutes. My 15 lb turkey is going to cook for around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Set your timer and let it go. While the bird is cooking, don’t be tempted to open the lid. Let it cook for the suggested time. If you remove the lid you’ll lose all the heat and it will take it a lot longer to cook. If it’s windy, you may need to add some extra charcoal to both charcoal rings to finish cooking.
Once the time is up, carefully remove the lid and check your bird with a meat thermometer. It should read 180 degrees. If it does, the turkey is cooked through and you can remove it from the cooker. Place it on a clean cookie sheet and bring it in the house and let it rest for around 10 minutes before carving.
- Types of wood chips that smoke well with turkey include: apple wood chips, cherry wood chips, maple wood chips, hickory wood chips, pear wood chips.
- The apple cider isn’t necessary, but I like to add it for extra flavor and moisture for the turkey. Most meats except for brisket don’t require the extra liquid when cooking in the Orion. Since I’m a bit of a rebel, I like to do my own thing and add what I want. You may find you don’t need the extra added apple cider.
- I like to have an extra bag of Instant-light charcoal in case it’s a windy day. Depending on the conditions, you may need to add in more charcoal to the charcoal rings. Wind will cause the coals to burn out faster, possibly before your turkey is done.
- When cleaning out the Orion, the manufacture recommends you wash the inside and out with hot water and Dawn dish soap.
Of all the ways I’ve cooked my turkeys on Thanksgiving, the Orion Convection Cooking/Smoker is by far my favorite!
The turkey is so moist and tender with a golden crisp on the outside. The smokiness and other flavors get infused into the meat because of the tightly enclosed cylinder and convection effect. Moisture from the apple cider and the bird itself can’t escape, so you get a nice and juicy turkey. If you’ve never smoked a turkey before, maybe give it a try. Do a test drive during the summer months so you can perfect your cooking technique for the Thanksgiving feast. I’d love to hear if you had a Happy Smoked Turkey Day as well.
I’m wishing you all a Happy Smoked Turkey Day From Wisconsin!