Pork-Crusted Turkey, Grill-Fried, and Delicious
Nailing that perfect smoked turkey isn’t easy for everyone. So many tips, tricks, and steps to master, but we have so little patience. Even if you do nail it, it’s just turkey. Most of us don’t enjoy a simple turkey. That’s why I wanted to elevate the idea by combining the core of fried-chicken into a grill-fried, pork-crusted turkey.
So what’s this pork?
Glad you asked, it’s pork rinds. These are similar to chicharrones, but instead, it’s just the pork skin that’s fried. I used a ground variation of the pork rinds, made by Pork Panko, which is similar to the size of panko bread crumbs. You can certainly buy a bag of pork rinds and throw them in the food processor, but honestly, it’s cheaper to buy the jar of pre-ground rinds. Also, way less effort!
Is this hard to make?
No, it’s not. Very little prep and stress.
I use a similar process to my previous recipe for Grill-Fried Chicken which essentially uses just a flavored oil and seasoned pork rinds. The main difference is that I dry-brine the turkey ahead of time.
Dry-brining is the key
Adding salt to the turkey the night before is going to draw out excess moisture, allowing the formation of that crispy skin we’re looking for. The salt will also penetrate into the turkey, ensuring much more flavor with the meat.
I recommend using the spatchcock process, removing the backbone and flattening the bird. If you try to smoke the turkey whole, with the Pork Panko crust, the bottom of the bird closest to the grates will most likely have a crust that could stick to the grill. You could even split the turkey into halves, or pieces, to create more areas for a pork-crusted surface.
Important Tips for Success
Cooking a turkey isn’t typically a linear path to success. I’ll give you a few tips along the way to maximize the experience for your family:
- Dry brine ahead of time: Salt the turkey and let it sit in the fridge, uncovered if possible, for at least 24 hours before you cook. This will draw out extra moisture, making the skin crispy. It will also add quite a bit of flavor to the turkey
- Sprinkle the Pork Panko seasoning from above: Sprinkle it down, and pat it on. Do not roll the turkey in the breading. You’ll have the most even coating if you do it this way.
- Foil those bones: Halfway through, put a little foil around the bones of the drumsticks. Optional, but they will get super dark if you don’t.
- 12–16 lb turkey
- Kosher salt (¼ tsp per pound)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups Pork Panko
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp dried sage
- 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
- Spatchcock the turkey. Do this by first removing the backbone with poultry shears. Cut a slit in the middle of the breastbone, and flip the turkey over so the breast is face-up. Press down firmly on the breastbone to crack it, flattening out the turkey. Pat everything dry and place on a baking sheet with a wire rack.
- Dry brine. Salt the turkey using about ¼ tsp per pound. Sprinkle the salt from above to make sure the entire turkey (both sides too) has been salted properly. Place in the fridge overnight, uncovered.
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
- Remove the turkey from the fridge and gently pat down any moisture on the outside. Combine the Pork Panko and spices in a separate bowl. Brush the turkey all over on the top with the oil and then sprinkle the turkey with the Pork Panko spice mix. (You do not need to coat the underside with Pork Panko, this will not keep it’s integrity when trimming). I recommend sprinkling it from above, and gently patting it into the skin with your hand. Do not mash the seasoning onto the turkey, it may clump.
- Smoke the turkey, which will take an estimate of 30 minutes per pound. About halfway through, place foil on the end of the drumstick bones to prevent them from getting a burnt appearance. Cook until the breast meat registers at least 165°F.
- Allow the turkey to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. I like to place the hot turkey on top of fresh herbs, which adds an aromatic experience.
You can use the same principles for individual pieces, such as turkey legs or breast. Just make sure you cook to the preferred temp for white meat and dark meat.
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Category: Turkey
- Method: smoking
- Cuisine: Holiday meal
Keywords: holiday recipe, turkey, poultry