Joni Woolf: Marshall’s smoked turkey — a special Thanksgiving treat

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Every Thanksgiving since I’ve moved to the country and invited the world to my home, I’ve prepared a turkey in the traditional way — putting it in the oven after adding salt, pepper, and celery and onion in the cavity — and baking till done. I use the drippings as part of the stock for the dressing, which I have already prepared and frozen. I wrote about this last year, when I was freezing dressing, in gallon-size baggies, for the first time. I am pleased to say it worked very well: all I had to do was remove it from the freezer three or four days in advance, place in the bottom of the refrigerator to thaw, and on Thanksgiving Day, add a cup or two of drippings from the turkey, and the dressing was ready to bake.
My turkey is good enough, and so is the dressing. But the turkey breasts that my son-in-law, Marshall Wooten, smokes, take turkey to another level. Following is his method.
On Thanksgiving Eve, on a smoker he cooks several turkey breasts (some of which he will give to friends). The turkey breasts are covered with a rub of seasoned salt, pepper and garlic. The smoker is prepared with charcoal and any available wood chips — limbs from old peach trees in my yard are best, but sometimes he uses pecan and oak chips. The turkey breasts sit on the second rack of the smoker, under a Boston butt or shoulder, so that all that wonderful fat from the pork keeps the turkey breasts moist and increases their flavor. The temperature of the smoker is kept between 250 and 275 degrees F. for around four hours. The pork takes a little longer, and is left on the smoker another two hours. When done, the turkey breasts are immediately wrapped in foil, locking in moisture and flavor. After cooling, they are stored in the refrigerator, then removed in time to reach room temperature and slice for Thanksgiving dinner.
All the Thanksgiving meats are served on the kitchen island: roast turkey, smoked turkey, baked cured ham and the smoked Boston butt or shoulder that was cooked over the turkey. Late that evening, when someone wants a sandwich, they come looking for the tender, tasty smoked turkey, hoping that a few slices remain. With luck, they’ll find some of Lee Harris’s focaccia bread, add a little lettuce and tomato, or even some cranberry sauce, and make a memorable Thanksgiving evening sandwich. It is one of my favorite meals of the weekend. Most folks have gone home; just family remain. We are pleasantly tired, perhaps sipping a last glass of wine.
Another Thanksgiving on Bumphead Road will have passed with family coming from all over the country for this once-a-year get-together. There will be adult children and their spouses,  aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends of all sorts and conditions. And I will give thanks that, once again, I have been fortunate to be here for this feast of family, feast of friends, feast of harvest.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at