Smoked Vs Roasted Turkey [Nutrition & Side Dish Options]

There are few things more mouth-watering than the thought of a delicious, plump turkey. The rich, flavorful meat, with an abundance of side-dishes, makes for a filling and satisfying meal.

Turkey is famously used for holiday celebrations, but it is delectable any time of the year. There are several ways to prepare turkey, but two of the most popular ways are roasting and smoking.

Smoked and roasted turkeys have basically the same nutritional value, although there are 9 more calories and 0.1 more grams of fat for turkey that has been coated in oil or butter before roasting.

Both forms of turkey are delicious, and pair well with several different side dishes. However, smoked turkey takes longer to prepare, and produces a more robust flavor than roasted turkey. It takes about 30 minutes per pound to smoke a turkey. On the other hand, roasted turkey takes half the time, and produces a crisp, flavorful skin. The flavor is subtler, but is also more traditional.

Is There A Difference In Taste?

Smoked turkey typically has a stronger, smokier flavor than roasted turkey. During the smoking process the turkey absorbs the flavor of the smoke, and takes on a deep, woody flavor.

Smoked turkey also tends to be more tender, due to the slower cooking time.

Although smoked turkey has a richer flavor, roasted turkey has a crispier skin and a more distinct, traditional taste.

Do They Look The Same?

There is a slight difference in the appearances of a smoked and roasted turkey. A roasted turkey will have a darker, more pliable skin.

The turkey itself will have a slightly pink color, just under the skin.

The skin of a roasted turkey will be golden brown and crispy. The breast meat will be white, and the meat on the legs and thighs will be dark done.

Which Is Healthier: A Smoked Turkey Or A Roasted Turkey?

Turkey is a healthy meat choice. It is high in protein, and provides essential vitamins such as Vitamins B3, B6, and B12, as well as minerals such as zinc and selenium.

The nutritional information for the meat itself is the same, no matter how it is prepared.

However, if there is oil or butter added to the skin of a roasted turkey, the calorie and fat content will be slightly higher than that of a smoked turkey prepared without oil or butter.

Per 2 oz ServingSmoked TurkeyRoasted Turkey (with oil)
Fat0.9 g1 g
Fiber3.5 g3.5 g
Protein8.8 g8.8 g

Preparing The Turkey For Smoking Or Roasting

To have the most flavorful meat, many choose to prepare the turkey before cooking it, no matter what method is used.

This is done by soaking the turkey in a brining solution that typically consists of liquid and spices.

  1. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed. The safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. It takes one day for every four pounds of meat.
  2. Fill a large container with the brining solution. Make sure the solution stays chilled throughout the brining process.
  3. Soak the raw, thawed meat in the liquid for 12 to 24 hours.
raw turkey

Next, the turkey is seasoned. This can be done with butter, oil, spices, vegetables, fruit, or herbs. Once the meat is prepared, it is time to cook.

How To Smoke A Turkey

Smoking a turkey involves placing the seasoned turkey in a covered barbeque or smoker, with wood chips, pellets, or charcoal that will create smoke and heat.

The most common woods to use are hickory, apple, or cherry wood.

The turkey is cooked for a long time, at a low temperature, allowing the smoke to permeate the meat and give a strong, unique flavor.

  1. Fill a pan with water and place it underneath the grill. This will help provide moisture, and will also catch any drippings.
  2. Preheat the barbeque or smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Place the turkey on top of the grill and secure the lid in place.

Check the turkey often to make sure there is water in the pan, and to test the temperature.

The turkey should take about 30 minutes per pound to be fully cooked. The internal temperature needs to reach 170 degrees.

Once the turkey has cooked through, remove it from the grill. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes, then slice and enjoy.

While it is important to make sure the turkey is roasted to the right temperature, it is also important to not check the meat too often.

For best results, the smoke needs to stay inside the cooker for as long as possible, and opening the smoker to test the temperature not only allows the smoke to escape, but also lowers the cooking temperature.

The best way to solve this problem is with a digital thermometer. The thermometer can stay in the turkey the entire time, and give an accurate, hands-off reading.

How To Roast A Turkey

Roasting a turkey involves placing the seasoned turkey inside an oven and letting it cook at low heat until it is cooked through.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place the turkey inside of a roasting pan, with the breast of the turkey facing upwards.
  3. Tuck the wings under the turkey to help stabilize it in the pan.
  4. Put the uncovered turkey into the center of the oven.
  5. Close the oven door, and let the turkey roast.
  6. When the turkey has reached the desired temperature, remove the turkey and let it rest for up to 30 minutes before slicing.

When the turkey is about two-thirds of the way through cooking, check to make sure the turkey breast is not getting too brown.

If it is, simply over the top of the turkey with foil, or with the lid to a roasting pan.

What To Serve With A Smoked Turkey

Smoked turkey has a rich, barbeque flavor, and is often served with sides that have a southern or barbeque flair.

Green beans with bacon is a fun and flavorful side dish for smoked turkey.

  1. Cook bacon to desired crispness, and set aside.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic.
  3. Add everything to the pan, add green beans, and cook until the green beans are tender.

Corn casserole is another classic side for smoked turkey.

  1. Combine cornbread mix, canned corn, creamed corn, sour cream, eggs and butter.
  2. Bake the ingredients together at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.Smoked Turkey

What To Serve With A Roasted Turkey

A roasted turkey is a traditional meal, and is often served with traditional holiday meal sides.

Green bean casserole is a very popular side dish.

  1. Mix together canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and chopped water chestnuts.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
  3. Add fried onion pieces to the top, and bake for ten additional minutes.

Stuffing is a traditional side dish for a roasted turkey. Although it can be prepared outside of the bird, stuffing is traditionally cooked inside the empty cavity of the turkey. It usually consists of bread, vegetables, and sometimes sausage.

  1. Break a loaf of white bread and a loaf of brown bread into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.
  2. In a sauce pan, sauté one chopped onion and two stalks of celery, chopped.
  3. Add poultry seasoning to the bread, then mix the sauteed vegetables into the bread.
  4. If desired, add sausage.
  5. Add chicken broth to moisten the bread and mix the ingredients together.
  6. Stuff the ingredients into the cavity of the turkey before roasting.

Smoked turkeys should not be cooked with stuffing, as it is roasted at too low of a temperature to safely cook the stuffing.

What To Serve With Either A Smoked Or Roasted Turkey

Mashed potatoes are an excellent side to either form of turkey. In fact, there is nothing quite as classic as turkey and a large mound of mashed potatoes with butter.

Although mashed potatoes can be prepared with skins on the potatoes, the classic look is achieved by peeling the potatoes and then boiling them.

  1. Peel potatoes, cut them into uniform pieces, and place them into a pot.
  2. Fill the pot with water, and boil the potatoes. It should take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.
  3. When they are soft, add butter and milk, and mash them together.
  4. Add salt to taste.

Candied sweet potatoes can also be enjoyed alongside a smoked or roasted turkey.

  1. Melt ¼ cup butter in a pan.
  2. Add cooked sweet potatoes one cup of brown sugar.
  3. Mix the potatoes and sugar together until the sugar is melted. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish.
  4. Top with marshmallows, and place the dish under the broiler for about one minute until the marshmallows are browned.

Macaroni and cheese is a rich and comforting dish, and is the perfect partner for turkey.

  1. Cook 8 ounces of macaroni.
  2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine 3 cups milk, 2 cups shredded cheese, cheese, and 1/3 cup flour.
  3. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until a thick sauce forms.
  4. Combine the sauce with the cooked macaroni, and transfer to a baking dish.
  5. Top with bread crumbs, and bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes.

Gravy can be made with the drippings from either a smoked or roasted turkey.

  1. Combine turkey drippings and two cups of chicken broth.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
  3. Meanwhile, use a separate bowl to combine two tablespoons cornstarch with ¼ cup cold water.
  4. Add the cornstarch mixture to the broth. Stir until thickened, and add salt to taste.

Gravy is delicious not only on the turkey itself, but also on mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Finally, no turkey meal is complete without cranberry sauce.

  1. Make a simple syrup of once cup water and once cup sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add 12 ounces of cranberries, and boil until all of the cranberries have popped.
  3. Mash the cranberries until they are the desired consistency.
  4. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, and then serve chilled.

Final Words

There are benefits and drawbacks to either method of cooking the turkey.

Smoked turkeys take longer than roasted turkeys, and require more attention to make sure the smoker is staying at the right temperature and that the turkey is cooking.

However, smoking the turkey frees up the oven for other uses, fills the yard with a delightful aroma, and provides a rich and robust flavor.

Roasting the turkey does not produce as strong of a flavor, heats up the house, and monopolizes the oven.

However, it is quicker, gives the option of cooking stuffing inside the bird, and gives the entire house a traditional turkey dinner smell.

Whether the turkey is smoked or roasted, it is a delicious lean protein, and an excellent and healthy way to feed a large group of people.

The side dishes complete the meal and invoke a traditional, comforting feeling.

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