Sultan of Smoke

Impress Thanksgiving guests with a perfectly seasoned and cooked bird.

So you’ve mastered the art of creating a crispy skin, and you’ve done the fancy mushroom gravy. Alex Benes, a French Culinary Institute-trained chef, mans the kitchen at Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Agoura Hills. Here he shares his recipe for the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey rub, as well as some tips for uniformly moist meat.


Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill’s Thanksgiving Turkey Rub



  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder



Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Rub the cavity of the turkey with the seasonings. Lift the skin of the turkey (wherever possible) and rub the meat, especially the breasts, with the spices. Brush the entire exterior of the bird with olive oil and lemon, and then lightly apply the rub to the outside.



Roast a 12- to 14-pound turkey at about 325°. It takes about three hours for the bird to fully cook and reach 165°. Use a thermometer to monitor when turkey hits that internal temperature. If you are smoking the bird, you can go “low and slow” at about 250º, but 325º works well too.



The breast meat of the turkey—the white meat—has less fat than the dark meat and cooks faster. Get the whole bird to cook more evenly and keep the breast meat moist by putting an ice pack on the breast just before you put the turkey in the oven. Leave the ice pack on for 15 to 30 minutes. This will chill the breast meat, causing it to take longer to cook.




It looks a bit foreign—both throwback and futuristic—but the Big Green Egg is the tool many food connoisseurs use to smoke meat. TV chef Jeffrey Saad owns one.

“When I first got it, I loaded up the beautiful, random-shaped chunks of charred wood—no briquettes in these babies!—and stoked it up to 800º+,” he says. “I gathered the family around and slid my perfectly risen pizza dough topped with goodies onto the pizza stone (a terrific optional insert). I opened it up three minutes later, and there was a pile of ashes! Got that out of my system. Now I nail a perfect, Naples-style bubbly crust every time (at 650°).”

He continues, “I love the Egg for slow-roasted pork butt—takes about 8 hours. It is also great for serious restaurant-style seared steaks. I put 2-inch thick N.Y. or rib eyes on, and they get a beautiful, deep golden—1/3-inch salt-and-pepper crust on the outside while maintaining a perfect, juicy medium rare center.”

Jeffrey recommends the largest size Egg because it has more surface area to cook on. “I can have the lump coal stacked on one side to achieve two levels of heat,” he says. “Veggies can cook on the cooler side while the steak is charring on the hotter side.”



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