Top Turkey Tips from Lowcountry Pitmaster Anthony DiBernardo from Charleston’s Swig & Swine
One of South Carolina’s favorite pitmasters, Anthony DiBernardo from Swig & Swine in Charleston shares his best tips for adding wood-smoked flavor to your Thanksgiving table.
About Swig & Swine
In the West Ashley neighborhood of Charleston, you’ll find one of the Holy City’s favorite places to grab wood smoked barbeque, brews and bourbon. Opened in 2013, Swig & Swine keeps guests coming back with a wide-ranging menu that includes barbecue classics like pit smoked pork, chicken and ribs as well as rotating seasonal items and specials. An eclectic list of bourbons and over sixty craft beer offerings provide thirsty diners with almost unlimited options to pair with the restaurant’s famous flavors.
Led by Pitmaster Anthony DiBernardo, Swig & Swine has earned its place as a top low country barbecue spot. DiBernardo, a New Jersey native, found his way to Charleston by way of a deep dive into the port city. A former Navy man, he once served aboard a submarine where he worked as a cook. After leaving the service, DiBernardo continued his culinary career at Blossom Café. Earning a reputation for dedication and creativity, he advanced to Executive Chef at Kiawah Island Resort and has also spent time in the kitchens of Mustard Seed and Rita’s.
DiBernardo’s passion for pit barbecue led him to a collaboration with Queen Street Hospitality, and the result is Swig & Swine. The focus of the restaurant is all-wood smoked meat, with an eye toward local flavor. DiBernardo rotates a seasonal menu and works with local producers to offer guests the freshest ingredients the Lowcountry has to offer. South Carolina’s favorite hog farm, Holy City Hogs, makes special appearances on the Swig & Swine menu. The restaurant takes care in selecting its ingredients and “believe[s] that nothing is a substitute for hard work and long hours, so we cook our barbecue low and slow, savoring all the natural juices and locking in that iconic smoked flavor.”
With Thanksgiving around the corner, we sat down with Anthony DiBernardo to talk turkey. His preferred cooking method begins with wood and ends with a perfectly juicy bird with crisp, smoky skin. Read on to discover his ten tips for smoking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
Tip #1 // Fresh Is Best
Fresh, not frozen. Hit up your local butcher and splurge a little. If you start with the best quality, you end with the best quality. Plus you won’t have to worry about defrosting.
Tip #2 // Safety First
Handle your bird safely. This is raw poultry, so handle accordingly.
Tip #3 // Don’t Stuff Your Bird
You’ll want the smoke to penetrate the cavity too.
Tip #4 // Save that Flavor for Later
Put a drip pan under your bird. This will catch the drippings to use later for gravy, which is a staple of Thanksgiving and should not be skipped over!
Tip #5 // By the Numbers
Use a digital thermometer. Fast and accurate readings means less time spent with your smoker open while getting a reliable temperature reading.
Tip #6 // No Peeking
Don’t always check it. If you’re looking, you’re not cooking!
Tip #7 // Keep the Freeze Out
If you experience cold temperatures in your region during your cook, try using an old blanket to help insulate your cooker and maintain consistent cooking temps.
Tip #8 // Give it a Rest
Let the bird rest. It’s best to let your turkey sit for about 30 minutes after cooking. So, when carving, the juices stay in the meat and not all over the table.
Tip #9 // Degrees of Doneness
Some pink is OK – Don’t worry if your bird is a little bit pink on the inside, it’s a natural process of cooking / smoking. As long as the temp is at 165°, you’re okay.
Tip #10 // Food is Fun
Have fun! We smoke meats because we love it, take pride in it and, ultimately, because it tastes great. This isn’t a competition, it’s Thanksgiving! Have a beer, spend time with family, laugh it up and enjoy the holiday. It’s okay if not everything is perfect.
Thanks to Swig & Swine for sharing an insider’s guide to the ultimate smoked Thanksgiving turkey. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a roasted, golden skinned turkey emerging from an oven, but if you want to add authentic Southern flavor, there is no substitute for the warm, smoky taste of wood burnt goodness.
Swig & Swine is located at 1217 Savannah Highway, Charleston, South Carolina. They can be reached by phone at 843-228-3805 or find them on the web at swigandswinebbq.com.