06 November, 2013
It's that time of year again, so let's talk turkey, or more importantly, smoked turkey.
I like a fresh smaller bird in the 10 – 12 pound range. (Frozen will work, but give it ample time to thaw in the refrigerator. This can take several days) The smaller birds will cook a little faster and seem to be more tender and juicy. Look for a bird that is not "enhanced" or "kosher" as these turkeys contain extra salt added at the factory.
The next step is to brine the bird. (Brining is the process of submerging a protein in a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices in order to create a juicer and more flavorful product) I prefer a cold brine where the ingredients are mixed in cold water. My basic recipe is listed below.
1 Cup Kosher Salt
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Garlic Powder
2 Cups Pinneapple Juice
3-4 Quarts Water (enough to cover bird)
The turkey needs to be submerged in the brine for 10-14 hours. A small cooler, large ziplock bag, or bucket works well. I prefer the small 2 gallon buckets available at Home Depot or Lowes. They come with a lid and fit nicely into the fridge. I typically put the dry ingredients in the bucket, add the pineapple juice, water, and then whisk thoroughly to ensure spices are dissolved. Put the bird breast side down, and immediately place in the fridge.
When the brine is complete, RINSE THE BIRD THOROUGHLY or it will be overly salty. Pat down the bird with a paper towel.
Slather the turkey with ranch dressing. (use the real stuff, no low fat substitutions).
Season liberally with Classic Cruiser. For a bird with a kick, add some Petal to the Metal to the top. Make sure you work the seasoning under the skin and directly onto the meat wherever possible.
Get your smoker temp to 275 or 300. For poultry, I prefer to use "lighter" woods such as apple or peach, however, oak, hickory, and pecan will also work. (I'd suggest staying away from mesquite for this cook) Put the turkey in a foil or roasting pan breast side up and smoke bird uncovered for about 1 hour. Add some apple juice (about 3 cups) to bottom of pan, cover with foil, and cook an additional 2 hours. (I actually start checking the bird around the 2.5 hour mark to make sure it's not moving along faster than expected)
The absolute KEY to a great bird, is cooking it to the proper internal temperature. For poultry, the breast needs to read 165 degrees in order to be safe. I rely on either my Maverick ET732 or my PT100 to accurately measure the temp. If you cook regularly, one of these tools is a must.
Once it's reached that magical temp, pull from smoker and lest rest for about 30 minutes.
Don't forget, our spices are well balanced so you can add some additional flavor to the carved meat. I like to dust a small section of dark meat with Petal to the Metal and set aside for the cook!
You are ready to serve and eat.