Archive for Smoking Turkey

Holiday cooking Tips…

Posted in Around the house, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by Big JT

If I had one single tip for how to improve your holiday bird cook…..it would be summed up in one single word….BRINE!

There is a science to the brine, but without getting into it here is the simple explanation:  When the bird absorbs the brine. There, the brine begins to denature the meat proteins, causing them to unwind and form a matrix that traps the water. And if the brine includes herbs, garlic,or peppercorns, those flavors are trapped in the meat, too. Instead of seasoning on the surface only, as most cooks do, brining carries the seasonings throughout, and YES you can brine an enhanced bird as well due to osmosis it will help balance out the salt solution between the brine and the bird.

A quick search on your favorite internet search engine will yield a plethera of brine recipes. Over the years, I’ve ended up with a pretty simple brine recipe. I have found that the salt is the real secret to a brine. All the other stuff helps a little, but to keep it easy, I like a nice and simple brine:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup salt (Kosher)
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • About a palmful (I’d guess a TBS or more) of whole peppercorns
  • Sometimes if I feel the spirit, I’ll add a squeeze of honey or maple syrup or squeeze a fresh orange or lemon

Just whip up the brine, place the completely thawed turkey SLOWLY into the brine and if necessary, top off with water to completely submerge. I’ve used a 5 gallon bucket before, but a 16 qt stockpot works well too. You want to make sure not to use an enhanced bird (injected) as it won’t take the brine as easily and may already have salt in it. I brine my turkeys for 18-24 hours…..usually 24 hours, if I’ve not pushed the time limit!

One big tip that I can offer regarding brining is this…..PLAN FOR ENOUGH TIME FOR THE BIRD TO REST!!! The skin on a brined bird will also take on some moisture with the process. Pur right on the smoker, this will make more of a “rubbery” skin when finished. If, on the other hand, you take the bird out of the brine the night before the big cook and place it back in the fridge on a rack (or upside down plate in a pan….just to keep it out off the bottom and out of the water), the refer will “dehydrate” the skin a bit and allow it to tighten back up and go back to “normal”. This will yield a better finish texture to the skin in the long run.

As far as seasoning the bird after the brine, I personally will use Simply Marvelous Sweet Seduction for my turkey cook this Holiday Season.  But if you want to be creative you can just about anything  you want to, or you can tweak this simple Turkey seasoning to your tastes.

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 teaspoons minced onion
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, mix rosemary, thyme, onion, garlic, white wine Worcestershire sauce, coarse salt, pepper, and olive oil. Pulse until well blended. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator at least 10 minutes before rubbing under turkey skin or injecting into meat as desired.

THE COOK

So…. After you take the bird out of the brine and allow it to rest, apply your seasoning of choice to the bird and pop it into the Cooking device of your choice. For me I don’t use the oven very often anymore, so I would turn to my old stand by UDS or if  I am cooking multiple birds I will fire up my CTO and crank the heat up as high as i can get it. I have found that poultry responds better to a higher heat cook rather than a low and slow as poultry will soak up smoke and the skin will be rubbery if cooked at lower temps. When smoking your bird stick with a lighter fruit wood instead of a heavier flavored wood such as hickory or mesquite. If you do not have access or do not want a smoked bird for your Holiday you can turn out a great bird in the oven.

Before you pop the bird into the Smoker or Oven you want to take into consideration that the White meat and Dark meat have different finishing temps.  White Meat is done at a lower temperature than Dark meat. When cooking I like taking the bird to about  170* in the thigh and pull it once it reaches that temp. Residual cooking will take it up a few more degrees but it shouldn’t overcook the white meat (which is done about 10* before that). Some people will put a foil tent over the top of the breast  to help keep from overcooking, but I like taking a zip top bag and filling it with ice and place on the breast of the bird for about 15-20 minutes to help chill it so it wont cook as fast.

Once the bird is cooked let it sit and rest for about 30 minutes before carving. I have included a Turkey carving video for you to get an idea of how to do it.

If you follow these cooking tips you will have a bird that will have your friends and family raving about it all year long.  I also want to thank  and give credit to Kempis for all his help for putting this together.
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