Nov 07, 2014 01:58PM ● Published by Dia
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. Cool temperatures, football, family and a big feast are the perfect excuse to fire up the backyard smoker. Outdoor cookers provide the best environment to craft a finely cooked bird as the infusion of smoke will elevate the quality of your meal. Follow the steps below to ensure your holiday cook is a success.
I like a fresh smaller bird in the 10 – 12 pound range. A frozen turkey will work, but give it ample time to thaw in the refrigerator. This can take several days. The smaller birds cook a little faster, and they seem to be more tender and juicy. Once the bird is thawed and ready for cooking it’s ready for brining. Be sure to remove the giblets and neck.
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 Pineapple Juice
2-4 Quarts Water (enough to cover bird)
The turkey needs to be submerged in the brine for 10-14 hours. A small cooler, large Ziploc bag, or bucket works well. I prefer the small plastic buckets available at Home Depot or Lowes. They come with a lid and fit nicely into the fridge. A 10lb turkey will fit in a 2-gallon bucket. I put the dry ingredients in the bucket, add the pineapple juice, water, and then whisk thoroughly to ensure spices are dissolved. Put the bird neck side down if using a bucket, or breast side down if sitting in a cooler or bag. Immediately place your turkey in the fridge.
When the brine is complete, RINSE THE BIRD THOROUGHLY inside and out. You need to remove the brine solution or the final product will be too salty to eat. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel.
For this cook, we want to place the bird breast side up in a roasting or disposable foil pan.
Get your Smoker, Big Green Egg, or Gas Grill to a temperature to 275 or 300. If cooking on a gas grill, use a two-zone set-up. Once your fire has settled into it’s temp, add your smoking wood. 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)
An hour into the cook, add about 3 cups of apple juice to the bottom of the roasting pan and cover the turkey with tin foil. The apple juice will help add moisture to our cook, and the foil will prevent the bird from being over smoked. After covering, cook the bird an additional 2 or 2.5 hours.
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 fully cooked. The dark meat will be in the 175 – 180 range. To accurately monitor temperatures, I rely on either a remote thermometer such as the Maverick ET732, or a quick read gauge like the PT100. If you cook regularly, one of these tools is a must.
Once the breast has reached that magical temp, pull from smoker and lest rest for about 30 minutes.
You are now ready to serve and eat.
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