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Heritage Turkey - Brined - Wood Smoked - Methods

Heritage Turkey - Brined - Wood Smoked - Methods
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  • Heritage Turkey - Brined - Wood Smoked - Methods

    Post #1 - November 4th, 2009, 8:29 am
    Post #1 - November 4th, 2009, 8:29 am Post #1 - November 4th, 2009, 8:29 am
    Wrote the following a few years ago for Purple Asparagus, thought some might find it useful for T-Day.

    Wood-Smoked Heritage Turkey

    Tender, smokey, moist, flavorful is a wonderful way to enjoy Thanksgiving Turkey. Though the thought of charcoal and wood smoke may seem daunting, all you need is an outdoor cooking device, confidence and a trick or three.

    Heritage turkeys are more muscular, leaner and have an assertive flavor and dense flesh structure. These factors, while contributing to overall flavor, increase the difficulty factor in cooking, especially with BBQ.

    The most common complaint with turkey, which is exacerbated with the Heritage, is Sahara dry turkey. The best way Ive found to ensure a moist flavorful bird is to brine. To this effect Ill outline 5 turkey brines that, in conjunction with outdoor cookery, will amp up flavor and increase the likelihood of ohhs and ahhs from your guests.

    Heritage Turkey on Three Outdoor Cookers

    WSM:

    Fill the charcoal pan 3/4 full of lump charcoal, fill waterpan, add chunks of wood for smoke. Use top grate for turkey which is approximately 20.5-inches from the fire.
    Turkey is done when it reaches 160� in the breast. Do not overcook.

    Weber Charcoal Kettle:

    Pile coals on both sides of grill, put an aluminum loaf pan in the middle of coals.
    Light fire, when coals have started to ash pour water into the pan.
    Place turkey directly over the pan.
    Periodically add apple or hickory to the fire. You will have to add charcoal to the cooker at the mid-point.
    Turkey is done when it reaches 160� in the breast. Do not overcook.

    Gas Grill:

    Adjust gas burners for indirect cooking with a target temp of 300�. This can best be accomplished on a 3-burner gas grill 1-burner off and the other 2 on med-high setting. Place turkey on side without flame.
    If gas grill has a smoke box use apple or hickory chips for additional flavor.
    Turkey is done when it reaches 160� in the breast. Do not overcook.

    Brine Recipes (Variations On a Theme)

    Brine constants:

    1 gallon of water, or enough to immerse the turkey
    1/2 cup kosher salt (per gallon of liquid)
    1/3 cup brown sugar (per gallon of liquid)

    24-hour full immersion brine.

    Brine 1

    One half-gallon buttermilk added to the basic mixture to make one gallon of liquid total.

    Brine 2

    To basic brine add:
    1 Qt buttermilk
    1/2 cup molasses or maple syrup
    1 T crushed or minced garlic (or garlic powder)
    1 T onion powder
    1/4 cup pepper
    2 T Franks hot sauce
    1/2 tsp allspice
    1 tsp coriander

    Brine 3

    To Basic brine add:
    Juice of one lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and a teaspoon of grated peel of each (except
    grapefruit)
    Chopped scallions
    Crushed fresh ginger
    Crushed fresh garlic
    Soy sauce
    Hot sauce
    Crushed red peppers
    Black and white pepper
    Chopped inside stalks of fresh lemon grass
    1 teaspoon of sesame oil (toasted oriental style)

    Brine 4

    To basic brine add:
    Crushed dried basil, oregano, hot peppers, hot sauce, soy
    sauce, black and white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
    and 1/3 cup olive oil.

    Brine 5

    To basic brine add:
    1/4-cup Old Bay seasoning per gallon of liquid

    Expectations of Taste:

    Brine 1 (Buttermilk):

    The buttermilk brine lends the turkey a subtle undercurrent of tang and makes for an extremely tender and juicy bird. The brown sugar offers slight ham taste though barely detectable.

    Brine 2 (Classic):

    Slight buttermilk tang, juicy bird, subtle maple flavor.

    Brine 3 (Citrus):

    Surprisingly mild citrus flavor. Flavorful, though somewhat dense breast meat due to acids in the brine.

    Brine 4 (Classic with a kick):

    Good all around brine, slight ham flavor, barely discernible heat and well developed flavor. A tender and juicy bird.

    Brine 5 (Old Bay)

    Flavor of Old Bay really comes through and the bird is very flavorful. The brown sugar combined well with the Old Bay and the bird is quite juicy.

    Notes:

    - With all methods rinse brine from turkey, making sure to drain brine liquid remaining in turkey cavity.
    -Lightly rub turkey with olive oil just before placing on smoker or grill
    - My strong suggestion/caution/hint is Do Not Overcook the Turkey. 160� in the breast is target temperature, and then let rest 15-minutes for the juices to redistribute in the bird.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Enjoy,
    Gary Wiviott
    http://www.lowslowbbq.com
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - November 4th, 2009, 8:41 am
    Post #2 - November 4th, 2009, 8:41 am Post #2 - November 4th, 2009, 8:41 am
    GWiv - you da man. I was mulling over "something new" to do with our bird this year. The (relatively) new Big Green Egg hearkens on the back patio. Brining and then smoking the bird was forefront in my mind. Not having brined before, your tutorial and recipes come at a most welcome time.

    Thanks from down under in Central Illinois!

    Davooda
    Life is a garden, Dude - DIG IT!
    -- anonymous Colorado snowboarder whizzing past me March 2010
  • Post #3 - November 4th, 2009, 9:19 am
    Post #3 - November 4th, 2009, 9:19 am Post #3 - November 4th, 2009, 9:19 am
    nice reference tool Gary,

    My brine will be a mix of #'s 2 & 3.
  • Post #4 - November 4th, 2009, 10:35 am
    Post #4 - November 4th, 2009, 10:35 am Post #4 - November 4th, 2009, 10:35 am
    Gary-Thanks for the post regarding smoking a turkey this Thanksgiving. I too am seriously considering wheeling out my Weber kettle to smoke some delicious heritage bird.

    My one concern is how to make sure I get some good crispy skin. For me, the crispy skin is the best part of the Thanksgiving turkey. Any tips you can share?

    Thx.
    Maureen
  • Post #5 - November 4th, 2009, 10:50 am
    Post #5 - November 4th, 2009, 10:50 am Post #5 - November 4th, 2009, 10:50 am
    Back in the issue that made brining your turkey a household notion, Cook's Illustrated recommended a six to 12 hour rest (I think; something like that) after taking the bird out of the brine. That gets some of the water out which in turn reduces the steam coming from the meat which can rubberize the skin.

    I've never done it any other way, so I can't tell you what NOT doing it that way will produce, but doing it has always worked fine for me.
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  • Post #6 - November 4th, 2009, 11:10 am
    Post #6 - November 4th, 2009, 11:10 am Post #6 - November 4th, 2009, 11:10 am
    As an FYI, throw in several extra turkey dumsticks. Aside from having more than 2 drumsticks for your meal, they freeze well and add some awesome flavor to soups year-round. They (obviously) need less time in the brine than a whole bird, 8 hours is plenty.
  • Post #7 - November 4th, 2009, 11:29 am
    Post #7 - November 4th, 2009, 11:29 am Post #7 - November 4th, 2009, 11:29 am
    Cinny's Mom wrote:My one concern is how to make sure I get some good crispy skin. For me, the crispy skin is the best part of the Thanksgiving turkey.


    Do you have a brulee torch? I use mine to crisp smoked chicken skin. Torch carefully and don't hold the flame in one spot for more than a nanosecond -- it doesn't take much to burn the skin. With the torch flame an inch or so from the bird skin, slowly sweep the flame side-to-side over the skin, starting at the top and working down.

    A regular blowtorch would work fine, too. Just use more caution and maybe do it outside? Also, maybe practice on a chicken before turkey day.
  • Post #8 - November 4th, 2009, 11:43 am
    Post #8 - November 4th, 2009, 11:43 am Post #8 - November 4th, 2009, 11:43 am
    Gary,

    Any general ballpark guideline on the amount of time it would take for, say, for a 12 pound turkey? Are we talking 3-4 hours or much longer if using the water pan and leaving the bird whole?

    Thanks!
  • Post #9 - November 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    Post #9 - November 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm Post #9 - November 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    crrush wrote:Do you have a brulee torch?


    Colleen-

    The pyro in me (and there is one) is greatly admiring your affinity for torches lately.
    :)
  • Post #10 - November 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    Post #10 - November 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm Post #10 - November 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    ONE MORE THING:

    A smoked, brined turkey is a wondrous thing, but a smoked, pickled turkey can be even more amazing. It's the corned beef of the poultry world. If you leave the turkey in the brine for 4-5 days it completely changes the bird. The resultant turkey will have a pronounced pink flesh, will be amazingly moist and flavorful. I have had it roasted, smoked and deep-fried and it was excellent any way you cooked it.
  • Post #11 - November 4th, 2009, 1:14 pm
    Post #11 - November 4th, 2009, 1:14 pm Post #11 - November 4th, 2009, 1:14 pm
    Cinny's Mom wrote:My one concern is how to make sure I get some good crispy skin. For me, the crispy skin is the best part of the Thanksgiving turkey. Any tips you can share?

    The one I cooked last Saturday had well-rendered skin. I can't say it was crackling crisp, but it was crisp with a pretty simple 3.5hr cook over a sand pan (instead of water).
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  • Post #12 - November 4th, 2009, 2:09 pm
    Post #12 - November 4th, 2009, 2:09 pm Post #12 - November 4th, 2009, 2:09 pm
    Mike G wrote:Cook's Illustrated recommended a six to 12 hour rest (I think; something like that) after taking the bird out of the brine. That gets some of the water out which in turn reduces the steam coming from the meat which can rubberize the skin.

    Turkey should rest in the fridge on a wire rack uncovered. Most, if not all, refrigerators have humidity control which helps dry the turkey.

    I often skip the rest in the refrigerator step, dry the turkey well, lightly coat with oil and run the cooker at a higher than traditional smoking temp (smoke roast). I typically remove the backbone, disjoint the leg/thigh to allow heat to access the longer cooking thigh more easily. This, in combination with moving the thigh/leg portion higher onto the breast, which serves to slightly insulate the breast from the heat, allows the turkey thigh and breast to finish at approximately the same time.

    Spatchcocked Turkey
    Image

    Colleen 'The Pyro' Rush's blow torch method works well as does a quick run under the broiler, though the higher then traditional smoking temps I employ, 325 - 350 crisp the skin nicely.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - November 4th, 2009, 3:59 pm
    Post #13 - November 4th, 2009, 3:59 pm Post #13 - November 4th, 2009, 3:59 pm
    G Wiv wrote:Colleen 'The Pyro' Rush's blow torch method works well as does a quick run under the broiler


    Technically, not my method, I'll admit. Learned it from some dude calling himself a BBQ Life Coach ("Low & Slow", pg. 85). It just happens to speak to the pyro in me. I wouldn't recommend the redneck broiler torch for the beginner, though. The brulee torch is plenty good for the task.
  • Post #14 - November 6th, 2009, 1:45 pm
    Post #14 - November 6th, 2009, 1:45 pm Post #14 - November 6th, 2009, 1:45 pm
    My wife and I smoked a turkey for thanksgiving last year and will do it again this year. For a variety of reasons, we choose to quarter the turkey before brining and smoking it. It turned out great and was done in 1.5 to 2.5 hours (I don't remember).

    The key to crispy skin is that the skin should be dry when you put it on the smoker. Oil and rubs are fine; water is not.
  • Post #15 - November 6th, 2009, 4:16 pm
    Post #15 - November 6th, 2009, 4:16 pm Post #15 - November 6th, 2009, 4:16 pm
    G Wiv:

    When you say you "disjoint" the legs, do you mean you fully cut the leg/thigh sections off the bird, and the just lean them up against the breast?

    And when you say you remove the backbone, that means that there is an open cavity underneath facing the grill?

    Thanks. I've been flirting with grilling, and you're very concise instructions may turn flirting into consumation.
  • Post #16 - November 7th, 2009, 4:21 pm
    Post #16 - November 7th, 2009, 4:21 pm Post #16 - November 7th, 2009, 4:21 pm
    Jonah wrote:When you say you "disjoint" the legs, do you mean you fully cut the leg/thigh sections off the bird, and the just lean them up against the breast?

    Grasp the turkey leg in one hand, the thigh in another and bend/snap the joint out of the socket. Do not remove the leg/thigh from the turkey.

    Jonah wrote:And when you say you remove the backbone, that means that there is an open cavity underneath facing the grill?

    The backbone is completely removed and there is an open cavity underneath facing the cooking grate.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #17 - November 9th, 2009, 1:48 pm
    Post #17 - November 9th, 2009, 1:48 pm Post #17 - November 9th, 2009, 1:48 pm
    Great advice. I strongly believe that carving the turkey correctly is as important as basting it correctly. I'm an advocate for the Pampered Chef, here is a good how-to video.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcjR8dNPQII
  • Post #18 - November 28th, 2009, 11:18 am
    Post #18 - November 28th, 2009, 11:18 am Post #18 - November 28th, 2009, 11:18 am
    Inspired by this thread, I smoked my first Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday. My bird was not a heritage turkey, rather it was a free-range turkey from TJ's Free-Range Poultry. I purchased the turkey through Green Grocer which made pick up very easy as Green Grocer is just down the street from me.

    First, I brined the turkey in a buttermilk brine with star anise, juniper berries, allspice, bay leaves, garlic and thyme. After 24 hours of brining, I removed the turkey from the brine, dried it off and lightly salted the skin. I then left the turkey in refrigerator for an additional 24 hours to dry out the skin. Before smoking, I brushed the skin lightly with olive oil and added some pepper for seasoning. I did not spatchcock the turkey or break it down in any way.

    My original plan called for smoking the turkey at 225 degrees for approximately 20 to 30 minutes per pound (the turkey was 11 pounds). Due to the rain on Thursday, I modified my plan somewhat and decided to smoke roast the turkey at a higher temperature. I have a Weber kettle, so I arranged the coals on the lower grate in two piles on either side of the grate. In the middle, I put an aluminum loaf pan filled with water. I arranged the turkey on the top grate, breast-side up, in the center of the grate directly over the aluminum loaf pan. I made sure the vent on the top of the kettle was arranged over the turkey.

    During the cook, I had to adjust the vents to accommodate the fire several times, but after 3 hours, I had a delicious, crispy-skinned smoked turkey: Image

    The thigh and the leg had a deeper, more smoky flavor than the breast, which suited me just fine. The entire turkey was juicy and tender.
    Image

    Smoking the turkey was a lot fun and I think I will probably be doing it next year for Thanksgiving as well! Next year, I plan to use some apple wood, rather than hickory.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Post #19 - November 28th, 2009, 1:39 pm
    Post #19 - November 28th, 2009, 1:39 pm Post #19 - November 28th, 2009, 1:39 pm
    I decided to cook two, smaller birds this year. Inspired by GWiv's very plain and simple instructions, both birds were brined and one was cooked on the grill. Needless to say, while both were great, the smoked bird was a sensation. Not only does it taste great, but it looked like a Normal Rockwell turkey. Thanks GWiv for the post!

    Jonah
  • Post #20 - November 17th, 2021, 9:10 am
    Post #20 - November 17th, 2021, 9:10 am Post #20 - November 17th, 2021, 9:10 am
    Just saw this on another platform, I never thought about this and wonder if anyone had any experience?
    Just a reminder the wood stems of pumpkins, and squash can be used when smoking meat. They add a delightful smokey flavor to meat & fish


    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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