I am trying to climb out from under this illness, man it really got me bad. HOWEVER, it has not stopped us from putting together this Thanksgiving test run for you.
I usually try out a new turkey recipe a couple of times a year. This year I wanted to try an old school smoked apple brined turkey. I am one of those folks that really likes turkey, I could have it more than a few times a year and not get tired of it. So I decided that this one would be a sweet and salty attempt just to see what it turned out like.
I used this recipe posted on Serious Eats as a guide http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/11/apple-brined-and-smoked-turkey-recipe.html, which in turn is based on this recipe that is hosted on the Virtual Weber Bullet page http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/turkey6.html . As I said this was a guide so I will break down what I did differently and the method of cooking.
In both listings the authors have strongly recommended that you seek out what is called a natural turkey. This is a turkey that is not processed with flavor enhancers or self basting. Since we are going to brine the turkey we don’t need a processed “flavor enhanced” or “self-basting” turkey. We are going to soak the turkey in a mixture of liquid ingredients that will include a fair amount of salt so over salting is a no no.
So my normal disclaimer is “For your first time try, do not attempt this on the day of your group gathering.” Let’s not show up as a failure in front of all your friends and family. One does not need to be remembered for ruining Thanksgiving for the family. If you are going to wait to cook it at Thanksgiving do it the day/evening/night before. That way you can go buy a spiral sliced ham if it does not turn out.
I bought a 13 lb. “natural” butterball turkey from the local Aldi store. I suggest that you start with a turkey this size if this is your first cook. The Brinkman should be able to handle up to about a 20 lb turkey but not much bigger than that. Depending on which smoker you have the weight may vary.
Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator according to the directions on the Bird. Thawing is to be done in the refrigerator so this will take a few days. Then you have to brine the bird which can take up to 24 hours so allow plenty of time to prep. Thanksgiving is always on Thursday so your prep should start Saturday or Sunday at the latest. On the bird is thawed you need to make sure you remove all the innards that are packaged in the cavity when the bird is processed.
Once the bird is thawed put together your brine Use only a FOOD SAFE container is the rule. You should not use any plastic container that is not food rated, (so no old Sheetrock mud buckets fellas). Use what is called a nonreactive container, NOT ALUMINUM, I use a stainless steel 16 quart stock pot. IF you must use a container that you are not sure of then line it with a roasting bag large enough for the bird to fit in along with the brine.
For the 13 lb. turkey I cooked it took:
5 quarts of apple juice
1 ½ lbs of dark brown sugar (weight on the kitchen scale)
1 ¼ cups of kosher salt
3 oranges quartered and juiced
4 oz. of fresh ginger sliced not peeled (weight on the kitchen scale)
15 cloves of garlic
4 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic crushed
Water enough to make sure the bird is covered.
Add the apple juice, brown sugar, and salt to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer this for about 1 to 4 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. Place your turkey breast side down in your good safe container. Add the apple juice mixture and the remaining brine ingredients adding the orange peels to the mix. Add in enough water to completely cover the bird. I set a plate on the turkey and a pot full of water to weight down the turkey. Allow the turkey to sit in the brine for 12 to 24 hours.
Once the brine cycle has ended remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels, at this point if you have time you may set the turkey in the refrigerator over night to completely dry which will create a crisper skin when cooking. It is not a necessary step, so do it only if you have time.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and go setup your smoker. I used Kingston Briquets and 6 apple wood chunks. Added a few more briquets about half way through and again at the ¾ mark added apple wood as needed to maintain the smoke. I set a pan on the bottom grill to catch the drippings in case we wanted to use them to make gravy.
I maintained about a 275° to 300° temp in the smoker. This resulted in a quicker cook/smoke than trying to hold 225° to 250° somewhere around 6 hours. Used the Maverick ET 732 to watch the temp.
Cook time was around 6 hours, which was a surprise. I was figuring on a bit longer. IT was a real easy smoke to do . I did not have to watch the fire much, and we did enjoy the results….Froze some and have eaten the rest as turkey sandwiches.
So we will see what is on the grilling schedule next week.
You take care and visit again soon.