Sunday, December 23, 2007

Smoked Turkey - My First Time

December 22, 2007

My first time smoking a turkey. I think it went pretty darn well overall. Got some tasty meat, and learned a few things along the way. Barbecue, like many other things, is something that you continually learn about - and the best way is to learn by doing.

In the end the meat was super moist, and had a nice light smoke flavor.

Lessons Learned:
  • If possible, get a fresh turkey - no hassle with thawing, and it just has to be better.
  • A 13 pound turkey is about the limit for my little Brinkmann smoker (this one is 12.71 pounds).
  • Don't brine so long - it was a little too salty in some of the meat closer to the surface (I'll try about 10 hours next time).
  • It is easier to deal with the cold when starting the cook - I had to wrap the smoker to get the meat up that last 8-10 degrees.
  • Don't let your wife put a hat (especially one of hers!) on you - even if it does have ear flaps and it is cold out. I'll stick to the baseball cap I had on all day, thank you.
  • The dogs know a good thing when they smell it - just don't turn your back on them!
The prep:

For this day I used a 12.71 pound frozen grocery store turkey.
Fully thawed bird and removed the neck and giblet bag.
At noon on the 21st I put the bird into a brine.

The morning of the 22nd I started up two chimney's of charcoal, and put a bunch of Oak chips into water to soak. Then I prep'd the rub, got my filler for filling the cavity and liquid for the injector all ready.

My rub this day was made up on the fly. I had been going back and forth on what to try, and in the end decided to go for simpler and made it up as I went along. This ended up being really ugly on the cold bird, but lovely after smoking for an hour.

The Brine:
1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. I ended up needing about 3 1/2 gallons.

The Rub:
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 stick butter, melted

The Filler:
1 onion, quartered
2 pink lady apples, quartered
1 handful of dried cranberries

The Injector Liquid:
Apple Juice

First I tossed the cranberries on the bottom of the cavity, then alternated onion and apple till it was all stuffed.
I then injected with the apple juice. I have never done this before - not too hard to figure out.
Then I reheated the rub since the butter had hardened in the refrigerator and spread it over the bird. It wasn't quite enough to cover every part, but I did what I could. I also hardened as I put it on since the bird was still pretty cold. The bird sat for a bit to warm while I checked on the charcoal.

Here's the ugly bird with the rub on it just before going on the smoker (click image to enlarge):

It was sunny, but really cold (yes, really cold for a native Californian!), so I used both chimney's of charcoal, and thought I'd be smart and save myself some work later on and added some unlit charcoal on the edge of the pan on top of the lit stuff.

The theory was OK, but in reality it made the first hour hard. It was too darn hot. I opened the door, pulled the top off a lot - kept trying to let the heat out. Funny how when you need it hotter it won't happen, but when you don't need it hot, you can't cool it down. Finally I lifted the unit off the bottom and pulled a bunch of briquettes off. That did the trick!

At the one hour mark the internal temp was 250 F and the temp in the breast was 98 F.

Here's the bird at one hour (click to enlarge) - I was totally happy with the color on this. Looking good. At this point I thought I might actually pull this off.

At the two hour mark the internal temp was 225 F and the temp in the breast was 122 F.

At the two hour point the deep brown/caramel color really deepened (click to enlarge):

At the three hour mark the internal temp was 245 F and the temp in the breast was 137 F.

At three hours (click to enlarge) the color looked all set - now to slow cook and get the temperature up.

At the three and a half hour mark the breast temp was up to 140 F after having a drop in the smoker temp. Took a bit to get it back up.

Here (below, click to enlarge) I have covered the wings with foil because they were getting too brown.

At the four hour mark the shade was sneaking almost to the smoker and it was cooling off fast. The internal temp was 160 F and the temp in the breast was 141 F.

Tossed a little more smoke Oak just for fun (click to enlarge):

Things continued to cool, so I started some more charcoal - about 2/3 chimney. Put that in when it was ready, and the heat came up, but not enough to really hit deep in the bird. A slight breeze was blowing too.

So I got my really fancy wraps and draped them over the smoker - it isn't pretty, but it did the trick (see below, click to enlarge)!

With the smoker wrapped and some hot charcoal in the belly, the temp in the breast went from 171 to 181 in 45 minutes.

Pulled out the instant read to check a few other locations and I called this baby done!

Here's Mojo (one of our two Newfoundlands) with new found interest in what I am up to. Dontcha just love the hat? Jen was worried about me being cold so she pulled off my baseball hat and put this thing on me because it would cover my ears. Remind me to hide the camera next time...

Got the bird inside to carve up - yum!

Juicy and yummy. Everything just fell off the bones. Very tender, very juicy. Very happy. =)

We ate a bit to try it out. Not as much meat on a 12 pounder as I expected, but that's OK.

I bagged up some for each family to try out on Christmas day, and we will keep all the extra little tidbit for ourselves.

Jen thinks I should just do a number of breasts next time to get more meat for the work. Will have to try that sometime to see how it turns out.

So all in all a good day. I had my laptop out there with me so I could check the CBBQA forums and even make a few posts. The new thermometer worked out well. Only thing that would make it better is if it were dual probe. Got some yard work done and did lots of little things around the house - and ended up with some pretty darn good smoked turkey too.

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