The plan for 2011 Thanksgiving for Two.
I am frying a turkey, but I am doing it in a way that I have not seen anywhere online or off. I wish I could come up with a cool nickname for it, but I’m drawing a branding/marketing blank. ??? Brininjesmokied ??? turkey?
The turkey is a 13 lb Butterball that has been injected with a solution up to 8% of the weight of a solution consisting of water and 2% salt. Crap – I really wanted an unadulterated bird. Okay, I will modify my plan only slightly.
I have been thawing my bird since yesterday and will set her in the brine tomorrow night. Here’s the plan…
- Brine in a solution of water with 1/2 cup per gallon of salt, plus 2 tbs of cayenne powder per gallon.
- Inject with clarified butter with more cayenne and some garlic powder.
- Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 100 degrees or so. (Using oak from my lightning stuck tree.)
- Plop in the deep fryer to 160 degrees or so.
- Rest, carve (with my new electric carving knife) and serve.
I also spent a good amount of time researching cranberry recipes. I’m trying two different ways thanks to Martha Stewart. (Yeah, who’da thunk?)
So there you go – a man and his plan – let’s see what happens.
Time for the Brine
Brining the turkey is a fairly new addition to my repertoire, I started testing the technique a few months ago on chickens with mixed results. I’ve learned a lot and came up with a good plan – at least I think it’s a good plan – for this years bird.
Why to brine?
For me, the answer was simple, I like a juicy bird! Brining – allowing the turkey to sit in water for a length of time – adds moisture, as much as 20% some people say. Most of the brines I’ve reviewed are primarily salt and water. I have also learned that you can add other flavors that will be dragged into the meat with the water.
How does brine work? From what I understand, the density of water is greater than the density of the meat, so nature does its thing to equalize the density between the two. The addition of salt aids in the process. I learned the most from Patio Daddio in a post that explores brining in detail – have a look.
Many people add sugar to their brine, I will not be because we are not big fans of sweet meat. There are some flavors that I would like to impart upon the turkey, they are;
- Moisture (okay, not a flavor but my number one priority)
- Salt (just a little since this turkey has been amended with a salt solution during packaging)
- Garlic (I use my own fresh dried powder – very strong)
- Cayenne Pepper (We like the heat)
- Allspice (rich nutty and slight sweetness)
- Onion (I would have preferred my own powder but it was lost to humidity – one fresh pulverized onion will have to do)
For this brine, I planned on 3 gallons – which didn’t work out – so I measured 2.5 gallons of water into the cooler and put 4 cups in a saucepan. I added my ingredients and brought to a boil. I measured 4 cups of ice and water into a large bowl and poured the mixture into it – you don’t want to pour the hot mixture into the brine for food safety. Once cooled, I poured the mixture into the cooler and mixed well. Then I added my rinsed turkey less the neck and gizzards.
Here is where my plan went into an unforeseen direction. Three gallons of brine, plus the block of ice was not enough to fully submerge the turkey. I ended up adding 2 more gallons of water which resulted in a weaker mixture. Oh well – pressing on.
I put a gallon jug of frozen water into the cooler – this displaces some of the water and keeps it cool. This segues nicely to an important point. The water in which your meat is brining must be kept below 40 degrees. This is so little hateful bacteria and germs don’t grow. I use a common ice chest/cooler to insulate the water and I add the block of ice (gallon bottle of frozen water), as well as a zip-top bag of ice on top of the turkey. This is to keep the water cool, and the bag of ice is also to help keep the turkey fully submerged.
If you are fortunate enough to have room in your refrigerator for a container large enough for brine and bird – kudos to you – then the ice is not necessary.
I tested a theory this morning – if ice remains in the cooler, then the water temperature is safe. There was a little chunk of ice in the bottle when I checked my turkey this morning and the water temperature was right on 40 degrees.
The 13 pound Tom Turkey sat in the brine for about 13 hours – I rinsed it, covered it well and set it in the fridge until the next step… smoking the turkey.
Time to Inject the Turkey
We have been hooked on “Cajun Injector” brand Creole Butter flavor.
Not this year! This year I decided that I wanted to make my own injection with flavors I like and no vinegar. This is what I decided…
- 3 parts clarified butter
- 1 part apple cider
- 1 tbs cayenne powder
- 1 tbs garlic powder
And that’s it! I clarified 1 lb of unsalted butter which came out right at 1.5 cups. While the butter is still liquified (warm), I added 1/2 cup of apple cider (warm), then the cayenne and garlic. The garlic powder I use is my own which is dried fresh garlic and it’s very strong. If the mixture gets too cold, it will start to solidify and be difficult to inject – by warm I mean just warm enough to remain a liquid. If it burns your finger, let it cool to the touch.
I used an immersion blender to make sure everything was mixed smooth and there were no clumps in it. Don’t want to clog the injector holes.
I injected the bird all over, using about 1.5 cups of my mixture in the breasts, legs, thighs, and wings. You can see here that when the butter hits the cold flesh of the turkey, it solidifies – that’s what I wanted – it is suspended in the meat until it warms. Perfect!
Okay, a note about kitchen safety. The mixture as well as the injector needle and cup should be used for nothing else. Once you inject the turkey the first time, then get more of the mixture into the syringe you have contaminated everything. If I have any injector seasoning left in the cup, I usually pour it over the bird if roasting, grilling or smoking. If deep frying, I discard what remains.
Now – onto the smoker it goes!
Time to Smoke then Fry the Turkey!
As I wrote before; this year I am going for something new. Frying a turkey is so old school around here, and I’ve been honing my skills on the smoker for the past two years. I love the flavor, juiciness and texture of a fried turkey, but I also love the poultry I’ve been smoking lately. Why not the best of both worlds?
The plan: Smoke to about 100 degrees and then plop into the fryer to finish. The result was mind blowing. The absolute best turkey I’ve ever made – if I do say so myself.
The following are 20 photos I took throughout the process. I didn’t get any in the fryer, things were moving pretty fast by then trying to get other dishes finished for the dinner. I did get a good “Q-View” for my friends here and at Smoking Meat Forums.
—> Here goes <—
After I brined and injected the turkey, I covered it with bacon. Why? I thought maybe some of the flavor would impart upon the breasts (it did not), and also protect the breast from drying out (it did).
I poured the rest of my buttery injection ingredients over the whole thing.
Then I crammed an apple (quartered) and onion (split) into the bird.
There she is, on the smoker. Note the little pan of beer on the right, and a drippings pan on the left… worked perfectly.
As for the smoke, I used oak. Yeah, maybe a citrus or fruit wood would have been the logical choice, but I have a 75 foot dead oak next to my house and frugality prevailed. In the end, the oak was a tasty choice. I used some 2 inch thick branches that had fallen, cut into about 6 inch lengths. I put four in the bottom of the smoke box and fired up a small batch of regular charcoal using the side burner on my grill and charcoal chimney to start. Then I added branches as the earlier ones burned off. Not too much smoke, but the fire ran a lot hotter using wood for fuel.
The smoker hung around 325 degrees the whole time.
Now is when I pulled it off – I took the temperature in the breast and the leg and I felt it had enough smoke.
So I tented it and finished making some other menu items for the dinner and started the oil at about 4:25.
By 4:40, the oil was at 350 degrees and rising so I prepped the bird for her bath removing the protective blanket of bacon and replacing the onion and apple with the turkey stand.
The temperature of this resting bird prior to the oil was at 140 degrees according to my notes. It just sat there and cooked it its own juices. Must remember that.
In less than a half hour the bird was bobbing in the oil and ready to come out. I removed it to the counter, tented and rested another 20 minutes. I plated for a quick photo and then carved.
Are you ready?
OH MY GOODNESS!
As I said, this was the best turkey ever! All of the flavors came through, from the smoke to the brine and the butter and cayenne. I do wish I took a close up of the breast meat cross section because this was the juiciest turkey I’ve even eaten. The meat was cooked all the way through (no pink at all) but it was so tender a knife was not needed while eating.
In hindsight: I think I will smoke for one hour and pull it no matter the temp of the bird. Otherwise I will do this again… soon!
Another slight modification. I used a full tablespoon of cayenne powder in the 2 cup injection; my wife commented that the meat was spicy. I thought that was a good thing, she did too because we like spicy. That said, if preparing this for guests, we might have to tone down the cayenne in the injection to make it more suitable for public consumption. To me, it was the perfect amount and it added a nice bite to the smoky and juicy turkey.
Edited by KYDave - 11/30/11 at 4:50am