So after a half-dozen AMAZING turkey breast successes in my (not-so-new-anymore) GMG Daniel Boone Wifi Smoker, I finally decided I was ready for the big show. I bought a 100% natural, fresh whole turkey coming in around 14LB. I got a little crazy on this one and tried every suggestion I had read about since signing up for this forum; and tried them all at once.
To start off, I brined it in a mixture of:
- 1.5 gallons apple juice
- .5 gallons of orange juice
- 2 cups sprite
- 1.5 cups salt
- 1.5 cups diced celery
- 2tbsp coriander
- 8 bay leaves
I didn't cook the brine together, I just mixed it all at room temperature until the salt was fully absorbed in the juices (not sure if this was wise), let sit in fridge 18 hours in brine.
I spatchcocked it hoping to get a more fully smoked meat (usually I get 1 inch of pink meat on the outside and the rest white meat in the breast). I was hoping to get 1 inch of pink meat from both sides.
Not having a great way to air-dry the bird in my cramped refridgerator, I decided to take drastic measures. I used paper towels to dry the bird both inside, outside, and inside the skin. Then I rubbed salt into the skin from outside and inside (around 1/4 cup total). Realizing that it was 50 degrees fahrenheit outside, I set the bird on the grill of my smoker and turned it away from the sun so that it would sit in the shadows in the open cold air to dry. I let it dry this way for four hours.
After four hours, I closed the lid and started the smoker. Using GMG's "Premium Texas Blend" pellets, I smoked it 3 hours at 150F (lowest my smoker goes), and then turned up the heat to 325F until the breast meat hit 150F. (ignore the time on the picture, I took this picture today to demonstrate my automatic profile)
My iPhone alarm sounded to tell me the meat was up to temp. I flipped the bird upside-down (breasts down) in the smoker. I turned the grill up to max-temp to try to cook the skin just to make sure it wasn't rubbery.The legs detached from the bird at the thighs since the skin was all that held them together.
The smoker took max-temp a little far though and I think burned some pellets that had escaped the firebox previously. This created too much heat. (before/during pics).
I turned off the smoker and removed the bird. The golden skin had changed to blackened. But that wouldn't have bothered me. Here were my results:
In the end:
- The skin was too salty, it was like pure salt-flavored, went into the garbage.
- The outside of the meat was tougher than normal
- The pink, smokey meat, only penetrated about .75 inches on the top, and hardly at all on the bottom
- The white inner meat was dry and flavorless, much like an oven-roasted turkey
- The wing meat was amazing once you worked around the overly-salty, burnt skin
- Juice-based brine may not work as well (or perhaps as quickly) as water-based brine
- Don't forget the onions in the brine!
- Salt on the skin to dry it maybe not a great idea
- Clean out the ash and extra pellets inside the smoker belly before starting something like this
- Allow enough time to air-dry the turkey, or use a blow dryer
- Try butter under the skin
- Instead of doing high temp at the end, try it at the beginning on the skin. Maybe not needed at all if dry enough
NEW QUESTIONS FOR FORUM MEMBERS:
- Does the meat retain moisture as well when it has been air dried for 12+ hours as suggested? My previous birds that went straight from the brine to the smoker were amazingly flavorful and juicy, but the skin was worthlessly rubbery
- Does butter under the skin soak into the meat carrying the smoke? I seem to get more smokey meat when using butter this way? Again, the skin has been rubbery because of not drying it
- Am I wrong about juice-based brines? Is there anyone who thinks they're they way to go? Is there something to know to get it right?
- I'm spatchcocking a 27LB turkey this week, should cook like two 13-pound birds, right?
- Bird goes into a water-salt-sugar-onion-celery-coriander-pepper-bayleaf brine tomorrow morning once my bird is fully thawed.
- Planning 36 hours for brine,
- 12 hours air dry,
- 10min @400F breast-down skin BBQ,
- 3 hours @150F smoke,
- 3 hours at 325 heat until 160 in the breast meat
IDEAS? TIPS? THINGS TO REMEMBER/KNOW?
Thank you all. I'm having a lot of fun, and my smoked turkey lunch really was amazing even though I've had better.