My family asked me to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving this year. There will be around 50 of us at dinner and mine will be one of two birds. There will likely also be ham. My test run didn't go as well as planned so I'm back to what has worked well before integrating a few new tricks I learned on here.
Equipment: GMG Daniel Boone Wifi
Wood: GMG Premium Fruitwood Blend (cherry, beech, and pecan)
Meat: 27LB Natural turkey, raised in-state and frozen at the farm for shipping. Thawed in refrigerator.
Dinner time: 13:00 Thursday
Turkey is thawed. There is still some ice crystals inside, but the breasts, thighs, and legs are "squishy".
Spatchcocking this turkey was A LOT OF WORK with my butcher knife. The meat around the backbone was thawed and easily cut, but the bones were larger than I've dealt with and there was ice clinging to the bones adhering the tissue to the bones. Took me about 30min to cut out the backbone. Put it into ziploc baggies so my mom can make gravy with it. Did this with the innards pouch and the neck and head as well.
Decided that breaking the breastbone and cooking the flattened bird whole in my smoker would be too wide to fit, so I pulled out my Milwaukee M18 Sawzall and cut the bird in half fully (why didn't I do that with the backbone? Too lazy to go get my tool, I guess).
While working on cutting the bird in half, I had a pot on the stove working on brine. I had cut onions and celery before starting. My initial brine consisted of the following:
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 large sweet yellow onions (probably 4 cups diced)
- 1.5 cup celery leaves and stalk diced (mostly leaves)
- 1 tbsp Accent (MSG)
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp thyme
- .5 tsp cinnamon (saw someone here say they used that mostly for smell in the house LOL)
- 6 bay leaves
Since the bird was bigger than my last bird, and I knew it would barely fit in the bucket I'm using, I figured I didn't need as much brine. I half-expected to need to add more brine to fully top the meat, but my pot is only a 8-quart pot and I was worried I'd have difficulty doing more than a gallon at a time. I put the halved bird in the bucket (breasts to the inside - hoping for better absorption) and dumped in my now now cooled brine (cooled the last 40 degrees with 25ish icecubes).
The turkey was mostly covered, but to brine the thighs and legs I would need more. Since I had to use ice to cool the brine (was getting late already) I figured I needed a higher salt-concentration in my top-off brine to compensate. Also figured I'd use ice to cool it from boiling to avoid sleep deprivation. My top-off brine consisted of:
- 2 quarts water (1/2 gallon)
- 1 cup salt (about 12% mixture pre-ice)
- .5 tsp thyme
- .5 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- .5 tsp Accent
I had already used all my onions and celery, and I figured they were already a very strong element in the first brine. I needed extra salt to compensate for all the ice used to cool it. After mixing in the top-off brine, I was satisfied with the coverage.
Then into the fridge with the bucket! That wraps up Monday. Smoke starts early Thursday Morning. Next post will be tonight when I reposition the meat in hopes that there is fairly equal absorption throughout.
I still have time to make some minor changes. Please PM me if you think I'm headed down the wrong track somehow. I'd appreciate the input.
Game plan going forward:
Tuesday night: reposition meat in bucket
Wednesday night: remove from bucket, rinse and put in fridge to air-dry, haul smoker across town to grandpa's house
Thursday morning: 7:00 start smoke and butter inside skin with butter-garlic-onion, 7:30 add bird at 150 degrees, 10:30 turn up to 200 degrees until breast meat is 130 degrees, 12:30? (whenever up to temp) turn up heat to 400 to brown skin and finish cook until breast meat is 150 degrees. Brush skin with butter every 10min until done.
Thank you for reading. Suggestions welcome!
My smoking profile planned: