June 24, 2016
Just before Easter, there was a big sale on turkeys—$0.86 a pound—so I grabbed a couple of 10 pounders, one for the oven and one for the smoker.
I love smoked turkey and have been planning this smoke ever since, but something always seemed to come up and delay things. Finally, I had a few free days, so the smoke was on.
I wanted to brine and inject the bird, for extra juiciness and flavor. For brine, I chose Chef Jimmy J’s Family Brine—I had used it on chicken pieces and really liked the taste.
Thursday morning, after the turkey was completely thawed, I spatchcocked the bird. I had a bit of a problem doing this until I finally realized that there was a heavy plastic band holding the ankles together. When I cut this band, the spatchcocking went MUCH better. Go figure. I mixed up the brine and when it had cooled down, the turkey went into the bucket, and then into the fridge for about 30 hours. I had to remove one shelf and 2 crispers to make enough room for the brine bucket--looks kinda lonely sitting there all by itself.
Early Friday morning (about 4AM) I rinsed and patted the bird dry, and put it back into the fridge to air dry for 9 hours. Before returning the turkey to the fridge, I injected the breasts and thighs with a flavor profile similar to Miss Linda’s French Canadian Meat Pie—namely cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and onion. I was really curious about the amount of flavor this would transfer to the turkey meat. Sorry, but no pics of this stage. I was up to my elbows in brine, injection fluid, and oil and didn’t dare pick up the camera.
At about 1PM Friday, after carefully loosening as much of the skin as possible, I gave it a good coating of JJ’s Bubba Chix Rub, under the skin and all over the outside. While this simplified getting rub all over the bird and under the skin, it left Tom Turkey not looking his best. OK, this gobbler won’t be a fashion plate—I’ll just have to make the next one more photogenic.
While the MES 30 was heating, I loaded up the AMNPS with a 50/50 mix of Pecan and Cherry pellets, lit it up and left it burn for a while. I had set the MES to maximum, hoping that I would be able to cook the bird at about 275*.
Since I have been having a lot of trouble keeping the AMNPS burning in the MES, I dug out my “mailbox” mod that I had built for my last smoker. I didn’t want to do a permanent installation as I plan to build a stand for the MES and AMNPS and don’t have all the measurements done yet. So, I just jerry rigged the connection and in went the AMNPS.
When the MES was up to temperature, or as high as it would go, Tom T. went onto the grill and into the smoker, with a Maverick 733 probe stuck in his thigh. Time was 2:15 in the afternoon. I had absolutely no idea what temp the MES would hold at, and therefore no idea how long this smoke could be expected to take. The AMNPS was putting out such a beautiful TBS that it was almost impossible to see. It worked flawlessly the entire cook.
Well it took 4 ½ hours. The temp, for some reason wouldn’t climb above 225*--normally I can easily hold 260 or better. The only reason I can come up with—the only change I have made—is the addition of the mailbox mod. I’m going to have to do a test cook with and without the mailbox. There was a gusty west wind, and its possible that it was blowing into the mailbox, up the ducting into the cook chamber, and causing the drop in temperature.
At 7:45 the IT hit 165* in the breast and 170* in the thigh, so I pulled the turkey out of the smoker, tented it, and let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving. The poor bird looked like he'd had a very rough night on the town.
Tom T looked much better from the other end.
Well….as soon as I touched that bird with the knife, I knew I had a winner. Old Mr. Tom was juicy and tender enough to cut with a plastic knife.
I just carved up enough for Miss Linda and me to have supper, and left the rest of the bird for after I had eaten.
Surprisingly, after cooking for 4 ½ hours at only 225 degrees, the skin was a mix of nice, almost crispy skin, and a rubbery mess. The good news is that neither Miss Linda nor I eat the skin. The skin, bones, spine, wings, and neat little gift pack that is always left inside a bird all go into the stew that I make to supplement Roxy’s dry dog food every day. Believe me, she could care less if the skin is crispy or not.
Supper that night consisted of dark meat, Jasmine rice, and spaghetti squash for Miss Linda and white meat, Jasmine rice, and butternut squash for me. And, of course, cranberries. The turkey was fantastic. Neither of us could remember ever eating a moister, tenderer, or more delicious turkey. Surprisingly, the injection lent very little flavor to the meat—it was there, but only if you were really looking for it.
This smoke was a definite success. Aside from the temperature problem, everything went off perfectly (if you ignore the fact that I almost dropped the bird while carrying it out to the MES. Thankfully, my luck held and I didn’t have to invoke the 5 second rule.)
I would smoke another turkey anytime. It was one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. No question about it—I’m hooked.
Thanks for looking.