Head spinning like a turkey without a head :) - Brine/Temp suggestions...please!

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GrumpyGriller

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Jan 29, 2021
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I have an 18 lb. Butterball turkey that is thawing out in my fridge since yesterday (12/26). The plan is to make this as part of the NYE festivities, and reading around, I've seen dry brine, wet brine, low-temp smoke (225), high temp smoke (325) and some combos of both.

At the moment, I am leaning towards a wet brine (per gallon)
  • 1/2-gallon water
  • 1/2-gallon apple juice
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • peppercorns, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, parsley
Given the timing; I think the bird will be fully thawed (in 38F fridge) by Friday. If I am understanding the dry brine process, not sure if I have enough time for that to work its magic so I can smoke it on Saturday, and that's why I plan to go with a wet brine.

After the overnight brine, I'll rub it down with a light seasoning of salt/pepper/garlic and then onto the smoker.

In terms of temp, my current thoughts are to super-smoke at 225 for the first hour, then ramp up to 325 to get out of the danger zone and have a moist enough bird with some nicely crisped skin. I am figuring about 5-6 hours total?

Any thoughts or advice, or "OMG - don't do that" are welcomed :)
 
Look at the salt content of the turkey, Im guessing its probably 18%ish salt solution, should be listed on packaging or Google is your friend. Thats a lot so take that into consideration when brining and seasoning.

I have done them at 275 and takes maybe 3 hrs, mine arent that big though.
 
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Look at the salt content of the turkey, Im guessing its probably 18%ish salt solution, should be listed on packaging or Google is your friend. Thats a lot so take that into consideration when brining and seasoning.

I have done them at 275 and takes maybe 3 hrs, mine arent that big though.
Thanks! It's an 8% solution, and I've seen plenty of people suggesting that doing a homemade brine works nicely, especially on an 18 lb. bird.
 
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I have had very good luck with this brine recipe… I usually brine for a couple days…


If you want crispy skin… after the brine, pat dry, rub down with EVOO and let set uncovered in the fridge on a pan with a wire rack to catch drippings and allow for the whole birds skin to dry… for a couple days! Cook at a higher temp… 325-350*
Poultry takes on smoke real well at higher temps!

You may even look into spatchcocking the bird for a more even cook!

Just my 2 cents!
 
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Your plan sounds good to me . I like to up the sugar myself . 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup each of brown and white sugar to a gallon . Just how I like it . I don’t worry about enhanced birds . They will retain about 10% Of the brine .
 
I have had very good luck with this brine recipe… I usually brine for a couple days…


If you want crispy skin… after the brine, pat dry, rub down with EVOO and let set uncovered in the fridge for a couple days for the skin to set up for the cook! Cook at a higher temp… 325-350*
Poultry takes on smoke real well at higher temps!

You may even look into spatchcocking the bird for a more even cook!

Just my 2 cents!
Thanks - I'll take a look! Timing wise, I don't think I'll have enough time for it to see after the brine. I just took it out yesterday, so at 18 lbs., it probably won't be thawed until sometime on Friday which would leave me with 24 hours to brine and smoke.
 
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Thanks - I'll take a look! Timing wise, I don't think I'll have enough time for it to see after the brine. I just took it out yesterday, so at 18 lbs., it probably won't be thawed until sometime on Friday which would leave me with 24 hours to brine and smoke.

BTW, nothing at all wrong with your brine there… just have had great luck with the above… and like chopsaw chopsaw stated… I don’t worry bout it if the bird is enhanced! Good luck with everything and post some pics of ya get a chance!
 
I have an 18 lb. Butterball turkey that is thawing out in my fridge since yesterday (12/26). The plan is to make this as part of the NYE festivities, and reading around, I've seen dry brine, wet brine, low-temp smoke (225), high temp smoke (325) and some combos of both.

At the moment, I am leaning towards a wet brine (per gallon)
  • 1/2-gallon water
  • 1/2-gallon apple juice
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • peppercorns, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, parsley
Given the timing; I think the bird will be fully thawed (in 38F fridge) by Friday. If I am understanding the dry brine process, not sure if I have enough time for that to work its magic so I can smoke it on Saturday, and that's why I plan to go with a wet brine.

After the overnight brine, I'll rub it down with a light seasoning of salt/pepper/garlic and then onto the smoker.

In terms of temp, my current thoughts are to super-smoke at 225 for the first hour, then ramp up to 325 to get out of the danger zone and have a moist enough bird with some nicely crisped skin. I am figuring about 5-6 hours total?

Any thoughts or advice, or "OMG - don't do that" are welcomed :)
Hi and I have been doing rotisserie turkeys for a while - Weber Performer with rotisserie attachment and Slow N Sear insert. If you have time it helps to dry bird after brine, salt it with a little bit of baking powder, let sit in fridge over night or even just a few hours. Helps skin get crispy.

I try to keep grate level temp at 325 F. Helps crisp skin. So does basting in duck fat.

Starting at 225F seems a tad low.

Injecting the breasts with butter milk seems to help.

Lump charcoal produces a crispier skin for me than regular charcoal and wood chunks

I don't use a water pan, but do put a tin foil pan under the spinning bird, and it spins in and out of the heat from the Slow N Sear basket. Temperature at top of dome above the basket will be more like 375F - but then it spins into a cold zone.

And here in single digit upstate NY the indirect zone may be quite a bit colder than direct zone. Which may make for longer cook time.

Too late for this cook but I have found this thermometer indispensable for rotisserie - Chef iQ Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer, Unlimited Range, Bluetooth & WiFi Enabled, Digital Cooking Thermometer with Ultra-Thin Probe for Remote Monitoring of BBQ, Oven, Smoker, Air Fryer, Stove https://a.co/d/bSogwaZ (and I get $0.0 if some one buys one from this link...).

155 to 160F final temp for breast, then rest for a while, seems to work.

I use pan drippings to make sauce. I also pressure cook gibbets with onion, garlic, carrots, and celery for about 2 hours, and use that with pan drippings for a sauce. Make a roux with the pan drippings then add some white wine or dry vermouth, the stock you made from the gibbets, Dijon mustard and tarragon, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. An immersion blender makes the sauce easy.

Hope that was helpful.
 
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Hi and I have been doing rotisserie turkeys for a while - Weber Performer with rotisserie attachment and Slow N Sear insert. If you have time it helps to dry bird after brine, salt it with a little bit of baking powder, let sit in fridge over night or even just a few hours. Helps skin get crispy.

I try to keep grate level temp at 325 F. Helps crisp skin. So does basting in duck fat.

Starting at 225F seems a tad low.

Injecting the breasts with butter milk seems to help.

Lump charcoal produces a crispier skin for me than regular charcoal and wood chunks

I don't use a water pan, but do put a tin foil pan under the spinning bird, and it spins in and out of the heat from the Slow N Sear basket. Temperature at top of dome above the basket will be more like 375F - but then it spins into a cold zone.

And here in single digit upstate NY the indirect zone may be quite a bit colder than direct zone. Which may make for longer cook time.

Too late for this cook but I have found this thermometer indispensable for rotisserie - Chef iQ Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer, Unlimited Range, Bluetooth & WiFi Enabled, Digital Cooking Thermometer with Ultra-Thin Probe for Remote Monitoring of BBQ, Oven, Smoker, Air Fryer, Stove https://a.co/d/bSogwaZ (and I get $0.0 if some one buys one from this link...).

155 to 160F final temp for breast, then rest for a while, seems to work.

I use pan drippings to make sauce. I also pressure cook gibbets with onion, garlic, carrots, and celery for about 2 hours, and use that with pan drippings for a sauce. Make a roux with the pan drippings then add some white wine or dry vermouth, the stock you made from the gibbets, Dijon mustard and tarragon, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. An immersion blender makes the sauce easy.

Hope that was helpful.
Thanks - I have temperature monitoring covered and I like the baking powder idea. And your sauce suggestion seems quite enticing as well.
 
That's a big bird to start at low temps. Many cooks recommend spatchcocking any turkey above 14 lbs, to make sure the internal temp gets above 140F fast enough to get out of the danger zone in less than four hours after the bird comes out of the fridge. That is based on a smoker temp around 250F. With an 18 lb bird, I'd start out above 250F, and ramp up to your planned finish temp of 325 fairly quickly.
 
I’ve used brines similar to what you describe, as well as dry brine, but my favorite is a buttermilk brine from the Salt Fat Acid Heat book. It’s simple: 1 Tbs kosher salt for every cup of buttermilk. For a bird your size, I’d suggest 8-10 cups of buttermilk. Buttermilk contains enzymes that will penetrate the protein, much like salt does. It also has sugars that will carmelize and help brown the skin. A 24 hour brine works great for me. Dry the bird thoroughly and let it sit in the fridge up to another 24 hours. You want the surface as dry as possibly to crisp up the skin. I cook poultry in the 300°-350° range.

As far as other brine ingredients, just recognize that none of them will penetrate the surface. Only salt and acid will do so. There’s still benefit to get some surface level flavor from them, but they won’t penetrate deep like salt and acid.

Last, since it’s a Butterball, make sure the label doesn’t say “enhanced” or “basted”. If so, it probably already has been treated with salt and brining risks making it too salty.

Enjoy the cook!
 
I have an 18 lb. Butterball turkey that is thawing out in my fridge since yesterday (12/26). The plan is to make this as part of the NYE festivities, and reading around, I've seen dry brine, wet brine, low-temp smoke (225), high temp smoke (325) and some combos of both.

At the moment, I am leaning towards a wet brine (per gallon)
  • 1/2-gallon water
  • 1/2-gallon apple juice
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • peppercorns, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, parsley
Given the timing; I think the bird will be fully thawed (in 38F fridge) by Friday. If I am understanding the dry brine process, not sure if I have enough time for that to work its magic so I can smoke it on Saturday, and that's why I plan to go with a wet brine.

After the overnight brine, I'll rub it down with a light seasoning of salt/pepper/garlic and then onto the smoker.

In terms of temp, my current thoughts are to super-smoke at 225 for the first hour, then ramp up to 325 to get out of the danger zone and have a moist enough bird with some nicely crisped skin. I am figuring about 5-6 hours total?

Any thoughts or advice, or "OMG - don't do that" are welcomed :)
I equilibrium brine (wet) all my whole birds (turkey and chickens) and I even add cure#1. The process is the same for both brining and curing for me, one just has the cure#1 added.

There is never any guess work with an equilibrium brine and I do salt at 1.65% and never been too salty even on enhanced birds.
I think you have settled on your brine approach but let us know if you get curious about an equilibrium brine since it eliminates guessing by doing some simple multiplication and weight of ingredients.

For cooking, I have only ever had success of getting edible and often crispy skin when cooking/smoking at 325F smoker temp. I cook until breast is reading about 162F and I pull it so it rises to 165F and never overcooks.
I've tried a bunch of other things to try and get skin to work but this has been the simplest fool proof thing I've found.

Good luck with the brine and smoke. Keep getting the info you need so it comes out well. I have one brining/curing right now as we speak as well :)
 
I’ve used brines similar to what you describe, as well as dry brine, but my favorite is a buttermilk brine from the Salt Fat Acid Heat book. It’s simple: 1 Tbs kosher salt for every cup of buttermilk. For a bird your size, I’d suggest 8-10 cups of buttermilk. Buttermilk contains enzymes that will penetrate the protein, much like salt does. It also has sugars that will carmelize and help brown the skin. A 24 hour brine works great for me. Dry the bird thoroughly and let it sit in the fridge up to another 24 hours. You want the surface as dry as possibly to crisp up the skin. I cook poultry in the 300°-350° range.

As far as other brine ingredients, just recognize that none of them will penetrate the surface. Only salt and acid will do so. There’s still benefit to get some surface level flavor from them, but they won’t penetrate deep like salt and acid.

Last, since it’s a Butterball, make sure the label doesn’t say “enhanced” or “basted”. If so, it probably already has been treated with salt and brining risks making it too salty.

Enjoy the cook!
Stupid question... are you are adding the buttermilk to the water/juice base, otherwise it wouldn't be enough liquid to cover the whole turkey?
 
I equilibrium brine (wet) all my whole birds (turkey and chickens) and I even add cure#1. The process is the same for both brining and curing for me, one just has the cure#1 added.

There is never any guess work with an equilibrium brine and I do salt at 1.65% and never been too salty even on enhanced birds.
I think you have settled on your brine approach but let us know if you get curious about an equilibrium brine since it eliminates guessing by doing some simple multiplication and weight of ingredients.

For cooking, I have only ever had success of getting edible and often crispy skin when cooking/smoking at 325F smoker temp. I cook until breast is reading about 162F and I pull it so it rises to 165F and never overcooks.
I've tried a bunch of other things to try and get skin to work but this has been the simplest fool proof thing I've found.

Good luck with the brine and smoke. Keep getting the info you need so it comes out well. I have one brining/curing right now as we speak as well :)
Getting the sense that I'd be better off at 275-325 maybe and just using a couple of smoke tubes.
 
Stupid question... are you are adding the buttermilk to the water/juice base, otherwise it wouldn't be enough liquid to cover the whole turkey?
No, just using buttermilk and salt. I was just guessing at the amount you’d need. I spatchcock my turkeys and brine using a brining bag, so I don’t need as much liquid as you would with a bucket.
 
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I have an 18 lb. Butterball turkey that is thawing out in my fridge since yesterday (12/26). The plan is to make this as part of the NYE festivities, and reading around, I've seen dry brine, wet brine, low-temp smoke (225), high temp smoke (325) and some combos of both.

At the moment, I am leaning towards a wet brine (per gallon)
  • 1/2-gallon water
  • 1/2-gallon apple juice
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • peppercorns, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, parsley
Given the timing; I think the bird will be fully thawed (in 38F fridge) by Friday. If I am understanding the dry brine process, not sure if I have enough time for that to work its magic so I can smoke it on Saturday, and that's why I plan to go with a wet brine.

After the overnight brine, I'll rub it down with a light seasoning of salt/pepper/garlic and then onto the smoker.

In terms of temp, my current thoughts are to super-smoke at 225 for the first hour, then ramp up to 325 to get out of the danger zone and have a moist enough bird with some nicely crisped skin. I am figuring about 5-6 hours total?

Any thoughts or advice, or "OMG - don't do that" are welcomed :)

Sounds like a solid plan. You don't even need to wait until the bird is completely thawed before dunking it in the brine. If gibblets are included in the cavities, you can run cold water in the cavities (neck and body) to loosen the gibblets enough to remove them.

8% preinjected solution won't be a problem either based on the amount of salt use listed in the brine recipe.
 
Nosrat book is great - just seems a whole. turkey would be a lot of buttermilk. Hence injecting breasts with buttermilk - the part that is most likely to get dry and I don't need to buy a gallon of it.

And for temperature don't know how they are being measured. I have a Wi-Fi wireless temperature probe in one breast that measures both ambient and internal temperature, and one at grate height. Keep 325°F at grate height near the charcoal basket yields 375 to 400°F above the heat but then - and especially in the cold weather here - much lower on the indirect heat side of the rotisserie. So for rotisserie goose I did recently, with grate level temperature at 325° adjacent to charcoal basket, the kettle dome was cool to the touch on the indirect side.
 
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Getting the sense that I'd be better off at 275-325 maybe and just using a couple of smoke tubes.
Yeah. I would go over 300F for sure if possible.
Poultry skin just doesn't want to be edible when cooked at lower temps unless you do some odd things to make it work. Having a high enough temp simply just does it.

Also after it is done, if you tent it or cover it, the skin will likely toughen back up some even if it was a little crispy when it came out of the smoker. So keep that in mind too :)
 
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Yeah. I would go over 300F for sure if possible.
Poultry skin just doesn't want to be edible when cooked at lower temps unless you do some odd things to make it work. Having a high enough temp simply just does it.

Also after it is done, if you tent it or cover it, the skin will likely toughen back up some even if it was a little crispy when it came out of the smoker. So keep that in mind too :)
At 300, I'd guess 4 hours to get to 160ish?
 
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