Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey on the Smoker/Grill

Out of necessity (broken oven) I cooked my heritage turkey on my almost-never-used 18" diameter smoker-grill. Good thing it was a small bird! I had lots of fear and trepidation about doing it, but that was my only choice unless I wanted to fry it in a skillet. My old gas grill bit the dust several years ago and it didn't seem reasonable on my limited income to buy another one, or a turkey deep-fryer. This smoker came new in a box, but cheap from a yard sale several years ago, and only my brother has used it when he visits... for grilled steaks and oysters steamed in their shells.

Thankfully, I found directions for cooking a turkey in it online. My small turkey had been brined several hours the day before, and then rinsed and refrigerated overnight. I had no charcoal starter since I hate the stuff and the taste it imparts to food, so I had a hard time getting a fire going. (I bought one of those chimneys to start charcoal last year but have no idea where I put it!) The charcoal I used is pure hardwood charcoal, not briquettes made chemicals and paraffin as a binder. I burned the bag as part of the starter so I can't tell you who made it.

Turkey went on when the temp indicator in the domed top said "Ideal". The stainless steel pan under the turkey was to catch the drippings, but that didn't happen until later. I was too clueless to take the smoker body off and notice the charcoal forms an ash covering that kept the fire temperature low. Had I noticed sooner, the bird would have cooked sooner/faster, and had more drippings from the fat in the skin and around the cavities!

After 2-3 hours, it was finally beginning to show a rise in the internal temperature of the bird! Shaking the coals to cause the ash to fall off helped increase the cooking temperature a lot!

Finally, after dark (I got a late start), the bird was done. It was very moist and juicy, and exceptionally tasty, like a free-range heritage turkey should be! Now I won't have to cook much for my Christmas  Dinner... lots of turkey, apple-sausage dressing, and half the giblet gravy makings in the freezer!

Would I cook a turkey on the smoker-grill again? Yes, now that I have tried it once!! I might even smoke it the next time... I had soaked some apple chips to add flavored smoke, but didn't use them after all. No particular reason, though... I just didn't. The turkey had no smoky taste, because the charcoal didn't put off much smoke and I didn't add any moist chips on the coals to make smoke.

Turkey Brine:
I used the Chez Panisse recipe, but cut the garlic by 3/4, the salt by 1/2 and added some fresh sliced ginger. I also cut the time to about 6 hours since my bird weighed only 7 pounds.

Chez Panisse Turkey Brine
2 1/2 gallons cold water (I only needed 2 gallons to cover my bird)
2 cups kosher salt (I used 1 cup)
1 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme, or 4 tablespoons dried ( (I used fresh)
1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled (I used 4 small cloves)
5 whole allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, smashed
(I added about a tablespoon or more of fresh sliced ginger)

Place the water in a large non-reactive pot that can easily hold the liquid and the turkey. Add all the ingredients and stir for a minute or two until the sugar and salt dissolve.

Put the turkey into the brine and refrigerate for 24 hours. (I brined my bird only about 6 hours because it was small) If the turkey floats to the top, weight it down with a plate and cans to keep it completely submerged in the brine.

Note: You may halve or double the recipe. The important thing is to prepare enough brine to cover the turkey completely. Also note that the brine may make pan drippings too salty for gravy.

1 comment:

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