Brined Turkey

On Thanksgiving two years ago we began a tradition of having two turkeys, one smoked, the other roasted normally.

Our first grandson was born on Thanksgiving so, for us, it is a double celebration. Thanksgiving and a birthday.

This year will be the same except for a slight difference in preparation of the turkeys.

The food network is not our favorite cable channel but it does have some useful information most of the time. Of the programs on the food network, good eats with Alton Brown is a favorite because of good recipes as well as background information on what makes them good. This season Alton is pushing brined turkey. Not sure, he may also have been suggesting soaking the bird in salt last season but this is the first season we have decided to take him up on his suggestion.

We are following his recipe but changing the method just a little. Instead of stuffing the turkey into a five gallon bucket we are using the original plastic bag the bird was packaged in as means of holding the brine. The turkey, in the plastic bag is situated vertically in a large pot and braced with paper towel packing so that it remains vertical and can’t fall over. Then the brine is poured into the body cavity until it overflows and fills the rest of the plastic bag to the top.

The whole assembly is then carefully set into the refrigerator and left overnight. The following morning, the bird is removed, washed, stuffed with the prepared aromatics, and either roasted or smoked.

The first one is going to be smoked. We use a smoker. It is a five year old Brinkman Smok’n Grill Smoker. It is a dome shaped metal can that holds a tray of charcoal. Just above the charcoal sits a pan of water. One grill is located right above this pan. A second grill is located just above the first grill.

The charcoal provides the heat. The water turns to steam and the steam as well as the smoke cooks the meat. For a more distinct smoky flavor we add hickory wood chips and wood strips that have been soaked in water overnight. The hickory is placed into an open aluminum foil pouch that sits on top of the hot charcoal. That makes for lots of smoke and lots of flavor.

The smoker runs for about ten hours after which the turkey is removed and baked in the oven at 350 degrees for another hour to ensure it is fully cooked. We normally smoke chicken and allow about six hours of smoking for a chicken. The turkey is about twice to three times the size of a chicken, hence the extra time.

Cut into the meat to determine doneness. We do not trust the pop out temperature indicators, don’t own a meat thermometer, and like our poultry well done. Cutting into the breast and inspecting is the surest way we know of determining if it is fit to eat.

We have never brined or used the aromatic stuffing before this season. It will be interesting to see if it make a significant difference.

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