Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Smoking a Turkey on the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM)

I usually deep fry our Thanksgiving turkey, but a few years ago I decided to learn some new tricks. The goal was to smoke the bird low and slow at 250 degrees or less and prevent it from drying out to compete with the moist and tender deep fried birds we've been eating for the past several years.

I started out at Publix and purchased a Fresh Not Frozen turkey.

Next stop...Ace Hardware for some Cherry Smoking Chips.

The turkey was injected the night before smoking with Shake's Honey Brine and refrigerated.

I started by making a "smoking pouch" for the chips and placed them on the charcoal resulting in instantaneous smoke. Tip: Soaking them in water overnight will help them burn a little slower and the smoke will last longer.

Another tip: If you have access to cherry wood "chunks", you'll achieve more smoke flavor. I had to settle for the cherry wood "chips" this time.
After reading a few of the posts at The BBQ Bretheren, I decided to drape some bacon on the bird for a little insurance, but I was hopeful to avoid a turkey that tastes like bacon. Tip: If I do this again, I'll start the cooking process without the bacon, which will help achieve golden brown skin on the bird. Bacon is effective, but could be added after the turkey has been cooking for a couple of hours.

I started the water pan with a 1/2 gallon of apple juice mixed with a 1/2 gallon of water. I stuffed the turkey cavity with five or six apple halves and smoked the bird on my WSM at temperatures hovering consistently between 240 - 250 degrees. I pulled the turkey off the smoker when the temperature in the breast reached 170 degrees. I've read a lot of "guides" recommending cooking the birds to 180 degrees as measured in the inner thigh as well.

After looking back through my pictures tonight, I noticed that I failed to take a picture of the finished product.

My smoked first smoked turkey was a semi-success. I achieved tender and moist white meat, but the bbq turkey was not quite as satisfying for me as the deep fried turkeys I'm more accustomed to.

Will I do it again? Definitely yes. I love a bbq challenge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fried Turkey Time

For the past 6 or 7 years I've been frying a turkey for Thanksgiving Day dinner and for the past 3 years I've also been frying 2 for potluck lunch for about 35 co-workers.  A fried turkey is so much better than oven baked turkey.

For the uninitiated, fried turkey retains moisture better than oven baked, but even though it's cooked in peanut oil or cottonseed oil the turkey is not greasy.  Simply heat the oil to 300 degrees, turn off the heat source, and slowly lower the turkey into the oil.  Relight the heat source and cook the turkey 3 1/2 to 4 minutes per pound.

A 13lb. turkey is the perfect size for deep frying. Any bigger and you risk a boil over or undercooking the bird. For a smaller bird, you simply have less turkey goodness to enjoy, and who would want that?

I use Shake's Honey Brine from The BBQ Shack and brine my turkeys overnight prior to cooking. You can still use the brine for a baked turkey or even a slow cooked bbq turkey. You can also stuff the turkey with mango, peach, apples, organges, etc. - or something else - to get creative and add a little something extra to the flavor profile.

Here's a video I did back in the summer for a recipe contest where I used mangoes. The video is for a smoked turkey, but the brining process is similar. It goes without saying, but if you decide to deep fry, stuffing the bird with fruit is not a good idea (insert smiley thing here).

And here's a word of final advice, because fried turkey does add an extra element of risk....Think Safety.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dutch Oven Beans

We've been watching our weight more and more going into the holiday season as a cushion toward the inevitable holiday 5 or 10 that we gain each year. (I have lost 9 lbs and Linda has lost 7 lbs by increasing proteins and decreasing carbs.)

Today I brought on the dutch oven and made a 5 bean soup that turned out well. Well actually it was 4 beans and some peas, but legumes nonetheless.

5 Bean Soup Recipe
  • 1 cup great northern beans
  • 1 cup red beans
  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup navy beans
  • 1/2 cup black-eyed peas 
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
Directions:  Soak dry beans for 4 hours. Drain beans. Add bean mix, ham hock, 2 quarts of water to a medium sized dutch oven. Cook for 4 hours in the dutch oven on medium low heat or until beans are tender (use bottom heat only).

Dutch oven table, ash bucket, and bag of charcoal briquettes

I started with 9 briquettes and added 6 - 7 hourly

Ham hock

Legumes ready for cooking

Adding the beans to the dutch oven pot

I used a single slice of ham hock

Adding the spice mixture

Half way there

Bowl of beans topped with some home grown pepper relish
 The beans turned out very well. The relish adds just the right amount of additional heat. If I make this recipe again without the relish  I'll add 2 tbsp of vinegar instead.