This past weekend I invited my friend April from http://www.aprilslittlefamily.com/ over for dinner along with her three little ones. I decided to cook a turkey. I love turkey and I do not know why we reserve it for the holidays. It makes a wonderful dinner and the leftovers are awesome. I am always bummed the day I take the last of the leftovers out and use them!
My favorite method to cook turkey is to first brine it and then smoke it. The turkey comes out gorgeous! Look at the pictures! It is an even mahogany color. It looks like I painted it or something for the photos. I did nothing but smoke it and the best part is - it tastes even better than it looks. I start to brine it about 12 -15 hours ahead of time and then smoke it for about 5 hours. I use an electric smoker which makes it pretty maintenance-free once the bird is in there cooking. This method of cooking produces the most moist and flavorful turkey ever.
I do not have room in my fridge for the turkey while it is brining so I pop it in a playmate cooler with the brine and ice and it works just fine. One thing to note, when you cook turkey using this method you do not get a pan of drippings for gravy. I simply take the neck and gizzards and roast them with a sliced onion in the oven until they are nicely browned. I deglaze the pan with chicken stock, strain the liquid and whisk in a slurry of milk and flour to thicken it as it comes back up to a boil on the stove. Gravy problem solved.
Brined and Smoked Turkey
A 15 pound turkey
1 gallon of water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups wood chips for smoking (I used hickory this time)
Bring all the ingredients except the turkey and butter to a boil and dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Place the turkey breast side down in a playmate cooler. Pour the cooled brine over the turkey. Add enough ice so that the brine level rises to cover the turkey. Leave it for 12 to 15 hours.
Also at this time start soaking your wood chips in water to cover.
When ready to smoke, follow your smoker's instructions. For mine, I place the wrap the wood chips in foil, poke holes in the foil and place them in the lava rocks on the bottom. I fill the water pan completely. Drain the turkey and rinse in fresh water. Pat dry. Melt the butter. Set the turkey on the upper rack in the smoker and brush all over with the butter. Place the cover on. I let it smoke for 5 hours this time. The temperature outside was about 84. When the temperature is cooler it may take a little longer to smoke. Just remember, open the lid as little as possible to retain the heat and smoke. I do not ever open it for at least the first 3 hours. It also helps to fill your water pan with hot water. This speeds up the heating process inside your smoker.
This turkey came out so good! I cannot wait until Thanksgiving when I will cook another. Oh, and do not forget about those wonderful turkey bones. After cleaning off the meat toss all the bones in a pot and cook for 1 1/2 hours for the best, most flavorful turkey broth ever!