Monday, November 14, 2011

7 Do's/Don'ts When Smoking Turkey

Turkey time is a favorite part of the year for me. For one, Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal. When asked what I'd choose if stranded on a deserted island, with only one food choice, I say Thanksgiving dinner. Then I'm told that's not fair, I must choose one food, like a mango, to which I reply, that's ridiculous, no one could live off one food, nutritionally, and I stick to my guns. Definitely Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, and gravy...lots and lots of gravy.

I love the hustle and bustle of this week at the restaurant, and I know all of you are making plans, calling relatives and friends, and divvying up the menu. Are you are asked each year to bring a special dish that everyone loves? Is there a dish someone always brings that, oh god, makes everyone silently groan?

If you are on turkey duty, here are some tips for smoking your turkey.

#1 DO start with, if possible, a fresh bird. Fresh birds were slaughtered this season. When you buy a frozen bird, it could very well have been left over from the year before.

#2 DO buy a natural turkey that has not been pumped with any solution. You are going to brine your turkey, so you'll want your turkey free of additives.

#3 DO brine your turkey before smoking. Give at minimum of one hour of brine per pound of your turkey. Usually one day in the brine is best. This will keep your bird juicy during the smoking process. See my post above all about brines.

#4 DON'T get too fancy with your brine. Strong brines, like beer or wine brines, are best for red meat. I find a simple salt brine or citrus brine is best for turkey.

#5 DO rub turkey with olive oil or butter before you add a spice rub. This will help combat the somewhat rubbery skin that can occur from slow and low cooking.

#6 DON'T stuff your smoked turkey. Stuffing lowers the center temperature of the turkey. Because of the low temps for smoking (180-220), stuffing won't allow the bird to get up to a proper safe internal temperature. I'll discuss the stuffing conundrum in my next post.

#7 DO remind your guests, in particular your mother, that smoking causes the meat to turn pink. It's a different pink than a turkey that is undercooked. Undercooked turkeys are pink in the center, closest to the bone. Smoked turkeys are pink throughout.

Those are just a few tips dealing with the very beginning and the very end of smoking one's turkey. I'll discuss the middle part, the cooking part, in my next posts this week.

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