As promised, here are the recipes for my Thanksgiving dinner. Might as well start with the turkey.
Of course I smoked it on my Big Green Egg. I used Kevin Rathbun’s recipe from the Big Green Egg web site. I’ve made this bird before so I knew it was an excellent preparation and I was comfortable making it for a crowd.
This was a 15 pound bird. I smoked it over a mix of apple and pecan wood at 350° F for about 4 hours. It had the perfect level of smoke with a subtle citrusy flavor from the orange peel and lemons.
It was so juicy even the breast meat left a puddle on the carving board.
Recipe – Serves many with days worth of leftovers
1 gallon water
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
Rind from one large orange
3 sprigs rosemary
1 cup kosher salt
3 yellow onions, quartered. Leave skins and roots on.
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
1 turkey, 12 to 15 lbs
2 lemons, quartered
10 sprigs thyme
10 sprigs sage
1/4 cup olive oil
2 to 4 TBS fresh ground black pepper
2 to 4 TBS garlic powder
wood chips for smoking – I prefer fruit wood like apple for poultry
In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, orange rind, rosemary, salt, 2 of the onions and 1 half a head of garlic.
Add water. Mix until sugar and salt dissolve.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey. Reserve for making the gravy.
Wash the turkey and remove any feathers. Trim excess skin and fat. Reserve for the gravy.
Place turkey in a container that is just big enough to hold it. I used a 2 1/2 gallon zip-lock bag. That was just barely big enough for my 15 pounder. You can also use a food grade bucket.
Add brine to turkey and seal. Refrigerate for 12 to 15 hours, turning occasionally.
Recommendations for turkey cooking times are all over the map. 12 minutes per pound. 15 minutes per pound. 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a 9 to 18 pound bird (have these people ever even cooked a turkey?) Use the pop-up timer that comes in the breast (sure, if you want to incinerate the poor thing.)
My rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound and leave a little extra time, in case it takes longer than you expected. If the turkey is finished before the guests are at the table, just cover it loosely with foil and put it in a large Igloo cooler. It will stay hot for hours in there.
To smoke-roast this bird, pre-heat your Big Green Egg (or other smoker) to 350° F.
While the Egg is pre-heating, remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Lightly rub the turkey, inside and out, with olive oil. Then rub in the black pepper and garlic powder.
Stuff body cavity with lemons, thyme and sage. Rathbun also adds a chopped potato. I tried that once and didn’t think it added anything but cooking time. I skipped the spud this time. It made no difference.
Place seasoned turkey in a V-shaped roasting rack, breast side up.
Scatter 3 to 4 cups of wood chips over the charcoal, placing a little extra in the hottest part of the fire. Scattering the chips over the coals ensures a consent source of smoke as the fire burns out from the center of the Egg. That means you don’t have to open the Egg repeatedly to add more chips.
Don’t bother soaking the chips. Meathead busted that myth over at AmazingRibs.com.
Put the plate setter, legs up, over the coals. Put a drip pan in the middle of the plate setter and the grate on top of the drip pan. Place roasting rack over drip pan. Close Egg.
After 2 1/2 hours, check the turkey. Check the temperature and make sure the skin isn’t getting too brown. If the skin is browning too quickly, loosely tent the turkey with foil.
To ensure a juicy bird cooked to a safe temperature, don’t go by time. Go by your digital thermometer. The bird is done when the thickest part of the breast hits 165° F and the thighs hit 175° F. In a piece of meat as big as a 15 lb turkey, the internal temperature will climb several degrees after you take it out of the smoker. You can remove it when the breast hits around 160° F.
Carve turkey and serve.