Thanksgiving Turkey by GABC!
Thanksgiving Turkey - Don't let that bird die in vain!
I know this one is a little late, but I promise it's worth the wait!
This is our favorite way to prepare a delicious, flavorful, tender, juicy Thanksgiving Turkey. Using this method consistently turns out a perfect turkey fit for a king. Every time you do it, the end product will be better and better!
Feel free to take this method and make it your own. Part of the fun and the allure of barbecue is adding your own flare and instincts to the mix to create something that's all yours!
We're gonna do this rundown style, so Here. We. GO!
A lot of people take this step for granted but planning out your purchase and your thawing process (if you're not buying a fresh bird) will do wonders for a successful turkey cook.
You don't want to purchase a fresh turkey more than 3 to 5 days before the cook, which can be tricky around Thanksgiving for sure. But you want it to be fresh when you start the process to get the best flavor and be safe, so if you can avoid it sitting at all that's ideal. If you have to go more than 5 days out, go with a frozen turkey. You can absolutely get juicy tender meat from a frozen bird. We've done it many times! Just remember that a 20 lb. turkey will take about a week to thaw in the fridge. If you have a last minute snaffoo, you can always do a controlled water thaw on your turkey.
What the heck is that?
Simple - you put your bird in a cooler, stock pot or brining bucket (still packaged), submerge it in cold tap water, and cover it. That water helps speed up the thaw without letting the meat get into the danger zone and allowing bacteria to move in. Just change out your water every 30 minutes or so to maintain a cold enough temp. In our experience is takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw this way. Our turkey this year was 21 lbs., and it took just over 11 hours to get her thawed using this method.
Whichever way you go, following these next steps will take your turkey from boring bird to flavor packed fowl!
You can choose any bring you like, from a store-bought mix to a homemade concoction. For us, they key here is to get your turkey brined for about 36 hours in a brine that includes plenty of salt and sugar. From there, it's just a matter of adding the flavors you want to bring to the table for you and your guests. We like to add things like lemons, onions, fresh herbs, pink peppercorns and even some juniper berries for our turkey.
Pro tip: we HIGHLY recommend including some of our Arch City Original Chicken Rub in your brine! We use about a quarter cup per 2 gallons of brine. It adds some unique flavor with a touch of kick, setting you up for a tasty turkey treat.
Make sure you completely submerge the bird in the brine. You can go with a brining bag like we do, or you can do this with the turkey placed right into a brining bucket. Either way, you want that liquid love to soak into ever fiber and pore. Remember, you're packing flavor into every bite, and the brine is a huge step in that process. The rub won't get to the center of the muscles, but your brine will disperse those flavors throughout the entire turkey.
Seal your turkey up tight in the bag or bucket, and make sure to pack it in ice. You'll want plenty of ice on hand to get through 36 hours. We place our brining bag, sealed up tight with zip ties for extra measure, into a cooler. A little ice on bottom, then the turkey in its bag, then more ice on top. Now you just keep it cool til the big day!
MORNING OF THE COOK - Aromatic Flavors
This is just the veggies, herbs and other flavor/aroma inducing items that you place in your pan to impart more flavor to your turkey. Another layer for the flavor profile! This is the first thing we do the morning of Thanksgiving. We started at 4 AM this year (again, totally worth it!)
Here's how we do it:
- Large roasting pan, cooling rack in the bottom (you'll see why)
- Celery, carrots, shallots, fresh garlic, leaks, red/green/yellow and orange bell peppers, all cut into large pieces and placed in the pan on top of the cooling rack
- Chicken broth in the bottom of the pan to add moisture- you don't want the turkey sitting in the broth, hence the cooling rack to lift everything off the liquid
- That broth gives you moisture and provides something to baste with at the front end of the cook
- Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage bundles placed on top of the veggies (best to do this after you place the turkey in the pan)
- Pro tip, dust the veggies with some Arch City EPS for enhanced flavor!
- Cover that pan and set it to the side for now!
Note: if you do this right, these veggies become an extra side dish!
This is another area where you can make your own choice. We made up a simple creole butter injection using Tony's (I know you know what it is, just Google "Tony's Creole"). If you're mixing your own, do it just before injecting to it's fresh and ready to go. If you've bought an injection, follow the maker's recommendation.
Once the bird is out of the brine (don't rinse off the brine! Leave that flavor on there!) you can start injecting.
- Several shots in each breast, keep going until it shoots right back out
- At least 3 or 4 shots in each thigh
- At least 3 or 4 shots in each leg
This is adding moisture and what else? MORE FLAVOR BABY! As we move from one step to another that flavor profile is getting deeper and more delicious!
After your turkey is ballooned up as much as it can, move to the next step.
Butter what? The whole damn turkey!
Get yourself some good and tasty seasoning that compliments the rest of your flavor profile. You're gonna mix it into some butter that you will then lather all over the bird. We recommend mixing your butter the night before to reduce your pre-cook steps in the morning.
This year we used a roasted garlic and herb seasoning to mix into the butter.
But wait, why wouldn't you use your own products? We did, more on that shortly.
Everyone starts somewhere, and sometimes you don't make or have what you really need. I plan to introduce plenty of new, bold, amazing flavors in the coming years, but for this cook we leveraged an established product from Weber. There's no shame in trying things that someone else already made happen. That's how you learn, grow, get better and make new discoveries!
When you're ready to butter your turkey, first make sure you get plenty of butter between the breast meat and the skin. It's best to separate them first and then go back in with the butter.
There are no 2 ways about it, this part is super messy. Just embrace it and have run with it.
After you've got plenty of seasoned butter between the breast skin and meat, rub down the outside of the rest of the bird. It will start to melt from your touch but it's ok. You're leaving behind more flavor and giving that skin every advantage to get that golden brown color we all love!
After the butter, it's time for RUB!!
We recommend a generous covering of our Arch City EPS, followed by a light dusting of our Arch City Original Chicken Rub. These two combine for a savory, slightly sweet flavor profile with a touch of back end heat. Tailored for poultry cooking temps, these rubs will deliver incredible flavor every single time!
For the best results season the top of the turkey first, make sure it's trussed and the wings are tucked behind the back, then lay the turkey breast side down in the pan. Seems crazy, but I promise you this will make for a huge advantage for color and even cooking. More in a moment...
Once the turkey is breast side down in the pan, season the backside of the bird.
Make sure you've got rub all over the turkey. You will have to lift up the legs and wings to get it everywhere. You want coverage, not blockage (see pictures below)
At this point it's up to you whether to stuff the turkey, and what you'd like to stiff it with. You can use actual stuffing, more aromatics, or different vegetables, whatever you like. We didn't stuff our bird this year, so we'll jump right on to the next step...
Now for the best part- get that smoke rolling!
As I'm sure you've guessed, this is up to your preferences as well. We'll give you the rundown of how we do things, and you can make it your own. Remember, have fun with it!
- Roll smoke at about 250°
- We went with cherry and oak this year and it was a winning combo for the flavor profile we built! We did a 50/50 split of oak and cherry logs.
- After about 90 minutes (depending on the size of your gobbler), you're gonna flip that baby breast side up
- Leave it this way the rest of the cook for even color and cooking
- Baste every 45 to 60 minutes with the broth/juices from the pan
- After 6 or so hours, possibly more, the breasts should be approaching 150° or better. At this point we wanna bump up the temp to 275° to finish out the cook (helps the skin become bite through
- When your breasts reach 165° internal temp, the thighs should be around 170° or 175° (they have more fat so they can stand to get hotter)
- Now you can pull your turkey and let it rest for about an hour
- Pro tip: Seasoning lightly at this point with Arch City Original Chicken Rub over top of the bird creates a finishing dust for that extra oomph!
Now you're ready to carve and serve that bad boy! Your guests are going to love love LOVE this turkey, my friend!
It will be packed with flavor, tender, juicy as hell, with incredible smoke appeal. We're talking smoky, savory, sweet heat packed into every single bite! The brine will bring in the salt, sugar and other flavors in your brine of choice. The injection will add moisture and an added layer of flavor (ours brings a touch of heat too). The seasoned butter will add more moisture, more flavor notes from your seasoning of choice, plus help with color. The rub adds a top layer of flavor to the skin and helps round out each bite. Then your vegies in the pan beneath the turkey will add another note of savory, delicious goodness. Finally, the smoke will bring the whole package together, creating a symphony of salivation in your mouth after each flavor packed bite! If you decide to stuff your turkey, that's yet another layer of flavor that melds into your profile. It's like a perfectly woven tapestry of tasty turkey!
If you can master this method of smoking your Thanksgiving dinner, your family will happily clean the dishes and thank you for the pleasure of doing so!
We hope this will help you add a few tools and tips to your barbecue arsenal. From our family to yours, we truly hope you have a safe, healthy, fantastic smoke-filled holiday season.
Until next time, Smoke Up and Enjoy!