Author Topic: Turkey Selection and Preparation  (Read 3776 times)

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Offline sparky

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Re: Turkey Selection and Preparation
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2013, 12:00:07 PM »
However, we like turkey and the leftovers, so the wife and I are going to make a 12 lb bird on Saturday. I like to brine poultry for a day or two. Then I inject a butter based garlic and herb mixture and place butter under the skin. It goes in the oven at either 325 or 350 and I figure about 20 minutes a pound. So, a 12 lb bird should take 240 minutes or 4 hours.

The juices make a terrific gravy mixed with the broth that I make with the giblets.

better make two.  I want to see a video of one being cooked on your yoder stick burner buddy.  your walking around now.  back outside my friend.  lets see some smoke.  w/ all of ya'll stick burners out there inspire me.  w/ Jason, smoke, VOD, LA, sliding-billy keep posting.  I like it.  the 1st bbq's were cooked over wood.  hanging out w/ you ppl is expensive.  I want a bbq guru for my bullets, I want a kamado smoker, I want a gravity feed smoker, I want a good stick burner (seen a nice meadow creek ts60 on craigslist for $700 (normally $2100) is was a scam).  that's not much.  I want to see if they all make good ribs.  its a good test.   :-[
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Offline veryolddog

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Re: Turkey Selection and Preparation
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2013, 01:20:04 PM »
I gave that issue some thought as well before I decided to pop that bird in the regular oven. I may be wrong but here is why I made that decision.

I generally like to smoke my food at low temperatures of 225, 230, or 250 degrees. When it comes to poultry, it is widely known that the bacteria for salmonella or other organisms may exist within a wide variety of poultry products, either chicken or turkey. (Have you ever seen videos of chicken slaughtering plants?) From my readings on the internet, advice is given that you should reach an internal temperature inside the poultry of 140 degrees within 4 hours in order to kill those potential organisms.

Now, I can push the temperature to 300 or 325 degrees on either the Yoder Smoker or the Yoder Pellet Smoker. If I do this, I may as well cook the turkey in my oven at 325 degrees at 20 minutes per pound and the turkey should be done in 4 hours. In my household oven, I may lack a small amount of smoke generated by cooking outdoors, but the finished product should be virtually the same and very moist.

As an aside note, I have cooked a 6 pound chicken in the wood smoker at 250 degrees and at the 4 hour mark, I had surpassed the 140 degree internal temperature. In reality the chicken arrived at the 165 degree internal temperature mark at the 5 hour time frame and so it was done. A turkey is a much larger challenge.

I might do this someday, like you say, when I obtain 2 turkeys and I will crank up the wood smoker to 300 degrees.

« Last Edit: November 21, 2013, 01:22:02 PM by veryolddog »
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Offline RAD

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Re: Turkey Selection and Preparation
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2013, 11:49:38 AM »
Here is something I keep handy. Good reference sheet.

Answer:   Cures are NOT required in brines. I always used them early in my brining trials because that is what the recipe called for. But in doing a lot of research, it’s not required. It is a cure and as such, is typically used in places where you’re worried about the Food Safety DANGER ZONE of 40°F to 140°F.  You don’t have to have the cure if you’re sure of your temperatures. Keep it below 40°F. Pickling Salt will work. Don’t use other salts than Kosher (keep reading, there is more info below).  You can find it, believe me, it’s in every store.

Question: What is the cook's reason to brine, anyway?

Answer:   See the section on Brining Background and you’ll understand why it is something you should try.

Question: How long to brine and is there too long?  Can you brine too long? Does the weight of the bird matter?

Answer:   See the brine time section for recommended times. As far as the bird just follow the directions in the basic brine times and adjust if your bird is bigger. You can brine too long, so follow the recommended times, or less, never add more time.

Question:  Does the strength of the brine matter (dilution factor)?

Answer:   Yes, if you don’t have a high enough solution of salt to liquid, you’re just soaking. I haven’t seen a specified percentage, but the minimum I usually see is 3/4 cup of Kosher salt to 1 gal or water.  The scientist out there can tell us if that’s 20% solution or not.

Question:  Can you brine a frozen bird?

Answer:   No. The brine and osmosis won’t be able to work on a frozen product and if you let the bird since in a salty solution longer than recommended, you’ll have a less than good quality bird – mushy and over-seasoned.

Question:  Should I use a rub if I brined my bird?

Answer:   You don’t have too. It will depend on the flavorings of the brine. A lot of times I do, so that the outside gets a nice flavor from the rub and the insides gets more flavors from the brine.

Question:  How scared should I be brining & cooking a bird for a party of 15 if I've never brined before? In other words, how hard is it? And, is it easy to screw up?

Answer:   I’ve seen you cook and you should be real scared. No, really.  Okay, I’m teasing. I always recommend practicing before any large party. You may not like the particular herbs/seasonings in a particular rub. Get to know the effects and flavors of brining before your party. Remember the first time you smoked a brisket – would you feed that to your friends? Practice, but don’t tell them when you do it and see if they notice – they will.

Question:  Can you brine and inject?

Answer:   You don’t need to, if you’re going to inject the brine.  Osmosis works for you – so you don’t have to. Now, if you want to inject your own flavorings after the brine, feel free.

Question: Should you pay attention to lowering the salt in your rub, if you use a traditional salt brine?

Answer:   Good Question. Many cooks don’t realize how much salt is in everything they’re using. By using a brine, you’re adding more. As I always recommend, you’ll have to be the judge, so if you’re worried about being too “salty”, cut back the salt somewhere. Most of my rub recipes have little to no salt in them for this reason, so I can add salt as needed.

Question: Food nutritionists say honey breaks down at 160ºF,so should you wait till after you boil the brine and it cools some to add the honey?

Answer:  I’m not a food nutritionist, but I haven’t notice a lack of honey taste in my Honey Brine because I put the honey in when it was too hot. I mix my brines by putting the salts and sugars into solution and bring it to a rolling boil. Then I take it off the heat and add the honey. If you want, wait until you solution cools below 160ºF before adding your honey.

Question:  Can the brine be used for a second time for the same food type?

Answer:   Food Safety 101 – Don’t every reuse a brine once it’s had food in it.  I’m sure the food scientists out there can tell us how and when and why you might be able to, but I don’t recommend doing it. The whole issue is cross-contamination, do you want to get food poisoning? Nope, not me. If you feel you can accomplish food safety and reuse a brine, it’s all up to you.

Question: Instead of water, can I use something else, like Coca-Cola, Orange Juice, Apple Juice, Beer, Etc?         

Answer:   Trick question, but a good one. Yes you can substitute other liquids for the water that is the base for a brine – BUT – and this is a big but, don’t make the solution acidic. Remember that a brine uses osmosis and marinades use acid.  If you make your solution acidic (like using a orange/citrus juice) you’ll actually get a mushy exterior on the meat. The reason is the length of time your brine works vs. the length of time for a marinade. You can use a little acid, but if you add too much, watch out for the effect that acid has on your meat.  If you do add acid, reduce your brining time accordingly.

Question: My refrigerator isn’t big enough to hold the brine in a big bucket, what do I do?

Answer:   Get another refrigerator! (Sorry, bad humor). Be creative, but remember two things: temperature and air are your enemies. Keep the temperature below 40Fº and the meat completely covered by brine. Once the solution is made, you can break it up into smaller quantities. For example, take a zip lock back, put 4 to 6 chicken breast in there and add brine to cover, close it after squeezing out the air and you’ll do fine.  For turkey, I’ve see people add the brine to a larger garbage bag (clean one of course) add the turkey, seal it. Then place this inside a larger bag, incase the first one leaks.  Just keep temperature and air in mind.

Question: Can I brine pork?

Answer:   Since the worm that causes Trichinosis is no longer present in American pork, it is now safe enough that it doesn't have to be cooked well done. However, Jim McKinney, chef-owner of Club Grotto in Louisville, KY, couldn't convince his customers of that. "If they see pink in a pork chop, they think they're going to get sick," he says. By brining his 12-ounce pork chop for 24 hours in a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, fresh rosemary and juniper berries, some of the blood is drawn out and McKinney can cook it to just 140ºF degrees without hearing any complaints. "And the flavor it packs is incredible," he says. His brine is 28 percent salt and 10 percent brown sugar3.

Chapter 3 – Basic Times for Brines
How Long to Brine?
It all depends (don’t you love that answer)? The size of the item your brining, the relative strength of the brine and your individual preferences will all make a difference. I highly recommend you experiment, keep good notes and you’ll determine your own answer. Before you experiment, read the Questions and Answers chapter for some ideas and concerns about changing times and solutions.

 These are “sample” times.  Feel free to adjust –SLIGHTY- but remember:

If you’re worried about your first brine, go with a time in the middle of the range.  If that was too salty, try lowering your time.  After than, you can adjust your solution if you still think it’s too salty (see the Q&A section for more).


Brine Time

Whole Chicken (4-5 Pounds)

8 to 12 hours

Chicken Parts

1 1/2 hours

Chicken Breasts

1 hour

Whole Turkey

24 - 48 hours

Turkey Breast

5 - 10 hours

Cornish game hens

2 hours


30 minutes

Pork chops

12 - 24 hours

Pork Tenderloin (whole)

12 - 24 hours


Chapter 4 – Brining Recipes
If you’re new to brining, read all the information in the Q&A section for some of the common mistakes and concerns.

To prepare your solution, there are two methods.  Remember that whatever your mixing needs to be thoroughly into solution before using.

Method 1: Cold. Dissolve salt in a cold or room temperature water, add other ingredients and mix thoroughly. All solution to set overnight. Then use.

Method 2: Heated. Mix salt, sugar and water in a pot and bring to a low/rolling boil.  Take off the heat and add other flavorings. Let cool.

When brining, always use stainless steel, glass or food-grade plastic containers.

Totally submerge in solution and store in a refrigerator for the recommended time.

As a general starting point, take one gallon of water and add 3/4 cup (preferable - but you can use up to a cup) of salt (Kosher is best), 1/2 cup of sugar and then the rest is up to you. Sliced onions are nice, a few cloves of crushed garlic add a nice flavor and then there's the spices and herbs.

Simple Brine I:
½ cup Kosher salt
½ cup sugar
1 gallon water
Simple Brine II:
3/4 cup Kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 gallon water
1/4 cup coarse black pepper
Smokin’ Okie’s Holiday Turkey Brine:
1 gallon water
1 cup coarse Kosher salt
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons black pepper
3 - 4 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Allspice
1 oz. Morton’s Tenderquick (optional)
Measurements “How much is an Ounce?”

2 tablespoons = ounce
6 teaspoons = ounce

Heat water/salt/sugars to rolling boil. Take off burner, add other ingredients. Allow mixture to cool before placing meat into solution.

Place 10 - 12 lb. turkey in non-reactive container and cover with brine. Refrigerate for minimum of 24 hours, preferably 48 hours.

Load smoker’s wood box with 4 oz. hickory wood.

Remove turkey from the refrigerator and discard brine. Rinse turkey three times, pat dry and lightly rub skin with mayonnaise. Apply light coating of Cookshack Spicy Chicken Rub. Place turkey in smoker and smoke cook at 200ºF for one hour per lb.  I like cherry or apple wood for my turkey. Smoke until internal temperature of breast reaches 160ºF to 165ºF. Remove from smoker and allow to sit for 30 minutes before slicing.

Note:  About the “optional” Tenderquick.  If you smoke a turkey at temperatures of 180º to 225º F., you might want to consider using the Tenderquick.  The turkey will be spending a lot of time in the DANGER ZONE of 40ºF to 140ºF, so just be aware of this.  If in doubt, use the Tenderquick.   

Shake’s Honey Brine & Fried turkey
1/2 gallon will do 2 turkeys; 2 oz each leg, 2 oz each thigh, 4 oz each breast.
1 gallon water
1 cup pickling salt
1 oz tender quick (2 tbsp)
1 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp pickle spice
Smokin Okie’s Original Brine
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 ounce Tenderquick
1 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon pickling spices
Simple Brine III:
1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cracked black pepper
1/4 cup crushed red peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Simple Pork Brine:
1 gallon Water
1/2  cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
3 bay leaves
1 whole onion, cut-up
3 tablespoons garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Try this with pork chops. Brine for eight hours, using the largest pork chops you can find (reduce for smaller pork chops).  After brining, sprinkle the pork chops with the rub and let sit for one hour. Smoke or grill to an internal temperature of 130ºF to 135ºF.

Option 1:

Use a piece of flattened out tenderloin (or even chicken tenderloin). Since you’re using a smaller piece of meat, brine for 2 hours. Bread and cook as you would a normal tenderloin –delicious.

Option 2:

Add ¼ of Bourbon to your brine.

National Turkey Federation Brined Turkey
BBQ FAQ Brining Recipes
Chapter 5 – Brining “Tips & Tricks”
Tip:  Because water is a heat conductor you will typically find that a brined item will cook faster than an non-brined item

Tip:  If you want your poultry to have a golden and crispy skin it needs to sit in the refrigerator for several hours after you remove it from the brine so that the meat can absorb the moisture from the skin. Whole poultry is the exception however. To get a crispy, brown skin whole birds should be removed from the brine, wrapped in foil or plastic and put in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours.

Tip:  The saltier the brine, the shorter time is required. And the brine will penetrate a chicken breast or pork chop much faster than a large thick muscle like a whole pork loin or turkey.

Tip:  Water is optional. Any liquid will do for brining; just keep in mind my discussion about being too acid. You can substitute some or all of the water with whatever you heart desires. Wine, beer, fruit juices (especially good is apple), or vinegars all make a good liquid base for your brine. Just remember our discussion about making the brine to acidic. If you add more acid to your mixture, I would decrease the brining time.

Tip:  Any herb, spice, sweetener, fruit, vegetable will work; let your imaginations run wild. Think of a brine as a soup, there can be a lot of complexity in soup or just simple ones.

Tip:  You need enough brine to completely submerge the meat without any part being out of the liquid. Some items might need to be weighted down to stay under.

Tip:  How much liquid will you need? Take the meat you plan to brine and place it in the container. Cover with liquid. Now you know! Measure the amount and you’ll know how much brine to make.

Tip:  Almost any container will work as long as it’s non-reactive to salt.

Tip:  You don't want the brine cooking the meat, always add your meat to a cold brine, not a hot one.

Tip:  You don’t need to boil the entire gallon of liquid to create your brine. Start with a quart, add your salts and sugars and create a super saturated solution. After boiling, mix your remaining liquid, thoroughly; this way you don’t have to use a really big pot to boil with. If you need to cool this super solution down quickly, mix with ice water.

Tip:  Lighter more tender meats needs less brining time.

Tip:  Denser meats like pork, need longer times.

Tip:  Remember that the longer you brine the stronger the flavor will be.

Tip:  You do not need to rinse unless you were using a high salt concentration in the brine.

Tip:  Want to preserve the color of the meat?  Add 1 tablespoon of Cure (Saltpeter, Tenderquick, Prague Powder) per gallon of liquid  This will help. Another trick used by chefs is to add 1 tablespoon of Saltpeter per gallon of liquid.  If the color is important to you, consider the cure.

Thanks - I used the Smokin’ Okie’s Holiday Turkey Brine and my bird is waiting for tomorrow.
Love to cook and eat