Last year was the first time I ever cooked a turkey on the smoker for Thanksgiving. In fact, last Thanksgiving was the first time I ever cooked a turkey, period! Some people like flying by the seat of their pants, but it really would have sucked had the turkey been ruined. Fast forward to the Thanksgiving season of 2013… and with a turkey in the freezer (in the 10-14 lb range, closer to 14), there was no excuse for not doing a test cook beforehand!
It took about a week for the bird to thaw out in the refrigerator. And since this was a test cook, it was time to test out some approaches. Last year I injected the turkey. This time, I went with a quick brine of about 6 hours using Tasty Licks BBQ Brining Kit. After coming out of the brine, it was time to prep the bird. First up, spatchcocking the bird! What is spatchcocking, you may ask? Spatchcocking is simply another term for butterflying the bird. The backbone is cut out, and the cavity is opened and pushed down so that the turkey lies flat.
Now that the blank canvas is ready, it’s time for our seasonings. For this cook, I went with a combination of rubs from EAT Barbecue. The first rub used was a very light coat of The Most Powerful Stuff All-Purpose Rub, followed by a heavier coat of Zero to Hero Sweet Rub.
Then it was time to put the bird on the smoker. Last year, I had some difficulty getting the smoker up to a high enough temperature. Turns out it was because of there being water in the water pan to act as a heat sink. I omitted the water this time and was able to get the temperature easily up to the 300-350 degree range. My wood of choice this time around was pecan wood.
This was also a great time to put my new ChefAlarm through its paces. (Picture below is from the ThermoWorks site)
The ChefAlarm, from ThermoWorks, is a commercial-grade single-probe temperature monitoring system with the following features:
- Adjustable body for vertical placement or sitting on a surface
- Splash-proof design
- Out-of-the-box accuracy to within ±2°F, with calibration adjustment capabilities to fine-tune accuracy to better than ±1°F
- High/Low temperature alarms
- Backlit display for nighttime viewing
- Continuous monitoring of minimum & maximum temperatures
- Timer with countdown / count-up capabilities.
This thing is really bright at night!
After about 2 1/2 hours, the turkey was done!
This was a very moist and flavorful turkey. The quick brine helped some, as did not overcooking the breast meat. The color turned out to be just a little bit dark, but it was still very appetizing. For the next one, I’ll be making the following adjustments:
- Brine the bird for a longer period of time (12-24 hours)
- Reduce or even omit any sugar-based seasonings.
- Set the ChefAlarm for 160 so that the breast meat can come up to 165 during the rest phase.
All in all, though, I was happy with how it turned out. Lots of turkey meat to “prime the Thanksgiving pump”, plus the carcass makes for great turkey stock.