Wednesday, November 23, 2011


For at least two meanings of the word. I picked up a 14 lb. free range turkey from Kaufmann Farms (AKA Hoka turkey) and will cook it on the smoker. Time may be a little tight so I don't plan to slow smoke it, but I'm sure we'll get the benefit of the oak, mesquite and cherry that I added to the charcoal.

Weather conditions: 32° with a bit of morning fog. Wind is light at about 6 mph. It should be clear with temperatures going into the 40s today. There is heavy frost and frozen rain on stuff on the patio.

Preparation: I brined the bird since yesterday afternoon in a brine of:
  • 2 qt water
  • 2 qt apple juice
  • 1 1/4 C sea salt
  • 1 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • tsp cloves
  • tsp allspice
  • medium sliced onion
  • tbsp pepper corns
  • several bay leaves (well, the recipe called for them but I forgot.)
I brined in a roasting bag in a cooler packed with ice. That's the easiest way to do this and ensure that there is good contact with all parts of the bird. This morning I removed the bird from the brine, rinsed it and seasoned it for cooking.

Seasonings consisted of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, an apple cut up into wedges and a couple small onions sliced. These were all stuffed into the body and neck cavity to provide flavor during the cook. In addition, I also mixed some fresh thyme and rosemary with a little peanut oil and pushed it between skin and breast meat.

The stuffing was made with cubed whole grain bread that I had put in the oven to dry a bit a couple days ago. To that I added sautéed onions and celery with garlic, pepper and fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley. I also mixed in some walnut chunks and an apple sliced to about the size of the bread pieces. I moistened with a mix of turkey stock and beaten eggs. And bacon. Don't forget the fried bacon.

Smoker setup us modified minion using mesquite lump charcoal and adding oak, cherry and a little mesquite for smoking woods. I loosely foiled the water pan and placed a drip pan in the lower grate. Once the coals were starting (and the smoke smelled divine at this point!) I put the turkey on. The desire is to serve at 1:00 PM. I'm starting out with one bottom vent fully open but I'll probably open more after an hour or two to bring the temperature up.

Before you use the time/temperature notes below to estimate how long your turkey might take to cook, please be aware that when I switched meat thermometers at 10:50 I started using one that read 187° in boiling water. The original thermometer was reading correctly after all. Needless to say, I highly recommend that you check calibration of your meat thermometer before starting your Thanksgiving turkey,

Cooking log:
timetemp comment
6:40 AM
Lit coals on the smoker.
Bird on!
This is just about where I want to be right now. <checking vents on smoker> Whoops! I had only one bottom vent barely open. I opened it fully so that fire can get going.
8:31x/x/236°Temp progressing nicely. In a half hour or so I'll open another bottom vent to bring the temp up a bit more. The meat probe is sitting out on the table for one of my gas grills and now reads 38°.
9:18250°/x/248°Opened one more bottom vent for more temp. Threw a little more oak and cherry onto the coals.
Put the meat probe in the turkey by the thigh and observed.
10:33x/158°/xPut the stuffing in a large pan under the turkey where it can catch some of the drippings. Looks like the turkey has come along well! It might wind up with an extended rest time. I want to take the thigh to about 160° and the breast to about 150° before taking off.
10:50x/176°/x:( I was alarmed because the reading at the thigh was up to 165° so I used another thermometer to read the breast. I got 144° with that. I moved the remote probe to that and it now reads 176°. I think my remote probe is not reading correctly. I would not expect the bird to be done buy now.
11:30x/188°/x153° breast
148° thigh
These are using an instant read thermometer. Maverick meat probe is way high. :(
11:46x/x/281°Will be checking meat at intervals using the instant read going forward.
12:20x/x/300165° breast and thigh so the turkey is coming off. It's in a warm gas grill to rest.

(dome/meat/cooker) - Temperature is measured using the built in thermometer (dome) and a Maverick ET-73 remote reading thermometer. an 'x' means that I have not inserted the probe or have not bothered to walk outside to read the dome. ;) )

The 14 lb bird is an easy fit on an 18" Weber Smoky Mountain:

While I have the turkey on the smoker, I 'm simmering the giblets and some vegetables inside in a stock pot.

I'm using an Alton Brown recipe for this mostly because he claims that the addition of potato starch interferes with the propensity of flour based gravies to set up solid as they cool. Maybe I should try that other suggestion to puree the vegetables used to make the stock for thickening rather than add flour. I have time to think about these.

I've started my third contribution for dinner - the stuffing. I put that under the turkey on the smoker to catch drippings as it cooks. I also put the meat probe in to see where the turkey is at. I also snapped some pictures.

The setuffing came out when the bird came off. It was clearly done.

Apologies for not getting a picture of the bird when it was finished. I guess I had other priorities at that point. It looked pretty much like the picture at 10:30 (two hours before it came off) except it was a couple shades darker yet. I rested it in a gas grill (because other stuff was in the oven) which I held at 150°-200° for over an hour. There were still some other things to  prepare and then we had soup first. It was nice to know that I had hit the ready to serve point at 1:00 and the additional hold time caused no problems.

Everything came out great! The bird was flavorful and juicy though the skin was more tough than crispy. I knew that would happen as a result of smoking. The stuffing had some liquid in it when it came off, but it seemed to absorb that as it rested. It was really good as well. The gravy had a more translucent quality to it due to the starch and it did not harden as it sat. It tasted vary good as well. Overall I'm entirely pleased with the results. I had been a little concerned that this would not be enough for 7 adults but it was plenty.

Post Scriptum:

  1. Before an important cook like this, be sure to check thermometers using boiling water as a standard.
  2. Do not be so quick to condemn the Maverick. It turned out that the other quick reading thermometer was reading 20° low and caused me to overcook the bird by 20°. <growl>

As an aside, I have not been blogging all of my cooks. I have been doing some grilling and that's usually pretty quick, leaving me little time to wax eloquent... But I have a moment now so I can go back and hit some highlights.

A couple days ago I decided to grill some lamb chops that we had gotten from our kids. (They bought a couple lambs at a 4H or county fair.) I decided to do them on my new toy - a Lodge Sportsman's Grill. This is really a hibachi and has a nice cast iron grate. It also has a means to control air which works surprisingly well. Unlike the Weber grills, this one has no lid to control combustion air. I fired it up with a full load of mesquite lump and seasoned the chops with EVOO, fresh pressed garlic, fresh cracked black pepper and (not so fresh) rubbed rosemary. I grilled them at a relatively high temperature along with some thawed frozen broccoli florets which were also coated with EVOO.

The lamb came out astonishingly good! I gave it only a few minutes on eacyh side and these 1" thick chops were still very rare inside.