Say goodbye to boring and dry thanksgiving turkey! Soaking your turkey in brine is the first step to achieving this. The second step is to cook the bird on a charcoal BBQ and add smoking chips to the coals.
This year, I made a new brine recipe and included a six pack of Lost Coast Great White beer. It is a light colored beer and has a citrusy note, and goes well with the oranges, apples and herbs in this brine recipe. I have used darker beers in years past, but sometimes the beer flavor can sometimes be overwhelming to some Thanksgiving turkey eating patrons.
Just like preparing and cooking any other turkey, this is a process. It takes time and commitment to get this great turkey that your guests will be salivating over.
This process requires me to have a second small BBQ available to prepare additional coals. I do not recommend stuffing this turkey.
8 cups water
1/2 cup sea salt
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup local honey
4 small oranges, cut in half
2 apples, sliced
2 Tablespoons oil
2 large onions, sliced in half
3 medium carrots, quartered
3 ribs celery, quartered
2 bundles fresh thyme
2 bundles fresh sage
4 fresh bay leaves
1 stick softened butter
6 12 ounce bottles Lost Coast Great White beer
4-6 cups BBQ smoking chips, previously soaked in water, then drained
12 pound Kingsford Match Light Charcoal (or whatever your charcoal of choice may be – I like Match Light because it takes out the required guess work with lighter fluid)
1 fresh and/or thawed 12-16 pound turkey that has not been factory packed in a salt brine solution
In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, place onions cut side down in the pot. Add carrots and celery. Allow to cook until the bottom of the onion turns a nice golden brown color.
Turn heat to high and add in water. When the water comes to a boil, add in salt, brown sugar, honey, one bundle of sage, one bundle of thyme, bay leaves, apples and oranges. Squeeze the juice from the oranges in to the pot and then add the rinds as well. Allow to boil about 10 minutes then turn off and remove the pot from the heat. Add in 4 of the beers.
Add ice and cold water to the pot (about 4 cups of each). Add in remaining beers.
Slowly mix in ice until the mixture becomes cold.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey. Save them for another use or dispose of them.
Place turkey in a large, food safe container that is slightly bigger than the turkey, but not much bigger or you won’t have enough brine.
Cover the turkey with the entire contents of the brine, oranges, herbs and all. If the brine does not completely cover the turkey, add cold water. Place the turkey in a cold place. For me, this is a cooler in my very cold garage. I don’t put it in my fridge because of the weight of the turkey and liquids could easily break down my refrigerator shelves. I place the container in a large cooler and pack around the container with ice. Allow it to sit for at least 36 hours or up to 3 days. The longer the brine, the better the flavor. Check the turkey every 12 hours to make sure the ice is still keeping the brine and bird cold.
On the day you’re ready to cook the turkey, remove the bird from the brine. Pour the liquid down the sink and throw the chunks in the garbage. Make sure all the liquid has been poured out of the turkey. Set the turkey in a pan and lightly cover it with foil. Allow the turkey to sit for 3-4 hours. Move the turkey to a disposable turkey roasting pan. Rub the turkey down with room temperature butter. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper. Put the remaining sage and thyme in the turkey cavity. Cover the pan lightly. Do not completely seal the pan with foil, it should be loose.
When you’re ready to cook, bring your charcoal BBQ to temperature (about 350-400) with a single layer of completely white coals. Add about 3/4 cup smoking chips to the top of the coals. Place the turkey inside and quickly cover the grill. Open the top vent about 25%. Smoke should billow out the sides and vent.
After 30 minutes, light the coals on the second grill. When the coals are ready, check the turkey. The coals should still be burning hot. If not, remove the turkey and add more coals and smoking chips. You will want to add smoking chips every time you add charcoal.
Continue this process until the turkey is cooked, with a meat thermometer reading of 165 in the breast and 180 in the thigh. Remove the turkey from the grill and very tightly cover with foil. Allow the turkey to rest at least 20 minutes before slicing.