Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mesquite Smoked Turkey

Last winter I posted a few recipes for smoking meats in your oven. These recipes produced a mildly smoked flavor and did rely on liquid smoke as a booster. Now that it's summer and we all have our grills out you can smoke outdoors in a more proper fashion. I do not own a large smoker so I have also developed a way to make a homemade smoke box and use it indoors. Obviously, great care and all precautions must be taken when doing this but if you follow my instructions you will wind up with a wonderfully smoked turkey. But, as I said you can do this with your outdoor grill and eliminate making the smoker box. This recipe is really more of a few techniques along with my very special barbecue rub blend for the turkey. I hope you enjoy.

Mesquite Smoked Turkey


2 to 3 pounds turkey breast or thighs, with bone and skin

2 quarts water
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup Splenda

Dry Rub:
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup Splenda
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. paprika

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Place a large zipper top bag in a casserole dish or other vessel and open the top. Pour in the water and add the salt and Splenda to make the brine. Stir it well to dissolve the salt. Place the turkey breast or thighs into the bag, seal it well and arrange in dish so that the bag is flat and the turkey is covered in the brine solution. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Blend all dry rub ingredients in a container with a lid and shake until well combined. Remove turkey from brine and dispose of liquid. Rinse well under cool water and pat turkey dry with paper towels. Carefully loosen the skin from the meat with your hand but do not remove completely. Liberally coat the turkey both under the skin and on top with the dry rub. Place the turkey on a rack, which has been placed over the dish and return to the refrigerator. Let the turkey air dry in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, uncovered and on the bottom shelf to avoid any cross contamination issues. The turkey can also be air dried in the refrigerator overnight if desired.

To prepare a homemade smoke box you will need the following items:

A large, heavy stainless steel roasting pan that can be placed directly over a heat source
2 large aluminum pans, about 9" x 13" x 1" deep, which will fit into the large roasting pan
2 heavy flat roasting racks, not bakers cooling racks
about 2 cups of mesquite wood chips that have been soaked for at least 30 minutes in water
heavy duty aluminum foil

To build your smoke box place one of the aluminum pans into the heavy roaster pan and add the soaked mesquite wood chips. Spread the chips out in a single layer. Place a rack over the top of this aluminum pan. Put the second aluminum pan on top of the rack, this will act as your drip pan, and place the second roasting rack over this. Center your turkey breast or thighs on the rack. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and seal well around three edges of the large roasting pan, leaving one corner loose to check for smoke.

Center your smoke box on the front burner of your stove. Turn on to high heat and watch closely for smoke to begin to appear. As soon as you begin to see the smoke reduce the heat to between medium and medium high and carefully seal the final edge of aluminum foil. Let turkey smoke for about 45 minutes with the smoker temperature at about 225' to 250' and checking periodically. Please take all precautions and do this with good ventilation and have your kitchen fire extinguisher handy. Please do not attempt this on an electric stove.

Preheat oven to 350'

After the turkey has smoked for about 45 minutes turn the heat off and very carefully remove the aluminum foil from one corner. Allow some of the smoke to escape and remove the foil completely. The turkey will not be fully cooked at this point. Place the turkey, while still on the rack, into another roasting pan and into the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the turkey has reached 160'. Baste with the melted butter just a few times. Remove and tent aluminum foil over turkey and allow to rest for about 15 minutes or so. Make sure that as soon as the turkey is removed from the smoker box you pour ample water to cover  the mesquite wood chips in the pan to douse and ensure that they are no longer burning. Move entire smoke box off of the heat to a cold back burner until pan is cold.

To smoke the turkey on your outdoor grill, after your charcoal has been lit and is white hot and ready to cook, carefully lift one side of your grill grate and pour in the soaked mesquite wood chips. Place the turkey on that side of the grill and cover. Maintain your grill temperature between 225' and 250' and smoke turkey for about 45 minutes. The chips will likely be burned out by this time so place the turkey in the center of the grill grate, cover and grill turkey until it has reached an internal temperature of 155', checking often. Let turkey rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Nutrition Facts
8 - 3 Ounce Cooked Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 151.4
Total Fat 6.5 g
Saturated Fat 2.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.0 g
Cholesterol 43.1 mg
Sodium 355.3 mg
Potassium 300.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 4.9 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Sugars 0.8 g
Protein 19.4 g

Please Note ~ This is recipe involves techniques that may be hazardous and Chef Barrae assumes no responsibility for any kitchen or personal mishaps, which may result.

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