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+++Enter At Your Own Risk+++ At the gentle nudging (I said gentle y'all) of a few friends, I have started these blogs in order to share my culinary goings-on and daily misadventures through my own brand of humor (ok, sarcasm). I just write about stuff! At 50, I have learned that living has gotten in the way of life - and I am going to blaze my own personal trail to fun (hopefully)! If it is feminine, great. If it is not, so much the better! Hopefully fun that does not land me in jail............

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smoke that Bird aka., Let Them Eat Meat…

So I was torn as to whether I should post this here or on my “This Gal’s Fishing Adventure” blog. This will be an adventure for sure so should qualify for either blog! Just say’n…

Smoking has been used to preserve red-meats and fish for a long time. I cannot tell you how far back in history smoking goes (and am too lazy to look it up today), but I do remember my GrandPa Garrett smoking meats in a little smoke house at the farm. I wish I had a photo of it for this blog entry.

Apparently absorbed smoke acts as a preservative while adding awesome flavor to the meats.

Now that I have successfully brined pork chops and was successful in smoking several meats (with a partner), I have decided to smoke a whole, bone-in turkey breast. Well, 2 actually. And as to not waste smoker space, I am throwing on 2 each Lay’s Three Little Pigs cracker bolognas and a pound of Lay’s Three Little Pigs thick sliced bacon to smoke from Food City.

There is an art and science to smoking meats and I will NOT cover that because I am so below a ‘smoking novice’ – it isn’t funny. It is my understanding that the following affect flavor intensity, flavor type, and product outcome:
  • Various hardwoods used
  • Various combinations of woods
  • Smoking with one wood and ‘finishing’ with another
  • Type of charcoal
  • Smoker equipment
  • Grade/quality of meats used
  • Herbs and spices (that one is a given)
I assume pre-prep of meat will affect product outcome as well.  

The tough part of smoking any meats is the patience factor. Smoking is a slow going process that requires extended periods of time at temperatures appropriate for the meat being smoked.

In my little solo adventure here, I will use the following general items and give specifics tomorrow:
  • Brined fresh turkey breasts
  • Whatever spices, that I find in my cupboard, to use as a rub
  • One of the smoking woods I have stashed in the garage (assuming the mice have not carried it off)
  • Charcoal 
In my research on this smoking business, I have found the following instructions:
  • Exhibit patience.
  • Heat smoker to a holding temp of 250°F.
  • Buy a better turkey, but a small one. It is better to smoke smaller ones than larger ones.
  • Turkey breasts are better for smoking as you run less risk of drying the meat out.
  • Vertical wet-pan smokers are preferred in this adventure. I have a horizontal smoker with a side fire box. I will add a pan of water to impart moisture however.
  • Get the best charcoal you can buy. Real charcoal if possible. Kingsford Briquettes if not.
  • Never buy “instant light” briquettes. I have Green Egg Charcoal. THAT was expensive.
  • Fruit woods are best with poultry/turkey when smoking.
  • Never use ‘soft woods’ when smoking as many of those are toxic to humans.
  • Use an grill/oven thermometer. OK, mine came with my “$149 on sale at Tractor Supply” smoker. It isn’t quality, but I am going with it. 
  • I have to pick up a new instant read probe thermometer for the turkey. My el’cheap’o died making cannoli.
  • Insulated food gloves are a help, but since I don’t have them and am only doing small breasts, (stop laughing) I will not purchase this go around.
  • Chimney type charcoal starter.
Smoking the turkey is supposed to be enough when it comes to flavor (I am brining so that will help) but you can add a rub over and under the skin and in the cavity. Suggested spices:
• Salt (Kosher preferred)
• Paprika (Hungarian much preferred for best flavor)
• Pepper, black (fresh ground!)
• Chili powder
• Garlic, granulate or powder
• Onion powder
• Cayenne pepper
• Basil
• Poultry seasoning

Prep that Sucker, I Mean Turkey…
  • Start with a thoroughly thawed whole turkey/chicken or turkey breast.  
  • Apply rub under and over skin and inside if you want that extra flavor. Do this at least a few hours to up to 3 days ahead of smoking time. Yea, I don’t have that time now… 
  • Keep turkey at 40°F or below until ready to smoke it. 

While turkey is resting after its obscene rub-down…  
  • Soak about 3-4 c of dry chips/chunks of fruit wood for 30 minutes or so. 
  • Fill your pan in the smoke chamber with water (within an inch of top). I would use one of those throw-away aluminum pans so as to not ruin a good baking pan. 
  • Fire up your charcoal, but do not use petroleum based starter because it will cause a nasty taste in the meats.
  • I am supposed to leave the upper vent wide open and use only the lower vents for controlling heat. We will see how that works out.  
Fire Up the Smoker…

Drain wood and place directly on the hot coals once the inside of the smoker has reached 250°F. This is supposed to be enough for the whole process, even if you add coals. Apparently too much smoke = bitter meat.

Turkey placement options:
  • Directly on the rack 
  • On a baking sheet

Avoid placing IN a roasting pan as that has a tendency to steam the meat. You can place a pan underneath to catch the juices for making gravy later. Add a cup or 2 of water to that puppy.

General Rules:
  • Resist the urge to peek inside over and over. This will cause the temp to fluctuate too much for a bird. 
  • Allow 20-30 minutes per pound of bird for this recipe.
  • Use the meat thermometer to check temp. Thigh internal temp should read 165°F and the breast internal temperature should read 170°F. 
  • Let that bird rest for 15-20 minutes after its smoky spa treatment before carving up and serving. 

Why am I writing all this down?  So I can commit as much to memory as possible before hitting it!

Alrighty then, we will see how this goes tomorrow folks!

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