Friday, November 21, 2014

Let's Talk Turkey

Smoked turkey is GOOD!  It has become a tradition in my family to smoke a turkey during Thanksgiving the past couple years.  It frees up the oven for other dishes and let’s face it, smoked turkey rocks!  FYI we do smoked turkey a couple times a year so don’t be afraid to pick up a few extra the day after Thanksgiving when they go on sale, usually around $.50 a pound.  Throw them in the deep freeze and they’ll keep for about a year.  I always get a few and either practice new techniques or bust them out during the year for special occasions. 

If you don’t want a frozen turkey, you can get them fresh from a few stores but you will pay extra.  Remember too that you will need to keep them under 40 degrees Fahrenheit before cooking to keep them from spoiling. 

Speaking of spoilage, let us discuss FOOD SAFETY!  I read about salmonella and food poisoning a lot when dealing with poultry.  It is important that you are aware of storage temps, thawing temps, brining temps, and cooking temps.  
  • 12-14 pound turkeys – these are what I cook.  I don’t mess with small birds as I prefer leftovers and they fit in the food grade buckets better. 

  • Large turkeys 16lbs and larger require more cook time and stay in the danger zone longer, between 40 and 160 degrees.  This allows for a higher risk or chance that bacteria will develop.
  • No Stuffing goes inside a smoked bird.  Stuffing slows down the cooking process on a smoker and can again cause a higher change of bacteria.  We do our stuffing in the oven.
  • After handling poultry, always wash your hands.

Thawing a Turkey
There are typically three methods used for thawing a turkey; thawing in the fridge, thawing submerged in cold water, or thawing in the microwave.  I have used both of the first two methods but I refused to use a microwave to thaw my birds.  

  • Fridge Thawing (to me, this is the easiest and safest method)
    • General Rule - allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat.  So if you have a 14 pound bird it will take roughly 72 hours to thaw.  I like to build in a safety net and give it an extra 12 hours of thaw time.
  •  Cold Water Thawing
    • General Rule - allow 30 to 45 minutes per pound.  If you have a 14 pound bird, it will take around 10 hours to thaw (past experience confirms).
    • You will need to change out the water every 30 to 45 minutes to help ensure that the temp stays under 40 degrees (food safety, we want to be fat and happy, not sick and dying).
  • Microwave Thawing (this is not an option and never will be in my home)
    • Look up and follow the directions listed by the manufacturer of your Microwave.
    • Once you nuke a bird it has be cooked, it cannot be refrozen. 
What will you need?
I’ve used this technique and recipe on 40 or so Turkeys now and it is pretty much my go to … I have used others techniques and recipes but this one I like best.  Doesn’t mean I won’t find something better, but at this point, this is what I like.

·         1 Turkey (12-14lbs)
·         1 Gallon of Water
·         1 Cup Salt (Morton’s Table Salt or Kosher; either is fine)
·         ½ Cup sugar (I use organic ground brown sugar)
·         2 TBSP whole peppercorns
·         2 TBSP Honey
·         1 Cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
·         1 Cup favorite Rub (aka seasoning)
·         1 Large Brining Bag
·         1 Five (5) Gallon Food Grade Brining Bucket

How to Smoke a Turkey (Gerry Style)
  1. Thaw and clean the turkey – rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets/packets from the cavity of the turkey.  My wife is from the Philippines and loves cooking these up, so I take them out and hand them off to her.  I also remove the pop-up thermometer that comes in most turkeys.  You don’t have to, I just don’t like them and I find them to be more of a nuisance than a help.  
  2. Make your brine:  in a large pot combine ½ gallon of water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and honey over medium heat.  Once it begins to simmer turn off the stove, boiling causes the honey to break down, plus we need to cool the brine to under 40 degrees Fahrenheit before using.  Allow the ingredients to thoroughly mix and the salt and sugar to dissolve.  Add the remaining ½ gallon of water and a couple trays of ice.  Place brine in fridge until cooled.  Because I brine I do not inject.  I usually make my brine the night before and refrigerate it to ensure that the brine is cool before adding the bird.
    1. I’ve done injection but prefer brining.  Sure there is more time involved but I prefer it.  If you don’t want to brine I would highly recommend injecting the bird.  This will only take about 30 minutes. 
    2. Over medium heat, combine 1 stick of butter, 1/8 cup of your favorite seasoning/rub, a 32oz box of chicken broth, and a dash of salt.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow the injection to cool.  Strain injection to remove large sediments so you avoid clogging the injector.  
    3. Inject the turkey breasts, then the thighs and legs.  
    4. Once injected move to step 6
  3. Line the inside of a 5 gallon food grade bucket with the bringing bag (I use bags from and fill with the cooled brining liquid.  
  4. Submerge the turkey in the liquid, and close the bag.  Get as much air out of the bag as possible.  You can take some heavy bricks wrapped in foil and in Ziploc bags or a heavy pot and set it on top to help keep the turkey from floating if you would like.  The turkey needs to remain under 40 degrees during the bringing process so either store in the fridge OR fill the bucket with ice.  You will need to constantly check the ice and change it out as needed.  I have a fridge outside with a shelf removed so I can fit my turkey in there.  Some people use their vegetable crisping drawer for bringing so they don’t have to worry about space.  You can also use an ice chest – it will keep ice longer.**Little Side Note:  I prefer to brine all natural and non-enhanced turkeys.  This means they haven't been injected with a 8% or 12% solution.  Natural allows for the turkey to take the brine better.
  5.  I brine my turkeys (12-14lbs) for around 16 hours.  I will typically put my turkey in the brine early Wednesday morning and then take it out of the brine Wednesday night before bed.  Once out of the brine, I thoroughly rinse the turkey inside and out, pat the skin dry with a paper towel, then set it on a cooling rack (this allows all of the skin to dry) and put it in the fridge overnight.  After brining for that long, the bird needs time to recover, more specifically the skin.  The fridge will dry the skin out, allowing it to tighten back up resulting in a better finish and texture to the skin.  IE more crisp skin.  If you skip the drying out / recovery phase, the skin will have more of a rubbery consistency.  No Bueno in my book.
  6. Bring the pit up to temp.  I usually cook my birds at around 350 degrees.  Turkey and chicken for the matter, in my opinion, don’t need a heavy dose of smoke and fair better at a high temp for a faster cook.  Or in the words of most of the BBQ peeps out there, Hot & Fast.   I’m not saying that a cook at 225-250 is bad, it typically yields a great bird, but for me I like high temp on the bird, shorter cook time, and usually because of the higher temp a crispier skin.  I will use a drip pan and a turkey rack inside the smoker.  The rack elevates the turkey to allow it to receive smoke all the around and the drip pan catches those yummy drippings to accentuate our wonder gravy!   That said I found that I do need to go out at about 2 hours and use my suction tube baster to suck up the juices so they don’t burn off.
  7. About 20 to 30 minutes before my pit is going to reach cooking temp (depending temp outside and your pit this can take as little as 30 minutes to as long as a couple hours…) I will pull my turkey out of the fridge and do the last bit of prep.  I will lightly rub it down with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) then sprinkle with the rub of my choosing.  This year it’s a simple rub; kosher salt, fresh ground peppercorns, garlic powder, onion powder, dash of paprika, and maybe a little spice.  I won’t rub olive oil on the inside cavity but will put rub inside.  Again NO STUFFING goes in a turkey that you are smoking – the risk of bacteria is too high in my book.
  8. You will smoke the turkey until the thigh reaching a temp of 160 to 165.  At 350 this is around 3 to 3 ½ hours.  If cooking low and slow at 250 its closer to 6 hours.  This time line is again for 12-14lb birds.  Thighs will take longer to cook than the breast meat so at around 2 ¾ hours I put a piece of aluminum foil across the top of the turkey to help prevent the breast from drying out.   I know some who baste their birds during the cook, I do not.  Tried it a couple times and just didn’t notice enough of a difference, especially since I brine my birds.
  9. Pull it from the pit and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving it up.  This lets it cool off a little and allows for the juices to redistribute evenly.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Brisket Pizza

So with all my cooking and experimenting lately, we've had a lot of extra meat getting vacuum sealed and tossed in the freezer. Solution presented itself when I purchased an Italian cookbook for my wife called Extra Virgin... she decided she wanted some pizza but BBQ too... as, a, result we had Brisket Pizza.

Learned I need to get a couple pizza stones for my pit but we improvised...

Almond flour pizza dough ... proofed for 3 hours and then hand tossed and stretch thin. Rubbed the bottom down with EVO.

Applied homemade tomato sauce (tomatoes from our garden), fresh shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, purple onions, garlic, olives, and smoked brisket. We wanted to add some basil but we were out.

Next time we're going to add some mushrooms and some avocado.

Heated the pit to 450ish ... pizza cooked for 25 to 30 minutes.

As always, thank you again for taking the time to check out my posts.

Surgery for the 4th

So as it turns out the pain in my back that I have been experiencing for that past several months was my gallbladder ... good news is the pain is now gone, bad news is that they took the gallbladder out on the 3rd of July. Bad because I had already committed to doing some briskets for my buddy's family reunion ... somewhere between 25 and 30 people.

I cowboy'd up and enlisted the aid of mentioned buddy. I supervised and he did the manual labor. There were moments where I had to step in and make some fixes to the trim or the making of the sauces/rubs. But over all, he did pretty good.

This was the fun ... I have yellow socks that match the pillow so my wife said I just need some blue overalls and I can be a Minion for Halloween.

Got home that evening and my buddy came over and did the prep work - opened the cryo, rinsed the meat, did some trimming, and then a simple injection ... (1/4 Worcestershire and 3/4 beef broth). Rested them in the fridge, covered, over night. 3:45am I got my 14 year old nephew, who is staying with me, to pause his Xbox game (he staid up all night) to pull the brisket out of the fridge and set on the counter for me. I am not allowed to lift more than 10 to 15 lbs.

Got them uncovered, drained, then wiped down with L&P Worcestershire (gluten free) and rub.
At this point, I paused to take some of my wonderful pain meds... then returned to reality.

By this time, the pit was sitting around 225 (I used my Traeger along with a Pellet Tube Smoker for added smoke), again got my nephew to help load the meat. I also use a small water pan that had to be filled up several times throughout the cook.
At 2 hours in I mop the briskets with my injection mix, plus 2 tbsp of my rub.
Closed it back up and then at 4 and 1/2 hours, pulled the meat for wrapping.

 I love that I am now getting a consistent color every time ... whether it be on the Traeger or my stick burner... these are the two briskets getting my mob and butter treatment for wrapping.  I don't wrap much any more but since I was not as active at watching the meat due to the surgery, I decided to wrap this cook.
Turned the temp up on the pit to around 275... took another 3+ hours to bring the briskets to an internal temp of 198.

When they probed 198, I brought them in, unwrapped them, drained the yummy juice off and saved it for use later. I let the briskets rest unwrapped for about 15 minutes, then I wrapped them in two layers of heavy foil and then put them in an Ice Chest wrapped in towels, where they would rest for 2 to 3 hours.

I am again loving the color ...

As they sliced and chopped the brisket at my buddies house, I unfortunately do not have any more photos. HOWEVER, my wife surprised me and while I was resting she made Filipino BBQ Pork on a Stick, and made fresh juice (strawberries, apples, and carrots). Gotta love my wife!!!

 As always, thanks for reading my posts ... I enjoy sharing, as I am sure y'all can tell.

Apple Wood Huli Huli & Inject Corn

OK so having never made Huli Huli before and after seeing the Wolfe Pits video on it, decided I was going to give it a try. Was very happy with the way it turned out.

Brined the chicken for about 4 hours (while we were at church), came back took it out of the brine, dried it with paper towels, then let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes while I brought the pit up to 350. Also made the Huli Huli sauce (didn't have light soy sauce so I used a little less than what his recipe called for and I actually added a little bit of honey to the mix just cause).

Rubbed the chicken and then had it on the pit for 45 minutes, flipping the chicken every 5 minutes. At 45 minutes I added the Huli Huli sauce, cooked for 10 minutes, flipped, Huli Huli'd the other side, cooked 10 more minutes, removed from heat, rested for 20 minutes, and served. Pulled chicken when it hit 170 internal.

For the corn I melted some butter, clarified it, added in some sea salt and granulated garlic. After that I loaded up my injector and injected the liquid goodness from each end of the unhusked cob under the husk but not into the corn itself. The corn spent about 40 minutes on the grill. Pulled it off, cut off the end, squeezed and the corn came right out. Brushed it lightly with a little more of the liquid goodness, sliced up some chicken, and sliced up some pineapple. Great dinner. Will be making it again. Maybe a smidge less cayenne and little less salt next time, but definitely on my go to list.

Chicken was spicy sweet and super moist. Corn crunchy and fresh. Was a good cook.

Huli Huli Chicken Brine
    1 Cup - Kosher Salt
    1/2 Cup - White Sugar
    2-3 - Bay Leaves
    2 tsp - Granulated Garlic
    6 Cups - Ice
    4 Cups - Cold Water
    1 Cup - Hot Water
    5 to 6 pound - Whole Chicken (split in half) see video.
    - Combine hot water, bay leaves, kosher salt, sugar, and garlic - mix until combined and disolved.  Add cold water, ice, and chicken.  Make sure chicken is completely covered by brine, the refridgerate for 4 to 12 hours, or over night.

Dry Rub

    2 TBS - Granulated Garlic
    2 TBS - Kosher Salt
    1 TBS - Paprika
    2 TSP - Cayenne
    1 TBS - Granulated Onion
    1 TBS - Black Pepper
    1 TSP - Cumin
    - Mix all ingredients

Huli Huli Sauce
    1 Cup - Pineapple Juice
    1/2 Cup - Ketchup (cory syrup free is what we use)
    1/2 Cup - Lite Soy Sauce (tried with dark and with lite - GET THE LITE!)
    3 TBS - Apple Cider Vinegar
    1/2 Cup - Light Brown Sugar
    1 TBS - Fresh Minced Garlic
    - Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat, bring to slight boil, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Dialing in my Brisket

So I'm cooking for my buddy's daughter's baby shower this coming weekend, so I thought what a perfect excuse to smoke some BBQ this weekend. At least that's what I told the wife ...

Been wanting to try out a couple final tweaks I put in my BBQ Journal from my last brisket cook and I have to say I am VERY happy! And better yet - my wife loved it and hasn't stopped raving, which means its Good.

Started off with a $1.97 Brisket from Kroger - not the best one but definitely a decent cut. I bought 5 briskets (the butcher let me sort through the 4 cases they had - and at $1.97lb my wife was OK with me stocking up - remember Happy Wife = Happy Life)

Got it thawed out, out of the cryovac bag...

Did some trimming - fat cap to about 1/4", cut the deckle out so the brisket was more uniformed flat. Trimmed a little from the sides... according to the scale, I trimmed about 1/2lb of stuff off.

Then I rubbed it down with a 1 part beef broth and 3 part Worcestershire Sauce. I like the flavor and hit helps the rub stick.

I don't go super thick on my rub, but this time I went heavier than I did last time. Pretty simple rub: Kosher Salt, Fresh group pepper corn medley, granulated onion power, granulated garlic, paprika, ground habanero (just a smidge), and a little turbinado sugar... I apply the rub and let it sit for about 30 minutes before putting it on the pit.

I fire up the pit, my go to is Pecan - I love it. Brought the temp up to @225ish. This is the Pellet Pooper (I have an R&O offset that is my main goto). I've never enjoyed the lack of smoke that the Traeger seems to be hit and miss on so the notes I made to try this cook ... bring it to temp (@225) then dial it down to the "Smoke" setting and put the brisket on for 45 minutes.  Used a large water pan with about 1/2 gallon of water in it and filled it up again half way through the cook.

This is about 50 minutes after the brisket went on ... I flipped the temp back up to @225 and let it roll.

This at 5 hours in, I flipped it from Fat Cap down to Fat Cap up... another experiment. Traeger has the heat coming up from below and a couple times when I had the cap up, the brisket  dried out... so this cook did the debated flip technique.

Before Flip:

This is around 8.5 hours in ... Fat Cap Up

When the meat probed 198 internal on the point I pulled it from the pit, let it rest for 10 minutes on the cutting board, then wrapped it in two layers of heavy foil, wrapped in two beach towels, and put in the chest for 4 hours to rest.

Sliced up nice and juicy... didn't crumble, passed the pull test nicely ... just a slight tug before coming apart. Very Very happy. Smoke flavor was exactly where I wanted it and the pink smoke ring was solid. 

Didn't do burnt ends this time, ended up doing slightly thicker cuts for sandwiches ;) so good.

Was very happy ... and was not dry at all. The bark was nam nam nammy candy good. Very happy and really happy that I got the smoke flavor (almost, not exactly) that my offset produces.

Let me know what y'all think. (Next I'm tackling my Pork Shoulder - taking it back to the basics and moving forward again).

Stuffed Smoked Pork Tender Loin

Had a good friend over for dinner last night, a buddy I hadn't seen in way to long. I'd say next to my dad, this dude is probably the reason I got into BBQ so much. Figured I'd make something I'd not done before on the pit ... have done them in an oven but never on a smoker. Smoked and Stuff Pork Loin.

Laid it out length wise on the cutting board and then sliced it open and flat.

 The filling: basil from the garden, fresh chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil, minced sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, little sea salt. Also put in some Jalapeno and cheddar sausage (its what I had)...

Rolled/tied it up and dropped it on the pit @275 for about 2 and 1/2 hours ... until it reached 145-150 internal temp. Sprinkled the top with my pork rub.

Brought it in and let it rest for about 15 minutes before slicing it up.

Good solid moisture. Great flavor. Served with fresh corn on the cob and a tomato/cucumber/onion salad. Dinner started at 6:30pm .. I don't think we called it a night til almost 11pm...