Brining a turkey

So in sticking with the official Big Green Egg recipe, here’s the evidence from brining.

1. Pour the water into a large bowl.

2. Add the brown sugar, orange rind, rosemary, salt, two-thirds of the quartered onions, and 1 halved garlic head.

3. Mix until the sugar and salt dissolve.

4. Remove the giblets from inside the turkey and reserve for another use.

5. Rinse the turkey well.

6. Place the turkey in a 2½ gallon resealable plastic bag or any container that is large enough to hold the turkey and the liquid.

7. Pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it’s completely covered. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

8. Since Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of days, go ahead and start thawing the next bird.

Smoked Turkey on the Big Green Egg

If you want the full experience of this, you probably actually want to start here.

If you’re just looking for the recipe, continue on.

This is almost word for word a repost of the official Big Green Egg Smoked Turkey recipe. I’ve made some minor edits. But this is basically identical to their recipe.

Ingredients
16 cups (1 gallon) water
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
Rind of 1 navel orange
3 sprigs rosemary
1 cup kosher salt
3 yellow onions, quartered
2 heads garlic, halved
1 (12-pound) turkey
2 lemons, quartered
10 sprigs thyme
10 sprigs sage
1 cup chopped potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat the EGG to 350ºF / 177ºC without the Plate Setter.

Pour the water into a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, orange rind, rosemary, salt, two-thirds of the quartered onions, and 1 halved garlic head. Mix until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove the giblets from inside the turkey and reserve for another use. Rinse the turkey well. Place the turkey in a 2½ gallon resealable plastic bag or any container that is large enough to hold the turkey and the liquid. Pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it’s completely covered. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well to remove the brining liquid, and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brining liquid and solids. Stuff the turkey with the lemon quarters, the remaining halved garlic head and onion, thyme, sage, and potatoes. Brush the turkey with olive oil and season with pepper and garlic powder.

Place the Plate Setter, legs up, in the EGG. Place the turkey on the V-Rack and put the V-Rack in the Drip Pan. Place the Drip Pan on the Plate Setter and close the lid of the EGG. Cook for 2½ hours. If the turkey starts to brown too quickly, carefully tent the turkey with aluminum foil. Continue cooking until the instant read thermometer registers 165ºF / 74ºC.

Remove the turkey from the EGG and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately. Serves 8

Setup the BGE for indirect cooking

So now that the Egg is cleaned out, I’m ready to start getting ready for TurkeyPalooza 2012.

Being that my back patio is covered and there is 0% chance of rain. I can do this the night before too. If you recall, we started with a clean and empty Big Green Egg.

1. Insert the electric starter (if that’s what you’re using). Pour natural lump charcoal over the top. There are a bazillion different brands out there. I use the “official” stuff lately. Don’t be afraid to reach in there and move individual chunks of charcoal around. For indirect cooking, you want to build a stable, controlled fire.

2. (optional) Add a couple small chunks of wood for smoke. For the turkey, I’m going with Apple. For God’s sake, do not use mesquite for poultry or pork.

3. Add more natural lump charcoal. The idea is to get a full load of coal. At least to cover the holes in the fire bowl. And, for long cooks, you can go as high as near the top of the fire ring if you have to.


For the actual cook:

4. Plug in the electric starter. Open the bottom and top vents all the way for maximum air flow. For a high temp cook, I’ll leave this in for 6 or 7 minutes. for a low temperature cook, I may only leave it in for 3 or 4 minutes.

5. Close the lid. Let the grill pre-heat. Do not leave the grill unattended. You’ll want to start adjusting the vents when you get within 25 – 50 degrees of your intended temperature. For the Turkey, I’m looking for a “dome temp” of 350F, which means the cooking surface should be a slightly cooler 325F. Pro Tip: Be willing to spend time getting your fire right. Your brisket, chicken and pork (and hopefully my turkey) are worth getting this right. If I’m doing a cut of meat that people consider to have a high degree of difficulty (read: brisket), it is not uncommon for me to spend 45 minutes to an hour before I consider my fire to be “right.” One of my friends convinced me this was OK the day before my first brisket and I am glad that he did.

6. Once you’ve preheated and your fire is stable, add the ceramic platesetter. For turkey (for basically anything except pizza), I’m using it inverted with the feet facing up. This will leave room for me to insert a roasting pan to catch drippings. Close the lid and allow the temperature to normalize again. You may need to adjust your vents to permit more air flow.

7. Add the meat. In the case of the turkey, add the turkey, breast side up in a V Rack. I also have a probe thermometer in the turkey breast so that I get an audible alarm when the breast meat reaches 165F.

8. Stick with the grill for another 20 to 30 minutes to be sure the temperature holds steady. And then walk away. Sometimes I check the dome temperature every couple of hours. Sometimes I watch football. Sometimes I just sleep. Whatever you do, keep the lid closed.

You want me to cook a Thanksgiving turkey?! Part 1

I’m going to try something new this week. Think of this like a live foodblog event. And round 1 begins tonight.

Last week, my wife realized we could simplify Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family if, instead of using the oven for the turkey, I could cook a bird on the Big Green Egg. So, we talked about who all is coming for dinner and then went back and forth on whether we should do a couple of turkey breasts or a whole turkey. Since we’re feeding 10+, we decided to go with a smallish whole turkey, about 13 lbs. But since I’ve never cooked a turkey at all, we picked up a 10 lb bird too. For practice. The 10 lb turkey has been thawing in the refrigerator for about 70 hours and the action is about to get started.

Tonight, I’m tackling a few things.

1. Clean out the grill. Take pictures.
2. Setup the Egg for indirect cooking.
3. Select a recipe.
4. Brine the turkey. Take some more pictures.

The practice cook will happen tomorrow night. And we’ll eat some and I’ll take a some samples to my office on Tuesday to get some coworker feedback.

Oh yeah.. Roll Tide!!

So you want me to cook a Thanksgiving turkey?! Part 2

Boston Butt

Well, tonight is another slow smoke. This weekend was an Alabama away game in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We didn’t have tickets, so I thought what better way to support the Tide from home than by burning a pig in effigy. I had a 5.13lb trimmed Boston butt. At 1.5 to 2 hrs per lb to hit 195F plus an hour or more to rest, that meant getting up early. Kickoff was scheduled for 2:30 pm. Lunch was served about 2:20. #winning

Ingredients:
Yellow mustard
1 bone-in Boston Butt

Prepare butt for the Egg (the night before):

1. Remove the pork butt from the packaging. Run cold water over the meat. Blot dry with a paper towel.
2. Place butt, flat cap up, on a sheet of aluminum foil and rub mustard over the surface of the meat. Same rule as the brisket cook before this. This is the glue that will hold your rub on the meat.
3. Liberally apply your spice rub to the meat. Make sure to work the seasoning into notches in the meat.
4. Flip the butt over. Apply mustard and rub liberally to the other side.
5. Wrap in aluminum foil. Put the meat back in the fridge and let sit overnight.

Prepare the Big Green Egg (3:15 am):

1. You need a lot of natural lump charcoal for this one. Overfill the fire bowl with natural lump charcoal. Add in wood for smoke. I used apple wood for this smoke. Hickory and cherry also tend to be a hit for pork.
2. Start the fire. Again, like the brisket, you’re looking to start a slow, gradual fire, not a lava hot bed of coal.
3. Stay with the grill. It will take a few minutes for it to heat up, but once it begins to heat up and produce smoke, it will heat up relatively quickly. With your Egg, you’re looking to catch the temperature on the way up, because there is no good way to quickly get the temperature back down.
4. At about 220 degrees, I started to close down the vents. I’m trying to cook this at a dome temp of 250F (for a cooking grid temperature of about 225 or 230F)
5. Once the fire is stable and you’re close to your intended temperature, open the Egg and add the platesetter, inverted, for indirect heat. Put down a drip pan. Add about an inch of water to the drip pan. Place the cooking grid on the platesetter feet, over the drip pan.
6. Close the grill and allow the preheated grill to bring the platesetter and drip pan back up to temperature.

Add the butt to the Egg (4 am):

1. Open the Egg. Lay the butt, fat cap down, across the cooking grid and over the drip pan.
2. Close the lid. Stay with the grill until it returns to your target temp. Make sure your temperature stays stable for 30 minutes or so before you leave it unattended
3. I went back to bed. Smelling roughly like bacon.

After 4 or 5 hours, you should hit a temperature plateau:

1. For me this happened about 8:30 or 9 am. Since College GameDay starts on ESPN at 9 am Central, this worked out perfect.
2. Check the thermometer. My dome temp was still 250.
3. Since I was on a schedule, to make sure that I was on time, I used my digital meat thermometer pen. 150F. At this point, the meat is no longer taking on smoke and magic is happening inside.

10:30 am:

1. Fire is still burning. Temperature still on target
2. Insert digital thermometer. Still only 155F. This is not going to be ready in 7.5 hours (1.5 hours per lb).
3. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer (yes, in the laundry room) to spin and get warm.
4. Pull the butt, wrap tightly in the aluminum foil. Wrap warm towel around the foil. Put in a cooler. You want for the butt to rest for no less than 1 hour before you slice it. I had to keep it warm for 5 and a half hours until lunch.

11:30 am:

1. Insert digital thermometer. 165. Now we’re moving.
2. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer to spin and get warm.
3. Pull the towel out and load it into the cooler to begin warming.

1 pm:

1. Insert digital thermometer. 196F. Yes, I took a bite. Don’t judge.
2. Wrapped tightly in two sheets of aluminum foil. Pull towel out of pre-warmed cooler. Wrap towel around the butt.
3. Let rest. There are two phases to this rest. The first phase is resting, wrapped in the foil. The second phase is to open the foil and let it continue to rest. Plan for both phases of this rest to take at least an hour (total time).

2 pm:

1. Grab the shoulder bone. Twist and pull. It should come out with little effort.
2. Pull the pork with two forks. I went over this technique in the Chicken Pignoli Pasta. This may take a while. If your forearms get tired, wash them and use your hands.

Lunch (2:20 pm):

1. Serve on white buns. With cole slaw and the sauce of your choice. Dill pickle slices optional.
2. There will be leftovers. Share them with your friends.
3. Bama won. 52 – 0. Roll Tide!

Tailgating with Beef Brisket

I’ve smoked pork butts and ribs in the past. But , until recently, I’d always been a little intimidated by beef brisket. I never felt comfortable holding a consistent low temp for as long as needed for a brisket until I moved to the Big Green Egg. My old smoker was leaky and drafty. Ribs and butts are forgiving enough for that to be OK, but a brisket always seemed to be an expensive experiment until I got my Egg. This is my second brisket. I had to pull this one off early in the morning and keep it hot until lunch time on the Quad at the University of Alabama. The good news is, other than the platesetter, this recipe didn’t require any specific equipment other than a disposable drip pan and a pair of tongs. I did not use an accessory to maintain the temperature, nor did I use a wireless thermometer to monitor the fire. I did use a ($10) digital pen thermometer to check the internal temperature and make sure the meat was fork tender the next morning. I planned to document this process beforehand, regardless of the results and put this up. Luckily, it worked out pretty well. This post is intended to document a single brisket cook, not necessarily be a guide for how to cook a brisket every time. For one, I am still learning this cut of meat. Also, cooking a 10 or 12 lb whole packer brisket (which I didn’t have for this cook) is going to take more time.

Ingredients:
Yellow mustard
Black peppercorns
Pilleteri’s Seasoning (composed of mostly garlic, onion, salt, red pepper)
1 beef brisket
Prepare the Big Green Egg (9:20 pm):
Other than seasoning the meat to your liking, this is the most important step of this recipe. If your fire is not right, you run the risk of it either going out or burning too hot. Brisket needs time to render the collagen before the meat will become tender. You’re looking to hit one of two pretty precise temperature ranges and keep the temp there for hours. I aimed to keep the grate temperature at the high end of the lower temperature range of 225 – 250F. This meant keeping a dome temperature of about 270.
1. You need a lot of natural lump charcoal for this one. Rather than pouring coal into the firebowl, I hand placed individual coals around the electric starter. I also hand placed 5 or 6 chunks of mesquite for smoke. I filled the firebowl and then allowed coal and wood to spill over into the fire ring as well. This is going to be a fairly long cook and you don’t want to disassemble your hot grill to re-light.
2. Start the fire. I use an electric starter. You want this to be a gentle and gradual fire. I left the electric starter in the grill for no more than 3 or 4 minutes. I opened the bottom vent completely and put the DMFT on, but rotated it open completely as well.
3. Stay with the grill. It will take a few minutes for it to heat up, but once it begins to heat up and produce smoke, it will heat up relatively quickly. With your Egg, you’re looking to catch the temperature on the way up, because there is no good way to quickly get the temperature back down.
4. At about 240 degrees, I started to close down the vents.
5. Once the fire is stable and you’re close to your intended temperature, open the Egg and add the platesetter, inverted, for indirect heat. Put down a drip pan (a 13×9 pan is the perfect size for the Medium Egg and a 5 lb flat cut brisket. Add about an inch of water to the drip pan. Place the cooking grid on the platesetter feet, over the drip pan.
6. Close the grill and allow the preheated grill to bring the platesetter and drip pan back up to temperature.
Prepare brisket for the Egg:
1. Remove the brisket from the packaging. Blot dry with a paper towel.
2. Trim away excess fat. Anything beyond 1/8 to 1/4″ is too much fat cap. The fat will help keep the meat moist, but you will lose some of your seasoning when you slice the meat if you don’t trim it some.
3. Place brisket, remaining flat cap up, on a sheet of aluminum foil and rub mustard over the surface of the meat. The mustard is the glue for your seasoning. It will cook off entirely and not leave a mustard flavor behind.
4. Crack black peppercorns across the mustard.I have a friend who uses black peppercorns almost exclusively as his rub. He literally crusts the brisket with black pepper. Regardless of whether you’re looking to use black pepper exclusively or a rub with other ingredients, you want to completely cover the mustard with seasoning.
5. Flip the brisket over. Apply mustard and rub liberally to the other side.
6. Cover in foil. Some people will tell you to let this sit overnight in the fridge. In this case, I wanted my Dad to see the entire process, so I did everything in a single session.
Add the brisket to the Egg (10 pm):
1. Open the Egg. Lay the brisket, fat cap down, across the cooking grid and over the drip pan.
2. Close the lid. Stay with the grill until it returns to your target temp. Check on it after about 30 minutes before you get comfortable enough to go to sleep.
3. Set a couple of alarms. I set one for 3:05 am and another for 5:30 am. I anticipated the meat to be ready after about 1.5 hours per lb. So I was looking for it to be finished between 5:30 and 6 am.
4. Go to sleep.
Alarm #1 (3:05 am):
1. Leave the lid closed.
2. Check the thermometer. My dome temp had risen to about 290. Not a crisis, but warmer than I wanted it to be.
3. At that point, I decided to open the grill and flip the brisket. If the temp had stayed between 270 and 280, I would not have opened it and flipped it. I also made some minor vent adjustments. I knew the temp wouldn’t drop immediately, but over time, this would bring my temp back to normal.
4. Go back to sleep.
Alarm #2 (5:30 am):
1. Fire is still burning. It returned to about 270 where I wanted it to be.
2. Insert digital thermometer. Different how-tos will tell you different target internal temps where your brisket will be fork tender (basically in a range from 185 to 205F). I was aiming to pull this somewhere around the 200F mark. At 5:34 am, it was at 204 and I was glad that I didn’t wait until 6 to get up and check it.
3. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer (yes, in the laundry room) to spin and get warm.
4. Pull the brisket, wrap tightly in the aluminum foil. Wrap warm towel around the foil. Put in a cooler. You want for the brisket to rest for no less than 1 hour before you slice it. I had to keep it warm for 5 and a half hours until lunch.
Lunch (11:15 am):
1. Crossed my fingers. Unzipped the cooler. Pulled the aluminum foil wrapped brisket from the towel. Still hot to the touch!
2. Unwrapped foil and sliced the flat, across the grain.
3. At this point, I’m probably dealing with about 3.5 lbs of meat. It fed about 10 of us pre-game lunch. And there was a little leftover after the game. None of it made the drive home. Roll Tide!