Brining and Smoking the Perfect Holiday Turkey
With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, the good folks at Oakridge BBQ thought it might be a good idea to provide some general guidelines on how to use their Game Changer brine for your holiday turkey.
First, thaw your turkey fully in the refrigerator. If you’re running short on time and can’t thaw it out in the fridge, place the frozen bird (still in the wrapper) in a tub of cold water deep enough to fully cover it. Rotate the turkey in the water every 30 minutes to make sure it thaws evenly. Monitor the water temperature to ensure it doesn’t rise above 40ºF. This will thaw a turkey in just a couple hours compared to several days in the refrigerator. Once the bird is thawed, remove the giblets and neck from the body cavity and rinse the bird thoroughly under cold running water.
To brine your bird you will need a food-safe container large enough to hold your turkey along with enough room for up to 2-4 gallons of brine, depending on the size of your bird. Container options vary, but some examples are a large clean beverage cooler or a clean food-safe 5 gallon bucket. You’ll also need a way to keep the container chilled as well. This means you’ll need enough room in your refrigerator or you can also float frozen jugs or bottles of water in your brine container to keep it cool. Do not place loose ice in your brine. As the ice melts it will dilute the concentration of the brine and alter its effectiveness. An optional method is to use a large brine bag. Place the turkey and chilled brine in the bag, then zip it closed. Next, place the bag in a beverage cooler lined with ice. Then pour more ice over the top of the bag. Bottom line, you must keep the temperature of the brine between 34º and 40ºF during the entire time the bird is in the brine.
To determine exactly how much brine volume you’ll need, place your turkey in your brining container, then fill the container with plain water until it covers the bird completely. Now, remove the turkey from the water and measure the remaining water. This is the correct volume of brine you will need.
The correct brine concentration ratio for our Game Changer brine is two (2) level cups of brine to each gallon of water. This is our Full Strength recipe. Make it ahead of time and chill it overnight in your refrigerator or use our Quick Chill method outlined on the back of the package.
The proper brine time for natural turkeys using the above “Full Strength” brine recipe is one hour per pound of bird. So for example; a 14 pound turkey should be brined for a maximum of 14 hours. Do not exceed this time. However, brining for less time will still be quite effective. If you’re pressed for time, the minimum recommended brine time is six hours. Be sure to read the label on your bird. If your turkey has already been “enhanced” by the manufacturer, you’ll find a statement similar to “Contains up to XX% of a natural solution” on the package, usually in small print. If you find you have an enhanced bird, cut your brine time in half. So for that same 14 pound bird, you’ll only want to brine it for 7-8 hours maximum.
After the appropriate brining time has elapsed, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat the skin and body cavity completely dry with paper towels. Coat the entire bird with a light coat of extra virgin olive oil and apply an even coating of your favorite BBQ rub and place in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes prior to cooking.
Hope this helps and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
After you've brined your bird with Oakridge BBQ Game Changer follow these instructions for a perfectly smoked turkey:
1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
1 (20 pound) bag of high quality charcoal
Hickory chips or chunks
Place the charcoal into the bottom pan of your smoker. Light the coals and wait for the temperature of the smoker to come to 240 degrees F. Lightly oil grate.
Rinse turkey under cold water, and pat dry. Place hickory chips into a pan with water to cover.
Place turkey onto the prepared grate. Add 2 handfuls damp chips at start of cooking, then a handful every couple of hours during the cooking process. Leave the lid on - DO NOT keep looking at turkey, or you will let the heat out. Continue smoking until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 degrees F, in the thickest part of the breast. Allow the bird to rest for 30 minutes prior to carving.