Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

This Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken using this seasoning packet from Twist’d Q makes prepping chicken a cinch!

I enjoy BBQing up a variety of proteins and chicken is one that gets much love in my household (even though it may not on my social media accounts). I love cooking chicken spatchcocked and this Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken is a simple recipe that packs great flavor. I have partnered with the folks at Twist’d Q to come up with this Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken recipe using their Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic seasoning.

CHOOSING A CHICKEN

You can find a whole chicken at pretty much any grocery store. They sometimes are labeled as “fryer”, “broiler”, or “roaster”. What’s the difference? Mainly, the size. Fryer and broiler-labeled chickens are smaller, usually around 2-4 lbs while roaster chickens are 5-7 lbs.

You may see birds that are labeled as “natural”, but that is a very loose term because the USDA does not regulate it. In other words, every chicken can be labeled as natural. The organic ones are naturally raised (no antibiotics, hormones, etc.) in a free-range environment and fed organically. This also means the organic ones will cost about three times as much, too. Choose how fancy (and healthy) you want the bird to be.

WHAT DOES ‘SPATCHCOCKED” MEAN?

Using kitchen scissors is a good way to cut the backbone on the chicken.

If you could filet a whole chicken, spatchcocking it would be the closest way to do it. Spatchcocking is fairly easy, you turn the bird onto it’s front and cut out the backbone. This can be done using some sharp kitchen scissors (and a tight sqeeze of the hand). Don’t have kitchen scissors? Using a chef’s knife and cutting along the sides of the spine should do the trick. For more about how to spatchcock a bird, check out my blog post about…well, spatchcocking a bird.

PREPPING A SPATCHCOCKED CHICKEN

Now that you have the chicken flattened by spatchcocking it, get some olive oil and rub enough on the chicken to lightly coat it. This will help the seasoning to stick to the bird and also help give it a little crispier-looking skin while it cooks. Once that is done, take your Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic seasoning packet and use most of the packet to coat the skin.

Separating the skin from the breast meat and putting butter and seasoning in between them.

The remainder of the seasoning I like to put under the skin where the breast section is. To get under the skin, you will want to take your fingers (preferably with a nitrile glove on) where the cavity of the head is and start separating the skin from the meat by wiggling your fingers around until you get an initial break in the fascia that keeps the skin and muscle together. Once you get through that, you can move your hand down most of the white meat. I like to take an icing spatula and put a tablespoon of butter on it and spread it around on one side of the chicken breast. Then I take another tablespoon and spread it on the other side of chicken breast (left side or right side). Then I take the rest of the seasoning packet and pour the remainder in between the skin and the meat. Massage it in there if you need.

FIRE UP THE GRILL!

Before prepping the spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken, it would be best to get your grill up to temp. For this bird, I’m using my pellet grill and getting it up to 375F with pecan smoke. Once the grill is up to temp, take your flattened bird and lay it on the grill with the front of it facing up. Cooking times can vary on the size of the bird: if the bird is 2-4 lbs, it should take about 45 minutes to an hour; if 5-7 lbs., try 90 minutes.

This spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken is ready to be removed and rested.

Ultimately, using a digital thermometer to check the middle of the thickest portionof the white meat is the best way to determine doneness. The USDA recommends internal temps for poultry to be 165F, but there are chefs out there that usually pull off the grill a little under that because thicker meat tends to cook internally a few degrees after it is removed from the cooking chamber (in this case, our grill).

REST, THEN SLICE

With most meats, it’s important to let it rest before digging in. A couple of reasons why is 1) the meat will most likely continue to cook a little more internally and 2) as the meat cools down the juices build up. In the case of this spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken, let it rest about 20 minutes before slicing into it. If you want to add a little more lemon-y flavor, squeeze a quarter of a lemon on top while resting.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and feel free to either comment (which I will likely not see because I’m bombarded with spam) or send me a message on either Instagram or Facebook!

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

Looking to cook up a whole chicken on the grill? This simple recipe only takes five ingredients and pleases the family! This recipe is sponsored by Twist'd Q.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • - 1 whole chicken, 2-4 lbs.
  • - 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • - 1 packet Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic by Twist'd Q
  • - 3 Tbsp butter
  • - 1/4 lemon, squeezed

Instructions

  1. Remove whole chicken from packaging. If not brining, rinse bird. If you want to brine, check notes for a simple brine recipe.
  2. Preheat grill to 375F on indirect heat. Back to the chicken, cut backbone out of chicken by placing bird front side down on the cutting board and using either kitchen scissors or a chef's knife, cut along one side of the backbone all of the way down Repeat on other side. Remove backbone and pull the two sides apart. Turn chicken around and push down to help flatten the bird a little.
  3. Pour olive oil on the chicken and spread around with either your hand or a food brush. Open packet of Twist'd Q Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic and use 3/4 of packet to spread across the outside of the bird.
  4. Using hand, start to dig your fingers under the skin of the bird on top the cavity where the head used to be. Wiggle fingers to separate skin from the chicken breast meat and slide down on left side of the chicken breast. Repeat on the right side. Once done, use an icing spatula with a tablespoon of butter and slide in between skin and breast meat, massaging in from the outside of the skin. Repeat process on other side. Pour remainer of packet under skin.
  5. With grill up to temp, lay chicken on grill front side up and cook for an hour or until internal temp on thickest part of white meat reaches 161F. Remove from grill and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Squeeze 1/4 lemon on turkey to taste (optional).

Notes

  1. Brining the bird is recommended, but not mandatory. You can create a simple brine by using one cup of kosher salt and one cup of sugar per one gallon of water. Brining in a five gallon bucket is ideal.
  2. To keep tips of wings and bottoms of legs from burning, wrap them in foil
  3. Spritz with apple juice and/or apple cider vinegar once during the cook to help keep meat from drying out.

Product Review: Joetisserie

The Joetisserie fits the Kamado Joe Classic 18” grill (and other similar sized grills) as seen here. Also seen here, meat not included.

I’ve been cooking in a ceramic grill religiously for the past 18 months, mostly going low and slow for barbecue. I’ve been using the Kamado Joe Classic, Classic II, and Joe Jr. I love how these things hold the heat for hours and hours (especially in the wintertime) and how they capture the moisture in at the same time. I’ve used the regular grill grates, cast iron grates, and the half moon griddle. While I recommend using all of these, my favorite accessory to use is the Joetisserie.

What’s in the box?

What comes in the box.

The Joetisserie works like a regular rotisserie and is fitted for the 18” Classic. The packaging includes a steel spit rod (or skewer), two adjustable forks (or claws) to keep the food firmly in place for spinning, a large, wedge-shaped ring to keep the skewer in place, and the motor for spinning the steel spit rod. The motor comes with a plug because it requires electricity, so you’ll want to make sure your grill is close to a power source. Also worth noting is that the motor is strong enough to spin up to 40 lbs. of food.

Assembly

To help attach the food to the skewer, one side has a dull point on the end to help move the food down the stick (but not too sharp as to impale…unless you are running full force with it at someone/something). Make sure to first put one claw on the skewer facing the food, then the food itself, and finally the other claw to keep things in place whilst spinning.

Here’s a video of the unboxing (a re-enactment if you will) and assembly of the Joetisserie:

Using the Joetisserie

You can cook a variety of meats, veggies, and fruits rotisserie style. Two of my personal favorites are chicken and pineapple. I’ve also attempted al pastor and have had some success with it. The advantage to cooking food this way is that as it’s internal temp starts to rise, the juices don’t usually drip off. They keep rolling around as the food spins, meaning the food is basting in its own juices. In fact, the best, most juiciest whole chickens I’ve made have been rotisserie style using my Joetisserie.

Chicken spinning on the rotisserie…or should I say, Joetisserie.

One tip I’ve learned after charring the skin on a few of my birds is when lighting the coals, try to keep your hottest ones to the outer portions as opposed to directly under the meat. That way, you can get a more even cook for both the outside and inside of your food. Another option for those with more patience is to let the coals burn past their peak and then use those cooler coals to cook with.

Some al pastor being sliced to put into tacos!

While the Joetisserie is great to use, one super minor issue of how to store it comes after you are finished using it. You could always try to put it back in the original box it came in, but the custom cut styrofoam will eventually come apart. No custom bags or storage bins are available, so you’ll either have to find the right size of box to put it in or be like me and put some parts one place and the rest on top of your fridge in the garage.

With that said, here’s my pros and cons:

Pros

* Simple to assemble
* Food becomes self-basting
* Fits most round, 18” ceramic grills (including large Big Green Egg)
* Easy to use

Cons

* Limited availability to purchase
* No storage kit available

Conclusion

I could watch the rotisserie spin around all day. It’s a bit hypnotic in a way. If you check my social media posts, you will occasionally see me sharing videos of spinning chickens and other foods. I can’t help it. I could watch those videos on repeat! Even though there are no storage bags available (at the moment), I highly recommend the Joetisserie to add yet another style of cooking to your kamado!

 

Last-minute Thanksgiving Turkey

    Smoked turkey is life!

As you’ve been browsing on social media, you’ve been seeing articles and posts from other people showing off their turkeys: talking about how excited they are for Thanksgiving, how they already bought their turkey, recipes they are trying, the intricate processes they plan on doing, etc. And then you find yourself thinking, “It’s the week of Thanksgiving and I still need to buy my turkey! It needs to be thawed out for days in advance! I’m not gonna make it in time! And I’ve got Christmas presents to buy! I need to find someone to spend Valentine’s Day with!” Well, stop sweating it because you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to guide you through this in a manner of minutes.

Thaw that turkey!

First things first: buy that turkey! Now! Turkeys come frozen at most grocery stores and they can take up to FIVE DAYS to thaw out in your fridge (depending on size of the bird).

Don’t have that kind of time? That’s right, you procrastinated. You’re not alone. Do what I do when in that situation and submerge the bird in cold water for 30 minutes per pound of turkey. For example, I recently thawed my 14 pound bird for seven hours and it was ready. Doesn’t that sound much better than two-to-three days for a bird of the same weight in the fridge?

For quicker thawing, make sure the turkey is submerged in cold water. Rotate as needed if bird isn’t completely submerged.

Just make sure the water is pretty cold and the turkey, still in its packaging, is completely submerged. The turkey has some buoyancy in the water, so if you can’t completely submerge it then it is okay to rotate it ever so often to ensure the whole bird gets thawed.

 

Turkey Tip: for faster thawing, submerge your packaged turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound.

 

Brine time

Once thawed, it is time to brine. Brining is the process in which you help meat become more juicy and flavorful by submerging it in a solution of water, kosher salt, and sugar. Some folks throw in more items to help add flavor to the meat, such as oranges, onions, bay leaves, etc. and there are plenty of brine recipes to be found here on the World Wide Web (that was originally lowercase, but autocorrect corrected me. Guess it must be capitalized).

I’ve heard folks say they brine between 24-48 hours in cold water. I do 12 hours (minimum) and have had no problems. The 12 hours go by much faster when you start the brine the afternoon/night before. That way, you can wake up, rinse off the turkey, and get to prepping.

Brine time!

 

Rubbin’ that bird

This next part is the least time consuming and will help with that flavor. I go simple and put butter and rub on the bird. My not so “secret” is to apply the butter and rub underneath the skin, that way the flavor is seeping into the meat itself, not just the layer of skin that may not get eaten in the first place.

I only apply to the turkey breast portion underneath the skin. The dark meat will keep juicy enough and will be more of a pain to get to. When done underneath the skin, put some butter and rub on top. While you are doing this, get your smoker up to temp and put your preferred flavor of wood in.

With the grill I smoke on, I prefer to smoke mine between 225-250F. I’ve seen others put in at 325F and that will be fine if you are in more of a rush. I like it a little lower and slower to help the meat absorb more of that pecan wood smoke flavor (NOTE: you don’t have to use pecan. It just happens to be my favorite wood right now. Go with whichever wood flavor you prefer).

Smoke times depend on the size of bird you will have on the grill. Rule of thumb is 20-30 minutes per pound of turkey (when smoked between 225-250F). So if you smoke a 14 lb bird, you’re looking at around seven hours. For example, I did a 14 lb bird recently and it took just over six. When smoking at 325F (more like roasting at that temp), it will take that same size bird just over two hours. Since this is a last-minute recipe, do what you gotta do.

Monitoring both meat and smoker temps from inside using my Thermoworks Smoke.

 

Checking temps

The best way to gauge the turkey temp is by placing your meat thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the turkey breast, which is best to get to by sticking the probe into the top of the bird, about two inches away from the hole where the neck used to be. Look and feel for the thickest part and make sure you don’t hit the bone.

I love using the Smoke from Thermoworks to track temps in both the grill and the turkey. Using the wireless Bluetooth remote, I can watch the temps from inside and set alarms when temps get too high or too low. The USDA recommended finishing temp for a whole bird is 165F internal. The dark meat will cook about 10 degrees higher and that will be just fine. The dark meat doesn’t risk drying out as soon as the white.

This bird is about to be done! Right before I put butter on it and wrapped.

 

Make it extra tasty

Now that the bird is done cooking, I put the turkey in a giant foil pan and like to smear some butter on the skin then wrap with foil over the top. This way, the butter can melt all over the bird and give you both awesome color and flavor. Unwrap after about 15 minutes.

Turkey Tip: let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving.

 

Rest, then slice

Here comes the part that you should NOT skip (not that you should skip any of these steps, but this one is simple and can seem unworthy of your time): LET THE TURKEY REST! Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before slicing. The most important reason is to let the juices build inside the meat to provide that tender, juicy flavor you so desire come to fruition. The meat is muscle and after being exposed to higher heat for so long, the muscles need to relax. This is where the juices start coming. You slice too soon and you have a good tasting turkey when you could’ve had a great one.

From thawing to finish, this bird turned out pretty good!

I hope your turkey is out of this world good for Thanksgiving! And make sure you find time to get a date for Valentine’s.


last-minute smoked turkey

Quick thaw: submerge frozen turkey in cold water, 30 minutes per pound of bird. Swap out water and/or add ice cubes as needed. Also rotate bird if you cannot completely submerge to ensure even thaw.

Brine: at least 12 hours (NOTE: you may need double or triple this brine recipe to completely submerge turkey, depending on how large of a container you brine in)

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rub
  • 1 Cup apple juice
  • 4 apples, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic

Turkey prep: right before you put bird in the smoker (NOTE: if you haven’t already, now is a great time to get your smoker going)

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons rub
  • Apply underneath skin on turkey breast, apply rest of mixture on top

Smoke:

  • 225-250F
  • pecan wood (or wood of your choice)
  • spritz with apple juice and/or apple cider vinegar as needed
  • 20-30 minutes per pound
  • finished when white meat hits 165F

Rest:

  • smear some more butter and rub on turkey, wrap in foil for 15 minutes
  • unwrap, let rest for 30 minutes before serving

 

What, Why, How: Spatchcock a bird

Spatchcocked birds cook faster!

When it comes to smoking a bird, you may of heard some people mention spatchcock. It’s a funny word for sure, but what is it exactly mean? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to explain the what, why, and how of spatchcocking.

What? Simply put, spatchcock is the method of flattening the bird by removing the backbone (some also remove the sternum).

Why? Flattening the bird helps it cook faster and for smoking reasons can help get that smoke flavor to the inside meat better.

How? To effectively remove the backbone of the bird, you’ll want to lay the bird chest side down (NOTE: make sure you have at least brined the bird before putting on the grill).

The bird is face down on the board (can it still be face down if it no longer has a face?).

Next, you’ll want to grab a chef’s knife or whichever knife you feel is sturdy enough to cut through bone (while I do own a Japanese-style Santoku knife, I refrain from using it to cut bone because the blade is so thin and this style has been known to chip when cutting harder objects). You will want to feel for the backbone by rubbing your fingers down the middle of the back and cut close to the left and right of the spine, respectively.

Using a sharp, sturdy knife (like this chef’s knife) sure is helpful.

If you’re having a hard time finding the spine, you can always look in the cavity of the bird to help guide you. Not only do you want a decent sharpness to the blade, but you’ll need to apply some pressure on the blunt part of the blade to help crack those bones so you can cut through completely (NOTE: if you’re like me and have a spouse who cringes at the sound of breaking bones of a dead bird, then you may want to give a warning. Not that I speak from experience or anything).

Spatchcocked and ready to flip over for smoking! Notice the backbone is removed.

Dispose of the backbone and you are now ready to prep your bird however you like and put on the smoker!

Spatchcocked bird getting some pecan smoke!

Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings

Smoke+rub+sauce=Amazing flavor!
Smoke+rub+sauce=Amazing flavor!

Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings are LIFE!

I think you’re gonna love these smoked BBQ chicken wings. I used to have a casual relationship with chicken wings. I’ve liked them, but never enough to base a meal around…that is, unless some buddies wanted to meet up at a popular chicken wing restaurant to watch sports. I used to think those were some of the best wings you could get. It wasn’t until I attempted smoked chicken wings that I realized the difference: colors are now more vivid, birds sing sweeter songs, and I finally understand jokes I didn’t get beforehand. It’s almost like eating well done steaks your whole life and then trying a reverse seared, medium rare ribeye for the first time. It pretty much changes your outlook on things. I’ve posted a wing recipe before, which is pretty good, but I think I like this smoked BBQ chicken wing recipe better.

After having more experience under my belt, I’ve made up a pretty dang good smoked BBQ chicken wing recipe (at least in my opinion). The two main ingredients that make this dynamite are the rub and the sauce (which I’ll  speak to later). As with pretty much all of my recipes, these smoked BBQ chicken wings are simple to make.

The ingredients for the marinade. When I don't have a fresh lime, the lime juice bottle works, too.
The ingredients for the marinade. When I don’t have a fresh lime, the lime juice bottle works, too.

The marinade makes a difference

Before cooking up the smoked BBQ chicken wings, plan ahead and marinade them. Chicken can be pretty bland and needs seasonings and marinades to help enhance the flavor. Do yourself a favor and take time to create this simple marinade.

First, take a gallon-sized resealable bag and put in 1 1/2 Cups of Italian Dressing, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/4 of freshly squeezed lime, and 1 Tablespoon of your favorite rub/seasoning. Once those ingredients are in the bag, place your wings in and seal it up!

Let the wings sit in the bag in the fridge for at least two hours. When I use a fresh lime, I like to cut it into quarters, squeeze one or two into the bag and drop it (them) into the marinade. I’m not sure if it makes that much of a difference, but I like how it looks in the bag.

You should get more flavor the longer you marinade, but I am not that patient. A couple of hours works for me.

Smoking Time!

When losing patience nearing time to get the wings out of the fridge, make sure to get your smoking device ready. I used my Kamado Joe ceramic grill to smoke these, but any grill will work as long as you use indirect heat. This grill has deflector plates which create indirect heat. Others also have deflector plates, some have dividers to keep the coals underneath the grill to one side while the food rests on the other.

I put pecan wood chunks in top of my coals because I love the smooth taste and smell it provides to the chicken. Feel free to use whichever wood you prefer. As the grill is approaching the 275F range, that’s when I put the wings on. I like to get my Q-Nami rub from Lane’s BBQ and sprinkle on a little more rub to help with the flavor. I love both the color and texture this rub provides to the smoked BBQ chicken wings.

The texture provides some unique colors and flavors.
The texture provides some unique colors and flavors.

As the wings smoke at the 275F range for around 45 minutes, I like to use my Thermapen from Thermoworks to gauge the internal temps of the wings. Some wings reach 165F internal temps sooner than others and that’s okay. It’s common. If you’d like, you can take those wings that finish early off and get your high heat grilling surface ready.

When the wings are at 165F, then get your medium sized bowl (depending on how many wings you’re doing) put the wings in and then pour in the BBQ sauce. I find the sauce helps crisp the skin when it’s getting the searing treatment. I love using Whomp! Naked BBQ Sauce from Meat Mitch because of the sweet, subtle spicy flavor it provides. Once I’ve mixed the wings and sauce around, then I put the wings on the hot, hot heat of the grill. When I say hot, I’m looking for searing temps, which start around 550 degrees.

These chicken wings can char fast if you’re not paying attention. They can also stick to the grill grates. I advise using your grilling spatula to scrape under the smoked BBQ chicken wings and flip over. Leave on for another couple of minutes and you should be good to go. Depending on how hot your grill is, you may want to adjust the time in each side. The ideal internal temp for wings is 180F.

Tossed and sauced.
Tossed and sauced.

Finish him!

Once out, I like to put the smoked BBQ chicken wings back in the bowl I used for saucing and mix them around with whatever sauce remains in there. If not enough, I’ll pour a little more in until I get the amount I want.

High heat to get that crispy skin!
High heat to get that crispy skin!

These smoked BBQ chicken wings will have a bit of Asian fusion flavor thanks to the rub. The sauce will help provide some sweet and subtle zip to provide a great balance of flavors. My family doesn’t like spicy foods and they LOVE these wings. That’s saying something!

Now the next time my friends and family want to go out for wings, I think I’ll stay home instead. Give this smoked BBQ chicken wing recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings recipe!

Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings

Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings
Prep Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • For marinade:
  • 1 1/2 Cups Italian dressing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lime, squeezed
  • 1 Tablespoon of rub/seasoning
  • For grilling:
  • 1 Cup BBQ sauce

Instructions

  1. Get grill/smoker up to 275F with indirect heat, put in pecan wood.
  2. Combine marinade ingredients into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Place chicken wings (rinsed) into bag with marinade. Let sit in fridge for at least two hours
  3. Remove from fridge and place individual wings on the grill of your smoking device. Let chicken wings smoke for about an hour or until internal temps on wings reach at least 165F
  4. Pour BBQ sauce into bowl, place wings inside and mix. Then put wings on high, direct heat on the grill (around 500F) and cook two minutes on each side.

Notes

  1. Put wings back in bowl after cooking to get a little more saucy (optional).
  2. You can put wings in your oven on broil to get crispy there if you wish.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

4 wings

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370 Total Fat: 29g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 120mg Sodium: 170mg Carbohydrates: 3.5g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 19g Protein: 19g

Smoked Turkey

This smoked turkey recipe is simple and packs a tasty punch!

It’s been months since I’ve last posted on here. Even though I’ve been quite lazy super busy, I’ve still been BBQ’ing religiously. I appreciate the folks on Instagram who have reminded me that I actually have a following and that my buddy Jade isn’t the only one who visits this website. With that knowledge, I’m back posting in time for Thanksgiving!

Last year I smoked a few turkeys and I even posted about it. While those turkeys turned out well, I think the one I smoked last week was even better. So much that I’m gonna post about it!

Thawing the bird

When you buy your turkey, it will most likely be frozen. they say it can take about 24 hours to thaw out in your fridge, but ain’t nobody got time for that! Expedite the process by putting your turkey in the sink and filling it up with cold water. It’s okay if the turkey isn’t completely submerged. You can rotate it every once in a while. This thawing process took me about six hours. Granted, the thawing process will vary depending on how big of a bird you have.

Remove the stuff from the inside

After the bird is thawed, remove the packaging and rinse of the turkey. After you’ve done that, dig up the turkey’s rectum and you’ll find these surprises: turkey neck, pack of gizzards, and usually a pack of gravy. If you don’t find the pack of gizzards, then dig around the cavity where the head/neck used to be. That is where I have found it.

Brining ingredients (not pictured: water).
Brining ingredients (not pictured: water).

Brine time!

Once you have those removed, it’s brine time!  I made a simple brine of water, kosher salt, brown sugar, apple juice, and sliced apples (see measurements in recipe above). Since I don’t have a ton of space in my fridge, I do my brine in a cooler. The measurements call for one gallon of water, but I needed at least three gallons to submerge my turkey fully in it. I tripled the brine recipe to make sure I had equal components. After tossing in all of the ingredients, I put a bunch of ice cubes in to keep it cool while I brine overnight (8-12 hours). Oh, and don’t forget to stir the brine ingredients as to not have the kosher salt and brown sugar settle at the bottom or the brine is much less effective.

Brine time! You may not believe this, but there's a turkey in there.
Brine time! You may not believe this, but there’s a turkey in there.

 

Spatchcock that bird

After the turkey is finished brining, pull it out and pat it dry.  If you prefer to spatchcock your bird, now’s the time to do it. To spatchcock, turn the bird back facing upward and completely cut along both sides of the spine. You’ll want a sharp knife, maybe even a meat cleaver, and some muscles to cut through this. The advantage to smoking a spatchcocked turkey is that it cuts your smoke time down from six hours to four. Some say it also provides a more thorough smoke penetration. If you are planning to smoke other items when you smoke your turkey, make sure you have enough room because a spatchcocked bird takes up a lot of grill space. It’s okay if you keep the turkey whole. It will still taste great! You can also follow the this link here for more details.

Now you apply the rub. I like to be generous with my application of this because it brings out more flavor. One big piece of advice I can give you from my rookie mistakes is to get the rub both over AND under the skin. Applying under gets into the meat instead of on the layer of skin that will easily come off after its cooked, anyway. If you decide to do the herbed butter, which I highly recommend, apply under the skin. When doing the rub on the skin, rub a layer of olive oil, or even mayo, on to help the rub stick better to the outer layer.

About three hours in. Using the Chef Alarm from Thermoworks to gauge meat temps (three hours in).
About three hours in. Using the Chef Alarm from Thermoworks to gauge meat temps (three hours in).

Going on the grill

It would be best to get your smoker going before pulling the turkey out of the brine so it will be ready just in time. I smoked my spatchcocked bird for four hours at 250°F, or until the internal temp reaches close to 165°F. Keep in mind when you take the meat out, it will still cook for a little bit.

Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes so the meat can build up those tasty, succulent juices. Then carve up that bad boy and enjoy!

Once you've had smoked turkey, you won't go back.
Once you’ve had smoked turkey, you won’t go back.

 

Smoked turkey: the final result!
Smoked turkey: the final result!

 

The recipe!

Smoked Turkey

Smoking a turkey on Thanksgiving just might become your new tradition!

Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 16 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 whole turkey
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (or mayo)
  • 1/2 cup butter (same as one stick)
  • 2 Tablespoons (minimum) of your favorite rub
  • BRINE
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • HERBED BUTTER
  • 1/2 cup (aka- 1 stick) butter, softened
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chives, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon sage, chopped

Instructions

  1. Remove turkey from packaging, remove packet, gizzards from inside of bird. Set aside.
  2. Prepare brine by combining water, kosher salt, brown sugar, apple juice, and sliced apples into a cooler or five-gallon bucket. Double or triple the brining ingredients as necessary to have the turkey completely submerged. Place turkey in brine in the refrigerator overnight or for 12 hours.
  3. Make herbed butter by combining butter, garlic, parsley, thyme, chives, and sage. Set aside.
  4. Preheat grill/smoker to 250F, using pecan wood (or smoking wood of your choice)
  5. Remove turkey from brine and rinse off the bird. Spatchcock the bird as described here
  6. Using your hand, create separation between the skin and the meat by starting where the head used to be. As you create separation between the skin and the breasts, smooth in some herbed butter. Then put in the rub. Repeat the process with butter and rub on top of the skin.
  7. Put turkey on grill at 250F and cook for four hours or until the middle of the thickest part of the turkey breast reaches 165F. Remove from grill/smoker and let rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Keep in mind the prep time is so long mostly due to the brining of the turkey. This is usually done overnight.

If you decide not to spatchcock, the bird will take an extra couple of hours to cook.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

varies

Serving Size:

4 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260 Total Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 3g

Smoked Turkey

Note: this smoke originally took place on 11/26/2015 

Smoked Turkeys.
Smoked Turkeys.

I’ve only been smoking for a few months, but foolishly decided to tell my mother-in-law that I will take on making the turkey for Thanksgiving this year. No pressure, just smoke something you’ve never tried for the main dish of the biggest meal of the year. A lot of people have turkey for Christmas as well, so this recipe isn’t just for one day a year. Here’s the recipe I used:

Meat: Two Turkeys  (8.5 lbs. and 14 lbs., respectively)

Brine: 3.5 gallons of water, 2 C kosher salt, 2 C sugar, 2 C apple juice, 1 Jonagold apple (sliced), 2 T rub, 1 T lemon juice; brined in cooler for 24 hours

Wood: Pecan, with a little apple mixed in

Smoke: 260° F for five hours, then had to put in oven at 325° F for 60-90 minutes to reach right internal temp of 165° F.

Since I had never made a turkey before, I learned some things in the prep that you all who are also new to this should know:

1: When shopping for a turkey, look for one with a label that says, “minimally processed” and/or “low solution added”. When talking about low solution, the rule of thumb that experts look for is 8% or less. You get a better quality turkey this way, which means better meat to flavor. If you can’t obtain one of these types of turkeys, it’s not the end of the world. I used one without these labels and it still tasted pretty dang good.

2: The turkey will come frozen from the store, unless you found a fresh one somehow. These things can take a couple of days to thaw out in the fridge (24 hours for each 4-5 lbs.) so be prepared. If you are impatient pressed for time like me, put it in a bucket or sink full of cold water breast side down. Average thawing time is 30 min. per lb. Note: make sure turkey is still in the package while doing this.

3: When opening the package, you may want to do so over a kitchen sink. That way, all the juices/solution/blood don’t end up all over your counter/floor/self.

4: There’s more to the turkey than meets the eye. It’s what’s on the inside. They shoved the turkey neck and a gravy packet up its butt, so you’ll need to get up in there and pull it out. Also, you will want to get into the north end and find the skin flap that opens to a cavity. Dig your hand in there and you’ll find a hidden packet full of giblets, which is a fancy way of saying liver, heart, and other “edible” innards. Don’t worry, you don’t need these and can throw the packet away. That is, unless, you desire these things. We don’t judge here on this website, so do your thing.

5: Brine the turkey, for goodness sake. I’m not fully sure why, but everywhere I’ve read online and folks I’ve talked to with experience say to do it.

A simple, effective brine is made up of 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of kosher salt, and 1 cup of sugar. In hopes to give it more of an apple flavor, I decided to improvise a little and added apple juice, a sliced Jonagold apple, some lemon juice, and some rub I planned on putting on the turkey afterward.

Brine ingredients (sans lemon juice)
Brine ingredients (sans lemon juice)

 Since I didn’t have room in my fridge, nor do I own a second one with extra space, I went the cooler route for the brining. This meant that I needed to add more water to make sure the birds were fully submerged, which also meant that I needed to add more of the ingredients. To keep the water temp cool, I threw in a bunch of ice cubes and put it outside in the cooler weather (which varied from low 40s to upper 20s over the course of 24 hours). The ice cubes stayed frozen and the water didn’t freeze, which I was happy about.

Time to brine.
Time to brine.

After taking the birds out of the brine, I patted them dry with a paper towel. I poured some olive oil on the turkeys and then generously applied Loot N’ Booty BBQ brand Gold Star Chicken Rub. I let them rest for around 30-45 minutes before putting them in the smoker.

Resting birds about 30-45 minutes before smoking.
Resting birds for 30-45 minutes before smoking.

You can tell it’s cold outside when the temperature gauge on the smoker has a little ice on it, even though it was under a tarp the night before.

Frosty smoker.
Frosty smoker.

After adding a bunch of coals, pecan wood, and apple wood, the smoker reached my desired temperature of 260° F and I placed the turkeys inside, breast side up, and left them untouched for the first two hours. Turkey, like most meats, can dry out during the smoking process. You will want to put a bowl of water inside the smoker to help retain the moisture inside the chamber (you will want to find a small, metal bowl that can withstand the higher temperatures). Since white meat can especially get dry, I put a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the birds about once an hour for the next three hours. Otherwise, you will want to keep the lid closed as much as possible.

After five hours, my turkeys hadn’t reached the desired internal temp of  165° F. In fact, they were down around 120° F. Most recipes I’ve seen show it to be almost done by this time. Maybe my temperature gauge on the smoker is lying to me, maybe it’s the 5,000 ft. elevation I’m at, or maybe a little of both. To get the turkeys to their necessary temperature quicker, I took them off the smoker, placed them in a foil pan, double wrapped with heavy duty aluminum foil, and put them in my oven at 325° F. This isn’t what I had originally planned, but desperate times call for desperate temperatures measures.

In the process of wrapping the poultry, I cut up a couple of pounds of butter and distributed one pound over each of the turkeys. I witnessed Aaron Franklin do this in a YouTube video and he explained that since turkey can be bland, adding butter helps keep it juicy and flavorful.

Butter, baby!
Butter, baby!
Now THAT is what I call a butter ball turkey!
Now THAT is what I call a butter ball turkey!
In baseball terms, my oven is "the closer" when it comes to finishing smoking some of the bigger meats. A Mariano Rivera, if you will.
In baseball terms, my oven is “the closer” when it comes to finishing smoking some of the bigger meats. A Mariano Rivera, if you will.

After spending just over an hour in the oven at 325° F, the birds finally reach the internal temperature of 165° F. I unwrapped it, let it rest for about 30 minutes, and then start carving away! I have come to learn that I love cutting the white meat way more than the dark meat. Dark meat has is very sinuous and full of bones and can be difficult to cut and pull the meat off of. Whereas the white meat cuts very well and you don’t have to worry about those extra surprises inside. I think I’d much rather eat the turkey legs and wings off the bone itself instead of having to carve them.

The turkeys were a huge hit and I received tons of compliments from the family members who showed up to devour it! Keep the leftovers (if any remain), because it also makes for a very good chicken noodle soup, substituting smoked turkey for the chicken, of course.

I am welcome to any questions or feedback you may have on this, so feel free to post something in the comments!