Friday, November 25, 2011

Buttermilk soaked, apple and cherry smoked turkey

Well, it seem that only five months ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving In July.  Now Thanksgiving morning is finally here.  My two sons are safely tucked away in their beds, the house is quiet, a fire is burning brightly.  We are preparing the usual feast of turkey, stuffing, breads, and pies.  I decided to add a new dish to the mix this year; smoked turkey breast.  I’ve been smoking meats for nearly two years.  I’ve smoked briskets, ribs, pork loins and chickens, but never a turkey.  So, why not smoke one for Thanksgiving. 

By chance, a recipe for buttermilk brined, smoked turkey arrived in my in-box a week ago.  The turkey is soaked in buttermilk, slathered with herbed butter, and then smoked.  I’m in.  I start to assemble the troops.  My wife buys a 6 pound turkey breast.  I check my spice drawer.  I’m ready to rock.  

The night before I start making the poultry rub.  There are many recipes for poultry rubs, but I choose the Simon and Garfunkel found at  

This recipe has no salt.  Next step is to make the herbed butter.  While softening two sticks of butter, I sliced the top off of a head of garlic, added a dash of olive oil, placed it in some foil, and roasted it in the oven for about an hour at 350.  After it was done, I squeezed the garlicky goodness into a bowl, added the softened butter, and about three heaping tablespoons of the poultry seasoning. 

When all mixed, I placed the butter on some waxed paper, wrapped it up and placed it back into the fridge to cool. Sweet dreams, herbed butter, sweet dreams.

The original recipe called for buttermilk and salt. Most of the birds in my area are self-basting.  They are injected with broth, salt, and flavorings.  If you brine it, it may be too salty.    I decided to just soak it in buttermilk and the leave the salt out of it.  The acid in the buttermilk will break down the muscle just a tad, and the buttermilk itself will add another layer of flavor.  I took the breast, dropped it into a pot, dumped in a quart of buttermilk, added a tablespoon of the Simon and Garfunkel, and filled the rest with water.  This needs to be kept cool, otherwise bacteria can form, and who wants to get sick at Thanksgiving?  Not me.  I put the turkey in the fridge overnight.  

I take the bird out of the buttermilk, pat it dry, and cut out the backbone to butterfly it.  I cut up the herbed butter into small pieces and gently push it under the skin.  I finish by rubbing the herbed butter on the outside of the skin as well.  Dust it with some more Simon and Garfunkel, and its ready to smoke.  

Since this is a wet smoker, I’m going to fill the liquid pan with apple juice.  This will add even another layer of flavor.  I’ll also be using a combination of cherry and apple wood chips. 

I like chunks rather than chips, but I didn’t have any on hand.  I was too lazy to go to the store.  I don’t to soak the chips in water.  Some people do, but I don’t see too much of a benefit.  This will smoke at 220 degrees for about 3 to 4 hours.  I always take the temperature using an instant read thermometer.  At 165 degrees, we’re done.  See you in a few hours. 

I have some herbed butter left over.  Hmmm.  I think I’ll  put some on the mashed potatoes later. 

Keeping the smoker at a constant 220 degrees is a bit of a chore.  I’m watching the Lions-Packers game with one eye, and keeping a watch on the temperature.  Finally I take it out and let it rest.  This one took three and a half hours to cook.  The turkey smells amazing. 



I let it rest for twenty minutes, and then  I carve it up.  The meat is moist and tender.  The garlic, herbs and butter flavor arrives with a bit hit.  Very savory.  It has a very smooth, smoky finish that lingers awhile.  It is very, very tasty.  Twenty minutes later, the timer goes off and the main turkey is done.  Time for dinner.


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