“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start.”-Anthony Bourdain

Welcome back and greetings from Uncle Tom’s Corner.

A couple of updates:

Apparently the four serious charges I faced and was threatened with incarceration for (as notified by a couple of telephone calls from heavily-accented persons of questionable origin) were a case of mistaken identity. Or the person I spoke with at Thornton Police Department with whom I offered to turn myself in failed to pass along my offer. Either way, I’m still free and hiding in plain sight.

The Westminster barbecue contest, held at the site of the former Westminster mall, went off slicker’n downing a raw oyster. There were 48 competition teams; the weather was magnificent; the changes to the former mall were startling. All-in-all a good day was had by most of the 84 zillion+ attendees.

Since the holiday season is upon us and specifically Thanksgiving is looming large I want to tell you of a turkey I recently smoked. A couple of things come into play here.

Regardless of your thoughts regarding the legalization of marijuana it is a reality and is a source of either humor or scorn from some of our neighboring states. Several years ago I picked up a t-shirt at the Pueblo barbecue contest that read “In Colorado we smoke more than ribs…Chicken, Pork, Brisket”. That was a big hit at some of the out-of-state contests. I recently taught a class on trimming, seasoning and smoking brisket. One of the questions posed by one of the attendees was “Since you blend your own spice do you use Uncle Tom’s on everything?” And the answer is “No”. More about that later. So let’s talk turkey.

First, I spatchcocked the bird. If that’s not a term you’re familiar with it just means that you remove the spine from the turkey…either with poultry shears or a really sharp chef’s knife. To do so you place the bird breast side down and simply cut down either side of the backbone and remove it. I have poultry shears mainly because I’d probably inadvertently surgically remove one or more of my own body parts with a knife. Once the spine has been removed you turn the bird over, place it breast-side up on a flat surface, spread the ribs apart and press down on the breast. You’ll hear an audible crack when it gives. What you’re hoping to accomplish is flattening the bird. This serves a couple of purposes…the big one being that it decreases the cooking time by eliminating the cavity and a bit lesser one is that it makes it easier to apply the seasoning and allows for greater penetration of the smoke. Now that the bird has been flattened its time to brine it overnight.

Here’s a brining recipe that turned out pretty yummy:
1) 12-14 pound turkey
2) 2 gallons cold water
3) 10 ounces soy sauce
4) ½ cup kosher salt
5) ½ cup brown sugar
6) 2 Tbsp. dried sage
7) 2 Tbsp. dried celery
8) 1 Tbsp. dried thyme

Bring the water to a roiling boil. Add the salt and brown sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Let cool. Add the rest of the seasonings. Add ice cubes if necessary to cool it down. Pour the solution into a brining bucket or a white, unscented plastic trash bag and place the bag in a bucket or an insulated cooler. Put the bird in the brining solution and make sure the bird is fully submerged. Place the bucket in the refrigerator or, if you set it in an insulated cooler, make sure there’s plenty of ice to keep it cold while it brines for the next 8 to 12 hours.

To calculate when to put the bird in the smoker remember that a spatchcocked bird is going to cook faster than one that is intact but smoking it is going to be done at a lower temperature. A loose rule of thumb is 11 to 13 minutes/pound at 250⁰ so using that as a guide take the temperature of the bird about an hour before your calculation says it should be done…which should be about an hour before the time you plan to serve. When the “armpit” temperature reaches 160⁰-165⁰ the bird is done.

Now that I’ve exerted my best efforts to confuse you and we have the math and guesstimations out of the way it’s time to go back to work on the turkey. Remove it from the brine, rinse and dry thoroughly.
Place the bird, cavity side down, on a flat surface and work your hand under the skin on the breast and leg and thigh sections, being careful not to tear it…the skin…not your hand. Now peel that skin back exposing the breast meat and the leg and thigh sections. Apply a light coat of olive oil (it’s just a binder…something for the seasoning rub to stick to) and sprinkle on your rub.

Remember when I told you someone asked if I used Uncle Tom’s on everything? When I smoked the turkey that had everyone asking for more I used McCormick’s Turkey Rub. It was great and really complemented the brine. Not sure you’d get the same result with Uncle Tom’s.

At this point pull the skin back over the exposed meat, apply a thin layer to the skin and apply some rub to the skin. To those who were repulsed at the prospect of the Mountain Oysters it may come as a shock that there are those who like gnawing on the skin almost as much as eating the actual turkey meat.

A side note: If you are making oyster dressing I probably wouldn’t use Mountain Oysters…but that’s just me.

Now it’s time to fire up the smoker. I use a pellet set-it-and-forget-it smoker and I used a 50/50 hickory and apple pellet mix for this cook. I set it to 250⁰and let it come up to temperature, put the bird in and walked away. That’s it. One of the cardinal rules of barbecue is that “If yer lookin’ you ain’t cookin”. That said, at some point you might want to peek in just to make sure things are “goin’ yer way”.
When your bird reaches the safe temperature range ((160⁰to 165⁰ in the armpit) pull it from the smoker, loosely tent it for about half an hour, carve it up and serve. And most of all, wallow in the compliments and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

If you have any questions about any part of this please give me a call but be prepared to talk barbecue for a minimum of an hour or two.

See you back at Uncle Tom’s Corner.
Uncle Tom