Sunday, August 23, 2009

Apple wood Smoked Turkey Breast

For the past 4 or 5 years, we have had "Thanksgiving in August". I don't know how that started but we've just kept it going.

First, we had the traditional "Thanksgiving" football game. We went to see Trevor's 10 y/o team play their season opening bowl game.They lost 20-7 but I was proud to see Trevor play in his first game and even make a tackle on his first play.Then we made the Thanksgiving feast, a full spread of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, garlic green beans, and rolls. Sorry for the lack pictures. Things got chaotic as dinner neared so I didn't get any of the full meal, just the bird.

Apple wood Smoked Turkey Breast

  • 1 Turkey breast fresh, bone in
  • 1/2 cup Salt
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • 1 cup Maple syrup
  • 1/2 ea Onion halved (i.e. 2 quarters)
  • 1 ea Carrot halved
  • 1 ea Lemon pierced w/ fork 4-6 times
  • 3 sprigs Thyme fresh
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Poultry seasoning
  • Apple wood chips

Place turkey breast in a stock pot (Note: This should be a full, bone in turkey breast). Add enough water to cover, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and maple syrup to make the brine. Cover and place under refrigeration for 12 hours.
Take the breast out and rinse it under cold water very thoroughly. Pat dry. Spritz the outside of the breast with a light coating of olive oil. Season with Poultry Perfect Rub (From the book Smoke and Spice by Cheryl & Bill Jamison) for best results or you can just make a simple rub of salt, pepper, and commercially available poultry seasoning. Stuff the cavity of the breast with the onion, thyme, lemon, and carrot. This time I was out of carrot so I used a quartered Granny Smith apple and that worked great too. TIP: If you get a bone in breast that has had the back bone removed, you can use a kaboob to hold the veggies/fruits in place.
The purpose of using apple wood is that poultry is very susceptible to smoke, so you want to use a mild wood. If you use hickory or oak, you could easily overpower the bird with too much smoke flavor which is just as bad as using too much salt or too much of anything in a recipe. I buy my apple wood chips from the grocery store, more and more chains are carrying a variety of wood chips in their charcoal section these days.
Soak my wood chips or not? This is up to you. I've heard arguments for and against soaking your wood chips before smoking. I have done it both ways and can't really tell a difference. So my preference is not to bother with it.
Smoke the bird at 225f (grate level temperature) until it hits 160 degrees internal (about 1 hour a pound at this temp). On a large Big Green Egg, this was a dome temp of 250f and I had about a cup of apple wood chips mixed in with the lump coal. I took care to make sure the wood was evenly distributed throughout the coal. If you just toss it on top, it will all burn off at the beginning instead of a long, even smoke.
If you don't have a smoker, you could probably do this on a grill if you keep a close eye on it. Set your grill up for indirect heat so the turkey is not over the flame. Put the wood chips in a smoker box or a home made foil pouch with holes poked in it. Place that directly over the flame. Try to get a light smoke, you don't want a thick white smoke billowing out of your grill.
With the Egg, I find I don't have to baste the turkey except one time near the end and that is more for presentation purposes. When I use my offset smoker, I brush it with a mix of olive oil, melted butter and some fresh thyme several times during the smoking.turkey breast, BGE turkey breast, grilled turkey breast
Remove from smoker when the internal temperature hits 160F. This takes about 1 hour per pound at this cooking temperature, but go by the internal temperature. Wrap with foil and place in an empty cooler (no ice) to let it rest for 30 minutes.
Slice and serve.
It came out juicy, not even a hint dry. I've made it this way a half dozen times now and every time has been consistently the best turkey I've ever had anywhere.
And finally, the giving of thanks.
  1. I am thankful for my wife, my best friend and lover. (I'll let you wonder if that's all the same person ;) )
  2. I am thankful for my family.
  3. I am thankful for my friends (ya'll included!)
  4. I am thankful more than ever that I have a job. It used to be so easy to take that for granted and even whine about it.
  5. I am thankful that I live in a country that allows me the freedom to have my own opinions and express them without fear of reprisal, or being caned for not following someone else's religious beliefs, or having my fingers cut off for voting in an election.
  6. I am thankful for all of the military personnel, police, and fire & rescue crews that stand in harm's way for my family.
  7. I am thankful for my kitchen equipment but especially my Big Green Egg!
  8. I am thankful for my health. I appreciate it more and more the older I get!
  9. I am thankful for the beautiful local nature of East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains.
  10. I am thankful for food! Particularly the availability and variety that we are truly blessed with. I was putting a 5 lb bag of rice up yesterday after shopping and actually felt a bit guilty as I stuffed it in our full pantry, thinking of how that bag is more than some families get in a month in some countries.
So what are you thankful for today? (Besides the fact that this long winded post is over?)