24 November, 2010

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow, and like most Americans we'll be having a large dinner with family and friends.  In recent years, I've taken over the cooking and hosting duties from my mother, and as in years past we'll be enjoying a smoked turkey.

This time around, we're having more people in for dinner than usual.  In addition to family members, several friends are joining us.  I like to send everyone home with some leftovers, so when I started looking for a bird, I kept my eye open for something a little larger than our usual 16- to 18-pounder.

I wound up with a very decently-sized 23-pound turkey which was gifted to me by a friend.  Because it's a natural bird without any injected "solutions," I have it on the porch right now, brining in preparation for tomorrow's slow roast in the smoker.  I use a very simple brine for my turkey: to every gallon of water required, I add 1 cup of kosher salt, ½ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of mixed pickling spice, and 2 tablespoons of peppercorns.  This year's bird required three gallons of brine to cover it, and to make sure it brines evenly, I give the bird a turn each time I pass by the cooler.

But a complication arose:  I wanted to make sure that the bigger turkey would fit into my smoker, and when I tested it, I found that with the turkey in standard position on the rack, the door of the smoker won't close.  O NOES!!1!  WAT DO??

Photo by
Spectrum Diversified
I decided to stand the turkey on end for the roasting time, but wasn't quite sure about how to do it.  I keep a spool of heavy-gauge baling wire on hand to custom-make hanging hooks and racks for smoking, but I was worried about properly supporting the full weight of the bird hanging from a rack in the smoker.  Obviously, the best thing would be a vertical roasting rack , but I'm not sure anyone locally has them in stock and besides, the 30- to 40-dollar price tag of those contraptions rubbed my penny-pinching, broke-ass fur the wrong way.   But a company called Spectrum Diversified makes a simple and inexpensive nickel-plated paper towel holder of steel rod which they sell online and at Bed Bath & Beyond.  It is very sturdy, tall enough that the central loop passes all the way through from the base to the neck cavity of the dressed bird, and stable enough to keep the bird from tipping over during the cooking time.  I bought one last night at the local BB&B and tested it out, and it looks like that will do the trick.

I've had my smoker for several years now and I'm fairly happy with it.  Only in the past couple of years has it begun to seem a little small for my needs, but this kind of gave me the incentive to move up to a larger size.  Looks like I'll finally be doing something about it - I've got the design for a much bigger and more versatile smoker in my head, and if the weather holds up, I'll probably start working on it after the holiday.


Andrew said...

Man, I would love to have a smoker....

marc said...

Clever solution! Glad to see you went with the brine.

hap said...

Happy Thanksgiving Dave and family!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

I actually fit a 12-14 pound turkey into a large toaster oven today. I had to put it front to back and tuck foil under the bit of breast that stuck over the pan, but it worked!

So, I understand the anxiety of, "oh, no, is it gonna fit?!"

Happy Thanksgiving!