In a previous post, I discussed how we really like to barbecue our turkey. Regardless of how you choose to cook your turkey, there are a variety of techniques you can use to keep your bird moist and impart some fabulous flavors to the meat. One of the techniques that we’ve tried a couple of times successfully, is brining.
There is actually some science behind the brining process. It’s more than just some tasty meat! The high salt content of the brining liquid actually dissolves muscle filaments in the meat making it more tender and the salt also allows the protein to retain more fluid. Works just like me! Salt = Water weight gain!
In addition to salt, most brine recipes include a variety of other spice that lend wonderful flavors to your turkey. One of the best recipes we’ve tried comes from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Bobby Flay. That guy can grill and my husband I have the same palette for spicy foods that Mr. Flay has. I would like to share his recipe for Cajon Brined Turkey with you!
Cajon Brined Turkey – Two Ways
- 1/2 cup Spanish paprika
- 1/4 cup New Mexican chile powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chile de arbol
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 4 whole cloves garlic
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 large Spanish onion, quartered
- One 12-pound fresh turkey
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- Special equipment: 3 cups hickory or apple chips if desired, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
Two days before cooking: Combine the Spanish paprika, New Mexican chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, chile de arbol and cayenne in a small bowl. Remove 1/4 cup and save for use with another meal.
Dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons cold water in a large (at least 16-quart) stockpot or a clean bucket. Whisk in half of the remaining spice rub, the garlic, bay leaves and onion (Tip: Be sure to mix REALLY well or seasonings will just settle to the bottom of your brining container). Add the turkey, cover and refrigerate or set in a very cold place (that stays somewhere between 32 to 40 degrees F) for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours (Tip: Brining bags (can be purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond) can be great, but set them in a larger container in case it bursts open. A Cooler is a great choice for storing your turkey during brining as this can really hog up space in your refrigerator). Rinse well under cold water and pat dry to remove the salt. Let air-dry in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
In The Big Green Egg: Light a large chimney filled with charcoal briquettes (about 5 quarts) and allow to burn until all the charcoal is covered with a layer of fine gray ash. Empty the coals into the grill. Top with some of the soaked wood chips if using. Put in the ceramic plate, then the grill rack. Put the cover on and let the grate heat up.
Brush the turkey with oil and rub the entire turkey (including the cavity) with the remaining spice rub. Tie the legs together. Adjust the grill vents to get and maintain an internal temperature of 350 degrees F. Roast the turkey for 2 hours to 2 hours and 15 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees F. Remove from the grill, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
In the Caja China: Prepare the charcoal briquettes according to the instructions that come with the box. Put the roasting pan with its rack (comes with the box) inside, and put the turkey breast-side down on the rack. Put on the top and fill with charcoal. After 30 minutes, flip the turkey breast-side up and continue cooking for about 1 more hour, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees F. Add charcoal as necessary according to the box instructions. Remove from the box, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Tip: We don’t have a Big Green Egg or Caja China, yet!!! Check out my blog entry Thanksgiving Tips Part 4 from Saturday, November 7, 2015 for instructions on how to barbecue your turkey on most grills.