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Bob's Simple Turkey Smoke November 11 2015

Hi Folks,

I know a lot of people who are a bit intimidated by the thought of smoking a turkey, whether due to the importance of the occasion or the thought of trying to smoke such a large bird. I have done a lot of chickens, but honestly hadn't tried doing a turkey yet myself. With the holiday coming up and our Thanksgiving Apple Wood Sale underway I thought this would be a good time to give it a go!

I started with a bird I knew would fit in my smoker and roasting rack, which in this case turned out to be slightly under 17 lbs. I could probably have gotten up to a 19 lb. bird in, but preferred to err on the side of caution. I didn't want to brine the bird, because this is supposed to be the simplest version of a turkey smoke I could come up with for the test. So to make up for it, I used a foil liner in my rack to contain juices, and cooked the bird with the breast side down immersed in the liquids from the cooking. Doing the bird upside down causes all the extra fat and juice in the thighs to migrate via gravity to the breast and foil liner.

The issue this presents is that the breast as normally presented at the table would appear pale, which I knew would be less than optimal for the visual experience and normal expectations at the dinner table. I had two solutions: Flip the bird later in the smoke to get the color on the breast in the smoker, or flip it and finish it in the oven to brown the breast skin. I decided to go with the latter for two reasons, one of which was it would bring the aromas of the smoker into the house just before dinner in conjunction with the normal smell of roasting turkey, which I feel is part of the anticipation of a big holiday meal.

I used a black pepper and garlic rub for the bird, inside and out, though you can obviously season it to suit. I personally like a lot of savory seasonings on turkey so my next bird will use different spices. I let the turkey sit overnight with the rub in the fridge, same as I would a chicken.

Turkey in the smoker, ready to go.

I did my usual low and slow, starting my run at 170 degrees. I added lots of smoke to the unit with our Small Apple Wood Chunks for about 6 hours, at which point the bird was sitting between 150-160 internal temp on the thickest part of the breast.

Apple wood in the tray, let's smoke!

Here is a quick series as the smoke progressed, taken at 2, 4, and 6 hours respectively.

Two hours into smoking.
2 hours

Four hours into the smoke.
4 hours

Six hours and ready to go to the oven.
6 hours

At that point I pulled the bird and put it in my roasting pan, then flipped the bird to be breast side up. With the oven set to 325 degrees, it took roughly 45-60 minutes to brown the breast and hit the desired 180 degree temperature for fully cooked and safe to eat.

Smoke complete, ready to flip and finish in the oven.

You can see a nice smoke ring coming in on the right side in this picture I took when I cut into the breast to see how moist and tender it turned out. Definitely juicy, smelled and tasted great! The part of the breast with the ring was a little tougher, but it was such a small part of the breast it had little impact, and was at least partly made up for by the enhanced flavors.

Finished and carved smoked turkey.

We quite enjoyed the bird, and it was almost as easy as doing a chicken! Tenderness varied a bit, but honestly felt in line with my experience with most every other turkey I've ever had.

Good luck to everyone on their turkey smokin'!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Bob Coates


Smoking feast with friends! July 04 2015

Hi Folks!

We've been mighty busy of late preparing for the new BBQ season, but finally found some time for food and fun last weekend while my friend was in from out of town. He's been hearing about all of our activities and the great food for about two years now and decided to come see what it was all about.

He got an early taste after arrival because I still had some ribs and fish from a smoke just days before, but I wanted him to get the best experience, which everyone knows is fresh out of the smoker! To that end, we lined up a beautiful layout of: One whole chicken, three racks of St. Louis style pork ribs, 3.5 lbs. of bratwurst, 1-2 lbs. of breakfast links, and about 4 lbs. of russet potatoes. I brought home 5 lbs. each of apple and pear wood from the shop, invited the partners and a local friend up to the house, and away we went.

Starting the Apple wood

I was working hard to make sure everything came in on schedule and according to plan, with sausages to munch along the way at different times, and then the ribs, chicken, and potatoes together as a sit down meal in the early evening. Knowing the whole chicken would be the longest smoke, it went in early with a nice bunch of our apple wood and I ran a bit higher temp than normal (~190deg F) to help it come in on time for dinner. As some of you already know, I take "Low and Slow" a bit to the extreme, as I usually run a smoker temp of approximately 170-180 degs F. I like my smoked food SMOKED, you might say!

Before it was all said and done, the chicken got about 6-7 hours of full smoke. Not only did it look amazing, but it was juicy and tender, with good flavor throughout. As always, I cooked it breast side down in my foiled roaster rack to help keep juices contained and draining into the water pan through the hole created in the center of the foil for that purpose. It builds up in the foil, which helps keep the chicken moist, but eventually drains down. My smoker gets coated in enough juices without having the chicken leaking in every direction! I also put the chicken in the very bottom so that it would get the benefit of the drips from the other food above. No lack of flavor in this chicken...

Chicken started in the smoker

I started the breakfast links next to provide some munchies for the arriving guests, and started adding pear wood to the unit when I put them on the racks. I used pear wood from here until the brats were done.

The St Louis Style ribs were great in this case due to the fact they tend to cook more evenly and a little quicker than baby-backs, which was useful for my socialized smoking event. It's harder to pay proper attention to the cooking when engaged in conversation with friends and a scotch on the rocks in one hand! I was still doing pear wood when I put these in with the chicken, and added more at the same time.

As always the pear smoked bratwurst were amazing, with the newly experienced exclaiming about how sweet they were etc. If you haven't tried our pear wood for smoking brats yet, you are truly missing out! Part of the fun of our business is access to so much smoking wood that we experiment with random things and occasionally stumble over great combinations of this sort. Smoking is a fun learning process for me every time, and what's not to like about sampling new smoked food combinations?

The smoked potatoes were a new adventure for me this go 'round, so I did some research on the the Interwebs for ideas and to set expectations on results from differing approaches. Most obvious from reading reports from the front line on smoking potatoes was that getting them tender/fully cooked was the primary challenge. Lots of folks were apparently par-cooking them before smoking, and others were finishing them by other means. Saw many recommendations to slice them into slabs of about 1/2" for faster and more even cooking, which seemed pretty reasonable to me.

In the end, I decided to try whole and sliced at the same time so I could see the differing results in one shot. I used basil-garlic olive oil, fresh ground sea salt and pepper, with some garlic powder for a little extra punch. I put them in the smoker on foil trays to contain the oils, but was more than a bit generous in the amount I prepared.

I ended up tossing some of them in with the chicken, just to get them in the unit. That actually got some cheers from the audience when they saw the taters landing in the juices collected in the foiled rack!

I was prepared for the potatoes to be the holdout at the end, and they didn't let me down. I ended up finishing them in the oven so we could eat somewhat on time. That's the way of it sometimes, and no one complained anyway with the spread that got laid out when the time came to sit down and eat. Next time I'll start them earlier in the smoke and not make (quite) so many. I had plenty leftover, and I'm going to try dicing them up and making them into country style fried potatoes. I'll let you know how that turns out!

 Last but not least, a quick picture of the feast in progress :-) We even had (some) vegetables!

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!
Be safe and have fun!

Bob C.


Weekend Smoke with Apple and Pear Woods November 17 2014

Hi Folks!

I broke out my smoker a week or so back and got busy! I batched out salmon, baby-back ribs, a whole chicken and a variety of sausage, including some authentic Kielbasa from back east. I did my usual low and slow method, made easier by the fall weather that has come into it's own the last few weeks. I was originally shooting for a Saturday smoke with friends and family, but wind conditions made it impossible. So, >when the wind changed direction favorably on Sunday, I invited everyone, but only my Dad was able to attend. We ate well!

My temp range for the cook was ~170 deg F, +/-10 deg F. I brought the temp up to 190 to finish the ribs and chicken at the end. I used our offered Pear and Apple smoking woods in my 2 door vertical gas smoker as shown here going full tilt. I started with Apple wood, and added fresh chucks of Pear wood every time I added sausages. When I did the salmon I used just Apple wood, as it gives me the best results with my rub and technique.

Loaded Smoker

I loaded up the ribs and chicken to launch, and as soon as the temp stabilized where I wanted it, I added in the first sausages, 2 packs of breakfast links from Costco. Here's how those turned out:

Freshly smoked breakfast links

After about an hour to an hour fifteen, I pulled the sausages and swapped in my salmon. The salmon was soaked in brine for 36 hours, then rinsed, patted dry with paper towels, and sprinkled with rub. I prepped the fillets first thing in the morning so they had time to set up before smoking. I personally think they turned out beautifully. Here are some pics of the salmon prepped and after smoking:

Brined and seasoned Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon fresh off the smoker More Atlantic Salmon fresh off the smoker

Next up on the spare rack were the Polish Kielbasa from Ohio that a friend of my Dad's picked up for him on a trip through the Midwest last summer. He has a stash of this authentic, top-quality sausage in his freezer now that he breaks out for events. Thanks for sharing Dad!

Unfortunately I forgot to snap a pic of those when they finished, but I do have a pic that includes them from dinner at our weekly meeting a couple of days later down below. Somehow I forgot to gets pictures of the chicken before it was demolished. Next time!

About 6 hours in I foiled my ribs and put them back in to finish. I stopped smoking at this point, and let the last of the Apple and Pear wood chunks burn out for the benefit of the chicken. I pushed the temp up to 180-190 deg F for the next 1.5-2 hours, then pulled the ribs and chicken and shut everything down for the night. It was a long smoke with lots of good food, total run time was 11:30 in the morning to 8:45 at night. The finished ribs looked like this:

Baby Back Ribs, ready to eat!

I brought a rack of ribs, section of salmon fillet and the last two kielbasa to our weekly meeting night and we had a great meal together along with the fried potatoes supplied by Rich. We frequently have events like this where we share the results of our smoking activity, assuming we aren't grilling and/or smoking right at the shop! Did we mention we love smoked food? Here is a pic of some of the spread:

Smoked Salmon, Baby Back Ribs, and Polish Keilbasa for dinner!

I've mentioned elsewhere that my low and slow technique using mild woods like Apple and Pear allow me to smoke the food consistently for hours without producing poor smoke flavors, while allowing incredible smoke penetration. Notice in the rib photos that there is almost no ring effect because of complete penetration by the smoke. This also gives me incredible storage time on my smoked foods when properly refrigerated. Considering the amount of food I smoke in a given batch, this is a very helpful effect.

Everyone raves about my salmon, it was the first food I mastered on my smoker in a quest to supply my SO with one of her favorite foods. I'll post in the future with the details of my salmon smoking method for those who would like to try it for themselves.

Happy Smoking!

Bob C.