I’ve ruined Thanksgiving pretty much every year for the last ten years. And by that I don’t mean the food was bad. I mean I’m too impatient to wait for Thursday to eat some turkey. Tis the season, and I want some fuggin’ turkey NOW. So, as usual, I bought a turkey last weekend to be had a week early.
The USDA approves two ways for thawing a frozen turkey: the fridge or a cold water bath. I chose the prior, since I had time, and began the fridge thaw on Thursday 11/21, anticipating a cook day of Sunday 11/24. The bird was about ten pounds and was still partially frozen Sunday morning, which necessitated a cold water bath anyway. Thus, the moral of the story is that you should go ahead and put your frozen turkey in the fridge (it’s 3:35 on Monday), cold water bathe it Wednesday morning if necessary, and place it in a brine by Wednesday afternoon.
The bird featured in this post was not brined because I went to the Georgia game on Saturday. Instead I used a grocery store bought injection in the breast. I injected greedily about four hours prior to cooking but was left wanting, both in flavor (my biggest gripe) and moisture (but only slightly). The moral of this story: Don’t skip the brine, even if you only use salt water—Tip: pickling salt dissolves in cold water, which can save you time.
As you can see from the picture, I grilled the bird. Literally, grilled over direct heat! This is something I’ve thought about, but hesitated to try. I’ve done whole chickens like this, but I’ve always doubted that a turkey would hold up for the extra 45-60 minutes. Well, it worked and the results were very encouraging. In fact, I see no reason to use a plate setter if you are spatchcocking a bird. You get crispy skin and a lot of extra flavor from the poultry fat burning up in smoke.
1) Place a fully thawed bird into a salt brine for at least 8 hours. Feel free to add chicken stock and other seasonings. Turkey brine recipes are pretty easy to find online.
2) Remove from brine and towel dry.
3) With a sharp knife, strong kitchen shears, or both patiently cut the back bone out of the bird.
4) Flip the bird over and press down on the breast plate until you hear a pop or until the bird is resting relatively flat on the prepping surface.
5) Tuck the wings underneath the breast.
6) Make a small incision in the loose skin adjacent to the leg bone and slip the leg bone into the flap.
7) Season liberally and insert your meat thermometer probe into the breast, parallel to the prepping counter (See picture above).
8) Bring the BGE to about 400 degrees.
9) Place the bird onto the grill over direct heat, legs pointing away from you. The top of the bird, and thus the thermometer probe, should be pointing directly at your (hungry) stomach. Due to the restricted air flow from the bird, your oven temperature should drop significantly when you close the BGE dome. Bring the temperature back up to 325. To avoid charring the meat, try not to let the coals get too hot. I kept it around 325-350 the whole time.
10) When the internal temperature has reached 110 degrees, rotate the meat in the direction of your digital thermometer gauge; i.e., counterclockwise if the gauge is to the left of the bird, clockwise if it is on the right of the bird. This will prevent the thermometer wire from getting in the way.
11) When the internal temperature is 155, pull the bird and cover with tinfoil. The internal temperature will continue to rise while resting and should level out around 165, which is the approved temperature of the USDA.
Have a great Thanksgiving. I hope you all find this helpful.
Lacking any original content, here’s what others are thinking:
- Not sure where Mississauga is, but they have some suggested Eggcessories. You can compare with what I personally recommend.
- Nice looking recipe for Chilean sea bass with an Asian dipping sauce. I’m sure the fine folks of Asia would agree that it has authentically Asian flavors.
- Win a BGE in the Red Gold’s Summer Grillin’ Party Sweepstakes.
- This is the second article I have seen referring to us as a cult.
- This is how to do seared tuna. Damn!
The 16th annual Eggtoberfest is almost here, guys! This year’s event is being hosted at Stone Mountain on October 11th and 12th. If you are interested in cooking, tough shit, they’re already at capacity. For the rest of you Eggheads, here is the registration for regular guests ($40), which must be submitted by October 1st. NO WALK UP TICKETS, so sign up in advance and by the deadline! There is also a meet and greet for those of you looking to make new Egghead friends ($25); also due by October 1st.
For those of you aspiring Eggheads—or those of you looking to buy a second (or third) BGE—here is the order form for the Demos. The Demos are new as of October 11th and used all weekend for demonstrator purposes. If you purchase a Demo kit, your BGE will come equipped with a large BGE, a nest, a platesetter, Grill Gripper, ash tool, a box of fire starters, and a 10lb. bag of BGE brand lump charcoal. At $750, it’s an unbeatable discount.
I’m a Georgia boy, born and bred, and the ribs I’ve always been fed are back ribs. “Oh I want my baby back, baby back, baby back…” But I’ve been seeing those damn spare ribs staring at me in the meat cooler at the grocery store lately and I can’t help but ask, “Why do people eat you, spare ribs? Only one way to find out.”
Without knowing much about them, I bought some un-trimmed spare ribs and then I did some research. The internet tells me that people in Kansas City and Asia eat these ribs. The internet also tells me that they have less meat and are lower in fat (the ribs, not the people from KC and Asia). Frankly, spare ribs appear to be scraps. But I paid pretty much the same amount as I would have for some delicious baby backs.
The BBQ Institute taught me how to turn spare ribs from this…
These are stock photos, I must admit, but I’m dicking around at work and my personal photos are at home. If I remember, I’ll update the pictures later.
You can also watch a video here if you want a more active demonstration. It’s really not difficult.
Once trimmed, I rubbed the ribs and trimmings with Three Beer BBQ rub, which is a good standard rub to have in your seasoning cupboard. Once thoroughly coated, I tossed’em into a gallon size Ziploc back and refrigerated (always for at least 24 hours).
Smoking ribs is what you would expect for BBQ: 225-270 for 2-3 hours or so. Its pork BBQ, so drink beer, relax, and check in on it every once in a while. You can test for doneness by inserting a fork into a thick area of meat and twisting gently. If the meat pulls, get the family ready. Be sure to use hickory wood if you want your food to taste good (I use chunks). You can also brush your ribs with a little BBQ sauce as the meat reaches tenderness, but I didn’t for the ribs pictured below (These are my actual ribs).
Anyway, these were pretty darn good. I don’t know that I like spare ribs more than back ribs, but I can see why people might. The flavor was great, the meat tender, and the meal affordable: pretty much what I look for in BBQ. I’m happy I gave it a try and I hope you do, too.
At the BGE store, Big Green Egg brand lump charcoal is twenty-five bucks for a large bag if you only buy one. You can get the price down to somewhere around $18/bag if you buy in bulk, but then you’re parting with $100 bucks for charcoal, and your wife may not appreciate your point on economies of scale. You may be tempted to find an alternative brand to save some dough, but let me save you the unnecessary trial and error on at least one brand: Barbeque Wood Flavors (“BWF Brand”).
When I bought this stuff at Publix, I wasn’t really in the market for a new coal, and after suffering through a bag of this stuff, I’m definitely sticking with BGE brand. The reason I bought it was because I was out of the good stuff and the BGE store was closed.
The best way to describe my experience is probably by comparing BWF to BGE brand coal. BGE brand charcoal is derived from hickory and oak, the two most versatile and best flavored woods (sorry mesquite lovers). BGE brand coals are up to cooking temperature in about 20 minutes, they last all night on low heat, and are capable of reaching temperatures close to one thousand degrees (although I rarely go higher than 650 anymore). I also find, especially after my experience with BFW, that BGE coals are cleaner burning with lower soot levels and low ash deposits.
BFW brand coals were a very different experience. The most important difference was flavor quality. Although the bag doesn’t disclose the type of wood used, I can tell you it ain’t hickory, oak, and/or mesquite, which is kind of scary. Next, the BFW coals are far denser than BGE, which means they took twice as long to come up to temperature. As far as an energy source, I did find the BFW brand to be more than adequate; capable of reaching high temperatures, long lasting, and relatively low on filler but not quite as low as BGE brand. Really, the only place BFW is significantly better is price coming in at about 12 bucks.
In all, the flavor factor is just too important for me to justify saving 10 or 15 bucks. I cook on my BGE several times a week and the diminished flavor of the BFW makes it harder to justify sparking the coals. So, in other words, this is my first and (probably) last soiree into coal comparisons.
Hickory, oh Hickory. You are the only wood for me. You give me pungent sweetness and aromatic delight. No wood compares. Not close. Not at all. I love nothing more than to sit with you as you escape silently through black vents and dance delicately across my face, kissing my cheeks oh your way to heaven. You whet my appetite and arouse my senses. You are a stimulating symphony of barbeque ecstasy. You are rich and savory and beautiful, Hickory, oh Hickory. You are the only wood for me.
I’ve tested a number of competition and prosumer brand seasonings, especially over the last year, and my wife’s chief complaint is salt concentration. The truth is, most seasonings you buy at a specialty BBQ store—or even from you local grocer—will list salt as the first ingredient. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a factor to be considered in your approach to seasoning application. A heavy handed pour may invite a large glass of water at your plate side during dinner.
The sodium conundrum is a tough issue to balance with the lust for bold flavored meats. Every brand will vary to some degree, and unless you take diligent notes, you are likely to experience inconsistent results; at least in terms of whether the sodium level is excessive. The level of non-salt flavor of a particular seasoning is bound by the sodium constraints prescribed by the maker. And if you exceed that threshold wanting greater spice, you may pay for it with overwhelming salt.
The other thing to consider is heart health. Let’s face it, most of our favorite seasonings would not meet the approval of the American Heart Association. Which leads me to the purpose of this post: TJ’s Herbal Blend Seasoning.
As of this writing, this seasoning is available by custom order only and, as far as I can tell, is essentially the seminal seasoning of a start-up business yet to be officially started. The owner and creator doesn’t make his living seasoning meat (his profession is something involving technology beyond my comprehension), and yet this seasoning is worthy of sitting in my cupboard next to some more notable brands.
In a one gallon size plastic Ziploc bag, I added roughly five (5) tablespoons of TJ’s blend, some olive oil, and a splash of water. This creates a fairly viscous, seasoning infused marinade. Next I added the dark meat from one chicken. Letting most of the air out before sealing, I then massaged the mixture into the meat until liberally and evenly coated. Then I placed the bag into the fridge for about three hours to allow absorption.
I cooked the meat, skin side up over direct medium-high heat (about 450 degrees) for 25-30 minutes. As usual, I took care to stagger the meat outward from the hottest point to minimize charring. Next, I closed the vents to about 25% airflow (shooting for 325 degrees) and flipped the chicken skin side down for another 20 minutes.
The meat was moist without dripping juices and fall-off-the-bone tender (thank you BGE). The flavor from the seasoning was pleasantly palatable without being overbearing and the absence of salt was welcome. The skin was perfect, simply put. In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever seen my wife eat chicken skin, which was a reddish gold color and lightly crisped, with a texture that tears along the seam of your bite or knife point instead of breaking and crumbling under pressure or giving to elastic pull. There was no evidence of black char to the skin either, which is unusual for chicken cooked at these temperatures and over direct heat. Also, the skin was exactly where I remembered it when it went on the grill, no shrinking or breaking while cooking.
My conclusion is that the seasoning provides an excellent, complementary depth to the many flavors of charcoal grilled chicken, while helping to maintain the integrity of the skin, which in turn adds an additional flavor element. For someone (like my wife) who has a salt sensitive palate, this is really a great option for a regular chicken seasoning and would probably be excellent in other applications as well (I’m thinking fish, poultry, and vegetables especially).
My skin theory is yet to be fully tested, but I think the culprit is salt, which I am stating to believe may rob moisture and increase charring. That is something I will research and report in another post—not that it will avert my personal use of salt. But until then, I leave you with my complements of TJ’s Herbal Blend.
If you are interested in a (maybe free) sample, email me at email@example.com and I will see about making arraignments.