CHAPTER 1 - GENERAL COMMENTS AND HELPFUL TIPS
===> NOTE ! If you do not read much of anything else, please
read and pay attention to these tips, especially if this will be your
first brining experience !
===> And please make sure you pay close attention to "Buying
The Right Bird" as covered by Bob Ballard and Fergy in Tips 14 and
17 below !
BRINING is Easy To Do, and Produces Incredible Results ! You will
be Very Happy this Holiday Season if you chose to brine your
turkey or turkey breast first.
This FAQ has been compiled Thanks to some of America's Great
Pitmasters and Cooks - Such as "Fergy" Ferguson, Terry Light,
Jim Minion, Dan Gill, Marlene Rausch, Kit Anderson, Randy
Dewberry, Bob Ballard, Bruce Cook, William Maurer, Gary Wiviott,
and many others who helped contribute to making this as
complete as it is.
Brining works whether you plan to cook your turkey in the oven,
or smoke it on a pit.
Now, 17 Good Tips to keep in mind as your read this FAQ
(1) "THE" SOLUTION
Be VERY CAREFUL on your salt solution. Brining is VERY easy
to do. But it DOES require that you follow the instructions
detailed below. You will almost ALWAYS have excellent results
if your Turkey is Under Brined (too little salt or too little time)
but it MAY be almost uneatable if:
A) The brine solution includes too much salt,
B) The brine solution does not contain enough sugar,
C) The turkey is left in the brine solution too long,
D) The turkey is not washed THOROUGHLY afterwards before
E) You used any form of salt in a rub on your turkey after brining.
F) You purchased a "processed" turkey (injected or soaked in a
solution which always contains salt). (See TIPS 14 and 17
We might suggest you try the following:
1) Make your (basic) Brine Solution up using:
Slightly LESS salt than suggested, especially if this is your first
time to brine.
- AND -
2) Use at least a HALF CUP of sugar.
3) And of course, your spices.
Brown sugar is preferred by many.
===> Ed Pawlowski, known by many for his great Que, uses "SORGHUM
SYRUP, A BIG GLOB, PROBABLY A HALF CUP."
===> William Maurer likes 1/2 cup molasses and about 1/4 cup maple
Also note that Instead of sugar or maple syrup, you can try sweetening
the brine with honey, or even caramelized sugar. (HINT: See Jim
Minion's Honey Brine Turkey In CHAPTER 2 !)
(2) TIME IN BRINE SOLUTION - For Newbies Especially !
===> EDITORIAL NOTE:
a) On your first attempt, you might want to leave your meat/poultry
in the brine solution on the lower end of the timetable described.
b) Members report using VARIOUS times in their brine solutions with
Great success. From 12-16 hours, all the way to 24 hours +. You
Some people like Karl Mitschke like to soak the bird well in plain
water for an hour after rinsing it off from the brine solution.
Carey Starzinger will soak his birds about SIX hours in clean water
after brining before cooking.
(3) BRINING TEMPERATURE - 40 DEGREES OR BELOW !
Brining MUST take place at 40 degrees or below. Please do
not try and cut corners on the proper temperature. Place your
turkey in the brine solution after it is Cool - not while it is still
warm. Cool the brine solution with ice in plastic bags, if
(4) ADDITIONAL SPICES AFTER BRINING
You can use any of your favorite spices on your turkey after
brining. Such as Paprika, pepper, and/or anything you like as
spices go. Just do not use any more salt. (Soy sauce in the
mop would not be a good idea at all !).
William Maurer suggests a neat idea:
"I use Schilling salt-free Lemon Pepper seasoning (THE Secret
to Success ?) and some garlic-garni (love garlic). I have tried
some regular Lemon Pepper seasoning once, but that resulted
in way too much salt flavor."
Your choices are really varied. Charlie Wood likes to rub his
birds with Lousianne Cajun spice.
Bruce Cook HIGHLY recommends the use of various crab boils
and seafood seasonings to brines and/or as seasonings in
rubs. Please see his second Recipe contribution, in
CHAPTER 6 - Recipes. This one is the last recipe - Item "O".
Also, to help you see the value of using a seafood seasoning,
insure you see Gary Wiviott's neat article, in CHAPTER 10 -
"BUTTERMILK BRINING CHICKEN" - Part B.
(5) "OFFSET COOKERS AND TURKEYS" - Jim Minion and Terry
Jim Minion adds the following guidelines about offset smokers
(in general), regarding smoking turkeys:
"Offset smokers move much more air than other style cookers
and this can lead the dry, hard condition.
I find that turkeys do better in a Weber Kettle.
BRINING OR INJECTING AND HIGHER TEMPS will help a lot."
Terry Light, known for alot of wonderful Que, adds:
"Personally, I think the Weber Kettle is as good a cooker as you
can use for a turkey. Turkeys are tender and don't need "low &
slow." The Weber Kettle will hold temperatures perfectly for
turkeys and you can get a lot of smoke to them also."
NOTE: Also please read "OUR BEST "STUFFED" TURKEY EVER!"
By Jason Creager in Recipe J of CHAPTER 6; and Terry's Light's"
Turkey Brining" In CHAPTER 6.
(6) "HANGING TURKEYS" Tip by Dan Gill
"If you have room in your smoker, try hanging them. I use a
chrome choke collar for dogs. Cinch it around the legs and pass
the free end up through the chest cavity and out the neck. You
can either hang them 'leg down' or bring the chain along the
back and tie it to the loop around the legs and hang them
(7) "TURKEY ON A THRONE" By William Maurer
One thing you BBQ'ers might think about is smoking (or
roasting) the turkey "on a throne" or "up the butt" style using
a wire rack.
In (6) <above> "HANGING TURKEYS" Tip by Dan Gill," Dan
suggests using a dog collar chain to hang to turkey.
I use a wire rack inserted up the turkey's rear end (butt) and
set it upright in the smoker. I think I get better smoke
penetration that way (both inside and out). Also the fat drains
out during the cooking process, leaving a cleaner and less
messy bird when it's done. Laying horizontal, the fat pools in
the body cavity, which makes a mess when you pick up the
bird to turn it (over) or to take it out of the smoker.
Another way to accomplish the same goal is to use a small
commercial product called a "Throne." This is a cone-shaped
device which holds your bird in the correct orientation while it
And, if you use a "Throne" instead of wiring the end of the bird,
your turkey will look great on it's "throne" when you bring it
into the kitchen in front of your guests.
I found my "thrones," made by Faberware, at a upscale
department store here in California (Gottschalks) and also at
an outlet mall. The "thrones" come in two sizes, turkey and
chicken. Prices for the thrones are approx. $10 or so each, and
maybe $18-20 for a pair.
I have also recently found these at a local 'Corning-Revere'
factory store in our local outlet mall. 'Corning-Revere' has the
two sizes of the thrones in stock. The plain chicken-sized
(small) ones cost approx $1-3 each, and the large turkey-sized,
non-stick coated Thrones are about $7.00 each. They are made
in China for Corning-Revere.
A Throne might be able to be seen at:
Fergy also feels as though this is an excellent tip if you have
the available "height" in your smoker. You'll need about 14-15
inches of vertical space or 'height.'
Many people use them.
(8) "COOKING A TURKEY THE DAY BEFORE A HOLIDAY"
by Jim Minion
"By cooking the day before you will make easier on yourself and
you'll enjoy the day much more.
If you cook the day before, your turkey will still be moist.
Reheat by carving the turkey first and place in a baking dish.
Use a small amount of chicken broth or water and cover with
Put in a 180-200* oven until warm to temp you want.
You can use a drip pan. If it is too salty, add a little sugar to cut
the salty flavor."
(9) "CORRECTING FOR PROPER TURKEY SKIN COLOR" By Jim Minion
"If you find that the skin is turning black and don't want this
condition, soak cheesecloth in vinegar and wrap the turkey.
Spray the turkey once an hour with water and oil solution. The
turkey will come out golden brown.
If you wrap from the beginning of your smoking session, you can
put more smoke on and still get the color your looking for. Do it
from the point you are going to place it in the pit.
The above is a suggestion for those that like the lighter color."
Several other excellent pitmasters have also suggested this as
a good idea.
(10) "THE PURPOSE OF BRINING" By Kit Anderson
"Brining does nothing for tenderizing. Fowl doesn't need
tenderizing, anyway. What it does is - concentrate the cellular
sodium. This causes the proteins to untangle and cross link,
also known as coagulation or cooking. This raises the
temperature that the cells breakdown at, so there is more
moisture present when the final temp is reached.
If your poultry tastes too salty, your brine is too strong."
(11) MEMBER RECOMMENDED SMOKING TEMPERATURES
325 Degrees ! Almost Universally agreed on.
Internal Temp" Between 160 and 165. Your choice.
From thebbqshack: "It is better to cook the bird at a higher
heat for a shorter period of time. By doing so, the bird will cook
quicker and not have time to dry out in a low temp environment.
WE AGREE ~!
(12) GREAT TURKEY SMOKING MOP RECIPE By Mikey Lulejian
1/4 Cup Melted margarine and 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire
sauce. Make up more when needed.
NOTE: You can NOT use SOY sauce after Brining.
Baste your turkey every 45 mins.
You can't beat this for getting a great Golden Skin !
(13) ORIENTATION OF TURKEY
Many/most memebers said they had great success starting with
the turkey/turkey breast down for about 2 hours, and finishing
(14) =====> CHOOSING THE RIGHT !!! TURKEY By Bob Ballard
Bob Ballard is now using MINIMALLY processed birds for his
brining and smoking. He strongly feels that birds that have
been "injected" by the processing houses may be the REAL culprit
behind brined poultry coming out too salty.
Bob goes on to say: "The additives I'm referring to is the solution
they either inject or (I suspect) soak the birds in to enhance the
flavor and make a more moist bird. If you notice most of the
turkey wrappers state that a solution from 3% to as much as 12%
is added. The minimally processed birds do not have this and are
SUGGESTION: Watch for this, and read the LABEL on the bird you
are going to purchase.
===> Also, see Tip 17 below.
(15) MORTON'S "TENDER QUICK" By Jim Minion
Tender Quick is by Morton, and is a CURING agent. It can found
many times in the canning department of the grocery store. Also
known as a form of saltpeter (sp).
IF you are going to cook poultry at lower temps, Tender Quick is
advised. The bird will be in that 40 to 140* range longer than is
Whether to use Tender Quick is a personal decision, and is really
based on WHAT TEMPERATURE you'll be cooking at.
225 to 275: Recommend you use Tender Quick.
300 to 350: You can omit a curing agent.
Salt (from the brine) works also, but not as well as a "curing
agent." The whole thing rests on the issue of how long is the
bird going to be the 40-140*. At the lower temperatures, you
are taking chances on a healthy product.
(16) MEASURING WATER FOR BRINE OR FRYING OIL By Fergy
Many people put their bird FIRST into a pot and cover it with
water. They then measure how much water they needed to cover
the bird. They then have a good idea how much oil to use for
frying (or brine solution to make up).
If you are deep frying your bird, Fergy offers a valuable
suggestion for this:
If you are measuring for the proper amount of oil to use, the
water should come no closer than 3 inches from the top of the
pot. This will keep you from having oil overflow your fryer cooker
A better idea is listed below however:
"Put the bird in your frying pot, add water and just cover the bird.
Remove the bird. Then mark the water level on your pot. Mark 4
inches DOWN from the water line mark, and fill to that level with your
Do this and you won't have any major spillage.
By the way, Judge Dave adds this, if you do fry:
"I filter my oil through food-grade cheese cloth and keep it
refrigerated between uses. I am fortunate in having a small dorm
size frig that I use just to keep peanut oil in. I started to sell the
fridge a couple of years ago, but now I'm glad I held onto it."
Fergy: "I just filter my oil and put it in a container (another oil
container that's empty). I store the oil in a cool dark inside cabinet."
(17) GENERAL * TIPS * By Fergy
* DO coat with oil before you start (holds spices better and keeps
the skin from getting too dark). See tip 8 above.
* DO dry the skin well before you coat with oil (this allows the skin
to brown more evenly).
* DO check the temp to make sure its done!
* The juices from the turkey are good to inject back into them!
* DON'T buy an expensive bird. The cheaper the better! The
expensive ones are the ones that are pre-injected and basted
with salt in the solution. ===> See Tip 14 above, also.
* DON'T use the little pop up thermometer! They don't
always work right when smoking. You most likely WILL cook your
bird if you rely on them !
* DON'T Get in a hurry. (Good advice for smoking any meat
* DON'T stuff the bird you're smoking. Make your stuffing
* Cajun spices have a tendency to blacken or get dark quick.
The flavor is great, but some people think the bird is burned.
If doing a "presentation," stay away from them.
Well, that's it for Introduction and Tips. Now let's go onto the
'meat' of this article.
Good Luck and Happy Holidays, Mikey