Thanksgiving confession time. Since my kids hate turkey, I was considering forgoing having one this year and just making a ham. However, since the folks at Mizkan and Holland House asked me to prepare a turkey brining recipe, I decided to go ahead and make one using a turkey breast since Paul and I were going to be the only ones eating it. (Lucie eventually decided that she did like it and had some.)
Since this turned out so well, I may forget about making beer can chicken and make brined and smoked turkey breast year round – not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The meat was incredibly juicy, moist and tender and incredibly flavorful. If you’re making a full turkey, go ahead and add a turkey breast to your Thanksgiving cooking plans so you have plenty of turkey breast meat for sandwiches and leftover dishes like Turkey Paninis or Rigatoni-Turkey Salad.
I used Holland House Sake Cooking Wine, along with Nakano All Natural Rice Vinegar and ginger to give my brine an Asian flare. To learn more about cooking wines, check out my Cooking Wine 101 infographic. Don’t forget Holland House cooking wines and vinegars for your Thanksgiving cooking needs this year! Check out their website for money saving coupons and recipes. Follow Holland House on Facebook for Thanksgiving cooking tips and recipes, too!
Brined and Smoked Turkey Breast
Inspired by this recipe from Southern Living, November 2013 issue
- 8 cups apple cider
- 3/4 cup Holland House Sake Cooking Wine
- 1/4 cup Nakano All Natural Rice Vinegar
- 1/2 cup sorghum syrup
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 bunch fresh chives
- 3 fresh lemon thyme sprigs
- 2 1-inch pieces of ginger, peeled
- 4 cups ice cubes
- 1 (5-6 pound) bone-in turkey breast
- Bring cider, Holland House Sake Cooking Wine, and next 8 ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until salt and sorghum are dissolved. Remove pot from heat, stir in ice. Cover and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Place turkey in brine. (Brine should mostly cover turkey. If it doesn’t, find a smaller pot. If the turkey still isn’t fully covered, you’ll need to turn it over in the brine about half way through the process.) Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 5 to 12 hours. (Do not over brine your turkey or you’ll end up with salty meat!)
- Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer's directions, bringing internal temperature to 225 degrees F using your favorite type of wood chips.
- Remove turkey from brine, and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey low in smoker and cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165 to 170 degrees F.
- Remove turkey, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
Prep Time: 5 Hours 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 Hours
Total Time: 8 Hours 20 Minutes
Servings: Makes 8 to 10 servings
- Serving size: 3/4 to 1/2 pound of turkey meat
I love using my Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, which is why I’m always on the lookout for smoking and grilling cookbooks like John McLemore latest book, “DADGUM That’s Good, Too!” John’s mission is to make it fun to cook up traditional Southern recipes like brisket, baby back ribs, Boston butt and more using Masterbuilt smokers, grills and indoor fryers. But his cookbook isn’t all about meat. He shares recipes for Southern classics like blackberry cobbler, shrimp and grits and gumbo, too.
John’s recipes are simple, straightforward and perfect for those new to smoking, grilling and frying. With the holidays here before you know it, this would be a great cookbook to help walk you through making turkey. “DADGUM That’s Good, Too!” contains recipes for Brined Whole Turkey, Dadgum Good Smoked Turkey, Garlic and Herb Deep-Fried Turkey, and Smokin’ Fried Turkey. Whatever way you prepare it, the turkey will be dadgum good, I guarantee! However, if you’re nervous about cooking a big turkey, practice on chicken first with this recipe for Brined Chicken Quarters.
This recipe benefits from two processes for the ultimate taste and texture. First, brining the chicken hydrates the meat and ensures a juicy result. Second, the smoking process infuses smoky flavor into the meat. Combining the seasonings and moisture from the brine with the low-and-slow smoking process makes for a perfect piece of chicken. Brushing the chicken quarters with olive oil helps the skin turn a nice golden brown, too.
Brined Chicken Quarters
2 cups water
2 cups molasses
2 cups kosher salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated peeled ginger root
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 gallons ice water
4 chicken quarters
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Suggested wood: Apple
In a large stockpot over medium heat, combine 2 cups water, molasses and salt. Bring to a boil until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ginger and garlic powder. Set aside and let cool.
When mixture is cooled, stir in 2 gallons ice water, mixing well. Place each chicken quarter in a brining bag or oversized plastic bag. Pour brining mixture over each chicken quarter and place in a bowl. Refrigerate, turning once, for 6 to 8 hours. A plastic bucket that is deep enough to have the meat completely covered will also work.
Preheat smoker to 225°F.
Remove chicken from brine after at least 6 hours, and rinse thoroughly to remove any remaining salt. Pat dry and brush with olive oil. Place on middle rack of smoker and smoke for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Remove meat from smoker and enjoy!
Pictures and recipe courtesy of John McLemore and Masterbuilt.
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website. I received a complimentary review book to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.
I love planning for Thanksgiving. Every year I buy all the cooking magazines I can find to come up with new recipes for turkey, stuffing, side dishes and dessert. Sometimes I bring new cookbooks into the mix, too. This year I’m doing things a bit differently as I’ve chosen to find recipes that will use up food I may already have in my pantry, freezer and refrigerator,
Why turkey breast and not a whole turkey?
This year’s turkey recipe was chosen to use up some of the Dijon mustard that’s crowing my refrigerator door. It’s based on a Betty Crocker recipe that I found in Recipe.com magazine. With a few tweaks, I’ve changed the turkey recipe to work with my food sensitivities – agave nectar instead of honey, for example. I’ll also be smoking instead of grilling my turkey for optimum yummy goodness.
I decided to make a turkey breast this year instead of a whole turkey on the off chance that it would just be me and the kids at the Thanksgiving table. It wasn’t until a week ago that I learned my husband is flying in from his new job in Massachusetts! Also, my mother in law is coming up from Colorado Springs instead of going to see her other son in California. It’s a small group, but perfect for the amount of cooking I want to do.
What else is on the Thanksgiving menu?
Along with the turkey breast I’ll be slow cooking a spiral cut ham. I’ll be making a gluten free version of my Crockery Ham with Beer Glaze recipe using hard cider instead of beer.
I’m also serving:
- Holly Clegg’s easy, no cook cranberry sauce as I already had a batch in my freezer.
- Healthier Cherry Cornbread Stuffing based on a recipe from the Mirassou Winery’s website. (I’m also serving their Pinot Noir wine.)
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic and Shallots from Cooking Light magazine. This recipe is very similar to Mario Batali’s Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta I featured several year ago in my review of The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions from Better Homes and Gardens. I’ll be substituting a buttery spread for the butter, coconut milk for the cow’s milk, and leaving out the sour cream entirely.
- Mixed Mushroom Skillet Gravy from Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. I’ll be substituting a buttery spread for the butter, using homemade chicken broth from my freezer, and using brown rice flour to keep it gluten free.
- For dessert, I’m using the package of frozen, premade gluten free pie crusts that were in my freezer and filling them with Food Network’s basic pumpkin pie recipe. I’m using the no fat evaporated milk that’s already in my cupboard for that one and the ricotta that’s already in my refrigerator for their Pumpkin-Ricotta Pie variation. I’m also going to make Egg Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies for my daughter, Lucie to use up some of the organic shortening, chocolate chips and flour I already have on hand.
What are you cooking up for Thanksgiving?
- 11 cups cold water
- 1 cup agave nectar
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 bone-in whole turkey breast (5 to 6 pounds), thawed if frozen
- 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic power
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- In 6-quart container or stockpot, stir water, agave nectar, Dijon mustard and salt until honey and salt are dissolved. Add turkey breast to brine mixture. Cover.
- Refrigerate at least 12 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
- Heat smoker to 225 -240 degrees F and be sure to have enough smoking wood to keep the smoke going for about 4 hours or so. (Smoking-Meat.com recommends 3 hours of cherry and 1 hour of pecan wood for optimum flavor.)
- Remove turkey from brine mixture. Rinse thoroughly under cool running water and pat dry. Discard brine.
- In small bowl, mix olive oil, dried marjoram, ground mustard, and pepper. Brush over turkey.
- Place the turkey directly on the grate breast side up. At around the 3 hour mark, insert a digital probe meat thermometer into the breast of the turkey to begin monitoring the internal temperature. Make sure the thermometer doesn’t touch bone or it will get a false reading.
- Once the breast reaches about 161-163 degrees, remove it from the smoker and immediately wrap it in a thick layer of heavy duty foil. Place the turkey in a couple of thick towels and lay it on the counter for about 30-45 minutes so the juices that were forced to the surface during the cooking process, redistribute throughout the meat. If you’re worried about the turkey getting cold, place it on a heating pad – seriously.
- Slice, serve and enjoy!
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 16 Hours
Total Time: 16 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings: 8 servings
- Calories: 400
- Calories from Fat: 160
- Total Fat: 18g
- Saturated fat: 4.5g
- Unsaturated fat: 0g
- Sodium: 460mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 5g
- Sugar: 4g
- Fiber: 0g
- Protein: 54g
- Cholesterol: 145mg