This is one of the most popular turkey brining recipes among members of The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board. It is adapted from a recipe originally published in Weber's Grill Out Times newsletter in the late 1990s.
Here's how I brined and cooked a whole turkey using this recipe on October 22-23, 2005. I hope you enjoy it!
As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Select And Prepare The Turkey
This is a 12.80 pound Albertsons Natural Turkey, just your basic, frozen supermarket turkey.
Choose a 12-14 pound turkey and thaw according to the package directions. Remove and discard any leg restraint, then remove the giblets from the neck cavity and the neck from the body cavity. Trim away large areas of fat or excess skin around the body cavity, rinse thoroughly inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.
The turkey is now ready for brining.
Brine The Turkey
In preparation for brining:
See All About Brining and Food Grade Plastic Containers For Brining for information about selecting an appropriate container, including alternatives like ice chests or turkey roasting bags inside non-food safe containers. These pictures show a plastic barbecue sauce bucket that I got for free from a local barbecue joint.
Here's the recipe for the apple brine:
Put the turkey in the brine breast side down (Photo 4). Place a heavy plate or bowl on top to keep the bird submerged, if necessary (Photo 5).
Brine the turkey for 24 hours. You may wish to stir the solution 2-3 times during the brining process. I'm not sure if this is necessary or if it actually does anything, but I like to do it anyway.
Since brining does not preserve meat, the turkey and the brine solution must be kept below 40°F throughout the entire brining process.
Air-Dry The Turkey
After brining, rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.
Place on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and allow to air-dry overnight (8-12 hours) in the refrigerator. This helps create crispy skin during cooking.
Photo 6 shows the turkey air-drying in the refrigerator. Photo 7 shows how it looked after 12 hours in the fridge.
Fire The WSM
Fire-up the cooker using the Standard Method—one full Weber chimney of hot Kingsford charcoal briquettes in the charcoal bowl, followed by another full chimney of unlit Kingsford, allowing all coals to become fully lit before cooking.
Foil The Water Pan
Cover the inside and outside of the water pan with wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. Place the pan inside the cooker, but leave it empty.
No Rub Required
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator at the same time you start firing-up the cooker. Let it sit at room temperature until ready to go into the cooker.
For better presentation, tie the ends of the drumsticks together using kitchen twine so they don't splay out into a funny shape during cooking. There's no need for any elaborate trussing. Also, fold the wing tips under the turkey.
Apply a very thin coat of vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter to the turkey skin.
There is no barbecue seasoning or rub applied to the turkey as part of this recipe.
Smoke The Turkey
Assemble the cooker and
place the turkey breast-side up on the top grate (Photo 9). Set the three bottom
vents to 50% open. Open the top vent fully and leave it that way
throughout the entire cook.
Photo 10 shows how the turkey looked after one hour of cooking.
Here's how the cooker temperatures and vent settings went during my cook:
Rest Then Carve The Turkey
Remove the turkey from the cooker and let rest for 20 minutes before carving (Photo 11). Do not cover with foil, as this will cause the skin to go soft.
Alternatively, wrap the
turkey tightly in several layers of wide, heavy duty aluminum foil, place
breast-side down in a dry cooler, and hold for 90-120 minutes before
carving (Photo 12).
I like to remove the breast as a single piece and then cut into slices across the grain using an electric knife (Photo 13).
Collecting Pan Drippings For Gravy
There are three common ways to collect pan drippings when smoking a turkey:
Assuming you don't over smoke the turkey, the drippings will be perfect for making gravy—in fact, they're already seasoned by any rub applied to the turkey.
As you remove the turkey from the cooker, pour any accumulated juices inside the body cavity into the pan. You can also use the juices left in the bottom of a rimmed baking pan after letting the turkey rest before carving.
It's not uncommon to end up with about 1-1/2 cups of drippings (Photo 15).
If you don't have any drippings, make the delicious turkey giblet gravy described on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board using the giblets, aromatic vegetables, chicken stock, white wine, and seasonings.
Butterball Turkey Tips
If you have questions about anything having to do with turkey, visit the Butterball website. The site features turkey preparation info, grilling tips, carving techniques, recipes, and a frequently asked questions page.
Another great resource is the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (800-BUTTERBALL) which is staffed by Butterball specialists during the months of November and December.
More Turkey Links On TVWB