Welcome to Thanksgiving Eve, an underrated and often overlooked “eve”. Not the same panache as Christmas Eve for most people. Thanksgiving Eve is the day preceding Thanksgiving, so there is still plenty going on. Deviling the eggs, cooking the yams (by the way, my daughter Emma said my turkey name is “Yam Bam Messy Dressin”…). Going to sleep at night with dreams of candied sweet potatoes, dressing and corn and potatoes all mixed up and smothered with gravy…Wait, what am i forgetting?
Turkey! Yes! The centerpiece of the meal! The foundation of all the Thanksgiving food that follows. The focal point of the dinner table. The prize bird that perpetrated the myth that Benjamin Franklin once proposed the turkey should be our National Bird. (He didn’t actually formally state that he wanted the turkey instead of the bald eagle, just that the drawing of the bald eagle looked like a turkey and felt the turkey was a more “respectable” bird).
So what has become a family tradition is the smoking of the turkey on Thanksgiving Eve and this year was no exception. Today our smoker contained not one, not two, but THREE smoked turkey breasts! We smoked a Hot Turkey in the Nashville tradition, following the “Hot Chicken bandwagon” brined in hot sauce and rubbed with hot spices, as well as two traditional versions, brined in apple cider and sage and rubbed with various spices. (Please see my blog “Hot Turkey Brine and Sage and Apple Turkey Brine” for the brining instructions.)
Once we pulled the birds from the brine, we coated each one with a dollop of mayonnaise to help the rub stick to the bird better. For the Hot Turkey rub, we created our own using hot spices (cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, some other secrets found in the cabinet) along with my brother Kent’s (aka The Deck Chef, check his site here) So Damn Hot Cajun Rub. Shout Out to my Bro!!
The rub for the other turkeys included dried thyme, dried sage, dried parsley, white pepper and garlic powder. Once the birdie breasts were good and rubbed down and covered, they were placed on the electric smoker breast side down initially and turned over
about half-way through the smoking
process. The drip pan liquid used for the Hot Turkey smoker included water, hot sauce and of course…beer. For the other smoker, we used water, apple cider and…beer. When smoking, you have to keep liquid in the drip pan to add moisture during the smoking process along with enhancing the flavor. We used apple wood for both smokers which is less strong than hickory and adds a subtle flavor while not taking over-powering the natural taste of the turkey and brine.
(The beagle or other family pet is essential during the smoking process to help clean any spills along with keeping you vigilant.)
Turkeys need cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. You can actually
pull the bird off when you reach 160 degrees and they will continue to cook while sitting in a pan. This helps prevent over-cooking and drying out your bird breast. Smoking time could be anywhere from 30-45 minutes per pound, and since smokers vary for a 7 -9 pound breast figure a good 5+ hours. Avoid the temptation to lift the smoker lid! This is the same concept with opening the oven door when cooking. You don’t want the heat to escape. Every once in a while you may want to replenish your soaked wood but even opening the little door lets heat escape.
The Hot Turkey turned out just as we had hoped. The brining process added a lot of juiciness and the flavor was fantastic! The meat itself had a little bit of spicy bite but the real heat came from the skin. The rub combined with the smoking had a heat comparable to some of the “hot” levels at local Hot Chicken spots but certainly not the hot, hot level where the heat can get in the way of the taste. It will certainly appeal to those fans of Hot Chicken!
The beer used for the drip pan is not the same beer I’m recommending! You have to try Peanut Butter Milk Stout! Brewed locally by Tailgate Beer, this beer is one of my favorites from the brewery located just down the road from my family’s old West Nashville house. Just a hint of peanut butter, smooth and verrry drinkable. Best from the tap but the cans do it justice! These cans from The Casual Pint in Franklin.