Maple-Brined, Wood-Smoked Grilled Turkey

Recipe adapted for kosher cooking from John Ash from Fine Cooking.

 

A note on brining kosher turkeys: 

The soaking and salting process of koshering meat has an effect on meat that is similar to brining.  This is why kosher meat is so juicy, and can be salty (extra rinsing can help remove some of the salt if needed). 

We generally advise against brining since you don’t want to add much more salt to the meat.  However, since brining can also impart other delightful flavors, we understand the kosher cook’s interest in trying it out. 

We recommend using a brine that is no more than 5% salt – and less if you’re sensitive to salty meat. To calculate the % of a brine, divide the weight of the salt (in g) by the weight of the water (in g).

For instance:

  • ¼ cup kosher salt = 62g
  • 1 qt water = 946g

A brine made with 1/2cup salt and 2 quarts water would be 6.5% — that is: (62×2)/(946×2)

A brine made with ½ cup salt and 3 quarts water would be 4.3% — That is: (62×2)/(946×3)

The brine in this recipe has been adapted to kosher cooking, but we don’t recommend this method if you are sensitive to salty foods.

 
Ingredients (for brine):

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coarse salt
  • 3 whole heads garlic, cloves separated (but not peeled) and bruised
  • 6 large bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped unpeeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. dried chile flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 3 quarts water
  • Handful fresh thyme sprigs

Ingredients (for turkey):

Directions

Brining the turkey:

  1. Combine all the brine ingredients in an enamel or stainless-steel pot big enough to hold the brine and turkey.
  2. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, and let cool completely.
  3. Put turkey in the pot with the brine and add water if the brine doesn’t cover the bird.
  4. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 days, turning the bird twice a day.

 

Cooking the turkey:

  1. Remove the bird from the brine, rinse thoroughly and pat dry.  Lightly brush it with olive oil or shmaltz, and set aside.
  2. Roast at 325F for 12-15min/lb, OR follow directions below for smoking.
  3. Prepare the grill by lighting about 30 charcoal briquettes or small pieces of hardwood charcoal, preferably in a chimney starter. When the coals are hot and spotted gray, put an aluminum-foil drip pan that’s at least 1 inch deep in the middle of the grill. Arrange half the coals on one side of the pan and half on the other. Put about 1/2 cup of wood chips in a double layer of aluminum foil and set them on the hot coals.
  4. Put the upper rack of the grill in place and center the turkey, breast side up, on the rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and partially close the air vents. Regulate the vents to keep the wood chips smoking and the coals burning slowly, checking every 25 minutes or so. Add charcoal periodically. Keep the temperature in the grill between 275° and 325°F.
  5. Add more wood chips as you need them. Keep the smoke going for 1-1/2 to 2 hours; then remove the chips and continue cooking without smoke until the bird is done. Test the turkey with an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or breast. You can also cut a small incision at the leg-thigh joint to see that the juices run clear. When the internal temperature reaches 165°F, remove the turkey from the grill. Let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
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