Smoked Turkey Breast from Cook's Illustrated Summer Grilling 2011

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Do you smoke? I do. I love to smoke and my Hubby encourages me in my habit. In fact, a few years ago we went to a home improvement store together and we purchased a grill that had a smoker box on one end, which enabled me to stoke the fire as needed without changing the heat of the cooking area. I love my smoker.

So, Cook’s Illustrated offers up a smoked recipe, it’s a no-brainer that I’ll give it a go, even though it’s a turkey breast instead of ribs (which are my favorite smoked food).

You want to see a good sign that something’s been smoked? Look at that slice of turkey. You see how there’s a ring of pink about a half inch wide around the outside edge? That’s the sign of smoke. The farther in the ring goes, the more the smoke has permeated. I love seeing that ring.

This recipe requires a few stages and is a little more strange than any turkey dish I’ve made before. I had originally planned on making it on Saturday, but upon reading the instructions I saw it needed to be wrapped and refrigerated for 8-24 hours and it was already mid-afternoon. So, it ended up being our Sunday dinner instead.

On Saturday, I simply made a rub of brown sugar and salt and put it evenly over the meat under the skin and then on top of the skin itself. I sealed it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, I started the coals going and then came in to prep the turkey breast. This included patting the breast dry and then re-rubbing it with a mixture of brown sugar and pepper this time. I also punctured the skin several times with a skewer so the juices could run out, which was supposed to help the skin be crisp.

Once that was done, I laid out my fire, put a foil packet of wet wood chips over it and then put the turkey breast off the coals so it could smoke. Then I went inside and waited, and waited. Even though my grill was at medium-high (around 375), it took almost 2 1/2 hours for my 3-pound boneless breast to reach 160. We were really hungry by the time it was done and so we sat down to eat with much anticipation.

The flavor of the meat is incredible. It is very moist and tender and the smokiness enhances the turkey flavor. That being said, the reason that there are two different rubs, with one being pretty much wiped off before the second is added is this; “We now had well-seasoned, well-smoked, moist white meat, but the skin was rubbery.” Wiping off the condensation and adding a second rub is supposed to help crisp the skin.

Unfortunately, it didn’t do so for us. While the turkey breast did gain a wonderful color, the skin was disgustingly rubbery and soft. It was quite a let-down.

So this recipe gets high marks for flavor, but very low marks for achieving its goal of a crispy, awesome skin.

Smoked Turkey Breast
from Cook’s Illustrated

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon table salt
1 5-pound bone in, skin-on turkey breast
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 cups wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and sealed in a foil packet

Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and salt in a bowl. Using paper towels, pat the turkey breast dry. Loosen the skin and rub the sugar mixture evenly over and under the skin. Wrap the turkey breast tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

When ready to cook, combine the remaining tablespoon sugar and the pepper in a small bowl. Unwrap the turkey breast and pat it dry. Rub the sugar mixture evenly under and on the skin. Using a skewer or sharp knife, poke holes all over the skin.

Put hot coals in the front and back of the grill and the wood chip packet over one pile. When the grill is hot and the grate brushed clean, place the turkey breast skin side up on the grill. Cover and cook the turkey until the skin is well browned and the meat registers 160-165, about 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the turkey breast to a carving board, tent loosely with foil and let rest 20 minutes.


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