Thursday, November 29, 2012

Turkey and Venison - 2012 Thanksgiving Cook

This Thanksgiving I tried some new things. If you can’t experiment on friends and family who can you experiment on? I planned to cook two turkeys and was trying for a crispy skin. In the past my turkey skin, while tasty, has been rubbery. Two ways I tried to fix this were by drying the turkey after brining and cooking hotter than I normally do. I also cooked a leg of venison. This was something new for me. I have smoked smaller cuts of venison before but never a whole leg.

I did some research on the web to find out the best ways to achieve my turkey cooking goals and to cook the venison. I then planned it out and created a schedule of what I needed to do when. It made the whole process and cooking go much easier. Below is all the information on what I did.

My brother-in-laws asked me to roast a leg of venison for Thanksgiving. This was a new experience for me. I did some searching around the web for a good recipe and came across one on the Field & Stream site here: Roast venison Leg.

I have also copied it below.
MAKE THE RUB: In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, thyme, garlic, rosemary, juniper berries, salt, and pepper until it resembles a coarse paste. (Add a little more olive oil, if needed, to make it goopy enough to spread.) Rub this mixture onto the venison, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Remove the leg from the refrigerator several hours before cooking. It should be at room temperature when it goes into the oven.
The rub.
The leg of venison (I trimmed the bit that was poking out off).
The leg rubbed.

PREHEAT THE OVEN (in our case the smoker) to 350 degrees. Drizzle the meat with the vegetable oil, patting it lightly with your fingers to coat evenly, and place the leg on the rack of a large roasting pan. Roast, undisturbed, for 1 hour. 
HEAT THE STOCK to a low simmer on the stovetop. Turn the meat. Using a baster or ladle, baste the meat with about half of the hot stock, and roast for another hour. 
TURN THE ROAST a second time, and repeat the basting. After about 15 minutes, check the meat in its thickest part with an instant-read meat thermometer. The cooking time will depend on the size of the roast. Remove the roast when the thermometer reads 120° for rare, or 126° for medium rare. (The meat will keep cooking after it's removed.) 
REMOVE THE ROAST to a large cutting board and allow it to rest, tented with a few sheets of aluminum foil, for about 20 minutes. Carve and serve. 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. juniper berries, crushed
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 whole venison hind leg, bone-in (12-15 lb.)
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 cups game or beef stock

When I made the rub it had a very woodsy smell to it. I thought it might taste too much like a pine tree so I tasted it. It was good. I think this rub would work well on some other cuts of meat too. I also learned that I needed to cook the leg longer than I did. I’m not sure what happened with my thermometer as it was reading 160° when I stuck it into the leg. I might have hit the bone, didn’t go in far enough or went too far. When I carved it, it was still raw in the middle. I’m not talking some juices flowing out, I mean uncooked. I finished carving it and we put it into the oven for a bit. It got a bit overcooked then. The meat was very tasty once we tried it. It didn’t have the off putting gamey taste to it. I would cook this again and try to improve on how I do it.
Ready to carve.
Cave-manning it.
Carving the leg.
Ready to serve after cooking in the oven for a bit. 

I was going to try a new way to do the turkey that I found on and try to get the skin crispy. Below is most of the recipe with alterations I made and without the science about cooking the turkey. One of the things they do on Amazing Ribs is put the turkey over the gravy mixture. As I was loading the cooker Thanksgiving Day I discovered my cooker wasn’t tall enough. I ended up putting the gravy pan on the grill and let it cook with the rest of the meat. It came out great and the turkeys were awesome as usual.

The drying process is to help the skin dry out so it doesn’t have as much moisture and can crisp when it cooks. The skin didn’t get super crispy but it was not rubbery like it has been in the past. I liked it much better than previous turkeys I’ve done.

Below is how I did my turkey this year and the schedule I followed to cook everything.
  1. Brine
  2. Dry
  3.  Rub
  4. Smoke
Start Tuesday
Remove the turkey from the package and save turkey juices from the store bag for gravy.
Put the neck and innards (minus the liver) in the gravy pan. Trim the tail and excess skin/fat and add to gravy pan. Also take off the wing tips and put them in the pan.
Make the brine.

Brine recipe
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 1/2 cups salt (kosher)
  • 1 woodchuck apple cider
  • 1 table spoon favorite rub
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Bunch of little red peppers
The brine.

Brine the turkey for 24 hours in a fridge or cooler with ice. Make sure you keep its temperature under 40°. I use roasting bags for brining because they are much cheaper than brining bags. You just need to make sure the bags are sealed tight so they don’t spill. If you have a 5 gallon food safe bucket that works well too. (My Turkey 101 article has this info also.)
Putting the bird in the brine.

Swim turkey, swim.

In a garbage bag so they don't leak all over the cooler.

Iced and ready to sit for the day.

Take turkey out of brine and pat dry.
Set in pan and into the fridge over night to dry the skin. Do not cover.

Wet rub
  •  4 tbls Q rub
  •  4 tbls olive oil
Rub the rub all over the bird under the skin. Put the rub on top of the skin too, anywhere you can get your hands.
  • Onion - quartered
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped
Put the onion and garlic into the cavity but make sure there is room for airflow.
Ready for the cooker.
Put aluminum foil on the wing tips and ends of the drum sticks. Remove an hour after cooking starts.
Gravy ingredients
  • 3 quarts water - chicken stock, vegetable stock or white wine
  • 1 bottle hard cider
  • 2 onions  
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 tbls dried sage 
  • 2 whole bay leaves
Put this into a pan along with all the bits you saved when you unpackaged the turkey. Set the pan on the smoker to cook while the turkey is cooking.

When the turkey is finished and resting, take the pan of gravy and strain it. Save the juice for gravy. It should be delicious. You can also pick out the onions and carrots to plate with the turkey as they are very tasty.
Everything cooking including the gravy.

Cooker temp at 325°-350° cook until temp is 160° resting will let you hit the 165° mark.
Cooked and ready to carve. 

WednesdayDryRub and wrap
8:00Start cooker
Rub turkey
Rub venison
9:00Put on cookerPut on cooker
10:00Check water panFlip and baste
11:00 - check tempsCheck water panFlip and baste
11:15Check temp
11:30Check tempCheck temp
12:00Meat off and resting (This is approximate as the meat may not be done. Check it and double check it)
1:30Eat and enjoy

All the meat was very flavorful and I will definitely cook this way again. Give it a try for Christmas or let me know how you cook your turkey and venison.

No comments:

Post a Comment