It’s been an eventful year, coupled with record levels of rainfall. In short, I haven’t been able to use the Traeger nearly as much as I would like.
Let me rephrase that… I could PROBABLY smoke in the rain, but there’s still electricity and usually water and electricity aren’t a good mix. I did, however, manage to do Thanksgiving by Traeger.
“But Brian,” you say, “how can you have Thanksgiving when that’s not for another two days?”
That’s easy… #TraegerThanksgiving has no set day.
Seriously, though, I tried something new. I had done emergency turkey breast on the Traeger last Christmas and it was excellent. Perfectly moist and juicy. That being said, I had never cooked an entire bird. Picked up a 13 pound bird from Wegman’s on a really good sale… $0.25 per pound. That turkey cost me around $3.25. I had also acquired a Trager turkey kit, which includes a brine packet and seasoning. I left the bird defrost in the refrigerator for a week, and on Saturday, I made the brine. Super easy… boil a quart of water, add the brine and boil for five minutes. Add a gallon of water, let it cool, and you’re good to go. I didn’t have a stock pot big enough for the bird, so I improvised. Took a fresh trash bag, lined a medium-sized cooler and put it in the garage overnight. I should add that the days have been in the 40’s here, so everything was good.
While the turkey was happily brining away, I made a batch of smoked macaroni and cheese. It was my second go-around, and I think it was a better effort than the first. I used hickory pellets and they imparted just the right amount of smokiness. I also split my cheese content to 1 lb of American and 1 lb of Velveeta. I know, not real cheese, but it melts easily and it seems to absorb the smoke.
I did come across a problem, though. The temperature probe on the Traeger went kind of haywire. When a turkey that had been at 40 degrees was showing an internal temperature of 227 degrees after only being on the smoker for 8 minutes, and your smoker is set to 225 degrees, there might be an issue. No worries, though. Called Traeger (very early on a Sunday morning) and they were sending me a new probe and a new control unit as I had mentioned that the control strip was separating from the controller.
I know the Traeger can cost more than other smoker options, but it’s this kind of customer service that sets them apart. Every time I’ve had reason to contact them, they’ve solved my problems quickly and without question. That means a lot.
Getting back to the finished product, while it wasn’t the best-looking turkey, the taste was spot on. The turkey wood blend is oak, hickory, maple and rosemary, and cooking for a few hours on Super Smoke really enhances the flavor. I spread the included turkey seasoning in the cavity and put my Simon & Garfunkel blend under the skin (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme). I also rubbed the skin down with olive oil. This is what probably darkened the skin. Maybe if I would’ve roasted at a higher temperature the skin would’ve turned more golden. Something to explore.
I also used the Traeger to smoke the ham. That also got a little dark, but was plenty flavorful.
The bird was really juicy, something I was worried about after reading about white meat tending to dry out. That was not the case… this was very juicy turkey. End verdict is that the taste is where I want it to be… aesthetics are a different story. That will take some time, but I’m already planning the next attempt.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!