You can’t carve a good bird if you don’t cook a good bird, and you can’t cook a good bird if you don’t brine it.
Brining poultry packs moisture into the bird. It should be second nature to you by now. But if it’s not, here are step-by-step instructions on how I do it.
The size of the vessel you use for brining will depend on the size of your bird. A 16-pound turkey and fits easily into this medium-sized, scrupulously clean ice chest. I put in the turkey and add some herbs and spices. The easiest thing to use is the pre-mixed seasoning blends called “poultry rub.” Add loads of salt until the water is salty like the sea. (A basic rule of thumb for a brine is 4 tablespoons kosher salt to every 5 cups of water.) Then fill the cooler up with ice and water. Let it sit overnight, keeping the temperature below 40°F for the duration.
Remove the turkey from your brine mix and discard the liquid. Place the turkey on a rack to drain and pat dry. At this point, you can add some additional rub if you like, or simply let it be. I prefer to let it be and put the turkey in the basket of my Big Easy™, and then I put it in the smoker with the temperature on high and my food temperature set to 160°F. I decided I wanted some rosemary smoke so I put some dried rosemary sticks in the smoker chute and sat back and waited.
Roughly four hours later the internal temperature reached my goal of 160°F and I knew the residual heat would take my turkey well past 170°F. I removed it and let it rest. I gathered and saved the residual juices because I have a use for those later.
Now to the carving, which some people find nerve wracking. It’s really fairly simple. First you remove the leg and thigh by cutting through the skin next to the body of the bird and pulling the leg slightly until the ball joint that connects the leg and thigh to the carcass pops out. Now that you can see the joint, simply cut through it to release the leg and thigh. Feel for the joint that connects the leg to the thigh and cut through that to separate the two pieces. If you’re so inclined, this would also be a good point to do the hokey pokey and turn it all about.
Now the tricky part – carving the breast. Find the breast bone with your knife and slice down into it until you reach the bottom of the rib cage. Then slice across horizontally and remove the whole breast. You now have the breast removed and can slice it into serving-sized pieces. Repeat this process for the other side and you will have your whole turkey carved in no time, leaving you with a perfect carcass to go into the stock pot. But that’s another post…
Now pour all those wonderful juices you saved back over the top of your platter of perfectly carved turkey. And if you thought ahead, like I did, and you made a stock out of the neck and giblets you also have this wonderful liquid to further enhance the juiciness of your already juicy turkey.