Slow-Smoked and Spice-Brined Turkey
Inspired by the flavors of Peking duck, Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick , Maine, infuses a turkey with a spiced brine of Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, and fresh ginger and then lightly smokes it with oak wood chips. The delicate smokiness balances the spices, and the low cooking temperature keeps the bird exceptionally moist. If you don’t have wood chips, omit the smoking part of the recipe; the turkey will still taste delicious without it.
Featured in: A New England Thanksgiving with a Chinese Twist
Note: Don’t have a big smoker in your backyard? No problem: You can use a foil packet of “stovetop” wood chips in your oven instead. Stovetop wood chips are cut into much smaller bits than regular ones, so they start burning quickly when heated over the stove before you put them into the oven.
What You Will Need
- 3 cups shaoxing cooking wine
- 2 cups honey
- 2 cups kosher salt, plus more
- 1 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp. red Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 2 tsp. whole anise seeds
- 2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
- 5 whole star anise
- 3 whole black cardamom, crushed
- 2 sticks cinnamon, crushed
- 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 gallons cold water
- 1 whole (12-lb.) turkey, rinsed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. “stovetop smoker” oak wood chips, such as Camerons
- 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
- In an extra-large stockpot, combine the cooking wine with the honey, 2 cups salt, the coriander, both peppercorns, anise seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the honey and salt dissolve, remove from the heat, and stir in the water. Gently submerge the turkey into the brine, cover, and refrigerate 12 to 24 hours.
- Heat the oven to 250°. Remove the turkey from the brine and transfer to a rack set in a roasting pan. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and then season with salt and ground pepper. On a work surface, layer two 6-inch squares of foil over each other, pile the wood chips in the center, and fold up the sides to enclose the chips, leaving a 12-inch-wide opening at the top. Place the foil packet over a stove burner and heat over high until the chips begin to smoke, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Using tongs, transfer the packet to the oven along with the turkey and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 140°, about 3 1⁄2 hours. Increase the oven temperature to 425°, brush the turkey with the oil, and bake until golden brown and the temperature at the thigh reads 160°, about 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven and discard the foil packet. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving.