Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas Barbecued Sweet Potato Pie Grilled & Glazed Carrots The Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey Brine Barbecued Sweet Potatoes Thanksgiving Stuffing Balls Simple Barbecued Turkey

Well, Thanksgiving is upon us so I thought I'd share a round-up of my recipes in a sort of one-stop-shopping way. Here I think you'll find something that will add a unique twist to your Thanksgiving feast. If you try one of these recipes, please drop me a line in a comment and give me your thoughts.

Just click any of the images to get to the recipe.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey Brine

I am a huge fan of brining poultry! I use brines in competition and at home. For those of you that have never tried brining, you simply must. There is just no better way to add moisture and get perfect seasoning all the way down to the bone. In addition to dramatically improving the flavor, the added moisture gives you an extra margin for error in avoiding the dreaded balsa-wood-like dry white meat.

I've tried many brine concoctions for my holiday birds, and I've settled on this one, at least for now. Give it a try and drop me a line to tell me what you think. This recipe works very well for both smoking or traditional roasting, and with Thanksgiving just days away, there's not really a better time to post it.

1 1/2 gal Ice water (lots of ice)
1/2 gal Hot tap water
2 cups Dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Kosher salt
1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning (available in most grocery stores)
1 tsp Chinese five spice (Asian section of most grocery stores -- I like the Sun Luck brand)
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
Extra ice as needed

  • If you can't find the Chinese five spice, just use allspice.
  • This recipe is scaled for a 14-16 pound turkey. You will need to scale it up for larger birds.
  • A good time guideline is 45 minutes per pound.

Get a clean food-safe five-gallon bucket, wash it, then sanitized it with a gallon of water and a capful of bleach.

Make the ice water in the bucket.

Bring the tap water to a boil in a stock pot or large pan.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt, sugar, citrus juice and all of the seasonings.

Let the seasoning mixture sit in the pan, stirring occasionally, until all of the salt and sugar are dissolved.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey Brine

Add the water and seasoning mixture to the ice water in the bucket.

Gently submerge the turkey in the brine, breast-side-down. Oh, and make sure you've removed both pouches of innards.

Note: It must be completely submerged, so add more ice and water if necessary. If the turkey tends to float, you can seal a rock in a zip-top bag and stuff it in the cavity.

Set the bucket in the coldest place you can find (I put mine outside or in the garage), cover with foil, wrap with a sleeping bag or blankets, and let sit at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

Caution: For food safety it's critical that the brine be kept at or under 40º throughout the entire brining process, so check the ice and add more as needed.

An hour before you're ready to cook the turkey, lift it gently and slowly from the brine, allowing it to drain completely. I turn it over just to make sure.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

Rub the skin with canola oil and roast or smoke as desired.

Smoked Turkey


Further reading: To Brine Or Not To Brine?

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Being turkey season, the internet is seriously abuzz at this time of year with folks who are investigating the notion of brining their holiday bird. It seems people are on a seemingly never-ending quest for a better bird. The common refrain from people I talk to is, "So, what's the deal with this brining thing? Does it really make that big of a difference?"

In this post I hope to help explain why brining really is a very good thing indeed.

Let's face it, most of us probably grew up eating holiday turkey that was dry and generally lacking in the flavor department. I think this is why my grandfather always shunned the balsa-wood-like white meat for the far more moist and flavorful dark stuff. To this day I am firmly in the dark meat camp, but I digress.

Brining is all about pure science, but it's certainly not rocket surgery. Let's break it down and, as a favorite preacher of mine often said, put the cookies on the shelf where the kiddies can get to them.

The entire process of brining can be described by the scientific axiom that nature abhors a vacuum. When you submerge meat in a solution of water, salt and sugar, you have created a vacuum that nature simply must remedy. See, nature likes to have things in a nice balance called equilibrium. She doesn't like you gumming up the works. You've created an imbalance where the concentration of the water, salt and sugar outside the meat is much higher than that inside the meat.

Given this situation, nature goes to work trying to reestablish its required equilibrium. The cells inside the meat are surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane. Small molecules like water, salt, and sugar can pass through this membrane, but larger molecules like proteins cannot.

Through a process of osmosis by diffusion, the cell moves water, salt and sugar in and out of the cells trying to get things back into balance with the surrounding liquid. Also, since most brines contain flavorings in the solution, the cell unwittingly seasons itself as it allows the brine into the cells.

But wait, there's more.

As the salt concentration in the cell increases it causes some of the tightly-wound proteins to unravel, or denature, and relax a bit. This allows the cell to take on even more of the solution. Some proteins in the cell actually denature completely and are liquefied.

Here's a crude illustration that I've drawn to show what I've described.

To Brine Or Not To Brine?

The magic of brining continues during cooking. When the meat is heated, the proteins bind with one another and squeeze out moisture. However, brining adds 10% or more moisture weight to the meat. So, even though the cooking will cause a 20% weight loss in moisture, we started 10% or more ahead of the game, so the actual moisture loss is cut in half, resulting in more moist meat.

Also, remember those proteins that were completely denatured? Well, those proteins are no longer available to do the protein-binding mambo, so the meat is more tender.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of how brining works, and why it's a wonderful way to let nature help you cook a much better bird.

  • Brining is also great for other meats that can use a little help, like pork.
  • When brining an "enhanced" bird (injected with a solution), cut the amount of salt in the brine by half.
  • A good time guideline for brining is 45 minutes per pound.
  • Always rinse brined meats well before cooking.
  • You don't need to cook to 180º. The FDA guideline is now 165º.

My brine recipes:
Turkey recipes:

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Cranberry-Orange BBQ Sauce

Turkey season is definitely upon us. I'm always amazed at how much interest there is online in finding new and better ways to prepare and serve a better bird at this time of year. Here's my contribution to this year's madness.

Whether you brine your Thanksgiving bird, barbecue it, or just roast it old-school, it can always use a little boost. Cranberry and orange are an obvious combination that really works well with turkey, and smoked turkey all but begs for a barbecue sauce all its own. This sauce is a brainstorm that I had while contemplating how I might kick my typical smoked bird up a notch using classic flavors that would complement my brine.

The sauce is sweet and tangy, with the subtle flavor of holiday spice and a slight lingering warm heat from the white pepper. Serve this alongside your bird and watch the reaction.

1 can (14 oz) Whole berry cranberry sauce (jellied is fine)
1/2 cup Orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup Brown sugar
1/8 cup Honey
2 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Ground white pepper
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice (or allspice/pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 tsp Ground ancho chile

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan.

Bring to a slight boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for five minutes.

If you're using whole berry cranberry sauce, blend the sauce well with an immersion blender.

Remove from the heat, set aside, and let cool.

Serve the warm sauce drizzled on your sliced turkey, or serve it on the side.

ranberry-Orange BBQ Sauce

ranberry-Orange BBQ Sauce

You can refrigerate the remaining sauce for up to a week.

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Simple Barbecued Turkey

Turkey is most definitely not just for Thanksgiving! If you've never enjoyed a good smoked turkey, you don't know what you're missing. Below is my method for bringing a little of that Thanksgiving love to your table, even in the heat of the summer. Click the picture to get a closer look.

1 12-14 lb Turkey, thawed
1 batch Patio Daddio Big Bird Bath
1/3 cup Olive or Canola oil
1/3 cup Your favorite BBQ seasoning (of course I recommend mine)

How easy is that?!

Submerge the turkey, breast end down, in the brine and cover the bucket with foil.

Wrap the bucket with old towels, or (even better) a sleeping bag.

Let the turkey brine for 8-12 hours.

Important: The bird must be kept at 40º or colder at all times, so monitor your ice and add more as necessary.

Remove the turkey from the brine (gently) onto a large sheet pan.

Let the turkey drain about 20 minutes.

Start your fire and prepare for indirect cooking at medium-high heat (about 325º).

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

Smear the entire surface of the turkey with the oil.

Sprinkle the entire bird with a moderate coat of the seasoning.

Add your favorite smoke wood chips (soaked) or chunks to the coals (I recommend cherry or apple).

Oil the grate of your grill/smoker.

Cook the turkey indirect until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165º (about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours).

Remove the turkey from the grill/smoker onto a platter, tent it with foil and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

Carve, serve, and enjoy.

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Apple-Onion Pork Tenderloin, Porchetta-style (via

Porchetta is a beautiful and glorious thing. If you're not familiar, please check out my recipe. It's not completely traditional, but I think that it captures the true essence in a relatively easy fashion. With this recipe I go a little further off-the-rails by using the basic porchetta style to explore new flavors.

2 Whole Pork tenderloins, about 2.5-3 lbs total
1 cup Diced Fuji apples
3/4 cup Diced yellow onion
6 Tbsp Unsalted butter, divided
2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt, divided
1 tsp Ground black pepper, divided
1/4 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
4 cup Apple cider, divided
1/4 cup Apple butter
10 rashers Center cut bacon
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Unwrap the pork tenderloins. Make a 1-inch deep cut down the length of each being careful not to cut all the way through. Put the meat in a gallon-size zip-top bag and add 3 cups of the cider and 2 teaspoons salt. Seal the bag, squeezing out the excess air. Massage the bag to evenly distribute the brine and refrigerate 45 minutes.

In a medium sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of the butter then add the apple, onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cider and pumpkin pie spice to the pan. Bring to a slight boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is the consistency of thick pie filling, about 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

After the tenderloins have brined 45 minutes remove them from the bag, drain well and pat each dry with paper towels.

Start your grill and prepare for indirect cooking at medium heat (about 300º).

Prepare to wrap the tenderloins by laying the rashers of bacon side-by-side vertically on a rimmed baking sheet. Lie the tenderloins on top of the bacon and open them so that each lies flat with the cut side facing up. Arrange them so that the thick end of one adjacent to the thin end of the other.

Dust the inside of each with the bread crumbs then spoon an equal amount of the stuffing mixture onto each tenderloin. Using the back of the spoon to spread it evenly across the surface of each.

Turn one of the tenderloins over so that half of the stuffed side of one overlays half of the stuffed side of the other. Gently roll the meat into a cylinder so that the two tenderloins are interlocked, then center it on top of the bacon.

Starting in the center of the tenderloins, fold each end of a bacon slice over the top of the stuffed tenderloins, pulling each end gently. Working from the center outward, repeat the wrapping process with the remaining bacon slices.

Carefully move the porchetta to your grill grate and cook indirect one hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 145º. I used my Pit Barrel Cooker with the optional hinged grill grate.

Apple-Onion Pork Tenderloin, Porchetta-style (via

While the porchetta is cooking, make the sauce. Combine 3 tablespoons butter, apple butter, the remaining cup of cider in a medium sauce pan, bring to a slight boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until reduced by half.

When the porchetta has reached an internal temperature of 145º remove it from the grill on to a cutting board and let rest five minutes.

Apple-Onion Pork Tenderloin, Porchetta-style (via

Cut the porchetta across the grain into 1/2" medallions, plate and spoon on some of the sauce.

Apple-Onion Pork Tenderloin, Porchetta-style (via

Serve and enjoy!

Asian Salmon Salad (via

It is indeed a beautiful time of year. The trees have burst back to life, flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and Copper River salmon are readily available (at least here in the Northwest). It just so happens that salmon can be easy to cook and it's great on a salad for a light meal.

Those of you who have been following this culinary adventure from the early days may remember my Slammin' Salmon recipe. Well, as I alluded to, it's that time of year when the glorious Copper River salmon are waiting for we salmon lovers to have our way with them.

Rather than an exhaustive recipe, this is just intended to be a source of inspiration. Tonight I plank-grilled a beautiful fresh Copper River salmon filet according to the previously mentioned recipe. I then let it cool, and laid a portion of it atop a significant bed of Spring greens and baby spinach with a little sliced cucumber and red onion. For the dressing I whisked some of the leftover salmon glaze into a basic balsamic vinaigrette to make an Asian-influenced cherry balsamic. The salty sweetness of the cherry and hoisin with the tangy balsamic make an outstanding dressing for this salad.

Give this a try and let me know what you think.

Beef Ribs On The Pit Barrel Cooker (via

This weekend I found some great beef back ribs at my local grocery store that weren't carved to near-meatlessness, as they typically are. Given that it was Memorial Day weekend, which demands grilling and/or barbecue, I loaded up the basket.

My process for these was really simple. I hit them with a liberal coating of Kosmo's Q Texas Beef rub, followed by a good amount of freshly ground black pepper.

For cooking I simply hung them in the Pit Barrel Cooker over a full basket of standard Kingsford Original (blue bag) briquets. In the past I've cooked them for about 90 minutes and then wrapped them in foil to cruise to tenderness. However, this time out I cooked them straight-up hanging the entire time with no wrapping. The total cook time was right at four hours, and I glazed them lightly with Stubb's Sweet Heat during the final 10 minutes.

I must say that these were some seriously simple and incredibly satisfying ribs. You gotta love prime rib on a stick!

Mini Bahn Mi Sandwiches (via

If you're having people over to watch the big game you certainly need a lot of grub. Sure, you can lean on the traditional crowd-friendly eats like chicken wings, barbecue, burgers, dogs, etc., but why not color a little outside the lines? That's exactly what I've done here. These mini open-face versions of classic sandwiches will set your spread apart and get you some serious MVP points with your crowd.

First up is a mini Vietnamese Bahn Mi (pictured above). To keep things simple I used a simple grilled hoisin-glazed pork tenderloin that is sliced thin, but you could use any roasted pork. For the veggies I made a simple salad of the classic ingredients: julienne cucumber, daikon radish, carrot, jalapeno, and chopped cilantro. To keep the prep simple and consistent I used a julienne grater to slice the first three ingredients. The salad is dressed with a pinch of kosher salt, a few drops of sesame oil and a splash each of mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) and rice wine vinegar. Dress the salad and refrigerate at least an hour to allow the vegetables to soften and for the flavors to marry. I topped mine with a little pickled red onion.

To make the sandwiches, lightly toast buttered baguette slices under your broiler, then brush the top of each with hoisin sauce, add a thin slice of pork, some of the salad, and finish with the pickled onion.

Mini Cubano Sandwiches (via

Next up is a mini Cubano made with sliced mojo-marinated grilled pork tenderloin, Swiss cheese, ham, dill pickle, and mustard. Start with lightly toasted buttered baguette slices then brush plain yellow mustard on the top of each and add a slice of cheese. Put the bread under the broiler for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Top each bread slice with a slice of pork, sliced ham, and pickle.

Mini Reuben Sandwiches (via

Lastly, we round out this sandwich spread with a mini version of what is arguably the best sandwich on topside of this earth: a Reuben! I prefer pastrami to corned beef on my Reuben, but use what you like. Lightly toast the bread slices, top each with a slice of Swiss cheese and put under the broiler for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Smear a dollop of Russian or thousand island dressing on top of the melted cheese. Finish each with folded sliced pastrami and sauerkraut.

I hope that this sandwich round-up inspires you to try something new for the big game.

Brat Fest! (via

We recently moved into a brand new La Casa Daddio, and my partners at Johnsonville were very kind to provide all of the fixins for our housewarming party. How can you go wrong with good friends and brats from the grill on a hot summer afternoon?

One problem of having a bunch of folks over for brats is that you have to keep them hot and moist as your guests show up. Nobody wants to stand around with that deer-in-the-headlights stare as they wait for you to grill them a brat, and the grill guy (me) doesn't want to deal with that pressure. What's a bratmeister to do? Well, this is where the "brat tub" is your friend. What's a brat tub, you ask? In short, you bring a pan full of beer and onions to a simmer with some butter right on the grill, and you drop your perfectly grilled sausages in the tub to stay hot, juicy, delicious and at the ready whenever your guest is in need of some brat-ness.

Brat Fest! (via

The key to properly grilling a brat is to use medium heat. If you grill them too hot the casings will burst and much of that pork goodness will vaporize on the grill. You want to grill them gently so that they get just enough char. As with any raw pork you want to ensure that you cook them to an internal temperature of 165º. If you're using the brat tub you can cook them to just under finished temperature and let them cruise to a beautiful finish in the beer bath.

Brat Fest! (via

One of the relatively new products that Johnsonville has introduced are their Grillers brat patties. They give you that same great Johnsonville brat taste in burger form. To make things even better they offer Grillers with some great flavor combinations like mushroom and Swiss, and bacon and cheddar.

Brat Fest! (via

Brat Fest! (via

The party was great fun. There's a reason why "move" is a four-letter word, so it was nice to just chill and hang-out with good friends in our new home. Here are some shots of the festivities.

Brat Fest! (via

Brat Fest! (via

Brat Fest! (via

Brat Fest! (via

Disclaimer: I am a proud partner of Johnsonville and they provided the food for our party and this post, but the thoughts and feelings expressed here are completely my own.

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