If you can’t stand eating turkey breast at this time of the year in any way, it is probably because you haven’t liberally rubbed it with ballpark mustard, garlic butter, and spiced salt before letting it cook low and slow over smoldering wood.
This is the foolproof method that self-proclaimed barbecue deity Adam Perry Lang has adapted to transform turkey breast into one of the tenderest pieces of smoked meat that you will ever taste. It is so doggone good that if you were to taste it blindfolded next to a piece of fatty brisket, you might not be able to discern between the two. Don’t call it “smoked” in front of Lang, though, because he prefers the term “rendering meat with wood” instead.
Hey, man: When you get to his level of barbecue expertise, you can call it whatever you want, too.
In between getting ready to open his first restaurant in Los Angeles, he took a Friday afternoon to show us the process in his test kitchen-meets-man cave in Lawndale, California.
To begin, you must decide between cooking an individual breast or the legs. According to Lang, if you want to achieve the juiciest piece of turkey imaginable, it is impossible to do that with both types of meat at once. It may go without saying, but Lang also advocates buying as local and high-quality of a bird that you can, since that makes a world of difference in the wacky world of turkeys.
After you decide on a breast, as Lang does, you set your cooker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, make a batch of his secret spice mix, which is really just salt that is cut with garlic salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
Next, make a melted butter infused with crushed garlic to bathe in—er, to smother the smoked turkey once it’s done. Remember to crush and not mince, since that makes the garlic oxidize and taste slightly off, says Lang.
At this point it is time to channel your inner pilgrim and use a really sharp knife (Lang forges his own knives, obvi) to carve around the wishbone of the raw turkey breast, and twist and pull it out firmly, taking care not to damage the meat. The bone makes for symbolic, traditional thing to place on top of the turkey and then crack with a friend or family member later.
And now for the fun part: Cut a few half-inch slits on the breast so that the flavors penetrate it, and lather the turkey breast up with at least half a cup of yellow mustard. (Save that fancy stuff you have in the fridge to emulsify your next dressing.) Lang favors regular ol’ ballpark mustard, squirted violently from a squeeze bottle all over your hands and spread over every inch and cranny of the turkey breast, including beneath the skin. Once the turkey breast is bright yellow in color, it’s time to dust a small blizzard of the seasonings over the top of the breast.
Congratulations! You are almost done and ready to binge watch The Twilight Zone for about three hours, or as long as the turkey takes to reach the magical temperature of 153 degrees Fahrenheit. All you need to do is place the breast, topped with the wishbone, in the cooker. Remember to check on it regularly and spray it with apple cider vinegar. We recommend doing this every third episode or so.
Once the meat reaches the proper temperature, it’s time to bring the turkey breast out of the smoker, bathe it in the garlic butter (make sure to reserve some for serving), wrap it with heavy-duty plastic wrap, and let it rest in a cooler piled with towels—to act as a warming oven—for 30 minutes. Remember, this is barbecue, not fast food.
When the stars align and the turkey is completely rested, slice into the breast gracefully, pat yourself in the back, and bask in the glory of defying every single dry turkey stereotype—ever.