Danger zone and brine

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by ssfantasea, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. I've smoked a few turkeys in my time and all have turned out well.  It had been a while so I was just checkiong on line to see how long a 22lb bird would take.  I see all this talk about danger zones.  I've never heard of that before.  Is  this something new in the past 4 years?

    Also, whati iw the role of a brine.  I have never brined  a bird before because I am very sensitive to all sodium.  Is there  a brine that does not have some for of salt?
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The concept of the Food Temperature Danger Zone was introduced some 50 years ago. The Danger Zone is 40 to 140*F. The temp where Bacteria multiple unchecked and reach levels that can themselves cause illness if improperly cooked or produce huge quantities of Toxins that may not be destroyed by heat and can cause incurable paralysis or death. So keeping food below 40* or getting it above 140* and keeping it there becomes critical. As a general guideline we stress getting any meat we smoke above 140*F in 4 hours or less. This is not usually an issue with Intact Muscle unless something goes wrong with the smoker or you are smoking a meat that has been Injected, Punctured, Boned, Rolled and Tied, Ground or Stuffed. With any of these meats the chances that the interior of the meat has been contaminated with bacteria is extremely high, and getting it hot ASAP becomes critical.

    Now the issue with Turkey...It has been shown that most of the Poultry processed in the US is contaminated with Salmonella and/or other bacteria. Additionally the majority of Turkeys sold in Grocery store over the last several years is " Enhanced " aka Injected with a Salt, Phosphate and Broth solution to effectively Brine the bird to tenderize the meat and cause it to retain higher levels of moisture even after cooking. The typical conditions in a Smoker, low Oxygen and temps between 225 and 250*F can keep Turkeys over 12-14Lbs below the 140*F Internal Temp(IT) for longer than 4 hours increasing the risk of Food Poisoning. There are ways around this. Cut the bird in half, Spatchcock the bird, remove the backbone so it lays flat, or Smoke at temps above 300*F, 325*F being optimum. If your 22Lb Turkey is Enhanced, or you injected anything and you plan to Smoke it below 300*F, your risk of Illness goes way up and is just not a good idea. Can you or have you gotten away with it before? Sure you can certainly keep doing what you have been doing but the Odds are Not in your favor. So tell us more about your Turkey and how you plan to cook it. BTW if you are STUFFING that 22lb Bird and smoking it at 225*F, you may want to have the local Hospital on Stand-By...That is the worst thing you can do.

    Brining the bird just lets us do at home what many processors do to make the meat retain moisture and become more tender. The difference is with Brining we Soak the bird in a mix of Salt, Herbs, Spices and sometimes Sugar and/or Fruit Juices. The brining process, to much science to get into after all this typing, pulls all the flavor and liquid of the brine into the meat. Unfortunately for you, the process depends on Salt to get it going and do the bulk of the tenderizing and moisture retention. So while you can go Low Sodium, 1/3C Kosher Salt per Gallon of Water there is no such thing as a No Sodium Brine. You can still Marinate for some added flavor but you will not get all the benefits of the Brine...JJ

    Here is detailed info on the Danger Zone... http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/Danger_Zone/index.asp

    Some info on Safely Smoking Meat and Poultry... http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/Smoking_Meat_and_Poultry/index.asp

    Here is some more on the subject of Brining... http://www.finecooking.com/articles/why-brining-keeps-meat-moist.aspx
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012
    woodcutter, diggingdogfarm and shred like this.
  3. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Good info JJ
  4. Wow, thank you jj for taking the time to write all that detailed information for me.  I learned a lot. 

    My 22lb turkey was a fresh unprocessed bird.  I got it moist with the juice of sour oranges, made a rub out of sage, parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, chili powder, white pepper, chili arbole, paprika and celery seed,  I then injected  it with unsalted butter, some "NO  Salt"  (potassium) and some sweet juice from the cranberrys I was cooking at the time.  I let that sit over night, 

    Got up at 5:30 am and got the smoker ready.  Now, what I did next was probably from the knowledge that I gained from my mother when I was a chilld.  I just never knew the reason why.  My mother always got the oven really hot (about 400 degrees) for the first hour or two, and then would turn it down and let it slow cook at  275 for the rest of the time.  She always told me it was to seal in the juice.  She probably had that handed down from her mother and probably never knew the real reason why.

      So what I did, and always have done in the past, is get the smoker really hot (about 350 in this case) for the first two hours and let it slowly come down to 225.  And becasue of all ths new found information, I decided to check the internal temp and 3 1/2 hours just to see.  I am proud to say my mother taught me well.  The bird was exactly the right temp it needed to be to get out of the danger zone.

    After that I slow smoked it with hickory at 175.  After 7 1/2  hours, I took it off and stuffed it and put it back on.  Brought the fire up to about 225 to 250 and let it slowly burn out.  After about 9 hours I had the best smoked bird I had ever made. 

    It was a Martha Stewart moment for me.  Everyone just loved it.  Had plenty of juice for the perfect gravy.

    Thank you again for all your info. 

    I hoe you had a nice holiday

  5. Happy to hear the bird turned out great! Whenever I do them in the oven, I crank it to 500 for the first 30-60 minutes, then turn it down and never open the door. Beautiful and juicy turkey every time.

    Great info JJ! Might have to make it a Article. 
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    SSfantasea, Mom taught you well. That is certainly one way to get it done or even smoking at a consistent 325*F would work as well. 

    Alesia, It would be great to make an article as this is an issue that will come up repeatedly...JJ
  7. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    JJ, you did a great job on this one.  It would be great if you would flesh it out, as you mentioned.  What a great WIKI this would make!

    SS, you scared me with the injection on that big bird.  Glad you hit the internal temp in time!

    Good luck and smoking.
  8. Good info!
    The Danger Zone cautions have been around a long time, 50+ years, I've seen it stressed in some books from at least the early 60's.

    I do the same thing.
    I split the bird and put it in a jumbo cast iron skillet.
    Heat the bird in the skillet on top of the stove on high for 10 minutes.
    Toss in the oven, reduce heat from 500 to 400 after 20-30 minutes.
    Total cook time is usually no more than 1.5 hours for a split or spatchcocked 12 lb. bird.

  9. sound1

    sound1 Smoking Fanatic

    Those "Martha moments" makes all the work worth while. 

    JJ, Nicely written, and should be an article, sticky or thread that will appear around the holidays. This sodium sensitivity thing has got me thinking. I have read about "brining" birds with apple cider and other acidic liquids and know the physics are different, but would it help with the retention of moisture as the salt based brines do?? I think you would need to be prudent as to how long and ph values, would it "cook" like Ceviche??
  10. I use a produvt called "No Salt"  it tastes very similar to salt.  It si actually made primarily from potassium chloride.  Being as I have had this problem with sodium of all kinds for the past 27 years, I have adjusted.  I know that potassiums in it's many forms helps to retain the human body's elcetrolyte balance.  Those of us who can't or shouldn't have salt,  benefit from greater amounts of potassium.  How it would work to serve the purpose of a brine.... I don't know.  i'm not a chemist.  But those of you out there with high blood pressure.......  If your dr, hasn't already told you.  Toss the salt shaker out.  There is enough natural salt in all natural unprocessed foods to provide the sodium your body needs.  I almost gurantee if you stick to under 1500mg a day.  Your blood pressure will drop tremendoulsy.  Just a hint.  That is the amount of sodium in one tsp of soy sauce.

    I'm picking up some freshly caught thresher shark this afternoon.  Will smoke it tommorrow.

    Thanks for all the support.

  11. Thanks ssfanatsea thats what my doc says NO SALT!! I dont use no table salt.But with smokin i cheat a lot wil look into it Thanks again....Dave
  12. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I took the above info, made it more general and made it into an Article for easier future reference...JJ
  13. bdillard

    bdillard Newbie

    Gadzooks.....learned something on this thread! Did a couple of 14+ pounders on my EXLBGE....brined for 12+hours in a salt based recipe (3/4 cup of salt +herbs). I took these birds out of the brine about 6 hours prior to putting in the BGE!! The starting cooking temps were in the 60's! Cooked them vertical....beer canned. Heavy rub. Control the BGE with digiQ at surface temps of 275. Should have done more research on the danger zone because I was well within the danger zone counting the time out of the brine prior to putting the beasts on.... Once on the BGE they were at 140 in less than 3 hours. I guess I'm very lucky I didn't send the whole crew of 15 to the horse-pistol??? The turks turned out fabulous on apple wood ...... with a Pit temp of 275 my dome is running roughly 325. Do you think cooking vertically with 1/2 a beer up their hiney helped divert disaster? 

    The articles you listed JJ are no longer live. Is there other resources for this information. I'm doing a 7 lbs butt this wednesday......whats the story with pork?

    Never mind.....found them on another redirect on the Safety thread!


    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013

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