Using a binder is important when cooking a turkey.
What’s the point of a spice mix if the turkey seasoning falls off?
It also helps with the chemical reaction for crispy and golden skin.
And adds extra flavor to both types of turkey meat.
But there are different binders to choose from.
So let me help you!
My Favorite Binder For Smoked Turkey
Below are the binders I like to use before applying a rub to the turkey
Oils like olive and vegetable made great binders.
They are mild in flavor and don’t interfere with other seasonings.
Easy to apply and cost-effective!
Plus they have a high smoke point for a long cooking time or high heat.
Want to add a bit of tang and a thicker crust to your turkey meat?
Mustard is the perfect binder for an all-rounder.
It adds acidity and flavor.
Only apply a light coating as you risk burning and it turning sour.
What Turkey Cut?
I recommend only using mustard for turkey legs.
This is because they contain darker meat and thicker skin.
The acid will help break down the fat in the skin.
The flavor will penetrate the stronger-tasting dark meat.
When sugar is heated it caramelizes.
This creates the Milliard reaction when combined with the turkey fat and smoke.
If you want crispy skin this is the way to go!
Do not use honey if your rub already consists of brown sugar.
As it can burn quickly if not monitored.
What Turkey Cut?
The short smoking time of the turkey breast meat works well with honey.
Enjoy the sweet layer of flavor and the crispy skin for a nice touch.
Do I Recommend Using Butter as a Binder?
You can use butter a binder however it isnt as effective as as the options above. I like to use butter under the skin of the breast of the turkey to create really crispy skin.
What Is a Binder?
In BBQ jargon, a ‘binder’ or binding agent, is an ingredient applied to meat.
It acts as a glue for dry seasonings that might fall off during cooking times.
There is a variety of binders to choose from.
Each with complimentary factors based on what you are cooking.
Other Considerations When Selecting a Binder
I want you to factor in my below points before selecting your binder.
Are You Smoking an Entire Turkey or a Specific Cut?
This is a large bird that can be broken down into specific cuts or smoked whole.
It also contains 2 types of meat, but more of that later…
The size and meat type will have an impact on the binding agent.
Does the Binder Complement the Other Ingredients Are You Using?
Complimentary flavors between your seasoning and the binder should be considered.
You could use coconut oil with a curry-based rub.
But it wouldn’t go with cajun.
And you can also use a neutral binder like olive oil.
Lastly, think about the kosher salt level.
Some store-bought binders come with added seasoning and salt.
What Wood Are You Using to Smoke?
Pellets and wood chips are the main fuel source for pellet grills.
But did you know what wood will season your turkey meat too?
I like to use light fruit woods like apple wood for turkey.
Or a pecan wood which is stronger.
The smoke flavor could impact your binding agent.
I once used BBQ sauce as a binder for turkey breast
The deep flavor was almost sour when mixed with the strong wood pellets.
There can sometimes be too much of a smoky flavor!
What Is the Smoke Point of the Binder?
Are you cooking a whole turkey with indirect heat?
Or quickly smoking a leg with direct heat?
Your binders will have a smoke point to factor in.
Keep your food safe from burning!
If I Had to Pick the Best Binder
If I had to pick the best binder it would be oil.
They can be applied to the entire bird or the delicate breast meat.
Due to the high smoke point and not affecting your seasonings.
Giving you creative control for a nuanced flavor.
How Should I Prepare the Meat Before Adding a Binder?
Brine turkey meat in a salt solution and make sure it has thawed completely.
Wash the turkey with cold water and pat it down using a paper towel.
This will remove excess surface moisture that can stop the binder from working.
You are then ready to apply your seasonings and start smoking!
What Is the Best Way to Apply a Binder to Turkey?
Apply the binder to the turkey on a stable surface with plenty of room.
Use a meat-basting brush to cover the entirety.
Season straight away.
Food Safety Tips
– Monitor the internal temperature accurately, using a meat thermometer.
– Defrost completely in the refrigerator below 39°F.
– Be careful with cross-contamination between raw and cooked meat.
– Be aware of raw turkey drippings when patting it down to apply the binder.
– Monitor the smoking process carefully and make sure you have enough fuel.
Tips & Tricks for Cooking Turkey – What You Need to Know
There are two different types of meat in a turkey.
White from the breast meat and dark from the thigh or legs.
The white meat has a lighter taste and is dense texture.
The darker meat has a gamey taste as it is closer to the bones.
You are monitoring 2 internal temps of the bird for doneness.
Insert at least 1 digital meat thermometer into these cuts.
To monitor the safe temperature.
– The dark meat’s internal temperature should read 180°F.
– The white meat’s internal temperature should read 160°F.
– Buy fresh and free range.
– Brine your turkey with a kosher salt and water solution
– Use a spice rub with brown sugar to help form a crispy skin by caramelization.
– Oil is best for binding the seasoning.
– Wrap the turkey breast in tin foil while you wait for the internal temp of the dark meat.
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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