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Monday, January 21, 2013

Smoking a turkey breast hunter-beef style

Posted by on 01.21.13 at 02:31 PM

smoked turkey breast with hunter beef spices
  • Mike Sula
  • Smoked turkey breast with hunter-beef spices

Friend of the Food Chain Nab Uddin had his finger on the pulse of something when he tipped the folks at LTHForum off to the existence of hunter beef, a cured-meat product that's easiest described as Pakistani corned beef. That prompted a search for the best hunter beef on Devon, which led to variations at Ghareeb Nawaz, Spinzer Restaurant, and Pista House. But there are also hunter-beef curing mixes on the shelves at many Devon Avenue grocery stores, which theoretically should put this tasty munch easily within reach of the average home cook, given a few days' time and a suitable hunk of meat. These masalas are priced under two bucks, with different brands containing different blends, the common element being curing salts, in the case of Shan brand, saltpeter and sodium nitrate.

I like Uddin's idea of applying these mixes to a fatty cut of meat like brisket, and then instead of simply braising it in the oven, smoking and steaming it pastrami style. But I wondered why it couldn't also work on a giant boneless, skinless turkey breast I found in my possession.

hunterbeef masala
The recipe on the Shan package, and indeed most scratch recipes online, call for dry curing the beef, but I suspected my turkey breast would absorb the cure better if I brined it. I filled a stockpot with water, dissolved the contents of the package in it, plopped the turkey in, and left it out on the porch for the better part of a week. Then I blotted it dry and rubbed it with a mixture approximating the ingredients on the package—a teaspoon each of salt, raw sugar, black pepper, cardamom, clove, ginger, cumin, coriander, allspice, and cayenne pepper—before smoking it low and slow until it hit an internal temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit, at about the two-hour mark. When I sliced into it I was happy to see it remained relatively moist. It tasted plenty smoky and salty too, but didn't absorb much of the spicing, though the rub, which transformed into a thin crunchy crust, did add some flavor. Maybe I should have just dry cured it.

It's perfectly good barbecue. But is it the perfect poultry analog for hunter beef? No. And my work is not done: hunter pastrami is next. Stay tuned.

smoking turkey breast

Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.

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