Years ago, I quickly figured out if my success as an outdoors writer hinged upon my own abilities and expertise, I'd quickly exhaust the slim pickings in my mental vault and be exposed as a wannabe outdoor-writing fraud.
Meaning, I learned to put my ego and pride aside and figure a way to locate people who were genuine experts in a particular field, leaning heavily on their own wisdom and sage advice to punctuate my writing about hook and bullet subjects.
Take the subject of trail cameras, for instance, something I'm not the least bit qualified to opine on as any sort of expert.
But Tom Rainey is qualified, being a dedicated hunter and the marketing manager for Browning Trail Cameras (www.browningtrailcameras.com) based out of Collierville, Tenn.
Over the past couple of years, Rainey has helped increase my own education in owning and effectively operating trail cameras on my southern Great Plains deer lease, not to mention providing fuel for my fire as a spring turkey hunter (Rainey completed a single season Grand Slam in 2016 with an Eastern turkey, a Rio Grande, a Merriam's and an Osceola).
As it turns out, he's also a PhD when it comes to smoking and grilling wild-game meat, from venison to wild turkey to feral hog.
And when I recently asked Rainey if he could contribute to a story outdoor grilling, he was more than happy to oblige, opening up his own mental vault and sharing a wealth of information related to wild grilling and cooking with a handmade dry-rub mix that I'll call "Tom Rainey's Trail Cam Dry BBQ Rub."
So if your outdoor cooking plans involve a smoker or a grill – and a supply of wild or store-bought meat – read and carefully observe what follows!
"It's a great multi-purpose dry rub that is best on pork – wild or farm raised – and poultry like a wild turkey, chicken, a Cornish hen or wings," said Rainey.
"It’s a pretty quick and an easy grilling option …" he added.
Rainey does note some of what follows are simply his own suggestions and tips for utilizing the dry rub recipe, not necessarily a step-by-step process. Meaning cooking users should feel free to tweak all of this as is necessary.
If smoking or grilling wild meats is a part of your outdoor cooking plans, follow the cooking tips and Trail Cam Dry BBQ Rub Recipe from Tom Rainey as you prepare your food. (Tom Rainey photo)
Tom Rainey's Trail Cam Dry BBQ Rub Recipe
- 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
- 1½ tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (coarse ground)
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard (powder)
- 1 Cup turbinado sugar (granulated)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 3 tablespoons paprika
Editor's Note: "As with any dry rub recipe, there are specific adjustments that you can make to fit your preferred tastes, but here are a few worth noting," said Rainey:
1. "You can reduce the amount of sugar if you would like to cut or increase the amount of sweetness in the flavor profile."
2. "You can reduce the amount of Kosher salt if you would like to cut or increase the amount of sodium in the recipe."
3. "You can reduce the amount of cayenne if you would like to cut or increase the amount of heat in the flavoring."
Poultry Suggestions and Tips
Grilled Wild Turkey Breast:
1. "Brining the poultry can be important. The easiest way is to boil about a quart of water and some salt and brown sugar – about half a cup of each – and boil the water until both are dissolved. At that point I like to add ice to bring it down to room temperature – or even cooler – to prevent poaching the meat you are brining."
2. "You really don’t want to brine the poultry too long, so about five hours should do it in the refrigerator. You can use a large Ziploc bag here or just a large boil, but make sure the meat is completely submerged regardless of what you use."
3. "Prior to placing the meat on the grill, rub it down with yellow mustard and massage in the dry rub. Please note that if you have not done this before, you will not taste the yellow mustard when the cooking process is complete. It merely serves as a binding agent in this particular application."
4. "For best results, do not grill the meat over direct heat. Cook it over a medium heat and use a drip pan to ensure that the meat is not exposed to any direct heat. Cook it for about an hour and fifteen minutes, but use a meat thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature reaches 170 before serving the meat."
5. "You can also add wood chips to your bed of coals and/or fire for an additional touch of smoke flavor. With poultry you will want to use woods that are not too overpowering, such as hickory or apple. Soaking those chips in water that you can purchase at the market will generate a good smoke and prevent excess heat from being generated by the burning wood."
6. "Also, during the cooking process, you can use apple or pineapple juice to spray down the meat and can also apply additional rub to suit your taste and create a nice bark on your poultry."
7. "When you do finish cooking the poultry you will also want to rest the meat for about 10 to 15 minutes and allow it to marinate in its own juices prior to serving."
8. "And as a final tip with wild turkey or other poultry meats, remember the adage that 'If you are looking, you aren’t cooking! Opening the lid on your grill or smoker releases precious heat and can add to your cook time and maybe even create a problem for you in generating enough heat to finish cooking the poultry."
Regardless of what type of meat you are smoking or grilling, Tom Rainey is a big believer in the cooking adage that "If you're looking, you're not cooking!" Meaning that one key to effective wild cooking is not to open the lid and lose the heat an outdoor chef is working so hard to produce. (Tom Rainey photo)
Pork Suggestions and Tips
Boston Butt/Pork Shoulder:
1. "To keep things simple, when preparing the meat the night before smoking it, I inject it with a simple mixture of Coke and apple juice at a ratio of 1:1. As a side note, I'd add that most people are familiar with the use of juice at this stage but Coke is important because the sodium will help to tenderize the meat."
2. "Also, during the prep process, you may want to rub down the meat with yellow mustard to serve as a binder and coat the meat with the dry rub liberally. And as with turkey or poultry, I'd also note that if you have not done this before, you will not taste the yellow mustard when the cooking process is complete."
3. "The general rule of thumb for pork is to cook it 1.5 hours for every pound it weighs and you’ll want to cook it at a temperate ranging from 220 to 240 degrees, BUT you will want to use an internal thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meat hits 195. I'd note here that at an internal temperature of 165 degrees, you may want to consider wrapping the meat in aluminum foil. Among many (other) things, this can help prevent the meat from drying out and will also prevent the meat from absorbing too much smoke flavor."
4. "While smoking the meat, you may want to have a spray bottle of apple or pineapple juice to spray on the meat every couple of hours to aid in maintaining the moisture in the meat while also helping create a nice bark on the meat. You can also apply additional coatings of your dry rub to suit your taste during this process."
5. "When you do finally remove the meat, it’s always a good idea to let it rest. I like to keep an old towel around to wrap around the aluminum foil enclosed meat and let it sit for as long as an hour to continue and marinate in its own juices.
6. "Also, pay close attention to any wood chips and combinations that you may use. Two of the better options that can be purchased at most grocery stores are hickory and apple because they won’t overpower the flavor of the meat but can complement the taste of your final product. Do note that soaking them in water before using them helps to create a nice smoke and also prevents them from burning too hot during the cooking process."
7. "Lastly, in regards to wild or domestic pork, also remember my statement 'If you’re looking, you aren’t cooking!' As with poultry, lifting the lid on your grill or smoker releases the precious heat that you are working so hard to generate. So as tempting as it might be, (especially as you smell the cooking process taking place), keep that lid down as much as possible to stay on schedule with your cooking."
1. "Many of the suggestions that I gave for Boston butts and pork shoulders also applies here, but you will not want to inject ribs because ultimately it can be more trouble than it’s worth."
2. "You can use the same rub down preparation for ribs as with the butts and shoulders."
3. "With ribs, you don’t have to cook them as long because they aren’t as dense as other meats are. You can typically cook them at around 230 degrees for around 4.5 hours, but cooking times can vary based on a number of variables. So just start checking them by trying to separate two ribs that are side by side. In general, I've learned that if they tear apart easily, you are good to go."
4. "As with the larger cuts of more dense meat, spraying the ribs with apple juice or pineapple juice about every hour is a good idea along with applying additional dry rub to suit your taste."
5. "Like I mentioned before, resting the meat once it’s done cooking is always a good idea and can also make it easier to serve the ribs and preserve their moisture."
6. "Like the other meats we've dealt with here, wood chips are also a great idea for ribs as well. In addition to the hickory and apply mentioned before, I've found that cherry wood chips are a good idea as well.
7. "And finally, once again, don’t let that heat get away from your meat while you're cooking. You know, the idea of 'If you're looking, you aren't cooking!' yet again! Leave that cover and/or lid down!"