Biggest turkey that is safe to smoke?

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by bbqandfootball, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. I seem to remember 16-18 lbs being the limit for smoking it whole and intact. And I think that's the way I'll go this year at Thanksgiving. (Damn, I'm ready for some dressing!)

    I work in the meat department at a very small HEB grocer in Central TX, and we get a free turkey, any size, every year. Last year I got Birdzilla (don't remember the poundage, but this sucker was enormous). Split it with a saw at work, and smoked it.

    The natural tendency of Toms (large turkeys) being tough, combined with the long cooking time, dried the breast meat out a little bit. So I'm thinking of not being such a glutton (just me, my wife and my 3 year old son... Mother's hubby works at another HEB and also gets a bird), and just getting a medium sized one and smoking it whole. And yes, I did use a brine last year.

    On the other hand, sometimes I donate my free bird to the inlaws after smoking if it turns out a little dry. Good brownie points, lol.

    But I like smoked turkey... love it in fact. And my in-laws have a HUGE Thanksgiving gathering. So if I donate a little, it won't even get noticed. I'll have to donate the whole dang thing to really be appreciated.

    And my mom doesn't smoke turkey. Just roasts a huge one in the oven till the breasts are bone dry.

    I'm thinking of Splatcocking a huge one, smoking it, and keeping it for myself. Eat smoked turkey sammies for a few days, and freeze the rest. Am I selfish?

    Sorry, I'm rambling. Just had a few beers, and started looking forward to Thanksgiving.

  2. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The main concern with a large bird is getting it to 140° ASAP. That danger zone should be a first consideration. You can always back down the rack/grate temp after the bird hits that safe mark. Goos luck my friend.
  3. Even if I smoke a 23 pounder again, I can't get it in my smoker whole, lol.
  4. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Get a nice 16 pounder, you won't have to worry about spatchcocking (unless you want to) and have a party over cherrywood or pecan!
  5. Yep, I'm cool with that. I just have a hard time passing up a bird twice that big, even if I have to make mods... when it's free.

    Mesquite is my wood of choice though for turkey. I think poultry's bland flavor lends itself well to the harsh mesquite smoke.

    I actually use mesquite for everything, with it basicly being free around here. Just have to manage the amount of visable smoke coming from the pit, while keeping a good temp, which isn't real hard to do.
  6. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I will definatly be smoking a turkey to go along with my fried turkey this year. I'm limited to a smaller bird because it won't fit it my Gosm. I think I will use hickory also that should be good.
  7. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  8. rodc

    rodc Smoke Blower

    Just a suggestion, but I've had great success deboning the turkey before cooking it. I then stuff it with a sausage meat/sage/onion stuffing & a lot of butter before sewing it back up with butcher's string. I like to roast it pretty low and slow - upping the heat at the end to crisp the skin - this is in the oven only though - not persuaded the folks to let me smoke it yet.

    This bastes the breast meat constantly and you get a REALLY moist bird - first slice usually causes a tidal wave of juices across the counter-top [​IMG]. The other advantages are the legs and wings are pulled inside out into the bird, making it a rectangle - easy to carve & because the thigh has no bone to leak blood into the meat while cooking the thigh meat is nearly as white as the breast - which helps the fights over who gets the white meat, one long slice and you get both & even the fussiest of white meat only eaters eat both happily.

    This could be the solution for smoking a bigger turkey as the drying out risk is gone - so you can take your time & get to the target temp without worrying.

    I've got instructions for deboning poultry somewhere if you (or anyone else) want them.

    PS - Make sure you explain to people that you DEboned the turkey - having your mother explain to the neighbours that 'Rod boned the turkey before cooking it' is a little embarrassing..... [​IMG]
  9. bertjo44

    bertjo44 Smoking Fanatic

    I would like to see your DE-boning instructions . I was thinking of trying a turkucken this year. I usually deep fry a turkey. Another good option is to smoke an already smoked ham. Did this last year and it turned out great.
  10. Last time I did a turkey I injected with a brine and rub mixture. Came out juice spitting moist. Better than mom's in the oven (though I wouldn't tell her that).
  11. rodc

    rodc Smoke Blower

    I've a scanned copy of a magazine article which I can send to you. I also found this guide - which does is slightly differently to me:
    • I don't remove the backbone, I slice along it & start cutting the meat away from there (this gives more skin for sewing up)
    • The article leaves the wing & drumstick - but after dislocating them I pull the whole leg (thigh & drumstick) & the upper wing (down to the 'elbow') through to the inside - this means a bit more work removing the sinews but gets more meat inside with the stuffing.
    Sewing the bird back up is really easy if you use a large curved upholsterer's needle - but you need to grab it with a cloth to force it through the skin - otherwise it'll slip & impale your hand - guess how I know [​IMG].

    PM me an email address & I'll hunt out the article which I learned from. Experimenting on a big chicken is a good idea to get the mechanics of the thing straight.
  12. marvsbbq

    marvsbbq Newbie

    I have smoked as big as 26 lbs but cooked at 325 degrees so they (we did 30 of them at once) got past the 140 danger zone quickly....took 4 hrs total cooking time.
  13. jamesb

    jamesb Smoking Fanatic

    You can smoke any size turkey you want! If it can be done in an oven, you can do it in the pit. I smoke/roast turkeys at about the same temp you would roast one in the oven... at around 325°-350°. Turkey is so lean that there is no reason to do them low and slow plus poultry takes on smoke very quick. I prefer pecan wood as I think mesquite is a bit overpowering for poultry, JMO.

    I usually stick to 12-14lb birds though. I already have orders for 30 smoked birds for T-day (along with 16 fried)... I can get 20 on my pit at a time so I'm hoping to get a few more orders!

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