Brining HUGE turkey..

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by deltadude, Dec 6, 2009.

  1. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    On the day after Thanksgiving I couldn't resist taking advantage of a practical give away... 28lb Free Range Bird for 35 cents a pound. Those birds didn't last long at that price.....

    I put the big bird in a simple brine earlier. 24 to 48 hours I will then pop the gobbler into the MES.

    I'm relating this because it's the biggest turkey I have ever brine/cooked/smoke EVER! Heck I couldn't even put this bird in the fridge for the brine, TOOO BIG! So the brine and bird are it in the ice chest.

    My favorite way of cooking chicken or turkey is in the Weber Kettle, indirect method, they turn out perfect every time, except turkeys can get a little overcooked on the legs unless, one is careful and has alum foil ready to
    protect the legs from the heat. However this bird is just too large, the legs would be directly over the heat source. So the MES has duty for this bird.

    Any 40" MES owners want to make a guess on how long the 28 Lb will take at 220 F?

    I really don't know, so am not planing a dinner around this bird, heck we already had two big turkey dinners on Turkey day and last saturday. I'm just cooking this bird for meat.
  2. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    If you cooked that bird soley at 220 degrees, you are looking at an estimated 36+ hours. The meat will be in the danger zone for far too long to be safe to eat. More then likely you'll have to finish in the oven.

    Have you considered cutting the turkey in half and cooking it as two pieces?

    I'd cook it at a much higher temperature, but that is just me.
  3. rod guy

    rod guy Smoke Blower

    I split a 18 pounder for Thanksgiving and smoked it at 275 to 300 and it was great. Thats the only way I'll do a big bird from now on. 28 lbs is a really big bird!
  4. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    He's right about being in that danger zone too long. I usually smoke all poultry at 350°-375°, no need for low and slow. Be careful my friend.
  5. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    re: smoke temp.

    TRUE... I actually never smoke poultry at 220, in the MES I have always used 270. Making that typo is the result of checking MES before going to bed in the wee hours. I actually woke up thinking about the post, and knew there would be a some helpful critique on that temp.

    Right now the plan is 270 for several hours. Since the bird is brined it will come up to temp faster as water is a heat conductor and the brine should add about 20% of water to the birds weight. (I sure hope the MES shelving rivets hold, that 34 lbs on a single rack.)

    At some point and I think it will be right at 140 deg I will move the bird to the oven to finish off and brown.

    Since this bird is so big I am wondering how well it will fit in the MES without touching the internal walls, I didn't check it out before pulling out of package. I may have to stand it on end.
  6. cruizer

    cruizer Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I have used the 270 on the MES for birds with no problems yet. Knock on my head. Like to brown in the oven. I'm not too good on times just watch the internal temps.[​IMG]
  7. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Could think about removing the legs and wings, wouldn't help a lot but would help a little and possibly speed up the cook time.
  8. pignit

    pignit Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That's a lot of bird. As long as your cooking temps are putting the bird over 140 degrees in less than 4 hours of it hitting 41 degrees, your gonna be ok. If it were me and I were smokin that big a bird in the MES.... I'd check the temp at 3 hours into the smoke and if it was in question as to whether it was going to hit 140 very soon.... I'd slam it into the oven at 350 until it reached 140 - 145 then back it back down again. I also know as an owner of a 40" MES... Put hot or boiling water into the water pan and preheat that thing as hot as it will go before putting in the bird. I'd even think about slammin the bird in the oven for half an hour at 350 - 375 before I put it in the smoker. I wouldn't open the door for anything until your ready to check the temp at the 3 hour mark. Lookin forward to the QVIEW.
  9. csmith2884

    csmith2884 Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    I agree with the above, cook mine at 295 degrees no matter the size. Helps to crisp up the skin.
  10. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    Being the stubborn type, after checking with the family, they all wanted to see a whole bird, so cutting in half was out. The big problem was how to fit that mega gobbler in the MES. A preliminary check after a 48 hour brine, clearly showed I couldn't get the door closed if I placed the bird horz. neck and butt facing the side walls, the neck/butt facing door & back wall again no fit. So how to cook this bird whole? Standing the bird up beer can chicken style, the bird fit!. One problem I don't own a beer can chicken stand that can support 30+lbs of turkey. I weight the bird it was 33 lb before 12-15 cups of wild rice/apple/sausage stuffing packed in the cavity and neck.

    Solution to Vertical Bird....

    Notice the rack the bird is sitting on is bowed [​IMG], as a precaution I used two racks.

    Bird about to go into oven after reaching 140 F in the MES. It took 5 hours, Sacramento had a super cold night on Sunday 30 F (normal is 38-55), when the bird went in Monday it was 40 F, and in two hours dropped to 33 F. Now I know you Midwest and Eastern guys think those temps are Tshirt weather, but man it snowed early Monday morning, last time we had snow here was 2002. My MES is under the roof eave, so no comfy man-cave or garage. The MES digital temp never reached 200, but a separate inside cabinet thermometer read 240+ after the 1st hour, the meat probe temp steadily rose so I wasn't worried.

    The problem came after putting the turkey in a 350 1 hour preheated oven. The bird stalled at 155-160, I checked with 3 different thermometers and it was frustrating. Normally I only have to cook a turkey another 1-2 hours in the oven after getting to 140-150. Not this monster, 4.5 hours more was required to get the breast to 170.

    The meat was super moist, the brine had done its job not only adding moisture, but the flavor boost was there too.

    Lesson learned.....
    I will NEVER again attempt cooking a turkey this big. 20 lbs will be the max. Brining the beast required a ice chest and 3 gal of brine, plus a huge bag of ice ( I should have planned better and froze some blocks of ice in advance).
    My sink is barely large enough to hold a turkey of this size and get the faucet over the bird. Just moving and working with a bird this size is a real chore. While some would have cut the bird in half, I was worried about losing moistness, especially after the extra work of brining. Oh and never stuff a bird this big, it is tough enough trying to get it to temp without adding more difficulty.
  11. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    Nice write up. As I was reading about the stall, I kept saying, stuffing to my self, but you covered that in last paragraph.

    Glad it worked out for you.
  12. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have never smoked a bird that big so if i were you I would spatchcock the bird (remove the bottom bones) and lay the bird out flat and then smoke it. I would like everyone here is saying at about 275-300 is my temp of choice. Then take it to about 170 -175 in the breast and you should be just fine too.
  13. athabaskar

    athabaskar Smoking Fanatic

    I too have learned the lesson that bigger is not always best when cooking most cuts of meat, poultry especially. Also, my first thought about your issues were the same as Raceyb's. Stuffing something that large really just extends your cooking time and puts it in danger of being a bio-disaster. Personally, I never stuff a bird. You can always put a pan of stuffing into the smoker, unless of course Birdzilla is taking up all the space.
  14. pignit

    pignit Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You got my eyebrows up with the 5 hours to 140 internal temp. The turkey turned out beautiful but sounds like it was beyond the safety zone. If it hadn't been brined or stuffed it wouldn't have been an issue. There has been so much posted about turkey safety through the Holidays, I was wonderin how you got away with it. Glad it turned out great.
  15. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    I was thinking the exact same thing, but apparently no one got sick. That was one huge bird!

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