First Turkey Smoke... need advice!

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by willthethrill31, Oct 11, 2013.

  1. Hey all,

    So I have always wanted to smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving. Was going to give it a shot last year, however the bird wasnt thawed completely and didnt want to sacrifice high temps for a faster cook. Anyhow, I want to smoke a "test bird" before the big family get-together. I do however need as much advice as I can get. First off, the brine. What good brines would go good with smoked turkey and how long do I keep in in the solution. And of course time/temps per lb. I am also open to injecting, however do not know what would be good to inject with, unless the brine would be enough? Ive also read about some people stuffing a few veggies (onions and such) inside the cavity and that sounds amazing! I plan on using peach wood but am open to suggestions. Im assuming that a crispier skin would be achieved by bumping the temp up towards the end? How far towards the end? Also looking for a good seasoning recipe for it. If you could help in any of these areas it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  2. gringodave

    gringodave Fire Starter

    Hi Will,

    I've smoked dozens of turkeys and tried many methods. It's really hard to screw up unless you go too hot/fast. I prefer Chechers cajun injection. Be careful when brining because most turkeys have already been "enhanced" with their own brine/salt mixture.

    Good luck with your smoke.

    Oh, I remember one year I brined, smoked and then fried... I need to do that again.

  3. redneck69

    redneck69 Smoking Fanatic

    awesome brine

    while smoking the not put anything in the will take to long to heat everything stuffed in there to kill bacteria

    brine that bird for 24 hours in a food safe bucket in the fridge or a cooler with some ice in your garage....take the breast meat to 165 degrees when you smoke it...pull it out let it rest for 15-20 min, slice and enjoy 
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  4. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep, turkey is about the only thing I brine. I will jam a cut up onion or apple (or both) in the cavity but no stuffing as mentioned above. Will be delicious for ya.....I should do another b4 Thanksgiving. here's the link to the one I did

    for some ideas if you wish   The skin was quite crisp enuf for us without additional grilling or oven roasting......Willie
  5. bkleinsmid

    bkleinsmid Smoking Fanatic

    Good luck with your smoke.

    Oh, I remember one year I brined, smoked and then fried... I need to do that again.


    I'm with you on that one........

  6. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Breasts solo will dry out, so look into either brining or injection. I always injected, so did my Pop so I come by it natural. Learning more about brining now. It will alter the density of the meat but when done properly it will distribute a more even, although shallow flavor enhancment. Doing an injection works well but without a practiced hand its hard to not pool the fluids. You can also lay pats of compound butter between the breast meat and skin. Its not a slow basting, but it is butter and spices. You can also use bacon on the top of the breasts.

    You'll have to also decide upon the skin, crisp or not crisp. Crisp takes 275+ degrees.

    Most will say Hot smoke it, me I may just be imagining things but I just tryed a hot smoke Turkey, never did it before and I swear the beast although juicy it had a bite to the meat. So its a good thing to have a practice breast.

    BTW heres my Turkey write up if it will help.
  7. diesel

    diesel Smoking Fanatic

    We smoke a couple dozen every Thanksgiving for the last few years.  Brine overnight.  All the advice so far is spot on.  Doing a practice bird is always a good idea.  That way you will have it down. 

    We always add a few oranges, limes, lemons, fresh herbs to the brine.  I go by the rule of 1 cup sugar, 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water.

    good luck.

  8. dan - firecraft

    dan - firecraft Smoke Blower

    I have had a lot of luck with salting overnight instead of brining.

    All you have to do is coat the turkey with kosher salt over night (so it looks like snow).

    Then wash it off really well before putting the rub on.

    It keeps the turkey really moist without water-logging it.
  9. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Adds to my list of I need to try thingies.
  10. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Here are my GoTo Recipes...JJ

    Controlling the salt in brine is important. I have used many different formulations and found my salt sensitive family will tolerate a brine with no more than 1/2C Kosher Salt or 1/4C Table or Fine Sea Salt per Gallon of water in my brine. I have used the one below for over twenty years at home and in several Restaurants and have never gotten a Salty Turkey complaint. As far as salty skin goes, a rinse or 15 minute soak in fresh water helps....AND...Please don't use ANY Commercially made Rub on that Turkey! They are loaded with Salt and are the #1 reason people complain their Brined Turkey and Skin are too Salty. Make your own Rub and leave the Salt out.

    If your Smoker will not get up to 325*F you will never get crispy skin on a smoked bird of any kind...This is not the end of the wonderful world of Crispy Turkey Skin! All you need to do is make sure you give the bird a 12-24 hour rest on a rack over a drip pan in the Refer for the skin to dry. The Drying time will give a Crispier Skin and better Color, it's a good idea. If you are in a hurry, 60 minutes in front of a Fan will help get it done but you should smoke at the 325 temp or for guys that can't get their smoker that high the bird should be no bigger than 14Lb.

    In general the Breast will hit 165*F and the Thighs will be 175*F about the same time, specially if you don't Truss or tie the Legs together.Next Smoke the Turkey at whatever temp below 300*F your smoker will do. When the Internal Temp of the Turkey hits 150*F place the bird in a Pre-heated 425*F oven until the final IT of 165*F is hit and give the bird a rest on the counter, No Foil, while you finish making Gravy, etc. Yes this is an extra step and you need to time things so all the sides are out of the oven but this is a lot better than giving up the best part of any bird...Nice Brown Crispy Skin!

    Families Favorite Brine

    1/2C Kosher Salt

    2T Paprika

    2T Gran. Garlic

    2T Gran. Onion

    2T Dry Thyme

    2T Black Pepper

    1C Vinegar (Any)

    1-1/2 Gal Cold Water to cover Chix

    1/2C Brown Sugar, Optional

    1T Red Pepper Flake Optional

    Starting two days out...

    Mix well and Soak the Bird over night or up to 24 Hours.

    Remove the Chix, rinse if desired and pat dry with paper towels.

    Place in an open container in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours for the Skin to dry.

    This will give a crispier skin when Smokng or Roasting...

    Bubba Chix Rub

    1/2C Raw Sugar

    2T Paprika (I use Smoked if I'm just Grilling)

    1T Cayenne

    1T Gran. Garlic

    1T Gran. Onion

    1tsp Black Pepper

    1tsp Wht Pepper

    1tsp Allspice

    1tsp Bell's Poultry Seasoning or Thyme

    Mix well and rub on Oil or Butter coated Chicken.

    Reduce Cayenne to 1teaspoon if less heat is desired.

    You can also mix the rub with Bacon Grease or Butter and rub it on and under the skin...

    Smokey Turkey Gravy

    1- Lg Onion,

    4-5 Carrots,

    3-4 Ribs Celery

    3-4 Peeled Cloves of Garlic

    Toss them in a pan under the Turkey, and let the whole deal Smoke for one hour,

    THEN add 4-6 Cups Chicken Broth,

    1/2tsp Dry Thyme (4-5 sprigs Fresh)

    1/2tsp Dry Sage (2 sprigs Fresh)

    1-2 ea Bayleaf

    Finish the Smoking process to the IT you want.

    While the Turkey is resting, dump the pan juices, veggies and all into a 2-3Qt Sauce pot and bring the Jus to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 20-30 minutes. Strain out the veggies and let the Jus rest a minute or so for the Fat to rise. Skim off the bulk of the fat then using strips of paper towel laid on top of the Jus then quickly removed, take off the last little bit of fat.Bring the Jus back to a simmer. Mix 2T Flour and 4T Chicken Broth for each Cup of defatted Jus. Whisk together to make a Slurry with no lumps, add a little additional Broth if needed. Whisk the Slurry into the simmering Jus, bring back to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes to cook out the flour taste and fully thicken the Gravy. Adjust the seasoning with Salt and Pepper and serve.

    The purpose of Smoking the Vegetable for 1 hour before adding the Broth and Herbs is...The Smoked vegetables Roast in the Dry heat concentrating their Flavors and Sweetness giving the finished Jus a Richer, Deeper, Full Flavor.

    Serve the sliced Turkey with plenty of Gravy and Enjoy...

    Some additional reading...
    wacomike likes this.
  11. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    I've been doing the same for several years with great results, and haven't looked back at traditional brining. I use 1 tablespoon Kosher salt per 5lbs. of bird and let it rest for 3 days. Gives you a super moist bird with great taste and texture.
  12. Thank you all! Really great stuff, all bases seem to be covered!
  13. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Dan, How does this help with retaining the moisture of the meat?

    When I brine I'm not looking to "salt" the meat but impart some moisture that won't cook away.


  14. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    Bill - I'm not answering for Dan, but I've been using this technique for many years. I first came across it around 20 years ago when I ate what I considered the best chicken that I ever had at the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. The chef, Judy Rogers, explained it to me as a process that she had learned in France when in culinary study.

    Basically, the underlying principal is one of osmosis and reverse osmosis. The salt draws moisture from the meat, denatures the cells, which then enlarge. Then the meat reabsorbs the liquid without a salty taste. So in effect, you're brining the turkey in its own juices. The result is a fully flavored bird that is moist and does not have the somewhat spongy texture of a traditionally brined bird.

    Over time I've moved beyond poultry and use the same technique with beef, pork, etc. In most cases, I now use a wine/salt mix with herbs when doing so.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  15. It's easy and soooooo goooood! This is a 22+ lb Butter Ball cooked at 325-350* with no brine, injection or rub we did for last year's TBird:

    And a cpl breasts I did for Thanksgiving in Aug at work. They were already enhanced so didn't do anything to them either and they turned out fantastic!

    Having said all that, I have brined turnkeys before using this: (from Alton Brown)

    1 cup kosher salt
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1 gallon vegetable stock
    1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
    1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
    1 gallon heavily iced water
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  16. mrmoomer

    mrmoomer Fire Starter

    Here goes nothing. Going with jimmy's brine. Sounds great. Two 15 lbs turkeys I will get 12 - 16 hrs in brine. Should be ample?
  17. dert

    dert Master of the Pit

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013
  18. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    That will get the job done...JJ
  19. We look forward to the outcome!
  20. diesel

    diesel Smoking Fanatic

    Yep, keeping an eye on this. Good luck

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