Large turkey, should I?

Discussion in 'Meat Selection and Processing' started by pellet, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. I picked up a turkey for xmas dinner this Sunday. I am thinking about getting something smaller but would really like turkey and wanted to be sure there would be plenty left when the kids all go home. So I bought the biggest turkey I could fine a 19.5 lb bird. Is it possible to smoke that thing with out getting into problems with contamination like starting it out at a higher temp for say the first hour or so to get it past that dangerous temp where the bacteria can form? I have done a few 16 lb birds with success in the past. I know the easier solution would be to just get 2 smaller birds but I sometimes I get a "Tim the tool man," mentallity  I know Im looking at a approx. 10hr cook time but time is not problem because I intend to be in front of my heated garage with the smoker and inside the garage, doing whatever.
  2. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Pellet, you are going to get mixed answers on this I'm sure. I smoke 20+ birds all the time, and have never had a problem. I brine before I smoke, and add Morton's tender quick to help with the 4-140 rule. Last T day I smoked two 25# birds in about 8 hours. I try and maintain my smoker temp above 250 I prefer 275 but don't always get there.  With that being said in my own opinion yes you can.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  3. bigcase

    bigcase Smoke Blower

    If you don't care about the presentation part of it, why not spatchcock it.  The last two birds I did, I slit the skin between the leg and breast, it is supposed to help the thighs cook faster and it did for me.  Brine that sucker also, cant beat it in my opinion, and it should help speed up the cook time a bit.  I always go for more birds instead of bigger bird, I think the small ones taste better plus I get to smoke more of them that way. Just my two cents.

    Oh yeah I see you're a Iowan almost forgot

    GO HAWKS!!  lol
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  4. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I smoke 18-20 lb birds whole, un-stuffed without curing.  Cook temp is usually 265-275* (a little higher than normal smoking temps of 225-250*). The birds never take over 5 hours to hit an internal temp of 165*.  I usually take mine to 170* in the thickest part of the breast just to be extra safe.  I leave the body cavity open and start with the bird breast side down until there is about an hour left in the cook time; then I flip it.  I've been smoking turkeys this way for 15+ years w/o any problems. 

    Some folks around here spatchcock the bird to guard against lingering in the danger zone (40-140* in 4 hours or less).  You might want to consider that if you are at all concerned.  You can also cure your bird which takes the entire worry out of the equation.
  5. Thanks for the reply, I look forward to more opinions. I really havent had a problem getting upto temps of 250 to 300. In fact I seem to  be able keep a steady temp at anything over 240 regardless of the outside temps. What would the 4-140 rule be? I figured a 10 hr smoke time because the wife says she plans on a about a 12:30 dinner and I can waiver an hr or so either way. If its done earlier ,then the bird gets more of a rest before dinner.
  6. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I have done 20lb birds many times but always start them out 275+ and I do brine them. I have even started them out in the oven for a couple of hrs. then move them into the smoker...
  7. Wow, getting good info here. I thought I could get educated just by lurking but I have a learned alot just tonite after registering!
  8. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I knew I wasn't the only one...  Thanks, Roller!
  9. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  10. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Sounds like you have plenty of options. Don't forget the camera!
  11. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    I would definatley brine the bird with some cure added. Then I would also Spatchcock the bird you know cut out the backbone and then lay then bird flat. It will smoke faster and be just as good. Enjoy and don't forget the Q-view.
  12. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Just did a 21 lb. bird for Thanksgiving, brined for 20 hrs., ran my smoker between 250-275° (unstuffed bird), came out very very tastey!
  13. I always smoke large birds.  The reason being small birds grow large bones and then fill in meat supported by those bones.  That means less meat and more bone with

    small birds.  I think the break point is around 14-15 lbs.  I typically smoke 21-26 lbs.  I never use tender quick as it causes turkey to taste like cured ham.  I always brine

    and have found this results in moister meat and it cooks faster.  I make sure that my smoker is at 275-300 prior to putting the birds on. My adult children like to take

    home turkey, so I know have to cook 5 birds at a time.  I just use cheap Styrofoam ice chests for brineing each one, wash and place the foiled hot bird in it for taking home.
  14. nate_46

    nate_46 Meat Mopper

    I see no problem with what you want to do.  If I might make a suggestion, figure the time you want to start the bird to be ready for dinner (with the recommended resting time) and then add 2 hours.  You never know what might happen and late Christmas dinner doesn't always sit well with guests.  I smoked a 21 lb. turkey yesterday, planned on a 5 hour smoke at 270 degrees but in reality it took nearly 6 1/2 hours.  It's done at temperature, not at a specific time.  The bird will keep for more than 2 hours properly placed in a cooler wrapped in foil and blankets.  The meat will actually benefit from the added time resting and dinner can resume when planned and you will be the hero of the party!!!

    Good luck and enjoy the time!!
  15. I'm taking my turkey out on Monday to thaw and then brining it for a couple of days. I'm pre-smoking it on Christmas Eve day for Christmas dinner. I smoked my first turkey for thanksgiving and it took about 10 hours, and since this one is bigger and Christmas is always more hectic, I figure smoking it the day before, letting it rest in the fridge over night, carve it in the morning and then re-heat in a roasting pan with the reserved drippings should work. Has anyone tried this?? The Thanksgiving turkey turned out AMAZING with the skin turning an AMAZING dark gold, I should have taken a pic! I'm hoping my Xmas one will turn out just as good!

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