Thanksgiving Turkey How to by SQWIB

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by sqwib, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I am posting this to help anyone planning to do a smoked/Pit turkey.

    Many of you have seen this multiple times but there seems to be a lot of folks inquiring about turkey, sorry I did not post this earlier

    This is not an exact science but figured it may help some folks as it has helped me.

    Please post any Questions or concerns.

    Quick note, I will be doing a 19 pound Turkey on the pit tomorrow, but will be starting off at 450 degrees for half an hour then running the pit temps at 325 degrees.I will post them results later.

    This is how I have been doing larger birds on my Reverse Flow.

    Honey Glazed Pit Smoked Turkey with Apple Gravy


    Note: when smoking turkey try purchasing one that is no more than 12-14 pounds. Much larger than this and the meat may stay in the danger zone (40-140 °F) for too long.
    A 20 pound turkey can take up to 10-14 hours and larger turkeys greatly increase food contamination risks. A 12-14 pound turkey will be good, however a 20 pound bird can be done, just be careful of the "Danger zone".

    For a turkey over 14 pounds, bump the temp up to 300-325°F the first few hours and for goodness sake, no peeking. (Stickburners note, make sure the bird is not blasted with the heat, you may want to shield the bird the first half hour and rotate 90°often if using high heat in the pit)
    • Brine Turkey, unless it already has been, such as "Moister Enhanced with up to 8% of solution" or "Self Basting" or "Kosher".
    • Brining enhances flavor and texture and gives the cook a wider margin of error, ensuring a moist bird, in  my opinion anyway. 
    • See attached "Brining basics" PDF at the bottom of this page.
    • USDA States that BASTED or SELF BASTED: Bone-in poultry products that are injected or marinated with a solution containing butter or other edible fat, broth, stock or water plus spices, flavor enhancers and other approved substances must be labeled as basted or self basted. The maximum added weight of approximately 3% solution before processing is included in the net weight on the label. Label must include a statement identifying the total quantity and common or usual name of all ingredients in the solution, e.g., "Injected with approximately 3% of a solution of.

    • Water to salt ratio is 1:16 or 1 cup of Kosher salt per gallon of non-chlorinated water.

    • Sugar reduces the the taste of the salt, use the same ratio as the salt.

    • Whole Birds brine for about an hour a pound.
    • Breasts no more than 5-6 hours

    Turkey Brine:
    • 2 Gal Water
    • 2 Cups Kosher Salt
    • 2 Cups Sugar (1 Cup white + 1 Cup Brown)
    • 4 TBS Black Pepper
    • 1 TBS Dried Rosemary
    • 1 TBS Thyme
    • 1/4 Cup White Wine or dry vermouth. (not Cooking Wine)
    Combine all ingredients to 1 gallon of water in a large pot and bring to a slow simmer for 10 minute stirring, remove from heat and cool in refrigerator. Reserve  a few ounces for the beer can.
    In a cooler add ice and the brine, submerge bird in brine, (weigh down if needed) add ice as needed, after brine period remove and rinse, pat dry.

    • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
    • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
    • 1 Tablespoon Rosemary
    • 1 Tablespoon Minced Onion
    • 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
    • 1 Teaspoon Old Bay
    • 1 Teaspoon basil
    • 1 Teaspoon Thyme
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Cracked Pepper
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Celery Salt
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
    • Remove the neck and giblets, (heart, gizzard, liver), from the inside, trash the liver and place the neck and giblets in the refrigerator, this will be used for gravy. Place the turkey in cooler add brine then add enough ice to last the length of time the bird will be in the brine and make sure bird is submerged and place in a cool location. Soak a 12 pound turkey in the brine overnight or 10-12 hours in the fridge, the goal here is about an hour a pound.
    • Slather: Olive oil, butter, Garlic, Rosemary, Time, Cracked Pepper, etc... note the picture with all the spices. I warmed the slather about 25 second in microwave, mixed thoroughly and rest about half hour, then the slather is placed in the fridge to thicken up.

    • Gravy:  Fresh Sage, smoked garlic, green onions, white onion, applesauce and various spices as pictured below. Use fresh apples if you have them, the applesauce is a bit sweeter

    • Fire up the Pit: and bring temp up to about 350°F+. I used white ash and cherry wood.
    • Setup the beer can apparatus: and fill halfway with reserved brine. I Did not brine this bird due to the fact that it was an enhanced turkey, since it was enhanced , I just used a bit of Killians and spices as pictured.
    • Drip Pan: Place a grate then a disposable tin foil pan on the reverse flow plate with a quart of water to catch the drippings for gravy, add water as needed, place the giblets and neck bone in the pan. Add some celery onion slices and spices to the drip pan. This smoke I tried apple sauce for a sweet gravy and only added the neck bone at the wife's request. I did add 2 cups of water during the cook but it dd not need it.
    • Reduce risk of contamination:   Make sure everything is ready, reducing the possibility of contamination for example having the spices pre-measured in bowl and slather or rubs ready to go, because you will be handling the bird.
    • Trimming: Remove bird from brine, this was an enhanced bird so I did not have the option for brining, rinse thoroughly in cold water then pat dry. Trim the neck flap. Remove any pop up timer devices.
    • Rub/ Slather: At the least, make sure the breast is covered in a good slather or butter.
    • Stuffing the turkey: I do not cook stuffing in a smoked bird, if not being smoked on a beer can style apparatus, stuff with apple and onion quarters.
    • Placing the turkey: Once the Pit is preheated, to 350°F+, about an hour works for my Pit, place the turkey over top of the beer can apparatus, pin the wings close to the sides with toothpicks, place the turkey in the drip pan and insert meat probes. This cook I put the probe in the innermost thigh. Some will plug up the neck hole with an onion, this one was not but it may decrease the cooking time slightly, the jury is still out on this one. I also placed the bird in a pan to catch the drippings for the gravy.
    • Cooking: Let the temp creep down slowly until a temperature range of 250°F - 275°F is achieved, this may take an hour or so to level off. Plan on 25 to 30 minutes per pound at this temperature. Watch the wings and breast and if they start to get too brown you can cover them with some foil.
    • Drip pan: make sure to keep an eye on this, you do not want the drippings to burn up. Also try and back off on adding too much liquid in the tale end of the cook, you don't want a watered down gravy.
    • Sanitize: Once everything is on the Pit, I will wipe everything down with Chlorox Cleanup.
    • Mopping: If you want to mop your smoked turkey, wait until the last hour of the cooking time to start. This particular cook I brushed the bird  with honey about 60 minutes before it was done.

    • Danger Zone: Pay close attention to the cooking temps and time, if you are nearing the 4 hour mark and are not close to 140°F, I would suggest bumping your temps up to 325°F until you are out of the "Danger Zone".
    • Checking the Internal Temperature: (I strongly suggest that anyone doing whole poultry, educate themselves on the proper handling and cooking procedures.) The breast and thighs must reach different internal temperatures for ideal doneness. When the breast reaches 150°F, cover it with foil to prevent it from being overcooked. I removed this turkey when the thick part of the thigh reached 160°F. The temperature will rise after removing it from the smoker. Keep an eye on your times and temps, if you get a reading that doesn't make sense with the time chart, err on the side of caution. Although I did not take a reading of the breast it was cooked perfectly and If I had taken the thigh up to 170°F, it may have been overcooked.

    • Disclaimer for cooking temps, you knew that was coming. USDA states that the turkey should be cooked to a minimum of 165°F at the lowest temp reading. I would suggest an instant read thermometer, such as a Thermapen if you plan on smoking turkey. Check at the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast and the lowest reading should be at 165°F, per USDA guidelines.

    • Resting:   Remove the turkey and cover loosely with aluminum foil for about 30 minutes. If I need up to an hour, the turkey will be wrapped in a thick towel in a non drafty area, any longer than an hour and its foiled, toweled and placed in a cooler with more towels.The resting is very important, a lot of the juices will redistribute into the meat ensuring its a moist bird. If you are pulling your turkey slightly before its final temp, make sure that you let it rest about a half hour wrapped in foil and lay a towel on top. During this rest your temps may increase due to carry over heat, so if you pulled it a little shy of 165°, don't sweat it.

    • Gravy: As the bird is resting finish up the gravy, Pour liquids from beer can apparatus, (taste it first), and the drip pan through a strainer into a pot, bring gravy to a simmer and reduce by half, add spices to your preference, remove excess oil. Use arrow root or corn starch to thicken the gravy. If you have time you can refrigerate the gravy until the oils solidify on top then scrape the grease off  the top.

    • Carving: When carving the turkey if it appears pink Don't panic, this is normal. The smoking process causes a chemical change in turkey that causes it to turn pink. Just make sure the lowest reading is at 165°F.
    • Time charts, not an exact but in the ballpark,
    This was a 12.4 lb bird and took almost 34 minutes per/lb at 230 - 240°F, I was at exactly 4 hours into the cook when I reached 140°F, next cook I will maintain 250- 260°F until it is out of the "danger zone", this was too close for comfort.​
    • Cooking
      • At 235°F your turkey will take 30 to 35 minutes per pound.
      • At 250°F your turkey will take 25 to 30 minutes per pound.
      • At 275°F your turkey will take 20 to 25 minutes per pound.
    • Thawing: Frozen turkey thawing timetable. Weight In refrigerator In cold water
              In the Refrigerator (40°F or below)
    Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
      • 4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
      • 12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
      • 16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
      • 20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

    I thawed this 12.4 pound bird in the refrigerator for 5 days and still had ice inside the turkey around the neck bone.

            In Cold Water
          Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
      • 4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
      • 12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
      • 16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
      • 20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours
    Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

    • When carving the turkey if it appears pink Don't panic, this is normal. The smoking process causes a chemical change in turkey that causes it to turn pink. Just make sure the lowest reading throughout the turkey reads 165°F.
    • This was a 12.4 lb bird and took almost 34 minutes per/lb at 230 - 240°F, I was at exactly 4 hours into the cook when I reached 140°F, next cook I will maintain 250- 275°F until it is out of the "danger zone", this was too close for comfort.
    • Keep the turkey refrigerated or in iced brine until ready to cook, do not bring up to room temperature before smoking.
    • Watch temps closely, the bird needs to be above 140°F in under 4 hours, bump up the temps until you are above the "Danger Zone".
    • The turkey turned out great, It had good flavor and was moist throughout, the dark meat was exceptional.
    • Compared to an Oven Roasted turkey and my "Keg Roasted Turkey" the smoked turkey wins over the Oven Roasted but not the Keg Roasted turkey, but in all fairness the turkey was 11 months old and was an enhanced bird so I did not have the option of brining. I will follow this up with a fresh bird next time. However the skin was much better on the smoked turkey than the Keg Roasted Turkey,
    • The gravy was good but needs work, I think next time I will saute or brown some of the ingredients before adding to the drip pan and use fresh diced apples in place of apple sauce. The sauce was much better the next day, after removing the grease.
    • Many will say you can not get a crisp skin smoking with low heat, I had no problem getting a crispy skin and this bird was smoked sitting in liquids.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014
    crod, themule69 and dcb5739 like this.
  2. crod

    crod Fire Starter

  3. That about answers all the questions. Not much left but cook and eat.
  4. crod

    crod Fire Starter

    This should be a sticky:yahoo:
  5. Great instructions! I posted the link to the SMForums Facebook!
  6. 25mike87

    25mike87 Smoke Blower

    Great info especially since tomorrow I am smoking my first turkey [​IMG]
  7. Great advice. This will be my 5th or 6th smoked turkey, but I still keep tweaking and learning, Thanks for the tips.
  8. Wow. Thank you for all your effort putting this together.  Very informative!
  9. Strange, how ever many times you smoke or BBQ you never get two that happen exactly the same.
  10. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looks beautiful and too bad there is not a "smell this" on here!  Thanks for the info!
  11. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    SQWIB, what would be the downfall to brining a turkey that is enhanced already?  You stated you didn't have an option...Too salty?  I have cut down the salt in my brine the last few years to offset the enhancing that has already taken place and they have came out great.  Down here in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, we like a bit spicier food, so my brine has cayenne and Tony Chacheres seasoning in it to get deep into the meat.  Just wondering on your take or anybody else with an idea... 
  12. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I say go for it if you want to incorporate a specific flavor profile. But wouldn't worry about brining a enhanced bird although youcan and many folks do .
    The thought is that the brine will not be as effective something to do with osmosis and equalization of the salts. Similar theory to when folks try to removed the salty taste when curing need to change the water because it equalizes and will not pull out any more salt.
    I dont pay too much attention to the science but what i do is go by trial and error. Brining an enhanced bird is totally fine.
  13. squib i barrowed your slather. thanks for sharing.
  14. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Guest

    Thanks for putting this together. Lots of great information.
  15. jzampier

    jzampier Smoke Blower

    Nice write up.  Should be  a sticky now
  16. driedstick

    driedstick Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Greeat post thanks for the info
  17. crod

    crod Fire Starter

    Awesome recipe!! :grilling_smilie:
  18. austinsmoke

    austinsmoke Fire Starter

    SQWIB - What a great tutorial....although I didn't see this until after I had brined it for 13 hrs ( 13lbs) , it was good to see my Brine recipe was like yours except for the wine...and I used pure maple syrup instead of sugar. But I printed out your whole post and used it as a gude as I smoked my first full turkey yesterday....which .by all present, was awesome! My skin was pretty black compared to yours when completed....and not crispy, but not rubber either. I used hickory,pecan and cherry...the most valuae things I learned were getting out of the daner xone in less then four hours and when to pull it....

    Hope y'all had a good T-Day

  19. I was poking around for some ideas... and found this one from Sqwib.. It seems fairly  straight forward and detailed enough for me.. and being turkey days is only 12ish days away (depends when you and your gathering happens) I need to get a start on things...

    Got me a free Turkey from Giant super markets thanks to my reward points.. Up to a 20 pounder i think... But I will likely settle for 15# or so...Decided to bump Sqwibs thread up because well.. we are sorta neighbors... and I like his detail....I will likely use a honey/balsamic/Lemon basil ( I grew some in the garden and it is AWESOME!) wash for a nice glaze the last hour or so of smoking.. I have not settled on a rub as of yet... but there will be butter shoved under the skin because like Bacon.. mmmmmm I have to incorporate bacon some how I think... anyway.. like bacon... butter makes things better.. REAL butter by the way.. not the "manufactured" kind.. but BUTTER butter.. the kind that has two ingredients...cream and salt...the kind that I can get from one of the Amish neighbors so fresh.. that it still kind of mooos....

    Anyway... maybe an Admin can make a few of these stickys so that others can glance at them faster in a last minute dash to get ready to smoke?

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