Turkey 'supposedly' hit 160*, pretty sure it was still raw-ish

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by dalton325, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Hey everyone,

    I got my first smoker a few months ago for my birthday. It's a Weber Smokey Mt. 22". I fired it up for the first time and tried to cook a turkey based on 'The Ultimate Turkey' recipe from amazingribs.com.

    I had one problem after another. First off, I bought a Maverick ET732, which has a meat probe, a grill probe, and a remote reader. One of the probes was damaged and wouldn't work. I tried to make it work anyway. I had another cheapo probe, but upon testing, it seemed way off. The maverick seemed pretty good, when I tested in boiling water and in ice water. I was getting within a few degrees of 32* and 212*. So I'd think it was accurate.

    After that, I thought I'd bought my turkey with plenty of time to thaw. I was wrong and after buying on a Thursday, it was still too icy on Sunday. It was a 10lb, young bird. I had it in the fridge in the packaging. I cut it open Sunday to cook and when I found out it was still icy on the inside, probably because of the neck and other stuff, I put it back in the fridge uncovered till the next day. It appeared to be defrosted enough and I could remove all the innards. It was pretty cold on the inside.

    Next up, I had never run my smoker before and had trouble keeping the temp right. The recipe I was using called for using two lit chimney's of coals and no water in the water pan, but liquid in a drip pan on the lower grate. Granted I was using my cheapo for most of this, but after that first batch of coals, my temp kept rising and rising. Once it got up near 400 something, I took the lid off to let some heat out and replaced it with my Maverick probe on the grate. I closed the lid and fiddled with the vents. It was around 350* when I went to put the turkey on. I spent too much time with the lid off adjusting things and when I closed the lid and let the temp settle, it was a few degrees shy of 300*. It sat there for a long time. The recipe called for smoking between 325-350*, so I ended up adding a few more briquettes to try and bump up the temp. Still nothing happened till around the 1hr mark. Then it started slowly climbing. I rotated it after an hour and moved the probe, now reading ~340*, to the meat. I put the tip of the probe in the middle of the breast. I tried to bury most of the probe so that the ambient heat wouldn't travel down the shaft and affect the temp reading. At, approx., the 2.5hr mark, the internal breast temp read 160*. I gave it about 10min more and it hit 165. I wanted to be safe.

    Then I went to remove it from the smoker. It was super dark at this point and I was tired from having to do it after work, instead of having all day on a weekend. I pulled the probe out and moved it to a couple of other places on the breast. It read ~165*. I checked the leg and thigh and they both read ~175*. This was supposed to be perfect. The turkey had some color, though nothing like I thought it should. I took it inside and went to taste test. It just had a funk to it. It had a faint carcass smell to it when it was raw. That didn't seem abnormal. It was raw meat after all. There was still some of that smell though, especially in the legs. I was worried about it being raw, but it supposedly hit the done temp. It was real juicy.

    I simply couldn't eat the legs. Too much of that taste. (I know I probably shouldn't have). I tried some of the breast and some of it had the taste, but some of it tasted perfectly cooked.

    I'm assuming here that 2.5hrs at between 300*-350* was not enough time and that the bird was probably undercooked in spite of the temp reading. My question here is what should I do? I have a bird that's reading the right temp based on what I've been told is a quality thermometer, but the bird doesn't seem done itself. If I can throw it back on, how long and to what temp do you then go. I could let it rise much higher, but that temp is supposed to prevent drying out.

    I know that I was really shooting myself in the foot by doing my first smoke in the dark, for the first time, with one working probe, but I already had the meat and I wasn't sure if it'd keep for another week, so I thought it was better to go for it than throw out the meat. Any help would be appreciated. As I type this I'm fixing to leave work and head to walmart to pick up another turkey. Probably as close to 12lbs as I can get. I now have a maverick with two working probes and I'm buying the bird on a Monday to cook on Sat. I think I'll have plenty of time to thaw. This recipe I'm trying now also has a brine, which should help get rid of any residual ice.

    Thanks for all the help guys. I'm really lost here. I've got one more practice run before Thanksgiving and if it doesn't turn out well, I'm scrapping my Thanksgiving smoking plans. I don't want to give my family food poisoning. . . Well, most of them anyway. ;))
  2. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    One way to test a turkey for approx. doneness is to see if you can easily remove the legs and thighs. A fully cooked bird should come apart just by pulling on it. You should also have an instant read thermo as a back up. I use my Maverick to monitor it while it cooks but then check it with an instant read before pulling anything off to ensure that it is done.

    As for temp control. It is easier to start with less lit charcoal and open the intake to get the temp to rise than it is to start too hot and try to bring the fire down. Try starting with just one chimney and if it isn't rising enough on its own you can add small amounts of lit charcoal until it gets to the desired temp. 

    For defrosting a turkey, brining it helps a bunch with that. Air is a poor conductor of heat and takes a long time to thaw a bird. The water in a brine will thaw a bird in a matter of hours instead of days.

    Good luck with your next one. 
  3. bmaddox, thanks for the answer. I picked up a turkey from Walmart last night. Last month, the biggest on I could find was 9.8lbs. Now the smallest I can find was 15lbs. Most were in the 20lb+ range. So I bought it on a Monday. I'll let it defrost till Friday when I get home from work. Then I'll brine it till Saturday morning. I'll probably pull it out of the brine, pat it dry, season it, and chuck it on the smoker. If it turns out, I'll go pick up another one to repeat the procedure with on T-day.
  4. dukeburger

    dukeburger Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I think brining it while it defrosts is what bmaddox was getting at.

    I'd pull out of the freezer and put it right in the brine on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest for a Saturday morning smoke.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  5. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    I would try to brine it for up to 24 hours then let it hang out in the fridge overnight for the skin to dry out. 
  6. bmaddox and DukeBurger,

    I can certainly try to do that. However, the problem I ran into on my first turkey was that after 3 days defrosting in the fridge, the meat was fairly thawed, but the neck, giblets, and gravy pack were still too ice hard to remove. I had to remove them on Monday before I seasoned it and threw it on the grill. I don't think I should brine with all that in there and would be worried about busting the gravy pack and getting it all inside the cavity if I started chipping away at it.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  7. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    When you put it in the brine partially thawed, the water will get into the cavity and loosen it up. After a few hours in the brine you should be able to reach in and pull all the goodies out of the inside. 
  8. Alright, I'll give that a try. So just defrost till Thursday, brine till Friday and remove the innards after a couple of hours, then pull it out of the brine on Friday and let it sit in the fridge uncovered till I throw it on the smoker on Sat.
  9. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sounds to me like you had bad bird.  I've cooked many, many turkeys in my life in the oven, on the grill, and in the smoker and if there's one thing I've learned with any meat, not just turkey, "if it smells bad, throw it out."  It is rare but it happens. 
  10. That's probably good advice. The turkey, like I said, had a vague carcass smell. It was sort of like when you had to dissect an animal in high school, minus the formaldehyde smell. Just cold dead meat smell. I assumed this was normal. I don't really go around sniffing carcasses. I think the smell/taste was just undercooked meat. Sort of like how I like my steaks medium, but any less than that and it goes from tender and tasty to an awful metallic taste. There were actually parts of the breast that tasted great. I could be wrong since the legs tasted worst and they were 10* hotter than the breast. Who knows.

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