Whole turkey cooked - still pink at the thigh

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by heygreene, Nov 12, 2011.

  1. heygreene

    heygreene Newbie

    Last weekend I smoked a 10lb turkey on my MES 30 with mesquite wood (much prefer hickory) and I just put it right on the top grate, as far away from the heat as possible.  I had the water pan almost completely full with a 1/2 water, 1/2 apple juice mix.  I preheated the MES to 275 and popped in the bird.  This thing climbed insanely fast.  Within an hour I was getting worried since the bird was at over 120 degrees already.  By an hour and a half, I was at 140 and had to turn the temp down to around 200 or so.  Finally the breast reached 165 at around the 3hr mark.  However, the spot in between the breast/thigh showed 159 .  I closed the door and let the breast go (regrettably) to around 175, just trying to get the thigh high enough.  It never got over 159 for some strange reason, so I pulled the bird, tented it with aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.  When I pulled it out the top part of the breast was dry, the bottom part of the breast near the bone was terrific and the leg/thigh area was not done enough... way too pink, with pink juices. 

    Why would the temps climb so fast?  Should I have done 225 instead of 275?  I don't really care about a crispy skin... I care more about a moist/completely done bird all over.

    I've heard about people putting foil over the breasts/wings if they are getting too done too quickly.  Is this an option?

    Next up is a beer-butt turkey... I've had good success with 5lb chickens doing them beer butt style, so I figured I'd give this a try as a way to get the bird to cook more evenly.

    Any help is appreciated!
  2. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Whole birds are tough.  You are cooking two different cuts at once and worrying about the skin in the process.

    I am not a turkey fan, but even with yard birds, I like the thigh at about 175.  Doing that without over cooking the breast is tricky.

    Stick with it.  You will get that perfect combo!

    Good luck and good smoking.
  3. jc1947

    jc1947 Smoking Fanatic

    I spatchcocked and brined my turkey and it came out done and moist.

  4. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Try not to monitor the temps with birds. I really think that poultry is either done or not done. Experience will be your best friend, but unfortunately we don't smoke turkeys every day. Take this to your advantage. The thigh joint is the secret. You need to get clear fluid running out of it in order to be sure that the meat surrounding the biggest joint is at proper temp. 

    Next tip is to brine. Brining does some almost magical thing to poultry. I have done turks smoked and baked, with and without brine, and I can tell you I'll never do another turk without brining (unless to feed to my inlaws). Turkey has an incredible amount of surface area, mostly breast, that's exposed to the hot air. Brining will significantly reduce the amount of moisture loss from the meat while it cooks. it has alot to do wit swapping salts for water and sugars and such, but that's another discussion.

    Another technique is to smoke/bake it upside-down. Let all that fat on the back render out and roll down under the skin. This is the best way to baste the upper thighs and breast.
  5. smokinal

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

    Sounds like Pete has you covered.
  6. heygreene

    heygreene Newbie

    Thanks everybody... I forgot to mention that I ended up using the Slaughterhouse brine on this bird (first time brining).  Down near the bone on the breast where I didn't overcook the meat, it was KILLER.  Very tender and moist.  A couple of more questions...

    Any idea why the temperature in the bird came up so quickly?  I was blown away that the breast would rise up to over 120 in an hour at 275 degrees, when my wife cooks turkeys in the over at 325 in the oven it takes 3-4 hours to get done. 

    What are the thoughts on aluminum foiling the breast?  Is there really any benefit?

    I like Pit4Brains' comment about cooking it upside down, but my fear would be with the MES most of the heat is coming from the bottom burner, so if I cook it breast-down I'd assume the breast would get done even quicker.
  7. I personally have never brined a Turkey. I always inject mine with either a mix of Butter and Garlic

    or I use Tony Chachere's Cajun injecting mix. I have never had a problem with cooking too fast or 

    as for that, getting over done, or under done. It's just a thought, and most of my Turkeys have been 

    around 12 to 14 lbs.

    Happy Smokin'

  8. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011
  9. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011
  10. heygreene

    heygreene Newbie

    Thanks for all of the replies... great info!  I'll hopefully be smoking another turkey sometime after Thanksgiving and I'll make sure to post up a QVIEW!
  11. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Another trick I learned is to take a ziplock bag and fill it with ice cubes and let it set on the breast of the bird before it goes into the smoker. The theory is the ice will lower the temps on the breast so it doesn't get done long before the rest of the bird and end up getting all dried out. The breast is usually the first part of the bird to be done so by making it colder it takes longer to come up to temp and the whole bird will be done about the same time. That's the theory anyway. It works pretty well.

    One other thing is if you brine the bird and it has cure in the brine you will get a pink look to your meat in some area's. I just want to make sure you aren't confusing that will undercooked meat.
  12. raptor700

    raptor700 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Good luck my friend.

    I foil my wings from the start and loosely foil the breast when it gets the nice golden color you're looking for.

    I always probe the thigh joint,  never the breast.
  13. heygreene

    heygreene Newbie

    rbranstner, thanks for the info... I've got an ice pack from the chiropractor that's really just super cold gel in a bag.  You put it on you and it cools down to the bone QUICK!  Maybe I'll try that next time... wrapped in syran wrap or something.  And I've seen pink meat before down near the bone, but this was actually VERY pink and still had some pink juice around it.  It was definitely not appetizing looking.  Thanks for the tips!
  14. heygreene

    heygreene Newbie

    Good point Raptor... it seems if the thigh can get done, there's no way the breast won't be done by then.  I'm lucky enough to have 2 wireless probes... one by itself and one in the MES, so I carry 2 remotes around... one probe in the thigh and one in the breast, but I'll definintely start looking to foil the breast much sooner next time!

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