Thanksgiving Turkey QVIEW

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by johngalt, Nov 25, 2014.

  1. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie

    My family asked me to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving this year. There will be around 50 of us at dinner and mine will be one of two birds. There will likely also be ham. My test run  didn't go as well as planned so I'm back to what has worked well before integrating a few new tricks I learned on here.

    Relevant Information:

    Equipment: GMG Daniel Boone Wifi

    Wood:  GMG Premium Fruitwood Blend (cherry, beech, and pecan)

    Meat:  27LB Natural turkey, raised in-state and frozen at the farm for shipping. Thawed in refrigerator.

    Dinner time: 13:00 Thursday


    Turkey is thawed. There is still some ice crystals inside, but the breasts, thighs, and legs are "squishy".

    Spatchcocking this turkey was A LOT OF WORK with my butcher knife. The meat around the backbone was thawed and easily cut, but the bones were larger than I've dealt with and there was ice clinging to the bones adhering the tissue to the bones. Took me about 30min to cut out the backbone. Put it into ziploc baggies so my mom can make gravy with it. Did this with the innards pouch and the neck and head as well.

    Decided that breaking the breastbone and cooking the flattened bird whole in my smoker would be too wide to fit, so I pulled out my Milwaukee M18 Sawzall and cut the bird in half fully (why didn't I do that with the backbone? Too lazy to go get my tool, I guess).

    While working on cutting the bird in half, I had a pot on the stove working on brine. I had cut onions and celery before starting. My initial brine consisted of the following:
    • 1 gallon water
    • 1 cup kosher salt
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 2 large sweet yellow onions (probably 4 cups diced)
    • 1.5 cup celery leaves and stalk diced (mostly leaves)
    • 1 tbsp Accent (MSG)
    • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
    • 1 tsp black peppercorns
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • .5 tsp cinnamon (saw someone here say they used that mostly for smell in the house LOL)
    • 6 bay leaves
    Since the bird was bigger than my last bird, and I knew it would barely fit in the bucket I'm using, I figured I didn't need as much brine. I half-expected to need to add more brine to fully top the meat, but my pot is only a 8-quart pot and I was worried I'd have difficulty doing more than a gallon at a time. I put the halved bird in the bucket (breasts to the inside - hoping for better absorption) and dumped in my now now cooled brine (cooled the last 40 degrees with 25ish icecubes).

    The turkey was mostly covered, but to brine the thighs and legs I would need more. Since I had to use ice to cool the brine (was getting late already) I figured I needed a higher salt-concentration in my top-off brine to compensate. Also figured I'd use ice to cool it from boiling to avoid sleep deprivation. My top-off brine consisted of:
    • 2 quarts water (1/2 gallon)
    • 1 cup salt (about 12% mixture pre-ice)
    • .5 tsp thyme
    • .5 tsp black peppercorns
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds
    • .5 tsp Accent
    I had already used all my onions and celery, and I figured they were already a very strong element in the first brine. I needed extra salt to compensate for all the ice used to cool it. After mixing in the top-off brine, I was satisfied with the coverage.

    Then into the fridge with the bucket! That wraps up Monday. Smoke starts early Thursday Morning. Next post will be tonight when I reposition the meat in hopes that there is fairly equal absorption throughout.

    I still have time to make some minor changes. Please PM me if you think I'm headed down the wrong track somehow. I'd appreciate the input.

    Game plan going forward:

    Tuesday night: reposition meat in bucket

    Wednesday night: remove from bucket, rinse and put in fridge to air-dry, haul smoker across town to grandpa's house

    Thursday morning: 7:00 start smoke and butter inside skin with butter-garlic-onion, 7:30 add bird at 150 degrees, 10:30 turn up to 200 degrees until breast meat is 130 degrees, 12:30? (whenever up to temp) turn up heat to 400 to brown skin and finish cook until breast meat is 150 degrees. Brush skin with butter every 10min until done.

    Thank you for reading. Suggestions welcome!

    My smoking profile planned:

  2. It should be good.


    Happy smoken.

  3. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'm here , [​IMG]
  4. rdknb

    rdknb Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Waiting to see how it turns out.  Bet it will be great 
  5. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    The IT seems a little low here is a chart

    Chicken & Turkey, Whole 165°F
    Poultry Parts 165°F
    Duck & Goose 165°F
    Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165°F

    This is the latest safe handling chart
  6. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie

    I have read all over the place that while the FDA recommends 165 for safety purposes, 150 provides a juicier meat and due the nature of proper smoking it should still be safe. This was my most convincing data:
    I also have noticed that since I finish out my turkey smoking at a high temperature (minimum 350), the meat near the outside of the bird continues to cook the meat inside for a while after I remove it from the smoker. Last bird I did was 170 in the breast meat when I pulled it, and was 180 before I cut it (I let my turkey rest 15min). It is possible that my digital probe thermometer on my smoker is different than my analog thermometer in the kitchen, but my explanation makes more sense.

    Anyone else have feedback on this?
  7. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie


    I swapped the meat around in the bucket after mixing the brine. Interestingly there was a distinct line on the skin along the waterline. The skin in the brine was bright white while the skin and meat above it was more pink. Makes sense since it was essentially air-dried where the rest had been brined. Everything looks perfect. Because of the size of the turkey, I'm going to give it another full day in the brine before air drying it.
  8. motown-n00b

    motown-n00b Fire Starter

    Don't mean to rain on the parade but you might want to consider a food grade bucket for future brining. Non-food grade buckets are made using some pretty nasty chemicals making it easier for the manufacturer to separate the plastic bucket from the mold. Also, with the low initial grill temp (150F) you may be in the danger zone (40F-140F) too long with the actual meat; especially if you're considering pulling at 150F IT. In my opinion that combination might be a recipe for disaster, or at least repeated trips to the restroom.

    I'm no expert, I've only done one whole turkey before. Most here recommend higher than normal smoker temps for poultry (275F-325F), not lower than normal. I had no issues going that route for the duration of the cook with my lone attempt. I brined for 18-20 hours, rubbed both sides of the skin with OO and seasonings, smoked at around 300F, pulled at IT of 170F, rested, and served. The meat was juicy, flavorful, and I got tons of compliments. The only think I'd do different is pop it into the oven on broil to crisp the skin a little more just prior to serving.

    I have a 12.5 lb. whole turkey in brine now that I plan to do the same way. Thinking of spatchcocking one next time. I hope it all works out for you.
  9. I'm pretty sure that bucket is food grade I know the ones I use I get from mernards are stamped with correct number and sign for food grade safe.
  10. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie

    Thanks Motown and Woodsplitter. I'm okay smoking it at a higher temp, I guess I'm trying too hard to get that smoke flavor. I've done 6 birds that way, and haven't had any "bathroom" problems; but they were all smaller, and I have too much stomach acid.

    As for the bucket, it's from home depot and prnot food-grade. I wasn't too worried on this one because my brine is basically just saltwater with onion and celery. I figured it would hold up to that. I cleaned it like crazy before using it (because I had previously used it as a rinse bucket for grout), hoping the hot water, dish soap and elbow grease would make it okay.  I am kind of a redneck when it comes to stuff like this, and may have made a poor choice of buckets.

    I really do plan to pull it before the breast meat is under 165, perhaps I'll start the smoke at 225 and get it up to 140 at that temp. No need to take extra risks.

    Thanks again for your suggestions!
  11. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie

    Oh! And I have an update! That's why I logged in tonight!


    Day 3: WEDNESDAY:

    I pulled the turkey from the brine, rinsed them thoroughly and put them on racks over cookie sheets in the fridge. See how the tops of the drumsticks are red? They were above the brine. I think it's interesting to see what a difference the brine makes on this kind of meat. I'll check the forum in 7 hours before starting smoke for any more suggestions. And post pictures before 9am MST. Wish me luck!
  12. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie



    New modified proflie. I didn't want to start it off at 225 degrees because my smoker will throw out some serious heat and I didn't want to bring it up so quickly. Not sure it matters, but I'm having fun, maybe too much:

    I hope the skin is dry enough. I dabbed a paper towel on it and it didn't really absorb much. I'm just going to see what happens. Hopefully the last section at 400 degrees will render the skin well enough.

    Next update will be whenever my phone alerts me that the profile has run its course. Thanks for your help!
  13. johngalt

    johngalt Newbie

    Lots of pictures. A little story.

    First part of the story, last night, I mixed up some compound butter with onions and garlic. BUT I LEFT IT HOME, so no butter for this bird! DOH!

    Not much to see when you're not supposed to open the lid. Today I'm thankful for wifi-enabled smokers that give me something to watch!

    The moment had finally arrived!

    The IT of the breast meat hit 160 right on time. I pulled it out and set it on the counter for 20 minutes. I started cutting it and discovered that while the skin had rendered enough to be cut-able, it was still too chewy to eat. The meat inside was beautifully pink, most and perfectly done. 

    My parents cooked a 20-pound turkey in a bake-bag in the oven as well (40+ people at our party), and even though their meat had beautiful skin on it (that was edible), it was dry, like most oven-roasted turkeys I've had. The smoked turkey was FAR more popular than the oven-roasted. Thankfully for me, I was too lazy to cut up both halves of the turkey at first, so the leftovers were almost all smoked turkey! YAY FOR ME

    My turkey in the foreground, my parents in the background. Despite the underwhelming presentation, the smoked turkey disappeared quickly.

    Notes to self (or anyone else who is taking notes):

    Remember to pat-dry the turkey after rinsing with paper towels before putting in fridge to dry. Allow more time on larger birds perhaps also.

    AND Don't forget your compound butter mixture, and if you do, just put butter under the skin. It should help to crisp the skin and improve flavor of the meat.

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