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Need turkey help

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

My last smoke session with friends and family was a huge hit im getting requests to see if i will smoke some turkeys for thanksgiving.  However i have no clue where to start on this and ive searched the archives but i get huge results.  I know they sell already brined turkeys and heard you can get some not brined at Costco.  Also i think i recall reading once that you need to temp several places and some people wrap the legs in foil??  All the help will be great!!

post #2 of 20

try experimenting with say a just a turkey breast and see how that works out..i did my first last week and it was amazing..


post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tirrin View Post

try experimenting with say a just a turkey breast and see how that works out..i did my first last week and it was amazing..


ok thanks for the idea, but did you brine, rub temp at 200 for done??  What type of brine was good??  Looking for a little info before i just go out and blow money on a piece of meat just to see what happens.  Wanting to make a game plan and go from there.

post #4 of 20

Smoked turkeys are great and not that complicated. Most will recommend no larger than a 12 pounder to get you out of the danger zone in time. A 'natural' turkey should not be brined by the processor although double check the label to be sure. Most frozen birds are enhanced with a solution to keep them moist. Here's a link to one I did back in Feb. and came out awesome. Even though it was frozen for some time it was delish and I went ahead & brined it again anyway using the Slaughterhouse brine method posted under the same heading. Believe my smoking temp was around 300-325 to crisp up the skin. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/103692/smoked-turkey-in-the-master-forge-gasser-w-qview 

post #5 of 20

i did brine mine for about 16 hours..it was only a 3lb breast you can buy at wally world for like 9 bucks..heres a link to the thread showing the finished breast http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/111544/first-pulled-pork-and-a-turkey-breast-w-qview-maybe-a-bear-view#post_693896..

the brine was

1 gallon of water

3/4 cup salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup garlic

1/8 cup onion powder

1 tbsp pepper

1-2 tsp. poultry seasoning


after brining it i seasoned it with a lil garlic, pepper, and seasoned salt..then onto the smoker at 225 for about 4-5 hours and it came out delicious


really tho there are plenty of threads here describing brines etc..some are very basic only using water and salt, whereas others are very rich using several ingredients..mine is pretty basic really..just play with it a little..and about the brining process..you add the ingredients to the water and bring it to a boil, then try and cool it off quickly using ice, getting it to about or under room temp, before adding the bird..how long you brine it is up to you..

post #6 of 20

I have done 2 turks i never brined them. I just use a injector with butter and garlic. I use a barrel style smoker which I fabricated to fit my propane turkey fryer. Then i get the temp up to 200-225 degrees for 16 hours.(25lb) turkey. I did this for a wake and it was a hit.  I used apple wood in the wood tray for about 2-3 hrs......... depending on how much wood flavoring you like the rest was steady temps. this turned out so moist and good my friends are always asking when i"m making the next one

post #7 of 20

here are the 2 breasts i have smoking right now..one on the right is preseasoned cajun style..the left brined and seasoned by me.. DSC02828.JPG

post #8 of 20
post #9 of 20

I've done a few bone in breast just for practice. I brine as well (overnight). but I must say this about the brine


          My Brine

    1 Gal. water

    1 cup kosher salt

    1 cup sugar

     fresh garlic to taste (6-7 cloves for me) chopped up

     onion chopped up

     2 bay leaves



    I heat up only about 3-4 cups of the water to boil with salt and sugar to dissolve them. Put ice in to cool it fast. add rest of the water to make it 1 gallon and the rest of my ingredients. then I'll add a lil more ice to cool ALL of it. They say you want your brine pre-cooled to less than 40` before putting any and all poultry in it so's to keep it out of the danger zone. (make the brine in the morning and put in fridge all day to pre-cool it) Put Breast in brine before going to bed. Take out in the morning and RINSE, RINSE, RINSE and RINSE again. Let sit for a half hour or so on a rack to drain excess water. Put your rub on it and back in fridge until ready to smoke.


   OHHH...  I also separate the skin from the breast just leaving a little still attached around the edges. I put my rub down inside right on the meat, not so much on the skin. hope you can decipher this. GL

post #10 of 20

As you can see there are a hundred different ways to smoke a turkey, just pick one & give it a try.


From my personal experience I think a brined turkey is moister.


post #11 of 20

First off I my apologies for a long post.


Honey Glazed 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 will take 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.

  • 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 but at the same time gives the cook a wider margin of error, ensuring a moist bird, in  my opinion anyway.
  • 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 (not Cooking Wine) or dry vermouth.
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

  • 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 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 smoker: 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 smoker is preheated, to 350°F, about an hour works for my smoker, 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.
  • Smoking: Let the temp creep down slowly until a temperature range of 240-250°F is achieved, this may take an hour or so to level off. Plan on 30 to 40 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.
  • Sanitize: Once everything is on the smoker, 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 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- 260°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.

 Spices used for the slather and Gravy

 Fresh Sage, smoked garlic, green onions, white onion, applesauce and various spices.  Bird ready to go, can half full with Killians and spices as pictured with a large sprig of fresh sage and smoked garlic.
 Cherry wood smoke.
Note the removed grate, the pan is sitting directly on the reverse flow plate.

 Foiled Wings, starting to get dark  Foiled breast when thigh reached 150°F
 Removed all foil at 155°F and brushed with honey Pulled when thigh reached 160°F  Rested, wrapped in foil and towels for 30 minutes and ready to carve.


post #12 of 20


Originally Posted by SQWIB View Post

First off I my apologies for a long post.


You're kidding, right???  You sir just MADE MY THANKSGIVING!!!!!  Along with all the other invaluable contributions on this thread from everyone.  (And it also saved everyone from having to read my endless "OK, but how do you...??" newbie questions into next week!!!)


Can we make this thread a sticky??  There's some great info here, and especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner (EEK!!).


I'm doing my first smoked bird this year with my new WSM.  I oven-roasted a fresh, home-brined bird last year (our first time hosting the big day) that EVERYONE in the family said was the best bird they'd ever had (if I do say so myself!), so I have to top last year somehow.  I was thinking I'll do a 15-pounder in the oven and a 10-pounder in the WSM as we have some fussy eaters, and (as I've been warned by my wife) they might not even TRY a smoked bird.  eek.gif  I know, right??


I plan on doing a test run in a few weeks.  This has inspired me!!  drool.gif


Edited by teebob2000 - 10/4/11 at 5:03pm
post #13 of 20

thanks for the excellent advice on smoking a turkey. am doing one this weekend for Thanksgiving ( Canada ). can anyone offer advice on injecting the turkey before smoking and if so what is the best ingrediants to use?

post #14 of 20


Originally Posted by woburn View Post

thanks for the excellent advice on smoking a turkey. am doing one this weekend for Thanksgiving ( Canada ). can anyone offer advice on injecting the turkey before smoking and if so what is the best ingrediants to use?


Previous turkeys I've done (in the oven) I've brined to great effect, it makes a tremendously tender bird. So I've not injected for years now (I realize that doesn't exactly answer your question.)  A friend of mine swears by injecting melted butter.  He says it coagulates as soon as it's inside the flesh because the bird's cold, and then slow-releases throughout the cooking process.  Years ago (before I knew better) I used a commercial product, the Cajun Injector system which I thought gave a very good flavoring, but it's probably maxed out on sodium.


I would google "turkey injection recipe" which you probably already did...


Edited by teebob2000 - 10/5/11 at 3:02pm
post #15 of 20
SQWIB - thanks for the "how to" on the turkey with apple gravy.
On the list to do next time
post #16 of 20

Just wanted to let you guys know the results may vary on different smokers, this was done on a Reverse flow using cherry wood

post #17 of 20

Thanks for the info SQWIB copied and pasted it for future turkey .


Good luck on your bird graphicman...

post #18 of 20

Here is a great brine that many of us have used many, many times with great results:




I find the best way to brine a big turkey is to buy the 5 gallon ziploc bags (usually in the storage containers section of big box stores), put your turkey in the bag, pour in enough brine to cover the turkey, and seal up the bag. Then put the bag in a big ice chest and dump a couple of bags of ice in and close it till the next day. Day of smoke pull the turkey out of brine, rinse it off, and pat it dry. I like to mix some sage and fresh rosamary into some butter and then rub that under and on the skin of the bird. Toss it into the smoker and wait for the best dang turkey you ever had!

post #19 of 20

Thanks so much for all of this info. Great to have all this info in one place. I can't wait to smoke my first turkey this thanksgiving.

post #20 of 20

Ya.. looks like you got lots of good help here.  I would study SQWIB's post.  He seems to have his "stuff" together.  I have smoked turkeys for several TGs now and they are always a big hit.  I would recommend the brine.  I would also do one before hand for practice. good luck!

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