Just posted in another thread about my turkey preparations (and you can see the awesome results over in the Poultry section). I had some questions relating to temperature in my UDS that I hope you can help with.
I am smoking a 14lb bird for Thanksgiving. My family is large and my grandparents' ovens are small, so we always do two 14lbers. I aim to please (and to have mine taste better than my sister's), so instead of winging it on Turkey Day, I did a test run last weekend. After looking around for a recipe, I settled on the Huffington Post The Ultimate Turkey (Google it since we're not supposed to post links). It turned out amazing, although next week I will probably halve the salt in the brine as it was a little salty for me, which means it will be way too salty for my family. One of the best parts was the gravy, which for those who don't care to look the recipe up involves a mirepoix, herbs, turkey parts and water on a rack underneath the turkey the entire time it cooks.
The smoke went great, I suspended another 22" grate on the bolts that attach the handles for the gravy. All's well that ends well, but getting the smoker to 300 took almost 2 hours, with every intake and exhaust wide open. Once there, the bird only took about 3 hours to cook, but that length of heating time has me a little concerned. I suspect that this is because I put the gravy on at the same time the lit basket went in to heat up, which then added basically a gallon of fridge-temp water directly underneath the cooking grate. That both diffused heat and made the grate take WAY longer to get to temp, since the coals had to boil that water first, and then work hard to heat beyond boiling (212*) to get to cooking temp. I was shooting to cook between 325 and 350, but got tired of waiting and threw it on there at around 300*. It spiked an hour in (all intakes still wide open), which I suspect was a result of most of the water boiling off. The other side effect was that I had to add water to the gravy once it was complete in order to have enough to dress the bird (especially if, like next week, it will be eaten by 20 people all at once and not savored over the week by me). LASTLY, the skin on the side of the bird that was face-down was significantly soggier than the other side, I suspect is a result of steam.
SO, having read all that, my question is: Is there anything I can do about this? Leaving the gravy out is not an option, it was incredible and smokey and really makes the meal. My only idea would be to heat the smoker without the gravy and then put it and the turkey on at the same time, but I'm concerned that doing so will make the temperature plummet without the ability to recover. I'd much rather wait around a while to get to temp than have the entire proposition ruined. Thoughts? Ideas?
And since you read all this way, here's something to look at: