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Smoking An 18# Turkey

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I'm wondering if I really have to spatch-cock my turkey. I will be using lump charcoal and soaked wood chunks combination. I started brining yesterday in a spare refrigerator I have in the garage. I know to let it come to room temp before I smoke and to get the smoker good and hot first. I have a meat thermometer but I'm going to be hunting for a good digital one today somewhere that isn't going to gouge me $80. I'm hoping to start it at around 9am hoping that it will be done by say 4pm. I'll only be using the one rack. I put the coal pan on the bottom on a stone plate and the next rack up I have another large charcoal pan that I have filled with play sand to help keep the temps constant. Anyone see any issues with this setup? I got it on Craigslist for $25.


My other option is I have TWO ECB's that are modified and they stack one on top of the other. But I think that the box smoker release less smoke making it a little easier to control the temps.


So what do you all think? For sake of space and presentation, I'd rather not spatch-cock it but I wanted to ask ya'lls opinion.


Thanks and a most Safe and Happy Thanksgiving to all my smokin' brothers and sisters out there!


This is the one I'm thinking is best to use.


This is the modified ECB piggyback


post #2 of 19
I am by no means an expert but I have a few thoughts. Either cooker will work. I would suggest using whichever one you feel most comfortable holding a steady 350.

Your turkey is big but not huge. That being said Do Not warm your turkey on the counter. Get your smoker up to 350 and than pull your bird from the fridge. It will hear up faster in the smoker than on the counter. Must safer this way.

A final thought. With birds a little less smoke is good. Don't use the same amount you would for a pork butt or some folks may find it too smokey. Birds take smoke up quickly.

Good luck
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

All very good points. I think I'll go with the box-style Brinkmann. Thanks Doohop!


Now if I could just find a Maverick ET-732 at a retail store. I've been to Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, & Kohl's already this morning.

post #4 of 19

You're probably not going to find it at a big box retail store.  Around me, there are some "outdoor living" type stores that carry spas, pools, grills, and such, and they're usually a good source for that stuff.


If all else fails, Wal-mart usually has a cheap remote digital probe or two in what's left of their BBQ section.  Snag a couple of those, and you can put one temp probe through a potato or piece of wood to let it rest nicely on the grate, so you can use it as a smoker temp probe.

post #5 of 19

There are only three reasons I could see that anyone would NEED to spatchcock a turkey.


1. Bird is too big for the smoker

2. You need the reduced time

3. The bird is traveling for Thanksgiving. If you are worried about bacterial growth its is most common along the back where moisture becomes trapped.


Fireburners and wooden decks are not the optimum set up. I am just saying if something did happen it is a nice looking deck you have. I would look at putting something under it. But that's just me. I wear a belt and suspenders just in case too.


You might pull out the phonebook and look for a restaurant supply house locally, they might have a thermometer you could use. But at this time I am guessing a RF would be too much to ask for.


Good luck, and have a happy happy!

post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi Foamheart. Even though the bottom of the smoker is adequately elevated, I position my smoker where I want it at any given time I'm going to use it and then I place concrete paving stones under and around the smoker. We're renting this house and the pictures are deceiving. The deck is a piece of crap. I took one section of railing out so we could install a hot tub right next to the deck. We have the best landlord in the world. Truly a great guy and pretty much trusts us to not wreck the place. I'm almost 60 so we don't get too rambunctious. We always let him know ahead of time if we're going to do something like that and he's got no problem with us making improvements. I wished I could afford a new deck. Have you seen the price of lumber lately? It's outrageous!

post #7 of 19

I'd rather buy the wood than pay the carpenters! LOL


BTW yes, my house was originally built in 1882, that's not a misprint. Its all Cyprus. And every project costs like buying a new house! Putting new screen on the front porch, the screen alone was over 2 grand, copper.


I don't know what I was thinking..... never ever buy an old home!


Oh well, have a Happy Happy!

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Bird is still resting nicely in the fridge taking in the brine. At 18# I'm going to really have to get the smoke nice and hot before it goes in. I was thinking in at 9am and out by 5pm but I think that's a little premature. I may have to start at 7am. By the way, after I rinse the bird well, how long should I let it air-dry before putting it in the smoker.


I was go back to Kohl's and got a digital remote thermometer that is in Food Network packaging. It was $30 and with a discount, I got it for $25 with tax included. Guess I'll have to hope Santa brings me a nice Maverick for Christmas.


Guess I'm getting up early.....please let me know bout the drying time. Thanks!


By the way, temps are supposed to peak at 51F tomorrow. Guess I'm going to be going through 1 1/2 bags of lump charcoal.

post #9 of 19
I pat mine dry with paper towels then coat all the skin with vegetable oil and salt and pepper. I just put my 18lber in. I'm expecting 8-9 hours but giving myself some headroom. I need to leave my house by 10am for a 2 hour drive. The mes is holding between 275 and 300. I'm using pit masters choice in my Amnps.
post #10 of 19

DO NOT LET YOUR BIRD SIT OUT AND COME TO ROOM TEMP, that is just asking for trouble. The time it would sit on the counter would count for the 40-140 in 4 hours. 


If you have an ACE or a Westlake hardware near you they have a thermo  like the 732. It is labeled as a big green egg. I think it is a 732 repackaged. 


I have smoked 18+ pound birds whole. I add cure to my brine to give me a safety zone if I cant get from 40 - 140 in 4 hours. With that said if you can get your smoker  325 - 350 and hold it you will have no problem getting it done. Another bit of info/ advice for ya. Watch your temp if at 3.5 hours your not close to the 140 pull it and finish in oven. I always figure 30 min per pound as an estimate for smoking turkeys.   

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks Meddling. You drive safe out there and watch out for the other guy! Happy Thanksgiving to you!


Thank you also Sprky. Great on the oven temp if my smoker is stubborn today. Have a Happy Thanksgiving as well!

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

Ok, got a bit of a late start. It's 29 degrees with a windchill of 22 degrees so it took a bit longer to get hot. Charcoal alone wasn't cutting it so I put some wood blocks in and it took off after about 10 minutes. I only have the one probe so that went into the thigh, next to the bone. With the temps where they are I'm guessing I'm just going to have to keep it stoked because it's not going to get over 400 degees. I think I'll be doing good to get it stable at 350. Will post another update in a few.


9:00AM - I.T. = 80F

9:30AM - I.T.= 109F

10:00AM - I.T. = 125F

Edited by Bimmer - 11/28/13 at 8:01am
post #13 of 19
Mine was done way too early. I figured 25-30min per lb and it took about 18min/lb at 275-285. I've got it wrapped in towels in the cooler but IT temp is coming down slowly. Still 3 more hours to go so I will pop it in a 200 degree oven for a bit soon.
post #14 of 19
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

It's 11AM and my I.T. is 148. I'm really pleased with the progress. I'm expecting it to plateau at any time now until the next jump to completion. But hitting that first crucial safety point in 2 hours makes me feel as though I can relax now and just let it do it's thing.

post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 

Well I didn't watch it close enough and the I.T. shot up to 187F. The skin is mostly black. I hope it won't be too dry. It's been smoking for 3 hours. I immediately took it out and put it in a roasting pan with a lid and it's just sitting in the oven now, without turning the oven on.

post #17 of 19

I have never really figured out why people think it will take 8 hours to smoke a turkey. If I put it in my oven at 325 deg it should only take me 3.5 hours to roast an 18lb bird. So if its on my pit at 300 deg it should only take 4 hours at max... Sorry I didnt see your post sooner...  Also use very little mellow wood like pecan the bird absorbs a huge amount of smoke... Have a GREAT Thanksgiving everyone.

post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks Tribe! I used a combination of pecan and apple. If it's done then I'm going to leave it in the oven until the pies have to go it. I heated the oven a little while ago but only to 175.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well!

post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 

Okay, after cutting deep into the thigh/leg joint, the meat wasn't quite done so I removed the thighs and wings and put the bird in the oven to finish. It turned out great! My wife kept the meat in the oven thinking that since it was smoked that it didn't require refrigeration. It was fine through Saturday but yesterday some of the meat had a slight odor to it and we had to pitch the rest of it. Lessen learned. Even though the meat is smoked, it has to be either refrigerated or frozen.

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