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Biggest turkey that is safe to smoke?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I seem to remember 16-18 lbs being the limit for smoking it whole and intact. And I think that's the way I'll go this year at Thanksgiving. (Damn, I'm ready for some dressing!)

I work in the meat department at a very small HEB grocer in Central TX, and we get a free turkey, any size, every year. Last year I got Birdzilla (don't remember the poundage, but this sucker was enormous). Split it with a saw at work, and smoked it.

The natural tendency of Toms (large turkeys) being tough, combined with the long cooking time, dried the breast meat out a little bit. So I'm thinking of not being such a glutton (just me, my wife and my 3 year old son... Mother's hubby works at another HEB and also gets a bird), and just getting a medium sized one and smoking it whole. And yes, I did use a brine last year.

On the other hand, sometimes I donate my free bird to the inlaws after smoking if it turns out a little dry. Good brownie points, lol.

But I like smoked turkey... love it in fact. And my in-laws have a HUGE Thanksgiving gathering. So if I donate a little, it won't even get noticed. I'll have to donate the whole dang thing to really be appreciated.

And my mom doesn't smoke turkey. Just roasts a huge one in the oven till the breasts are bone dry.

I'm thinking of Splatcocking a huge one, smoking it, and keeping it for myself. Eat smoked turkey sammies for a few days, and freeze the rest. Am I selfish?

Sorry, I'm rambling. Just had a few beers, and started looking forward to Thanksgiving.

post #2 of 13
The main concern with a large bird is getting it to 140° ASAP. That danger zone should be a first consideration. You can always back down the rack/grate temp after the bird hits that safe mark. Goos luck my friend.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Even if I smoke a 23 pounder again, I can't get it in my smoker whole, lol.
post #4 of 13
Get a nice 16 pounder, you won't have to worry about spatchcocking (unless you want to) and have a party over cherrywood or pecan!
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yep, I'm cool with that. I just have a hard time passing up a bird twice that big, even if I have to make mods... when it's free.

Mesquite is my wood of choice though for turkey. I think poultry's bland flavor lends itself well to the harsh mesquite smoke.

I actually use mesquite for everything, with it basicly being free around here. Just have to manage the amount of visable smoke coming from the pit, while keeping a good temp, which isn't real hard to do.
post #6 of 13
I will definatly be smoking a turkey to go along with my fried turkey this year. I'm limited to a smaller bird because it won't fit it my Gosm. I think I will use hickory also that should be good.
post #7 of 13
I have read 12 to 14 pounds is the biggest you want to try to smoke per Jeff.

Unless you spatchcock it.

post #8 of 13
Just a suggestion, but I've had great success deboning the turkey before cooking it. I then stuff it with a sausage meat/sage/onion stuffing & a lot of butter before sewing it back up with butcher's string. I like to roast it pretty low and slow - upping the heat at the end to crisp the skin - this is in the oven only though - not persuaded the folks to let me smoke it yet.

This bastes the breast meat constantly and you get a REALLY moist bird - first slice usually causes a tidal wave of juices across the counter-top icon_smile.gif. The other advantages are the legs and wings are pulled inside out into the bird, making it a rectangle - easy to carve & because the thigh has no bone to leak blood into the meat while cooking the thigh meat is nearly as white as the breast - which helps the fights over who gets the white meat, one long slice and you get both & even the fussiest of white meat only eaters eat both happily.

This could be the solution for smoking a bigger turkey as the drying out risk is gone - so you can take your time & get to the target temp without worrying.

I've got instructions for deboning poultry somewhere if you (or anyone else) want them.

PS - Make sure you explain to people that you DEboned the turkey - having your mother explain to the neighbours that 'Rod boned the turkey before cooking it' is a little embarrassing..... icon_redface.gif
post #9 of 13
I would like to see your DE-boning instructions . I was thinking of trying a turkucken this year. I usually deep fry a turkey. Another good option is to smoke an already smoked ham. Did this last year and it turned out great.
post #10 of 13
Last time I did a turkey I injected with a brine and rub mixture. Came out juice spitting moist. Better than mom's in the oven (though I wouldn't tell her that).
post #11 of 13
I've a scanned copy of a magazine article which I can send to you. I also found this guide - which does is slightly differently to me:
  • I don't remove the backbone, I slice along it & start cutting the meat away from there (this gives more skin for sewing up)
  • The article leaves the wing & drumstick - but after dislocating them I pull the whole leg (thigh & drumstick) & the upper wing (down to the 'elbow') through to the inside - this means a bit more work removing the sinews but gets more meat inside with the stuffing.
Sewing the bird back up is really easy if you use a large curved upholsterer's needle - but you need to grab it with a cloth to force it through the skin - otherwise it'll slip & impale your hand - guess how I know icon_rolleyes.gif.

PM me an email address & I'll hunt out the article which I learned from. Experimenting on a big chicken is a good idea to get the mechanics of the thing straight.
post #12 of 13
I have smoked as big as 26 lbs but cooked at 325 degrees so they (we did 30 of them at once) got past the 140 danger zone quickly....took 4 hrs total cooking time.
post #13 of 13
You can smoke any size turkey you want! If it can be done in an oven, you can do it in the pit. I smoke/roast turkeys at about the same temp you would roast one in the oven... at around 325°-350°. Turkey is so lean that there is no reason to do them low and slow plus poultry takes on smoke very quick. I prefer pecan wood as I think mesquite is a bit overpowering for poultry, JMO.

I usually stick to 12-14lb birds though. I already have orders for 30 smoked birds for T-day (along with 16 fried)... I can get 20 on my pit at a time so I'm hoping to get a few more orders!
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