Well... OK, here's the rest of the story. I wanted to wait until after I had dealt with the cooled turkey to pass judgment.
I'm not entirely satisfied. The white meat still seems dry. Perhaps the only way to defeat that is to inject the breast. I'm satisfied that I cooked the bird to the moment of perfection. None of the meat looked undercooked and yet the skeleton took quite a bit of effort to dismantle.
So, here's the process. Start with baby turkeys from the feed store. Raise them on turkey feed in a pen that can be moved around the yard so the birds get a good selection of weeds and bugs to eat. They can be left out occasionally as long as they don't range too far. When frightened, they will return as a flock to their pen. (This part my son did for us and now has a second batch that will be processed right before Thanksgiving. :D )
So I started with a 22 lb frozen sort of free range turkey. I took it out of the deep freeze and put it in a large picnic cooler in a chilly basement to start thawing. After three days, the surface was no longer frozen and I put the bird in a large turkey size roasting bag in a 5 gallon bucket. I then added about 2 gallons of brine more or less made using the Slaughterhouse recipe. (http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/for...3&postcount=12
) That's pictured above. I used the bag because it was food safe and I cold seal it and pack ice on it to keep the bird cold w/out diluting the brine.
I kept the bird in the brine for about 36 hours and then exchanged the brine for fresh water to desalt a bit. Further prep was to rinse and dry the bird and smear it with a rub made from
- Hungarian paprika
- a little cumin
To this mix I added enough peanut oil to make it soupy and then rubbed it in the body cavity and on the outside. (Actually, I applied the rub after trussing it.)
The next step is the part where I deviated from SOP. I didn't think the bird would fit on the rack in my (18.5") WSM so I contrived a way to support it. I figured that I could hang it under the top rack, leave the bottom rack and leave it protected from direct heat by the empty water bowl. (Due to the size of the bird, I did not think that a slow smoke would be a wise strategy.) So I tied several loops around the bird and then looped two two longer pieces end to end to be tied to the grate. I tied the bird to the grate tail up so that the body cavity could hold moisture. I figured that would help keep the meat moist.
This generally worked except for two things. I didn't get the string tight enough on the first try and the turkey sagged enough to touch the bowl. I tightened the strings and lifted it clear. However, later in the smoke, enough fat rendered into the bowl to touch the bird so that end of the bird more or less fried.
I used maple, hickory, black walnut and a little mesquite for smoke. I left all dampers wide open and after about 3 hours I added a couple handsful of briquettes and some more wood. Grate temperature ran about 350° for several hours and then started drooping a bit. By the time the bird hit 165° - about 4 1/2 hours in - the grate temp was down to about 300°.
I took the bird off, put it on a platter on the counter and tented with foil to let it rest. After resting, it had released about 1C of melted fat and about as much dark brown juice.
I cut some white meat and one leg and sampled. It was delicious, but like I said, the white meat still seemed a little dry. The dark meat was just fine. I put it in the unused turkey bag and iced it down. Today I dismantled it and packed the meat in those disposable containers. I tried to remove the breasts whole and then dipped them in melted turkey fat before packing. I hope the fat provides a seal to keep them from further drying in storage. I added the rest of the juices to the pot where I'm steaming the bones to make broth. Maybe I'll get a decent gravy to warm the white meat in.
So for the next one. I'll look into getting an injector to see if that helps. I might also think about another way to support the bird. The top grill isn't really high enough. What I need is something the shape of a pyramid that could take advantage of space under the dome. Maybe I can figure a way to support it on the bottom grate. Perhaps I can guy it to the supports for the upper grate with cotton string.
But, for my first attempt at a cook with something that big, I guess I should be happy with the results.
Thanks for following along. I hope you enjoyed the presentation.