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Do I have to brine my turkey?

tpc74

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So we have had a 27 lb turkey hanging out in the freezer for a bit. Decided to start thawing it out the other day, still not done thawing though. The question is, do I need to brine this bird before smoking it? Smoked plenty of chicken without issue, never anything this big though.

Also would it be better to cut into 2 halves and smoke that way? I'm not 100 percent sure it will fit on the old MES40 rack, so I might have to get creative.

Any ideas for rub or anything else would be great, and any guidance on how long it might take brined or unbrined would also be welcome.
 

DougE

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Many turkeys are already enhanced with salt solution, so brining may be optional, but you definitely want to spatchcock a bird that size.
 

tpc74

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Thank you guys, its a butterball of some sort. My issue with brining is having space to do so. I just wasn't sure if it is a necessary thing so that we don't get sick from eating it or something. Cutting it in half and placing a half on each rack would work, especially if I can't put the whole thing on there, but I don't want to dry it out either. I guess a temp probe on each breast would work, and I could use that to tell doneness?
 

DougE

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Brining is for added moisture, not a safety thing. If it's a Butterball, it's enhanced.
 

smokerjim

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You dont need to brine as mentioned just think of your smoker as a oven with smoke, most people dont brine turkeys on Thanksgiving . Would definitely cut in half though.
 

civilsmoker

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If you want to make sure its all done perfectly, then cutting into parts is the best way....IE breast, legs & thighs, and wings. If you want to brine it, this makes it very easy. My suggestion would be to brine the breasts and not the others. If smoked in parts then you can cook each part to the ideal IT temp!
 

tpc74

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If you want to make sure its all done perfectly, then cutting into parts is the best way....IE breast, legs & thighs, and wings. If you want to brine it, this makes it very easy. My suggestion would be to brine the breasts and not the others. If smoked in parts then you can cook each part to the ideal IT temp!
Never thought of that, great idea! Not sure exactly how I will tackle it yet, need to really have it in front of me, and it isn't right now . ;)
 

civilsmoker

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Never thought of that, great idea! Not sure exactly how I will tackle it yet, need to really have it in front of me, and it isn't right now . ;)
Here is an example of a smaller bird...this one has the legs and thighs separate, you can do this or leave them together.
birdparts.jpg

I do birds at 335 degrees and put the breast in 20 -30 mins before the smaller parts and then they all get done at the same time....... It can be a nice presentation and get each piece done perfectly.

To even out the cooking time you could debone the breast (2 pieces) and with them brined it will amp up the flavor and moisture level...... Good luck!

FYI, I did all my turkeys this way for many many years!
 

tpc74

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Here is an example of a smaller bird...this one has the legs and thighs separate, you can do this or leave them together.
View attachment 637379
I do birds at 335 degrees and put the breast in 20 -30 mins before the smaller parts and then they all get done at the same time....... It can be a nice presentation and get each piece done perfectly.

To even out the cooking time you could debone the breast (2 pieces) and with them brined it will amp up the flavor and moisture level...... Good luck!

FYI, I did all my turkeys this way for many many years!
My question now is if my MES 40 Gen 1 will go up that high. I feel like it maxes out at 285. Or I push it into the sun? Maybe if I take the water pan out for this, it will help?
 

civilsmoker

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My question now is if my MES 40 Gen 1 will go up that high. I feel like it maxes out at 285. Or I push it into the sun? Maybe if I take the water pan out for this, it will help?
I don't have any experience with a MES but I do gather from others, 335 is a little high for what it will do. It will turn out just fine if you are from 225 to 265. Just note that if you want crispy skin then pull it early and put it under the oven broiler to finish off. I do this all the time for legs and wings. I would still brine the breast or at least one side This will give you a different flavor across the board. At 225 I suspect the breast (boneless) will be around 3 hours or so....you are making me hungry!
 

tpc74

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I don't have any experience with a MES but I do gather from others, 335 is a little high for what it will do. It will turn out just fine if you are from 225 to 265. Just note that if you want crispy skin then pull it early and put it under the oven broiler to finish off. I do this all the time for legs and wings. I would still brine the breast or at least one side This will give you a different flavor across the board. At 225 I suspect the breast (boneless) will be around 3 hours or so....you are making me hungry!
Awesome, thank you for the help!
 

noboundaries

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"Enhanced" is a fancy way of saying "pre-brined." If I remember correctly, the Butterball label will say it is enhanced with a 12% solution of (Yada Yada Yada), which are all salt types. If you brine it like a natural bird you will end up with a bird that is too salty.

I have brined Butterballs, using only 1/2 cup salt in 2-3 gallons of water and ice. I add a tsp of curing salt to the brine. It doesn't cure the meat but gives a very slight hammy flavor that works really well with smoke. Whether you leave it whole or part it, the same formula works.

You can brine it in a small cooler that will hold the bird and liquid. 12 hours is plenty.
 

Brokenhandle

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Look forward to seeing pics! But nothing wrong with a couple hours of smoke in smoker and finish in oven at higher temps.

Ryan
 

gmc2003

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I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that it isn't safe to smoke a whole turkey of that size at lower temps. I believe the maximum size for safety was about 12 to 15 pounds. The way civilsmoker civilsmoker recommends looks like it would work the best for all three safety, presentation and taste. Good luck with however you choose and be sure to post up the cook.

Chris
 

tpc74

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Is that just based on temp? I’ll double check the bird tonight on weight and enhancement. I recant my butterball comment because I think it’s something else.

I feel like it will fit in the smoker whole. But we can’t you smoke the whole thing if it gets to temp properly?
 

civilsmoker

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A turkey north of 20 lbs would take 6 some hours or more to get over 140 IT....not a good thing for poultry. If you have ever seen how they are processed you can’t be sure they haven’t been pricked or “injected” so the internal meat isn’t considered sterile......
 

chopsaw

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A turkey north of 20 lbs would take 6 some hours or more to get over 140 IT.
Or maybe never in an MES . My opinion is parts of that bird will be under done .
I would part it out as suggested above . Smoke the breast by itself .
 

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