First Turkey smoke (and brine)

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by dallasblues, Nov 25, 2014.

  1. Hi folks!

    I've been charged with the duty of bringing the bird to this year's Thanksgiving dinner. I recently got a new smoker and have been rehearsing with several whole chickens. This has been good in that I've learned some of the nuances of my smoker and have learned from some mistakes. The last couple of chickens turned out great in fact!

    A turkey will be a new thing for me and I'm a bit nervous about it. The bird I bought is fresh, not frozen, and is about 12 pounds. I've never brined anything before but I hear it makes for a tasty dinner. I've seen a couple recipes here on this site and like the looks of the Slaughterhouse Brine. Is there any preparation beyond just mixing the ingredients? Do I need to bring the mixture to a boil or anything?

    My smoker has a hard time getting below 250 degrees but can hold there or above pretty well. I typically do chickens at 300 until internal temp is at 165. Can I do this turkey the same way? About how long can I expect this to smoke for a bird this size at 300?

    I'm sorry if these questions are dumb. I've searched this forum site, as well as others, and am a little overwhelmed by it all. I need things simplified like crazy for my little brain I'm afraid!

    Thanks
     
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Just mix brine and soak the bird overnight. If you can, pull the bird, dry it, and let it rest uncovered in the refer a second night to dry the skin. Otherwise place in front of a fan 1 hour before smoking to form a pellicle. You can get a great bird at 300-325° figuring 15-20 minutes a pound. This temp will give crispier skin than temps below 300...JJ
     
  3. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  4. Thanks for the info! I'll try to get some pics and post how things go. I'm equal parts nervous and excited. I've got a firm handle on smoking chicken. But since I've never smoked a bird this big, and never brined anything either, I just want to make sure I'm taking all the right steps. I plan on following your suggestion of soaking it tonight and then letting it rest uncovered tomorrow night to dry the skin. As of now, I'm leaning towards the slaughterhouse brine but would also be interested to hear other ideas.
     
  5. If you fallow JJ's recommendations you will have a tasty juice bird.

    Happy smoken.

    David
     
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I have been using this Brine 25 years. It has never let me down and is popular around here. The bird is never too salty and is made with the most common stuff in the average spice cabinet. I have several family members that request Roast Chicken over steak ans seafood when they come to visit...JJ

    Families Favorite Brine

    1/2C Kosher Salt

    2T Paprika

    2T Gran. Garlic

    2T Gran. Onion

    2T Dry Thyme

    2T Black Pepper

    1C Vinegar (Any)

    1-11/2Gal Cold Water to cover Chix

    1/2C Brown Sugar, Optional

    1T Red Pepper Flake Optional

    Mix well and Soak the Bird over night or up to 24 Hours.

    Remove the Chix, rinse if desired and pat dry with paper towels.

    Place in an open container in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours for the Skin to dry.

    This will give a crispier skin when Smokng or Roasting...
     
  7. hoffmaba

    hoffmaba Fire Starter

    I've also scoured the site for turkey tips. One major difference of opinion I've found (between people that are well-respected on here) is whether to smoke at a high high for crispy skin as well-respected ChefJJ suggested or whether to smoke at around 275, pull it early and finish in the oven for crispy skin (I want to say this is Smokin' Al's method). 

    I always do the second because the higher temp makes me a bit nervous. Also, I spatchcock the turkey, so at 300+ I worry that it'll cook too quickly to get enough smoke. Honestly, as long as you brine and make sure to pull the turkey around 160-165, it'll be delicious!   
     
  8. Thanks for the input guys!

    Last night I mixed up a batch of brine. Nothing elaborate.

    1/2 cup salt
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    2 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp Tony Cachere seasoning

    I let the bird soak in that over night then took it out this morning, patted it dry with a paper towel, and set it in the fridge uncovered before leaving for work this morning.

    All has gone well so far!

    I plan on putting the turkey in the smoker tonight at 300 degrees or so. I just haven't decided what time yet. Our gathering is at 1:00 tomorrow. I'd like to have it done completely and rested well before then. We could always warm it in the oven a bit before serving if necessary.

    Any tips for smoking over night?
     
  9. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Both 300+ and 225-275°F then finish at 425° in the oven works and I have recommended both methods here. The difference is based on time, bird size and oven availability. TG is usually one of those times that oven space is at a premium and therefore a one step hot smoke is usually the only choice. Large birds, 18-26 pounds are older and tougher so the low temp method, then oven finishing, is the better choice to tenderize that Birdzilla. Time wise, if I have nice weather and plenty of time, I will go low and slow for extra smoky goodness but there is no substitute for hot and fast  when you get a late start or other reasons, hungry family members, dictate you getting the bird on the table asap. Thanks for the kudo's Hoffmaba...[​IMG]...JJ
     
  10. hoffmaba

    hoffmaba Fire Starter

    I would NOT smoke it overnight because the whole thing will only take a few hours. For a 12lb bird, you could be talking about three hours.  I personally wouldn't feel comfortable walking away from turkey for even six hours. It's not like pork shoulder.  If you wanted to eat at 1, you'll start resting it at 12:30, and in the smoker at 8 to be sure you don't have people waiting at 1:00pm. 

    I'll see what the experts say, but I don't see a 12lb bird taking all that long.  
     
  11. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You'll LOVE the brained turkey. at temps above 250 the max time the turkey will take is around 6 hours. For reference I have an 18# bird in the smoker as I post this. my smoker is struggling to keep 225 due to 25+ MPH winds and the internal temp is at 151 in 5.5 hours.I usually brine mine for 3-5 days. I have found a brained turkey will cook faster as well. at the temp I'm smoking at I will not get crispy skin but that don't matter to us as we don't eat it anyways. Chef Jimmy gave you SOUND advise that is spot on, you cant go wrong following his advice. 
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2014
  12. Don't want to hijack this thread, please forgive me for asking a question but there are some highly respected smokers chiming in here.

    Do you foil your turkey after it reaches 165IT. Would it hurt to add say some apple juice to a pan, foil it, turn down the heat and let it sit in that steam bath for a couple hours? Thinking more tender? Maybe it is my 70 year old teeth (some of which are store bought) but I have not been able to get a turkey that compares to one roasted! Love the flavor and moistness, just not the chew!
     
  13. So I'm thinking I might rather just wake up really early to start the smoke rather than try it throughout the night. If I get things started around 4:30 or so, is it safe to assume that it could be ready to take out by 11-12:00? At 300 degrees that is?

    We're taking it to the in-laws' house across town. If we leave here with the bird by 12:30 we should be in good shape. I plan on putting it in a pan, covering it in foil, and putting it in a cooler for the transport.
     
  14. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    At smoker temps in the 300+ range the bird will only take about 30 minutes per pound, max, and you will reduce that by about 10 minutes per pound for every 25° jump.If you Spatchcock the bird you can cut cook time in half. So a 12 lb bird will only need 6 hours or less. All poultry is by nature tender muscle unless very old, over 1 year. Additionally, poultry has a lot less connective tissue than red meat. So short of a wild turkey or maybe a 26 lb monster, there is no need or benefit to long cooler rest periods. Foiling and resting destroys any crispy skin you worked to develope and in the case of Breast meat, the long rest with lots of insulation will cause the meat to overcook from carryover. If for whatever reason you need to hold the bird in a cooler, pull the bird out of the smoker when the Breast IT hit 155°F then carryover will finish the cooking.

    @Azbohunter...There is no reason  that you can't add juice as described. The time in the high humidity will definitely breakdown any connective tissue the smoke time may have missed. However, it can be taken too far. Think about a chicken simmered all day to make soup or stew. The breast meat will literally be falling apart into individual muscle fibers but that meat will has a distinctively dry mouth feel. Not that pleasant in my opinion. The reason this happens is the proteins in the meat can be cooked so far that they go from tender strands that hold moisture to tiny dry protein nuggets.That being said, the skin will not be crisp but that may not matter to  you and your's. In my house everybody fights for the best crispy skin off the breast. Gets dangerous!...JJ[​IMG]                                                                                                           
     
  15. JJ,

    Thanks for the great explanation.

    @Azbohunter...There is no reason  that you can't add juice as described. The time in the high humidity will definitely breakdown any connective tissue the smoke time may have missed. However, it can be taken too far. Think about a chicken simmered all day to make soup or stew. The breast meat will literally be falling apart into individual muscle fibers but that meat will has a distinctively dry mouth feel. Not that pleasant in my opinion. The reason this happens is the proteins in the meat can be cooked so far that they go from tender strands that hold moisture to tiny dry protein nuggets.That being said, the skin will not be crisp but that may not matter to  you and your's. In my house everybody fights for the best crispy skin off the breast. Gets dangerous!...JJ    

                     

    I was mainly talking legs when I had asked my question so maybe that would help with that part. I might have to try it next time. As I said, it was great flavor, very juicy but the tendons were stuck tight and there was no broken down meat in this instance.

    Thanks again..and sorry about jumping in your thread Dallasblues!                                                                              
     
  16. Wow! That was FAST! I

    I smoked this 13 lb turkey at 300 degrees. I was told to expect about 30 minutes per pound in the smoker. That would've put the cook time at roughly 6-7 hours. So, since we're having our gathering at 1:00, I thought I'd better get it in the smoker by 5:00 am just to be on the safe side. It wasn't necessary. After making sure the temp was stable I went inside and got in my easy chair. Of course I fell asleep, as I always do when in this chair. I was then woken by the probe thermometer alarm. This bird was done in 3 hours!!! I checked the temps all over the bird and was 160 in the breast and 167 in the thighs. So I took it in, put it in a pan, covered with with foil, and let it sit. The skin looks gorgeous! I just hope it's good on the inside. This is the part that drives me nuts about smoking... waiting to see how it turns out. I hope it's not over cooked. I hope even more that it's not undercooked. Naturally, I hope it tastes good too!

    When I researched turkey smoking on this site I came across some differing smoke times from folks. As said before, the prevailing expectation was 30 minutes per pound. However, I also read a few posts that said approximately 3 hours for a 12 pound turkey. That was more in line with my experience today. It's no biggie... as long as it gets done in time... and that it did. In fact, I have about 4 hours to spare. So my question is this... Why the big discrepancy? 3 hours? 6-7 hours? That's quite a big difference in times. I realize that temp plays a big part in that. But that's such a big swing in cook times.
     
  17. This was spot on! Next time I'll follow these instructions. Regardless, this bird looks and smells fantastic! I'll try to post some pics before I carve it up later.
     
  18. hoffmaba

    hoffmaba Fire Starter

    Good work!  Can't wait to see the pictures.  I'll post mine later as well.  Happy Thanksgiving :)
     
  19. Happy Thanksgiving to you too my friend! Please post yours too!

     
    heubrewer likes this.
  20. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Times posted are usually based on the max time it will take. These times tend to have a built in margin of error. The goal is to never be late to the table so the generous estimate will almost always guarantee the meat is on time or early. The time given, 30 min/lb is a worst case situation...The meat is really cold, smoker cycling or running lower than the set point or desired operating temp or some other unexpected situation arises. In any event, the times that are posted are just an " estimate " actual cook times will vary. It is not uncommon for 2 similar weight Butts to be done at very different times. I had two 8 pound pieces at 225. One went 1.5 hours per and the second was 2.25 hours per pound. Things happen, often with no obvious reason...JJ 
     

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