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Going big for Thanksgiving - Tips please!

Torch&Tone

Fire Starter
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Joined Apr 9, 2019
Main points underlined

SMOKING:
Especially for turkey, I recommend dry-brining instead of wet. I find it keeps more of the flavor in the bird, where it belongs.
Since turkey doesn't have a lot of connective tissue to break down (unlike brisket or pork shoulder), you're mainly looking at a time/temp balance to get the smoke into the meat. Depending on size of bird and whether or not you spatchcock/butterfly it (taste and evenness versus a "traditional" presentation), I'd more or less max out your smoker in this case (250-275) until you hit your preferred internal temp(s). If your smoker has a temperature gradient, be sure to put the breast towards the cooler side and thighs to the hotter side, if possible. A friend once made an aluminum foil "vest" for his turkey so that he could finish the legs at a higher temperature in the oven without overcooking the breast or separating the parts but that seemed to me to be a lot of extra effort for not much gain.
Baking powder - about a tablespoon or so, mixed into the rub - helps the skin crisp up faster/better! Whether or not you try slipping butter under the skin, a bit of an oil rubdown on top of the skin will also help keep the skin from turning to leather (and it will also spread/adhere the rub to the bird, too).
Basting is a personal decision: I don't bother, for what it's worth, since the temperature is lower and the heat is less directional than in an oven.

DEEP-FRYING:
Do a depth test first! Put the bird into the deep fryer, fill with water (enough to cover the bird but still leave room below the lip of the pot), remove bird, note the depth of water on the side of the pot. When you put in the oil for cooking, Do. Not. Fill. Past. This. Line! A lot of the disasters happen when dropping in the bird makes the oil overflow... spilling right into the flame underneath (most of the rest happen because the bird was insufficiently defrosted and the extra water content froths the oil over the edge of the pot). Note: even if you do everything right, there may, and probably will, still be a little splashing/flare-up. Choose your wardrobe and prepare your cooksite accordingly. I admired one setup that involved a weighted-down ladder and a pulley for added safety (it also let the cook check the meat temperature with an instant-read by himself, besides lowering and raising the turkey from a distance).
Because extra moisture can lead to extra frothing, I'd use injections sparingly, if at all, with a deep-fried bird. If you wet-brine, be extra careful on drying the turkey before cooking. Another reason to dry-brine.
Oil to 350, bird to 145 (half-hour to forty-five minutes or so), rest about 15 minutes.


DSC_0035.jpg

Our group favored an... unorthodox... style of presentation that time. Works wonderfully for a more casual, less table-centric gathering.
 

PolishDeli

Meat Mopper
279
378
Joined Oct 9, 2018
We usually have 15 to 25 people over.
One 18 pound bird and a whole ham has always been enough.
The ham is cured for 2 to 3 weeks, and smoked the day before. Glazed and baked the day of.
The turkey is done on the rotisserie.
This keeps the oven available for pies, potatoes, casseroles, ...

Also, it helps to assign (or ask for volunteers) one side dish to each guest so that you don't get overwhelmed.
 

Texas Cookin'

Meat Mopper
248
184
Joined Jan 28, 2019
This is a great thread with a lot of great ideas. I am assuming that smoking one on a pellet grill is pretty straight forward? I planned on smoking one this year at about 300 degrees. I assumed I could treat it like a much bigger version of a whole chicken? Is this as straight forward as I am thinking?
 

JckDanls 07

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
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Joined Sep 10, 2011
This is a great thread with a lot of great ideas. I am assuming that smoking one on a pellet grill is pretty straight forward? I planned on smoking one this year at about 300 degrees. I assumed I could treat it like a much bigger version of a whole chicken? Is this as straight forward as I am thinking?

Same thing.. just takes a lil longer ...
 

pi guy

Meat Mopper
230
150
Joined Dec 28, 2013
I appreciate all the responses!! I'm taking notes from just about every one of them and should have a much better idea of what I'm doing now, thank you all.

I'll be doing a first run of just smoking now on Monday. I'm still on the fence about frying. I'm big on presentation, and I really don't like the way a deep fried turkey looks. I do want to try it for the flavor though, so maybe just for the immediate family another time when presentation isn't of concern. I'll keep you posted. Thanks again!
 

tallbm

Smoking Guru
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Joined Dec 30, 2016
This is a great thread with a lot of great ideas. I am assuming that smoking one on a pellet grill is pretty straight forward? I planned on smoking one this year at about 300 degrees. I assumed I could treat it like a much bigger version of a whole chicken? Is this as straight forward as I am thinking?
If you have a pellet tube I would rock that for the flavoring smoke and then put the pellet grill at 325F so you ensure edible skin. Pellet grills are a little bit funny in that higher heat = less smoke so having a pellet tube solves that problem and turkeys area less than 4 hour cook so a full tube pellets should do the job well :)
 

1MoreFord

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Jan 4, 2020
Once you have your bird cooked and it's time to get it on the table here's an excellent way to carve and present it.

 

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