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My First Smoke.

brian foos

Joined Sep 11, 2016
Hello All, I'm going to be smoking my first piece of meat in my new "MasterBuilt 30" Electric Smoker". I've got several family members coming in for Thanksgiving and I'd like to smoke a turkey. I'm already getting tired of the jokes of "Regular or Menthol?" My question is what size turkey and what flavor of wood chips is best with poultry? Also do you also soak the chips in anything other then H2o??

Thanks for any & all you're help!!



Smoking Guru
Staff member
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Jan 4, 2014
Welcome to the board!

I'll try and answer a few questions for you.

How big of a bird? How many people are coming?
What flavor of chips? Pecan, hickory, oak, cherry, alder, etc... what do you and yours like?
Soaking chips isn't needed at all...

Brining the bird will help a LOT, but it isn't required....

I'm sure others will be in here soon to add more.

brian foos

Joined Sep 11, 2016
The bird is going to be a 16-20lbs. It will NOT be stuffed. I will have 5 family member's coming for sure. I only have one recipe for a brine (It's made to soak over night). I have no rub to speak of (Not sure what to use or even if I should?)  I'm going to be using "Apple" wood chips only cause I liked the way my chicken came out. Although it was a little dry even though I did brine it? I smoked the chicken what someone else had recommended at 225 for 4 1/2 hours. My meat thermometer had the chicken done inside 2hrs being a 5 1/2lbs bird, also had it breast side down.

This is why I'm in need of help! I've got Thanksgiving at my house and everybody wants smoked Turkey. Me being a very, very novice at this, and my first practice smoke turned out dry, I would like the advice of an expert like you "CrankyBuzzard" to guide me through troubled "Smoky Waters". Thank you for responding to my request for help!! I was beginning to think no one would see my cry's for help??

Thank you for seeing my cry for help!!

smokin kat

Fire Starter
Joined Oct 5, 2016
Good job doing some test runs before having family over, that's always a smart move. 

You said your recipe called for 225° for 4 1/2 hours, but your thermometer showed the chicken was done inside 2 hours--  did you leave it on the smoker for another 2 1/2 hours after that?  

Either way, especially as you're learning, it's very important to cook by temperature, not by time.  Recipes will give a cooking time, but that's best used as a rough guide of what to expect so you can plan your day, rather than thinking of it as "the food won't be done until X amount of time has passed".  Your smoker might be running hotter or cooler than you expect, so the only solid way to tell if the food is done is to check the internal temperature.  

Having a good instant read thermometer to measure the internal temperature will A.) make sure the turkey is cooked to a safe serving temperature and not undercooked, and B.) make sure the turkey isn't OVERcooked either. 

Hope that helps a little! 


Joined Oct 14, 2016
Sorry for the delayed response. I have done about a dozen turkeys over the last few years or so. The best advice I can give you is make sure you have an accurate way to measure internal temp.

There is a lot of excellent advice in the Smoking meats (and other things) forum. Just enter smoking Turkey in the search.

I have brined and not brined. Personally I prefer not to brine. Seasoning and cooking to IT 160 deg will give you a juicy bird. I prefer to cook in the 250 to 275 range with breast up. This way the thighs get to a little higher temp. I found that if I can get closer to 170deg on the thigh with 165deg on breast it comes out great.

The 16 to 20 pound can take 8 to 12 hours to cook. Spatchcocking it can cut your time in half or better.

As for seasoning. A plain old SPOG will work just fine (salt,pepper,onion,garlic) however if you can work in a little rosemary, thyme and parsley it will be worth it.

Good luck and keep smoking. You may want to run a small test bird prior to the big day. Take good notes and


Master of the Pit
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Joined Aug 16, 2016
All good advise above so far!  There are SOOO many ways to go with a bird like that. Choice of seasonings, brine/not brine, inject, smoking wood,  foil (crutch), basting, use water pan or not... So many variables that are based on personal preferences, so much depends on your expectations of what you want out of it. You could go with a creole butter injection and Cajun seasoning, or an Italian herb butter would be my preference probably. I would brine it first; or better yet cure it even! You've got plenty of time to mix up a gallon Pop's wet cure!

Take the bird out to thaw in refrigerator WELL AHEAD OF TIME and remove EVERYTHING from inside the cavity as well as the breast cavity. Inject and soak with Pops Cure for 2-3 days in a bucket. Remove and smoke for time/temp above. You NEED an instant read meat thermometer! A remote digital one (such as a Maverick is highly recommended!)

Personally I like fruit woods (apple, cherry) or maybe Hickory for poultry. Pecan is also growing on me!


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Oct 17, 2016

There is no 'One' way as the correct way to smoke a turkey.
But there is a general consensus.

Have to have an accurate, quick read, digital thermometer to check the meat temp.
As stated always cook by the meat temp, not by a stated time as this is not an exact science.
An accurate grill temp thermometer is a plus,
You have to have a good idea of what temp you're cooking at.
Spend $50.-100. and buy a decent digital with dual probes, one for meat temp one for cooking temp.
If you have the money, a great Instant read meat thermometer is the Thermapen.

I'm another one that would cook at 250-275', prefer the higher temp.
I average 20-25 min per pound at these temps with a spatchcocked bird.

Spatchcocking (butterflying) will speed cooking and cook it more evenly.
I spatchcock all whole birds except Cornish Game Hens.

Applewood is great for birds, I also like Pecan & Cherry for birds.
I think it is possible to over smoke a bird and only use smoke for the first 1-1.5 hrs or 140'.

Brining is an option, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, generally it is a matter of if I have the time, ingredients and a bag.
Another option I like is a herb butter under the skin, like brining or injecting it helps keep the meat from drying out and imparts flavor.

Don't worry about a prepared Rub per se, just season it with what you have and like and start shaking it on.
I would get happy with salt, onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary and thyme.
If you want to some spiciness, a Cajun spice mix instead of the S,O,G it has those plus paprika, cayenne and some others.

Again, number one rule for delicious, tender and juicy meats... Cook to at least the proper minimum internal temp and/or target temp.


Joined Oct 14, 2016
I have to agree with ChileRelleno. Temperature is the key. I learned a lot of my cooking techniques from my Dad. He was a griller/camp cook type of person. The one thing I remember most is "looks may get you noticed but temperature will keep you out of the emergency room."

Poultry doesn't need a whole lot of smoke so go a little easy on it. After that it's just a matter of time and seasoning. Do what you like and others will also.

brian foos

Joined Sep 11, 2016
​Thank you all for your help and advice!! I can't tell you how much you all are saving my Butt. Now, my Mother has requested for me to smoke a Brisket, as well as a Pork Roast!?!? Good cripes!! I'm trying to tell her I'm still a very, very beginner. Oh well I guess there's only one way to learn is to just do it so, I'm going to do it all and see how it comes out? I'll be sure to add photo's after the carnage aftermath. So be sure to look for the photo's after Thanksgiving. Thanks again for everyone being so nice and educating me I'm sure to include all of you during my Thanksgiving prayer on what I'm thankful for... 


Meat Mopper
Joined Jul 16, 2013
Definitely cook by the internal temperature of the meat not time. I like to use apple wood for the smoke when I do poultry. I like brine but it's not set in stone. More so when I really just want to change it up. I really enjoy this brine,


I have been using it for a couple of years and always is a hit. Keep us updated and take your time.

Happy Smoking!!

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