• Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

New To Smoking Need Advice on Smoking Turkey

KVFD 4286

Newbie
3
3
Joined Nov 24, 2020
Apologies in advance, I am very new to all of this.

So, this Thanksgiving I am smoking for the first time because I have access to a smoker for the first time. I have a 16lb turkey and a homemade propane tank smoker that I'm planning on using Mesquite wood in. My Situation is one I want advice on because I will be getting home from work around 0700, and the family wants the bird done by 1400 to 1600 So from starting the fire to pulling out the bird I will have between 7 to 9 hours.

The specific topics I am requesting advice on are as follows
  • What I will need for the fire and how much of it? ( I have dried Mesquite wood on hand )
    • Eg. Charcoal, how much mesquite I might need, and when to add it
  • How to start the fire and how long this might take before I can start cooking?
    • Are there certain ways the wood should be laid out in the firebox?
  • What time and temp I should aim for to make sure it is cooked through as well as not dry like chalk?
  • And other Information I just don't know to ask for.

The equipment I have that I think is relevant
  • Propane Tank Smoker ( Pretty important right?)
  • Turkey 16.5LB turkey ( Also Pretty important )
  • Instant read probe thermometer with 4 leads.
  • Turkey Pan
  • Foil
  • Brown butcher paper
  • Mesquite wood
  • Charcoal Chimney and Charcoal
  • Patience and alcohol
  • Ability to learn and know that I basically know nothing about this other than how to put the fire out. (I'm a Volunteer Firefighter)
I really appreciate any info yall can provide and look forward to learning from yall. I'll be up all night since i work nights, so if yall need more information from me i should be able to respond pretty quickly!
 

tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
4,931
1,981
Joined Dec 30, 2016
Hi there and welcome!

I'll let the stick burner guys talk you through the fire you need to produce smoke with your Mesquite wood. I run an electric and I burn mesquite pellets in the A-Maze-N Pellet Smoker tray so it is no fuss no muss and perfect smoke for me :)

Now, where I CAN help ya is with the smoker temp and your bird prep.

Smoker temp, you want 325F smoker temp or higher. Why? Because at 325F+ the turkey skin will behave and be edible and likely crispy as apposed to inedible leather!
Poultry skin cooked/smoked at temps lower produce leather skin that you can hardly bite through... it's a temp thing not a smoker or bird quality thing.

Now, for bird prep. If you can brine your bird for 24 hours if you can or as close as you can get to it. If you do not have any brine, I suggest you get an injectable marinade from the store (Tony Cachere's or Cajon Injector brands usually exist here in TX) and inject well in the breast and all over and skip the brine.

To bine you need a food save bucket or tub the turkey will fit into and can be covered with water.
The simplest brine is salt + water. The way to do your brine is to take your turkey weight and the weight of the water (a gallon weighs 8 pounds) and convert that total to ounces (pounds x 16 = ounces). Now with that number you want to add 2% salt to it so 0.02 x Total water and bird weight in ounces.
Dissolve the salt into the water and mix it well. If you have a meat injection needle draw some of the brine and inject all in the breast all over and into the thighs.

Why brine? So your bird does NOT dry out. I personally find brining to be better than injecting in both flavor and ability to NOT over salt, but injecting is comparable when you do it right.

If you brine you pull the bird out and season with all seasonings EXCEPT salt.
If you inject season the bird with all seasonings but go very light on the salt from the outside. The injectable marinades are salt heavy.

Some people may think Mesquite is too strong for a turkey but it is perfectly fine just dont over smoke. The smoke you want to create should be "Thin Blue Smoke" meaning its so thin that it looks blue-ish or is hard to see. Thick heavy white smoke is bad and with Mesquite it is REALLY bad.

I smoke until the temp deep in the breast is like 162F degrees and it carries up to 165F. Some people pull at 160F but I give it a couple more degrees in case my probe placement was not so great :)

So I should have helped you with everything except smoke management and wood burning.
Ask any questions you have and if brining get that bird preped and brined ASAP! If injecting u can inject right before you throw the turkey on :)

Again at 325F+ it will take between 3-4hrs to cook that whole bird, and dont fret if your temps spike up higher. As long as the turkey isn't burning you will be fine. :)
 

indaswamp

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
6,317
2,963
Joined Apr 27, 2017
Mesquite is a very strong smoking wood. Too much will over power the bird. I'd not recommend more than 2-3 chunks at the start of the cook, then either use oak, hickory or real charcoal to finish the cook.
7-9 hours is plenty of time. Is your propane tank smoker vertical or horizontal? Reason I ask is that you can speed the cook by spatchcocking the bird which is removing the backbone and then flattening the bird out on the grate. I would actually recommend this for a 16.5# bird for an even cook and to speed the cooking time.

tallbm has you covered on the cooking temps. and such....

Don't forget-you can have a pan of gravy with chef jimmyj chef jimmyj 's smokey Aus jus. I use chicken stock and simmer the backbone, neck, gibblets and wing tips in it for the gravy...
 

indaswamp

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
6,317
2,963
Joined Apr 27, 2017
And welcome to SMF! My cousin is a district captain at the local fire dept. and I cook there often. Actually have a beef rump roast seasoned up to hit the smokehouse tomorrow, then in a vac. bag to sous vide @128*F for about 20 hours. will serve that thanksgiving night for the guys at the station...
 

indaswamp

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
6,317
2,963
Joined Apr 27, 2017
How to start the fire and how long this might take before I can start cooking?
I'd start the fire with a little charcoal and some wood chunks. You can use your charcoal tower to get the coals hot, then put them in your smoker, add the wood chunks. Let the fire line out and the wood to burn down some. The fire will start off white as the moisture burns out of the wood and more creosote is made at the beginning of the burn. wait until you see the smoke thin, and let your smoker heat up, and the temps. to stabilize, then you can add your meat.
 

KVFD 4286

Newbie
3
3
Joined Nov 24, 2020
Thank you all for the advice so far! And especially for dealing with my word salad in my post. it really does mean a lot to me! I've been really interested in smoking for a while now but didn't know where to start, and was honestly kind of intimidated by asking stupid questions. but yall are being very kind and willing to offer up advice!! ill be writing this stuff down to reference while smoking this bird. Wish me luck! ill do my best to remember to update yall on how it turned out!
 

indaswamp

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
6,317
2,963
Joined Apr 27, 2017
I would recommend seasoning the bird night before and letting the skin dry out in the fridge before smoking. This will help the smoke stick and help the skin to crisp easier....
 

KVFD 4286

Newbie
3
3
Joined Nov 24, 2020
**********UPDATE**********
Just finished thawing the bird, placed in the brine about 10 minutes ago and now I'm gonna go sit down and read a book for a bit then check the brine temp to make sure the fridge can keep up with that thermal mass.

Will keep yall posted
 

Attachments

mike243

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
2,475
966
Joined Feb 25, 2018
I would smoke it for 2 hours then transfer it to a cooking bag and finish in the oven, I promise the results will be great, you wont have to worry about drying the bird out or over loading it with smoke. It wont take very long to get some good smoke flavor on the bird using mesquite but you sure can over load it if not careful. Hope every thing turns out great
 

TuckersBarbeque

Meat Mopper
SMF Premier Member
224
166
Joined Oct 29, 2020
I agree with most of what tallbm said. I'd cook it at 350, and definitely go easy on the mesquite. Mesquite has a bad habit of going from really good to making something taste like an ashtray or overpower the meat. Mesquite is typically paired with a fruit wood to mellow it out.

If this is your first bout with a turkey, and you've already got it in the wet brine, here are my two cents:
1. Be careful with how long you are brining. I don't know your salt mixture, but too much has the ability to begin to break down the proteins and your bird turns into the consistency of a soggy McD's chicken nugget. Keep it around 24 hours.
2. Make sure to pat the skin as dry as possible and add melted butter or olive oil (my preference). If you aren't spatchcocking, you will likely have a 3-3.5 hr cook without stuffing it. At 325-350, you are good to render the fat, but you want that process to start as early as possible. Don't baste.
3. After the first 2-3 hours, don't add any more wood. I'd recommend no more than 8-12 oz of it for the whole cook. In order to get the wispy blue smoke, the wood has to be burning off efficiently. Letting it sit there and smolder is how you get the thick white smoke...

Good luck man. Brave you are for your first turkey smoke for guests! There should be badges for that sort of thing.
 

zwiller

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
2,421
1,024
Joined Nov 16, 2016
I am rooting for you brother but first smoke, first bird, Thanksgiving? Brave might not be the best word for that. :emoji_laughing: As SMF duly authorized devil's advocate, pick up a ham for a safety margin at least. The guys have covered your questions. One thing I do not see mentioned and is a big one: "If you are looking, you ain't cooking". Resist all temptation to look and open the smoker as it really works against you. Rely on thermometer. Only thing I will add is hope you finish early and put into the pan, foil, and into oven on lowest setting. Or if wife using the oven, into a cooler with some towels and hold.
 

chef jimmyj

Epic Pitmaster
Staff member
Moderator
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Group Lead
20,389
4,843
Joined May 12, 2011
A shout out to my Swamp Brother in the Bayous! Thanks my friend for the recommendation!

Here is a Poultry version of Smokey Au Jus...JJ

Smokey Turkey Gravy/Au Jus

1- Lg Onion, diced
4-5 Carrots, diced
3-4 Ribs Celery, diced
3-4 Peeled Cloves of Garlic
Toss the Veg in a pan under the Turkey, and let the whole deal Smoke for one hour,

NEXT, add 4-6 Cups Chicken Broth,
1/2tsp Dry Thyme (4-5 sprigs Fresh)
1/2tsp Dry Sage (2 sprigs Fresh)
1-2 ea Bayleaf

Finish the Smoking process to the IT you want.

While the Turkey is resting, dump the pan juices, veggies and all into a 2-3Qt Sauce pot and bring the Jus to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 20-30 minutes. Strain out the veggies and let the Jus rest a minute or so for the Fat to rise. Skim off the bulk of the fat then using strips of paper towel laid on top of the Jus then quickly removed, take off the last little bit of fat.Bring the Jus back to a simmer. Serve hot.
For Gravy...Heat in a pan, 2T Flour and 2T Butter or Turkey Fat, for each Cup of defatted Jus. Whisk together over Medium Heat to make a Roux. Reduce heat to Low, and Cook for 5 minutes. Whisk the Roux into the simmering Jus, a couple of,Tablespoons at a time, bring back to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes to cook out the flour taste and fully thicken the Gravy. Adjust the seasoning with Salt and Pepper and serve.

The purpose of Smoking the Vegetable for 1 hour before adding the Broth and Herbs is...The Smoked vegetables Roast in the Dry heat concentrating their Flavors and Sweetness giving the finished Jus a Richer, Deeper, Full Flavor.

Serve the sliced Turkey with plenty of Gravy and Enjoy...JJ
 

Hot Threads

Top Bottom
  AdBlock Detected

We noticed that you're using an ad-blocker, which could block some critical website features. For the best possible site experience please take a moment to disable your AdBlocker.