Second attempt at smoked turkey w/ Q-view - VERY disappointed...

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by scvinegarpepper, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. I'm about to give up on smoking a turkey. I consider myself a fairly accomplished cook. But I have never ever had so much trouble getting something the way I want it as I have with smoked turkey. This time I did about a 14# bird. Brined it overnight in the slaughterhouse brine. I am only posting this picture of the finished bird before slicing it...


    I smoked it in my H2O vertical smoker. I used Cowboy lump and hickory chunks. I kept the temp around 240 or 250 (can't get it any hotter in this unit) for about 5 or 6 hours.

    Before throwing it on the smoker, I brushed the bird all over with some melted butter and seasoned with Old Bay.

    I had hoped the butter would crisp the skin up a bit. It did NOT. In fact, the skin was extremely rubbery and tough. To the point where I pretty much just peeled all the skin off when I was carving it.

    The meat was juicy, but still not juicy enough and not flavorful enough. I think I need to brine longer. It was in the brine for a total of about 11 or 12 hours overnight.

    Here's something I don't understand. When I barbecue turkeys with my vinegar/pepper sauce, I cut the backbone out and lay it flat (spatchcock?). Then I cook it on my big gas pig cooker. When I do that I cook it around the same temp, 250, and I brush it with melted butter before cooking. The skin always comes out nice and crispy. Why didn't it work on the smoker? Does the smoke have something to do with it?

    I'm really getting frustrated and don't want to give up, but I'm running out of ideas. I did however have my old stand-by fried turkey which I pretty much have down to a science. So all was not lost...

  2. jojo22

    jojo22 Smoke Blower

    Can I give a few tips that I have found helpful??

    First of all I smoke turkey at about 230 degrees, so long as the center reaches 160 you are safe, drop the temp, and smoke for longer times.

    Every 50-60 minutes I baste my bird with a mixture of olive oil and butter

    I do not brine my birds and have never gotten a single complaint, however I do plan to try it soon, maybe you could try taking a step back and going more basic, might help to figure out where the issue is so you knwo what step of your process to tune.
  3. Great advice. I really appreciate it. I'll have to try that next time. What kind of mixture do you do of OO and butter? Is it pretty much 50/50? Your skin come out crisp? The problem with this smoker is temperature regulation. The lid has ZERO vents on it. So 240 or 250 is about the only temp I can cook at. Unless I open up the useless side door and vent some of the heat out. I need a newer more practical smoker, just can't afford it living on student loans as a poor law student.
  4. jojo22

    jojo22 Smoke Blower

    I usually fill a jar with a few scoops of butter out of a tub and fill to the top with olive oil, then nuke it, I just basicly use the olive oil to keep the butter from getting hard (as after it is mixed it will not harden unless VERY cold) no real measurement.

    My skins are not crispy, but are not rubbery either, they cut well and taste good. You may be able to get a crisp skin just by adding some heat at the end. As for your smoker, I would try opening that door.
  5. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Check the forums for ECB Mods. You should be able to create some vents in both the top and bottom for fairly cheap - prob. less than $20 or so. Having vents on the smoker for intake and exhaust are important, that controlls your temp, and keeps the smoke from getting stale.

    For crisp skin you will need to get your smoker up to at least 325° or so, if you can't do that try pre-heating your oven to 450°, toss the bird in for about 15-20 minutes to get the skin crisp, then put it on the smoker till you get to the internal temps. You will probably have to put a sheet of tinfoil over the breast to keep it from getting to dark, but it should come out good. Also a basic rule of thumb on brine is 1 hr. of brine time per lb. of meat.

    I used Tips Slaughterhouse brine myself and had my bird in for about 20 hrs., came out incredibly good.
  6. richc

    richc Fire Starter

    I don't think you're going to get crispy skin cooking at 250. I've done Turkey breasts at 300-330 in the smoker that end up juicy and with crispy skin. I also don't think there's an advantage to cooking poultry lower and slower. You're not trying to break down connective tissue like brisket or pork butt. If anything, a longer and slower cook will dry it out more, though brining will help prevent that. 

    I haven't done a whole bird in the smoker, but the juiciest and most tasty bird I've done in the oven was brined for 15 hours, patted dry, seasoning under the skin, cavity stuffed with aromatics like apple, onion, citrus and fresh herbs. It was then put in the oven at 500 for 30 minutes and then turned down to 350, breast covered with foil. It cooked until the breast got to 165 and the thigh was over 180. You could wring the juice out of the meat is was so juicy. 

    When I smoke chicken thighs at 250-300, the skin doesn't crisp up either. I have to throw them on the grill for 5 minutes to get that to happen because it's just not hot enough in the smoker. 
  7. shtrdave

    shtrdave Smoking Fanatic

    I also have never brined a bird, but have friends that will brine for 3 days before they fry them. I have made great tasting turkeys and chicken in my old Brinkman Barrel, the skin comes out dry but tasty, not rubbery, in my Cookshack it is not good skin. To much moisture and not a high enough temp as it only goes to 250. The water in the smoker I think definately adds moisture even though it is there for more for temp control. I have heard of people replacing the water in the pan with dry sand and covering with foils so the drippings have a place to go. I think you need more heat or dryer heat to get the crisp skin.

    It looked really good. Only you know the taste you were looking for.
  8. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The main component to crispy skin is heat either applied before or after a smoke if your smoker can not achieve 300+° for sustained periods of time. That being said in my opinion there is a benefit to low and slow on poultry - I used to cook all my poultry at high heat, did it all my life, then I tried it low and slow. I found the meat is melt in your mouth tender and incredibly juicy, my family and I like it that way so much that we don't care about pealing the skin off and tossing it to the dogs.

    If you have not tried it take some chicken leg quarters and either brine them overnight or put a dry rub on them and let them sit in a ziploc overnight. Then smoke them with your smoker running between 220-250°, and take the internal temp up to 170-180°. I know the internal temp sounds high, but it is amazing the differance in how tender the meat is - it is almost like the differance between a pork butt at 190° vs. 210°. Like I said after having the meat taste that darn good, I could care less about the skin other than to keep the meat moist during the cooking process.
  9. jojo22

    jojo22 Smoke Blower

    My thought on this "and I may very well be wrong" is that heating up the breast too quickly would cause to meat to "shrink" faster thus pushing out more juice without it having anywhere to go. If you go slower that juice has time to soak in and not just run off. Once again I could be wrong, just made sense to me.
  10. I think that decreasing your temp. to around 240 for most of the cook and then bumping it up during the last portion of your cook should help. I don't have any experience with your specific smoker this is just something I've implemented personally.  By adding venting modifications as others have suggested that's going to allow for the air flow to increase your temperatures. I might run it up to around the 300-325 range for the last portion. And, I wonder at that time if you lined the inside of your lid with tin foil shiny side out if the heat reflection would help out with the crisping a little. I'd be inclined to play with it a little that way anyway. 

    BTW my Dad has a turkey fryer and used to cook with it quite a bit. I've enjoyed eating deep fat fried turkeys and a variety of other things in it. I've wondered what it might be like to smoke a turkey in a smoker at lower temperatures then finish it off in the fryer what it might be like.
  11. bbally

    bbally Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The verticle holds in to much moisture for crisp skin IMO.

    Finish it in the oven or on the grill.

    If you insist on crisp skin from a vertical smoker, purchase an organic turkey which will have a thin skin.  Then finish it like your grilling for the last hour.

    Cut some holes in the top and bottom of that vertical and add some draft and damper control.  You have to let some moisture out to get crisp skin.  If you see water condensate in the lid when you open it, you are not removing enough water to crisp the skin.
  12. raptor700

    raptor700 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You have already gotten some good advice, but here's my 2¢. I think if you leave the water pan in place but don't put any water in it, That should help on getting the temps higher which would help crisp the skin! As Bbally mentioned, moisture is not your friend when trying to crisp the skin! I would encourage you to not give up, hang in there and keep asking any questions you have. Keep on smokin', it will only get better from here!
  13. Thanks so much. I never thought about leaving the water pan empty. I was never certain, but I thought the purpose of the water pan was to help maintain consistent heat. I could be completely wrong, never really known the purpose of the water pan. But it makes sense to leave it empty because it's just going to create steam, thus making it harder to get a crisp skin.
  14. ddigitalpimp

    ddigitalpimp Smoke Blower


    this is how i do chicken in my ECB.  no water = crisp skin.
  15. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Basically, you're grilling then.  I never brine, but unless you can get the heat up on the smoker, put it in an oven or gas grill. Of course skin is not suppose to be that good for you, so you could just chuck it. LOL
  16. @Flash- NO WAY can you chuck the skin. That is like sacrilegious or something. [​IMG]
  17. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No, boiling ribs is sacrilegious. [​IMG]

    But I understand what you are saying. Just looking at it as a healthier way to eat. Cholesterol and such, ya know.

    And I see you live in aren't an FS member are you?
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2010
  18. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Concentrate on cooking the meat to your liking then you can always do this.


  19. coffee_junkie

    coffee_junkie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    If you are not happy with the skin, take that puppy out of the smoker and toss it in your deep fryer for a little bit. You get the best of both worlds there. I was reading about this and sounds like you smoke to 145* then dip it in the oil until it reaches 160* takes about 11-14 minutes. I was going to try this but didn't want to get to many dishes to clean up, but sounds like you had the fryer going already.
  20. athabaskar

    athabaskar Smoking Fanatic

    Yep, as said before, a water smoker will never give you crispy poultry skin unless modded or subbing sand as a heat sink. I'm wondering if a crisping with a propane torch would work, kinda like crisping a creme brulee? Chefs???

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