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Smoked Turkey Disappointment

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by rokems, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. rokems

    rokems Newbie

    I smoked my first turkey today, and I'm a little disappointed with the results.  I came out moist and tender, but there's just not much smoke flavor at all.  It's almost unnoticeable. 

    I know I did a few things wrong, but I'm not sure if that's what caused the lack of smoke flavor.  So, here's the details:

    I took the turkey (12 lb) out of the freezer yesterday morning.  In the evening, I made the Slaughterhouse brine.  I put the turkey in and put it in the fridge.

    This morning, the turkey was still pretty frozen, but from what I read, it's not a big deal.  I'm assuming that not much of the brine was absorbed though.

    I put a light layer of mayo on the bird and added a dry rub.

    I preheated my MES to 275, knowing that putting a large, frozen turkey in it would make it a good bit cooler.  I was planning to smoke at around 250, and for a good portion of the time, that's about where it was.  Toward the end of the smoke, it finally got up 275, which I was hoping would crisp up the skin (it did). 

    I used the AMNS with about 3/4 cherry and 1/4 hickory.  When I checked the smoker for the first time (about 3 hours in), all the dust had already been burned.  So I refilled it and started it up again.  When the bird was at 165, I pulled it out and checked the AMNS.  It was half-way burned diagonally through the maze, rather than following the proper path through it.  So I'm thinking that the same thing may have happened earlier, which would could have left the bird without smoke for a while. 

    So what do you guys think?  Would possible couple hour period without smoke make a noticeable difference?  Does it have something to do with the fact that the bird was frozen?

    Also, how can I keep my AMNS from burning improperly?  When it was burned out the first time I checked it, I thought it was too soon and wondered if the burn had bled through to an adjacent pathway.  So when I loaded it up the second time, I made sure I definitely kept the dust below the top edge. 

    Also, I should note that it was pretty windy out, so maybe that caused the dust to burn hot enough to bleed over?  I don't know, that's just a guess.

    Thanks in advance.


    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  2. bbally

    bbally Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    First,a frozen turkey will not brine.... ever!  A frozen turkey will not take smoke.. ever!

    The process is osmosis, frozen prevents osmosis.... period... it's physics.

    Most acceptable level for acceptance of salt exchange is 33 F to 55 F.

    Most acceptable level for smoke acceptance is 64 F to 130 F.

    You can enhance this in both depth and intensity with the use of papain.

    Second, once a meat gets above about the 135 F mark it has a hard time absorbing smoke, the protien tightens up and the fats start to secrete (render) meaning they are moving out of the proteing not into the protein.  As things heat they expand...... expanding stuff in a conined space must move out to an area of lower pressure.  Or if contained tightly enough build pressure and explode (egg in microwave).

    Third, when using the AMNS it is imparitive that the saw dust not be packed in so tightly it fills the gaps between the paths.  This will cause the embers to jump the track and start smolding across the grid.

    I will set mine up to jump when I need more smoke fast, but for a long and low you cannot pack the sawdust so it crosses the path seperator metal.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  3. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    bbally nailed it.  Got to defrost the turkey.  If you're in a hurry, place in a cold water bath changing the water every 1/2 hour at a half hour per pound (6 Hours with 12 water changes for your bird).  Then you can brine and smoke.  I just did a 12 lb. bird this week in about 3.5 hours or so at 250* until the breast meat hits 180*.  Perfect every time.

    Don't own an AMNS, so can't comment on that part.

    Don't give up!
  4. travcoman45

    travcoman45 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Need ta besure yer birds thawed fer ya start brinin.  A thawed bird will brine best between 34 an 38 degree's (my opinion) it will still brine at a cooler temp but the lower it gets the longer it takes.  Get over 40 an the meat will wan't ta spoil. 

    Also, never start smokin a frozen anythin.  It will simply take longer ta smoke cause it's gotta thaw out first then start cookin.

    Additional smoke can come from several ways, smoke at a lower temp so it takes longer ta get ta 140° (but remember, ya gotta get over 140° before them 4 hours be up) er use a heavier smoke (carefull ya don't get ta the point a makin creosote) er use heavier smoken woods IE: hickory er mesquite wood.

    Can't help ya with yer dodiddy, I ain't got one a them.

    Keep tryin an learnin, only way ta do it, sides, ya get ta eat the experiments!
  5. rokems

    rokems Newbie

    Thanks guys. 

    I knew the turkey wasn't going to take on much brine, but I've never cooked a turkey before in any fashion and didn't realize they take so long to thaw.  [​IMG]

    I did pack the AMNS somewhat, but wouldn't have thought it was too tight.  I guess I was wrong. 

    Thanks again.  I learned a few things today and still ended up with a pretty good turkey.  All in all, I'd say it was a good day. 

    I'm not giving up.  I'm already excited to try something else next weekend.  I just have to figure out what to make so I can do my research before I screw it up.
  6. bbally

    bbally Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    That is the spirit.... everyone here is willing to help you.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  7. rdknb

    rdknb Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I always give my turkey 3 days to thaw in the fridge
  8. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    What they all they say above, don't hurry it. The slower the better. [​IMG]
  9. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Now it goes to show you that there is a boat load of good advice coming out of this place. Now if you do everything that you were told you will soon have some of the best turkey that you hve had before now. Theses guys are that good.
  10. smokeamotive

    smokeamotive Smoking Fanatic

    Take what you learned on this one, apply it to the next one and you will be amazed. [​IMG]
  11. fourthwind

    fourthwind Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Can't really speak for the AMNS, but I am pretty good with the MES.  Not sure why your using the AMNS when your running that hot in the MES.  At that setting you can burn small chunks of wood that will give you good smoke content.  Like the other guys said, once the bird is above 135° to 140° it's done absorbing smoke flavor, so make sure there is smoke on the bird until then.  Better luck with the next one.  Once you get it right, you will love them.
  12. nozzleman

    nozzleman Smoking Fanatic

    As everyone said biggest problem is starting with a frozen bird, aside from that using all hickory or mostly hickory with a little cherry will give a stronger smoke taste. Not all wood creates the same level of smoky taste, hickory and mesquite are the 2 strongest, your fruit woods are milder.
  13. lilodessa

    lilodessa Newbie

    I smoked a 12# bird as well during Thanksgiving and everything turned out great brining it and smoking it- i was a little nervous when i saw the dark meat though because it was so red it looked like ham.  I was later told by my brother its normal- and he stated those smoked turkey legs at the fairs look the same way.  I know now what to expect
  14. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    You can check with Todd on this, but the AMNS is designed mostly for cold & warm smoking.

    I use mine for under 220˚. It works great at those temps.

    If I use it for higher temps, I just use the outer two rows. That way it can't jump.

    After 220, my MES works real good, so I usually just use that.

    That is why I never pulled the built in smoker box out of mine.

    Some other guys seem to use it for higher temps, but I figure, why do that when the MES works real good after 220˚.

    Like I said, Todd could tell you more, but that is what I do.

  15. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hey Jeff,

    When I'm around smoke all day, I get kinda immune to it, and the food I smoked just does not seem smokey enough.  Others say it's fine, and the next day I can taste the smoke much better.

    It's not that the AMSN burns improperly it was originally designed for "Cold Smoking", and we soon found out that it worked very well to supply smoke at the temps where the MES and other electric smokers have a tough time producing consistent smoke, or that 120° - 200° range.  You always have the use of the chip pan in a MES for higher temps.  The radiant heat from the element can make the AMSN speed up the burn process and that's probably what happened.  I spell this out in my instructions, and even say for temps over 200°, it may be necessary to keep the center row free of sawdust. 

    Placement is also critical.  I place mine in the water pan and place a foil pup tent over it.  The water pan shields it from the radiant heat and drafts thru the smoker.

    Also, if you light both ends when using high heat, the fire is attracted to fire, and the two want to meet in the middle.  I get enough smoke with lighting one end, but if you want 2 ends burning, it's important to keep the middle row empty.

    I smoked a 18# turkey for Thanksgiving for 4 hours in my MES.  Yes, My 6x8 AMNS burned faster, but did not jump rows.  Next time, you may want to try smoking at a lower temp and then increase the temps, or use chips at temps over 200°.

    You can always call me or PM me!!!

  16. rokems

    rokems Newbie

    Thanks a lot, everyone.  I really appreciate your help/input.

    The reason I used the AMNS was to avoid having to add chips all the time, as I was pretty busy throughout the day.  Not that it would have been a big deal to add chips every so often, I just thought I could avoid it. 

    Live and learn.