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Smoking a 20-pound bird for an hour or two, then finishing in oven: Recipe for disaster?

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by enfuego, Nov 20, 2010.

  1. enfuego

    enfuego Newbie

    Hi guys. I'm hoping you can give me some quick  advice.

    I have a CharGriller and have smoked a few pork shoulders -- that's it. Anyway, my wife suddenly decided that she wanted me to smoke the Thanksgiving turkey this year. And she bought a 20-pounder without asking me. So I'm stuck with a big bird, no prior experience smoking a turkey, not to mention 25-degree temperatures outdoors next week.

    My question: Would there be any harm in me brining the bird for 24-48 hours, then smoking it for an hour or two with some 3-year-old cherry wood I have laying around, then just taking it inside and cooking  it in the oven? My thinking is that -- worst case scenario -- the turkey comes out just like it would if she'd done it in the oven in the first place, but it will also have some degree of smoky flavor. Whatever I can get into it in a couple of hours of fighting the temperatures outside and burning cherry chunks non-stop.

    My big concern is not messing up the bird on Thanksgiving. My in-laws are going  to be here. And I have serious doubts that I can maintain a temperature above 200 or so in my CharGriller for more than an hour or two with the outdoor temperatures so low.

    So basically, I'd be smoking it for a couple  of hours, then just going the oven route.


    Thanks, guys!
  2. I have no idea if that would work, but I am curious about that as well.  I have the same smoker and even with the temps like they are today, I am having a hard time keeping the temps up.  I have been told I will be smoking 2 12# birds for the dinner.  Not only in laws, but a total of about 30 people!  I don't want to mess things up....
  3. smokingnd

    smokingnd Smoke Blower

    I work with a guy who smokes his buzzards then finishes them in the oven, but I think he gets a higher temp than 100*, I think there may be some safety concerns with getting to 140* in 4 hours.  I have never done this before. 

  4. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    STOP! Back up and take a breath. LOL

      First you really only want to brine overnight. 12 hrs is plenty.

    Next: Yes you can smoke then bake , BUT, you need to make SURE that you stay inside the 40° to 140° in 4 hrs rule. have the smoker up to temp and smoking when you put the bird in and keep the tbs going

     A 25 lb bird is way to big to smoke and maintain the rule . Most recomend a 12 lb or under.

    Have the oven heated up and ready when you pull the bird off the smoker .

     ( I would not try this w/ that big of a bird because getting it from 40° to 140°

    in just the oven will be hard enough.)
  5. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    OK, I see some mis-reading judging by a few of the replies you've gotten, EnFuego.

    Everything else put aside, a 20lb bird @ 200* smoke temps is taking a huge chance. The less time it would spend in the smoker at that low of chamber temps, the better for safe eating. The less time it spends in the smoker, the less smoke flavor for your dining enjoyment. Even though you would not stuff the bird, a 20lb whole bird is going to hang below 140* for too long to be safe if smoked for a long enough period to make it worth your effort, IMHO.

    A couple options to consider:

    1) if you were to spatch-cock the bird, this would reduce the cross-sectional density, thereby allowing for faster cooking in the smoker and the oven (keep spatch-cocked on a smoker rack resting directly on top of drip pans in the oven). If you consider this option, be sure you have drip pans that will support the turkey on a rack...a 12" x 18" x 2" high baking pan should suffice, but may not catch all the drippings. If the 12" x 18" size were set inside a larger cookie sheet may work. With the air space inbetween the pan and the bird, I would increase the oven temp by at least 25*, to 375*, maybe higher depending on the the oven and elevation above sea level;

    2) make every attempt while you still have a few days time to do additional mods to your smoker to get those temps up in the 275-300* range so that you could get a longer smoke time before hitting the oven (I'd still suggest spatch-cocking the bird as well);

    3) Oven roast only, unstuffed;

    Hope you can come up with a workable plan. I have just short of a 20lb bird myself, but have my Smoke Vault 24 to smoke it in, and it can reach temps of over 450* in 30* ambient temps, so I'm not worried about my bird smoke. I will likely spatch-cock mine just for the added measure of assurance.

    Last edited: Nov 20, 2010
  6. richoso1

    richoso1 Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another great reply, thanks Eric. It's nice to know that some folks with a good smoking background are always willing to jump in and offer valued input. It's all good my friend.
  7. enfuego

    enfuego Newbie

    Thanks for the response, particularly Eric.

    I think I'm going to just have my wife do the 20-pounder in her oven and pass on smoking this bird.

    I'm going to pick up a 12-pounder to smoke myself sometime when outside temperatures aren't so frigid, when I also can learn a few things without the pressure of delivering a Thanksgiving meal for in-laws.
  8. rw willy

    rw willy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    You'll enjoy your holiday more with that option.  Nothing worse then feeling you've let family down.

     Spatchcocking is the way to go, personnally.  Like F.Lof S said.

     Somemore advice!  I have had great success removing the thigh/leg from the bird.  Put them in the smoker and cook the rest of the bird (white meat) in the oven.  You'll have a more managable bird in the oven, and some great smoked dark meat to sample.  That way you can sprinkle rub and try different stuff.  I've even bought more legs to smoke at the same time.

    Have a great Thanksgiving
  9. norrell6

    norrell6 Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Too bad you don't have a gas smoker. My wife says I'm crazy for having three smokers and a gas grill but I say that I can smoke in almost any weather. I like smoking chicken/turkey in the gas smoker cause you can get the heat higher and still get a decent smoke on them. Plus, if you have a gas grill, you already have gas for the smoker.
  10. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Im with Bob (eman) and Eric here and say that the best birds are about 10-12 lbs range.
  11. hey all, I have a similar situation as enfuego, my aunt wants me to to make a 18lb turkey for thanksgiving and I told her it's better to do a 12-14lb one instead if she wants me to smoke it but she won't budge on the weight. So if I started it in the smoker for 2 hours at 300degrees, and then I put it in the oven, what temp should I keep the oven at ? Would the oven be 300 as well? Also, how long would it take if I cooked it the entire time at 300? I read somewhere that it takes roughly 30-40 minute per pound when smoking at 235degrees but what would it be for cooking at 300? 
  12. Any chance you could talk her into letting you do 2 10-12 lb birds? That would make it simpler for you. I'm not sure what to tell you about the oven but someone should come along to help you out with that. Good luck with your cook!
  13. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    First off let me say some very sound advice has been given, already. With that said I have smoked 20+ pound birds for years. I have a master forge 2 door gasser. I do this 1 of 2 ways. 1 way is I smoke at higher temps 250+ closer to 275 if at all possible. The other option the one I use most often is to cure the turkey. I add 1oz pink salt per gal of brine. I also inject into the thickest parts. This does give the turkey a slight hammy taste. Here is a link to a post for curing a turkey. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/86405/pickling-a-turkey-with-pops-curing-brine

    I have played around some with starting off in the smoker and finishing in the oven. I find you don't get quite the same smoke flavor nor is it as moist. when I have done this I had the bird in the smoker for 3 hours temps ranged from 225 to 250, then into the oven at 350 till final temp of 165. 

    Here are a few tips on getting higher temps out of your smoker.

    1.rig a wind break around your smoker, wind will strip heat fast. 

    2. wrap your smoker in an old blanket. keep a close eye on it so it dont catch fire. I have seen guys use a water heater jacket.

    3. add a heat sink. I use the water pan filled with sand. this works GREAT. faster recover and much higher and steady temps. 

    4. preheat your smoker. when its cold and windy I will fire up the smoker and let it run 30- 45 min then add my meat and smoke. 
  14. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Duggy, I am a little late to the party but, If your smoker will go up to 300*F or 325*F even better, there is no difference then doing the Turkey, un-stuffed, in the oven and there will be no problems getting over 140*F IT in the recommended time. At 325*F the bird will take about 20 minutes a pound. At 275-300*F it will take about 30 minutes a pound...JJ