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Smoking a Turkey

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by dantana, Nov 25, 2013.

  1. dantana

    dantana Newbie

    I'm going to be smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving and I'm trying to get an idea on how long it will take. It's a 15 LB bird, which I learned recently, I should stick to smoking under 14 LBs but it's what I have. I've read everything from it taking 12 hours to 30 mins a LB, so I don't know what to follow. I'm using a Brinkman Gourmet Electric smoker, not top of the line but for $75, I have no complaints about it. I would expect it to take longer in my smoker than a more expensive one. I'm just trying to get an idea on how long it will take, so I know when to start. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  2. dougmays

    dougmays Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Dantana...how hot can you get and maintain your Brinkman? 

    For a bird that size you'll want to maintain at least a 275 degree smoker to get it up to temp safely. If you cannot get the smoker up that hot, one trick you can try with those smokers (i used to have one) is to put a foil liner in your water pan and fill it with playground sand. The sand will absorb heat and help maintain and increase smoker temps. I would give this a try before hand to test your temps if this is a route you'll be going.

    Once we know how hot you can get your smoker we can offer more help. But assuming you can get your smoker up to higher temps you should be able to finish that bird off in under 6 hours. My general rule of thumb (smoking between 275-325) is 4-6 hours depending on size of bird.
  3. dantana

    dantana Newbie

    Thanks for the reply. If memory serves me correctly, it stays around 245 to 250 degrees
  4. dougmays

    dougmays Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    that's a pretty low temp for a larger sized turkey. I used to have the same (or similar) brinkman and i did the sand technique and was able to do a turkey. The temp maintained around 275-280. I would try it out (soon) and see if that technique yields a higher temp. 

    At 245 you might not get the turkey up to temp in time (4 hours)...not to say you absolutely can't pull it off but i would try for the higher temp. 

    Or smoke it for a couple hours and then put in oven to finish off at a higher temp 
  5. Dutch

    Dutch Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    Dantana, if you spatchcock your turkey (removing the backbone and pressing the bird flat) you can get away with doing a larger bird. Spatching your bird removes the hollow cavity and brings the interior of the bird closer to the cooking surface.
  6. dantana

    dantana Newbie

    Thanks for the replies. With the sand tevhnique, I would just add sand and then the water as normal? Also, I found a smoker, it's a smokey hollow 30 in and on special at home depot for $169.00, I'm wondering if that would be able to handle smoking a turkey?
  7. dougmays

    dougmays Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    If you went with the sand technique you wouldnt use water. Water is generally used for longer smokes anyway to main temp and reintroduce moisture to the meat, but poultry cooks much quicker
  8. dantana

    dantana Newbie

    Hi Doug,

    I was just reading some more on this and it says that you do not want to smoke above 275 because you lose the smoke flavor but you're saying that I should smoke at that temperature or higher. It's saying that consistent temperature is key and it should be smoked at a minimum of 235 degrees. So, when you smoke it at a temperature of 275 to 280 are you sacrificing the smoke flavor?
  9. dougmays

    dougmays Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Whether your smoking at 225, 250 or 300 your still burning wood which produces smoke, which in turn penetrates the meat your cooking. So you are not sacrificing the essence of "smoking". I've smoked pork shoulders and beef briskets between 275-300 and gotten great smoke penetration.

    Now cooking at higher temps will yield quicker cook times so time-wise your meat will be in the smoke less then if your cooking low and slow...but poultry absorbs smoke much quicker then beef and pork because the meat is more lean and there is less fat and muscle to penetrate.

    I'm not saying you cannot cook your turkey in your smoker with the results you've previously stated but i would have a little concern about not getting the Turkey out of the danger zone in the allotted time at those lower temps.

    As Dutch also mentioned...if you spatchcock the turkey you "flatten" it and it requires less time to get to a safe internal temp...so you might want to read up on that method as well.
  10. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    You won't get as much smoke flavor at the higher temps but you will get the bird through the danger zone in the proper time according to USDA standards which with a bird over 12 lbs you may not be able to do smoking in the 225 range. A couple other things to keep in mind is that when doing poultry in the 225 degree range the skin comes out kind of like rubber not crispy like at the higher temps. Many feel that poultry doesn't need the low and slow like beef and pork to break down the tougher cuts.

    You could spatchcock it as Dutch mentioned or see what kind of temps you get doing what Doug mentioned or you could smoke it with a strong flavored wood for a couple hours then move it into a 350 degree oven to get above the temps needed for food safety standards.

    Personally I smoke poultry at 325-350 and no it doesn't have a lot of smoke flavor but we actually like the light fruity taste of apple wood on poultry. If I wanted a more pronounced smoke flavor I'd still smoke at the high temp but would use a stronger wood like maybe mesquite.

    Good luck with whatever method you use and don't forget the Qview
  11. dantana

    dantana Newbie

    Thanks for all the feedback. I think I'm going to splurge for a better smoker that allows me to regulate the temperature and can reach the higher temos. Thanks again