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Smoking A Whole Turkey

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by 45freedom, Nov 18, 2010.

  1. 45freedom

    45freedom Newbie

    I wanted to try something new this year for Thanksgiving.  So, I decided to use my electric smoker and smoke a 12 lb turkey along with the usual 25 lb that my mom does in the oven.  I have been browsing the forums here and I have been trying to find good recipes/techniques for doing a whole bird.

    Here is a problem that I run into.  A lot of the store brand birds that they sell have sodium/preservatives added.  I read that you should not brine these birds because it will make them too salty...  Yet, a couple weeks ago I smoked a 12 lb Turkey as an experiment before Thanksgiving and I used the same type of turkey with the added sodium and preservatives.  It did not come out salty at all (but i didn't brine it).

    I used hickory wood and the smoky flavor was very strong.  I also used a rub with salts and brown sugar which basically turned the bird's skin black.  I smoked the bird in the electric smoker for about 6 hours and the final internal temp was about 178* when I pulled it off.  

    The meat had a smoky flavor but I wanted more other flavors!  I am thinking I definitely need to brine it and maybe not cook it as long.  The wings dried out a little as well.

    The big day is getting close and I need some expert help to produce a bird that just WOWS my entire family.

    Thanks all.

  2. solaryellow

    solaryellow Limited Mod Group Lead

    Tip's Slaughterhouse Brine is excellent. I believe it may even be a wiki.
  3. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I stared a thread a week ago about the whole should you brine or shouldn't you brine if its a preinjected at the factory bird and the over all consensus was to go ahead and brine it as you still get some added flavor/moisture. Here is my post if you want to read a bit as there are a lot of good answers in there.


    I also would suggest the Slaughterhouse Brine as I have used it several times and it always tastes good. If its a preinjected bird just lay off the salt on your brine and/or injection and or rub and you should be fine. I have always brined my preinjected birds and I have never had an issue with too much salt as long as you watch it. Unless I go get a farm fresh bird the only kind I can find around here is preinjected ones so I just roll with it. Good luck. I am doing 9 or 10 birds myself this weekend. I can't wait.
  4. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I never brine, but inject, which is something you can do to an already brined bird.
  5. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    I brine and inject and rub a little butter under and on top the skin then do the same w/ my rub.On top and under the skin and in the cavity.

     178° is a little high in my opinion but it's done.

     I do not use sugar in my rub for poultry.

    If you want to brine you can use half the salt  that the recipe calls for.

     I did a turkey breast last weekend and brined for 9 hrs w/ the half salt brine and it was fine.
  6. richoso1

    richoso1 Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the SMF. When you have a chance, introduce yourself and tell about your smoking equipment. It may help us when answering one of your questions. Now about the bird, removing it when the internal temp has reached 178°, may be pushing the envelope. That might account for any dryness on the bird. Usually 165°-170° is a good internal temp to remove the bird. At that point, you can tightly wrap in foil and put it in a cooler with some towels or a blanket inside. This will slightly bring up the temp, and let the juices redistribute. There are so many ways to do poultry, but it"s all good my friend.
  7. gary46992

    gary46992 Newbie

    iam wanting to do a whole turkey to now my question is the temp of 165 to 170 is that the leg or breast?   ty for your answer
  8. 45freedom

    45freedom Newbie

    Here is my equipment richoso1, it is a standard Brinkman charcoal smoker that has been converted into electric by adding the electric element.

  9. 45freedom

    45freedom Newbie

    Plain brinkman charcoal converted to electric.  I never knew you can take the turkey out that soon at that temp.  Is that when you are supposed to add glazes/spritz?

    Last edited: Nov 18, 2010
  10. Brandon,

    I have been smoking turkeys for a while, I always brine my bird and this is how i do it, i buy frozen birds and use a large cooler, add the bird water salt brown sugar and seasonall, close the cooler and allow it to thaw in the brine, as it thaws it seems to suck the brine into the meat, the next morning i wash the bird add a small amoun of rub and on the smoker it goes,i use a charchol smoker and add hickory chips that has been soaked in water, i add wood about 1/2 the cooking time, run the smoker at about 225, i pull the bird at about 170 and foil, it will contue cooking, also after about 3 to 4 hrs foil the wings and ends of the legs, our bird has never been salty, just dont over cook the bird, It is the best thing you ever ate, also keep the bird around 12 lbs. This year i am going to try Jeffs birning method using cranapple juce,  Good Luck

                                Happy Thanksgiving

  11. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Hmmmm, I usually pull my birds off the smoker between 160°-165° taken in the thickest part of the breast and thigh.

    Wrap in foil and rest for 30 -45 min b4 carving.
  12. 45freedom

    45freedom Newbie


    Thanks for the advice Quint.  For a 12# pre-injected bird, how long do I keep it in the brine?  Should I alter the brine at all or remove some salt from the recipe?  I am thinking about using the Slaughterhouse Recipe.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2010
  13. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    No matter how you decide to smoke a bird just remember the 40*-140* in 4 hour rule and have a few reliable therms to monitor the progress. This is very important folks. If it's not getting to temp don't be afraid to get the oven hot and finish it off, better safe than hugging porcelain.[​IMG]
  14. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member


    Welcome to SMF, Glad to have you with us.

    This is the place to learn, lots of good info and helpful friendly Members.

    For those of you new to Smoking, be sure to check out Jeff's 5 Day Smoking Basics eCourse.

    Click Here it's "FREE" ... 5 Day eCourseE
  15. jwh

    jwh Newbie


    Last two years I have smoked 4 / 7.5lb breasts.  I brine in salt sugar water and Apple cider.  Put a light rub poultry rub on them and smoke with hickory and apple wood.  Typically let the breasts get up to 165 and then take them off cover and rest.  I live in the northeast so i find that it is quicker with the smaller breasts and easier because of the cold weather that can happen in late Nov.  Either way I end up with about 30lbs of smoked breast meat so i get NO COMPLAINTS.  Iaaan fact the first year i did smoked breast and a roasted turkey and have been asked to only do Smoked going forward everyone LOVES it.

    just an Idea on the breast only but I find it works very well.

    Good luck
  16. coacher72

    coacher72 Smoking Fanatic

    I brine store bought turkeys and have not had a problem with them being too salty. It is, as someone mentioned earlier of getting some extra flavor in the Turkey. I won't do it any other way.
  17. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    First off Welcome Brandon to SMF. I recommand Tip's Slaughter House brine. I use it when I brine my poultry. You'll like it here for there are alot of really good folks here that would just love to help you with just about anything to do with smoking. Now there are alot of proven recipes for some amazing things here too. So if you need sign up for the E-Course it's free and it will give you the basics of smoking and some good methods to use also. So the next big thing for you to do is go out and get you something to smoke and if you happen to have any questions just post it here and we will be happy to answer them for you.

    Welcome To Your New Addiction
  18. deannc

    deannc Master of the Pit

    Welcome aboard!  Just done a practice run a couple weekends ago and brined over night in the fridge (approx 12 hours).  As other have recommended, I too highly recommend Tip's Slaughterhouse Brine   Didn't find the bird salty at all. As others mentioned, after 2 to 3 hours into the smoke cover the wing tips and ends of legs with some foil if they appear to be getting to dark.  I smoked with hickory at 250*.  The skin was a little rubbery but I'm probably going to crisp it up under the broiler for a few minutes on the next one.  

    Happy Smokin'!
  19. sgilbert2

    sgilbert2 Newbie

    I understand that after 2 hours the turkey will have absorbed all the delicate smoke flavor you want.  What do you think about smoking for 2 hours and then finish in the electric indoor oven, 1/2 the remaining time covered with foil and 1/2 the remaining time uncovered to re-crisp the skin?
  20. solaryellow

    solaryellow Limited Mod Group Lead

    I don't agree with the 2 hr part, but I don't see any reason why that wouldn't work.