Turkey Questions

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by travelbilly, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. travelbilly

    travelbilly Fire Starter

    I have a problem, thank you anybody for input.....

    My buddy knows a farmer that had some turkeys for sale. 45-50 pound birds! When I heard about it, it was while I was drinking, so I thought OH YA! And I flipped him a check. Once this thing had been to the butcher and back my pal called me and said that the bird was enormous, still 40# I haven't even seen this thing yet, I made him put it in HIS freezer, because I forgot, I had no freezer room! Did I mention Captain Morgan was sailing? 

    So I really know nothing about turkey here. It was supposedly grain fed until it couldn't get up and eat. So, how about some opinions? Did I buy a bird that's just old and tough? I wanna stick it in my cajun injector, will it fit? If I manage to get it in, will it take 24 hrs or so to smoke? Am I in over my head??? I can hear the narrator from the original Batman series asking these questions....

    I don't have a picture, my buddy is blind and can't take a picture. I don't even know how he got this thing into the basement freezer...
  2. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That's a big bird. Typically, for smoking, it's not recommended to go much over 14lbs or so, but that is with store-bought, injected birds. Well...let's see...unless your Cajun injector grates are something along the size of 28-30" wide and 20" or so deep, then, no, the bird won't fit laying on it's back. If you tied the bird up, then had a prop to set it on like for beer-can chickens, and your smoke chamber can accommodate the width of the bird, you could stand it up with the upper grates removed...but, that's one helluva lotta load on one grate, so you may have to stack 2 grates on each other to better support the weight and reduce grate sagging...possibly requiring that you fasten the grate frames together with mechanic's wire to keep them as strong as they can be without making more complicated and possibly permanent mods.

    Spatch-cocked turkey would definitely not fit, however, quartering the bird may be a good option...cooking time would be about 1/2 that of a whole bird.

    Just so you know, regarding the danger-zone temp/time rule normally recommended for birds (40-140*/4hrs), that is only recommended to follow with birds that are injected, such as most brands you find in the grocery stores or big-box outlets. Your bird was probably not injected with broth or marinade...you could ask the persona who butchered it just to be certain. That said, if it took 6 or 8 hours to get over 140*F internal temp, no harm done. BTW, I would recommend that you do not inject it with marinade, just to avoid the danger-zone temp/time rule.

    If it was finished on grain, it's a bulky bird, fattened-up...probably not so much it's age making it so heavy...not like a roasting hen (chicken) as those are truly a tough old bird. Roasters do benefit from low & slow cooking while others such as whole fryers do not...other than when smoking, low & slow allows for more time in the smoke, so more smoke flavor.

    So, I'm assuming this is going to be a turkey-day bird? It would make for an impressive feast if you can pull it off...be sure to invite plenty of hungry mouths, as it will feed 30+ with quite a bit of leftovers for sandwiches, casseroles, soups, etc.

    OK, since you say you don't know turkey, let me break-down some things you'll need to consider to prepare the bird (and yourself) for this adventure...

    -Thawing the bird: needs to be fridge-thawed...be sure you'll have the space.

    -Thaw time: for 40lb bird - minimum of 5 days, possibly 7 or more, depending on freezer temp and fridge temp...colder freezer (assuming a fully frozen and stable temperature of the bird) translates to more thermal energy to absorb for thawing (more time), cooler fridge translates to slower thermal energy transfer (more time). Keep fridge at normal temp so your other foods don't freeze, or, from adjusting temp too high, reach unsafe, warm temps. Larger thawing meats should be kept down lower in the fridge, if possible...this larger bird may not offer many options with most fridges, so do the best you can with what you have.

    -Thaw drip-pan: you'll need a large baking pan or similar (I doubt that you'll find roasting pans that big) to rest the bird in until ready for final prep. If you have a bus-bin or similar plastic bin/shallow tote it should fit that bird nicely.

    -Trim excess fat: the cavity may have some fat flaps, depending on how it was cut...from the sounds of this, you won't need the additional fat during cooking to keep the meat moist.

    -Giblets: assuming they are packed in the cavity, remove, and smoke on open grates for several hours, then move to a covered pan to steam...chop or process for gravy...be careful with the amount of liver used in the gravy as it can get a strong and somewhat off-putting flavor to gravies, but the heart, gizzard and neck-meat are great for adding to gravy, especially when when smoked.

    -Prep for the smoke: do you have a dry rub in mind? Have you considered whether you want a crisper skin, or does that matter to you? There are some tricks to crisp the skin, but the best overall method includes finishing the bird at high chamber temp (over 400*), which most electric smokers cannot achieve (that's one reason why I prefer propane smokers, btw). You can rub the bird with butter or olive or canola oil, etc, before applying your dry rub...the fats from butter/oil will aid in crisping the skin, but works best at higher cook chamber temps.

    -Brine: I didn't mention this at the beginning, as you would need a rather large container to hold the bird and solution, plus, commit the fridge space for a bird of this magnitude, so I think it would be best to focus on other methods for flavor enhancement...again, not involving an injected marinade. Yes, you can get a lot of bang from injected marinades, and somewhat less from injected brine, but then you have the danger-zone to deal with, which means higher-heat cooking to avoid possible food safety issues...so, I'd steer away from that. As for juiciness of the finished bird, I have found that monitoring for the finished internal temp is your best assurance in keeping the meat moist.

    Finished internal temperature: 165*F is the minimum recommended internal finished temp...I shoot for around 170* myself, otherwise you can see quite a bit more pink/red around the bones in the dark meat. Look at the bright side of this: you won't have one of those annoying pop-up thermometers stuck into the bird, that only tells you when it's 15-20* overcooked...LOL!!!

    Let us know if there's something you don't understand...there's more to add to this if, especially you want to delve into methods, such as for the gravy, which I found out last turkey-day, can really put the best finishing touches to a bird meal...I was elected by all our friends and family who attended to do the turkeys and gravy, from now on, so that's what I'll be doing again this year.

    Damn...wish I could be there to see this come together!!! That's one massive bird, however, you have an advantage in that it hasn't been punched full of holes for injected broth. It can be done, successfully.

  3. I would treat it the same as I would a cow and cut it up. Thighs, drums, breasts and wings, Break up the carcass and cook it for stock and broth. Save all of the rendered fat. I have cured turkey breast as pastrami and I have cured turkey thighs as ham.
  4. travelbilly

    travelbilly Fire Starter

    Thanks Eric, I was thinking that I MIGHT be able to stand/hang the bird. I do have a fridge I use for beer and wine and I THINK I can get a small plastic barrel in it. If I can do these 2 things, I'll go on with it. My neighbor has a much larger propane smoker that I know I can borrow if push comes to shove, but I don't like the idea of smoking in something I'm not intimately familiar with because I'm under the impression that they all have their own quirks.

    I did smoke a breast in there one time, but we like crispy skin. To us, poultry with rubbery skin isn't worth eating. Ya, I'm all about crispy skins! I did put a pan of water in and think that may have been why the skin was, well, just plain rubbery. Also, I'm not convinced that my meat probe was working properly and recently removed it all together because it was shutting the smoker down. I'm gonna bust out an igrill2 this week.

    I have an issue trusting my temp reading equip. I smoked some beef ribs on the bone Sunday and after 4-5 hours at 225 even the manual probe was reading 140, so I left it in for 3 more hours at 200 and it STILL was reading 140ish! Is that possible?? (no water, btw)
  5. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You're most welcome.

    If crisp skin is your game, one member here said to allow the bird's skin to dry in the fridge for a day, uncovered (be sure nothing will drip onto the bird and cause contamination)...probably resting on an elevated grate (in a pan) so the bottom can dry as well. It seems that higher water content in the skin can contribute to the rubber-skin syndrome. Of course the surface should be dry as well. I haven't tried this method yet, myself, as I'm usually pushing a time constraint and failed to plan ahead far enough to do that, but it makes sense. If that were combined with some added surface fat prior to dry rub application, and, higher smoke chamber temp (at least towards the finish for an hour or more), it should produce a nice crispy skin texture.

    Propane smokers do require a little more tending than electrics will (other than adding smoke wood), just for temp control. But that does depend on how much food is loaded into them, and how high the target chamber temp is. Then, as the absorbed thermal energy on the surface of the meat begins to soak in slower, chamber temps start climbing because the thermal absorption into the food is slowing down. Propane smoker temps aren't that difficult to control, though...much easier than one might think...some burner controls are a bit more touchy than others at certain output levels (ambient conditions and target chamber temps come into play here), but that's to be expected.

    Water in the pan will contribute to better smoke reaction, but does effect the humidity enough to cause a softer skin on birds, just as it will create a softer bark on meats. So, if a crisp skin or hard bark are your thing, reduce or omit the water in the pan. Some, myself included, use pea-gravel or sand in the pan...it ads to the thermal mass for better temp control, and the added mass helps to prevent warping the dry water pan. You can add a little water to the pan with the gravel for a bit higher humidity up front, then let the water evaporate and create a drier cooking chamber. The first few paragraphs here will explain it better: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/wet-to-dry-no-foil-smoke-chamber-method-for-smoking-meats

    Come to think of it, I haven't smoked birds much using the above method and really pushed the envelope to find out just how much effect it has on the crispness of the bird's skin...I need to get on that, soon.

    Have you boil-tested your temp probes for accuracy lately? That will tell you more of what you need to know about your therms. Here's a link to a chart giving water-boil temps for the elevation at your location: Boiling Point / Atmospheric Pressure / Altitude

    Hollar back if you need more info. Were it me, and I knew the bird would fit, I probably would borrow the propane smoker and just roll with it...stick close by and keep an eye on the smoking/cooking progress and chamber temps...the advantage being you can crank temps up higher than with an electric, and that alone will be one of the bigger factors in achieving that crisp skin.

  6. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I will say that allowing the bird to dry in the fridge for a bit will help with bite through skin. I have a thing for bite through skin.
    forluvofsmoke likes this.
  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    And, I believe you would be the man who recommended it a while back...can't recall the thread, but it seems like your style. [​IMG]

  8. I will leave the advice to the "Pros" like Eric regarding the "hella" big bird (my kids' slang).  I just had to comment on your avatar as I am an "old" rugger and its cool to see youngsters carrying on the game.  I assume that is a picture of your son...but maybe not?!  Anyway good luck with the 'bird" and Thanksgiving!!!  If its too tough maybe the family could use it for a little game of touch rugby after dinner.[​IMG]
  9. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Go look at it, no sense in guessing.

    Hell thaw times gonna take 8-10 days

    If it's truly that big, cook it in the oven, but it may even be too big for the oven.
  10. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    As Squib says after the long thaw (and in my opinion , in brine ) , I'd split it and do half first and the other half afterwards . Double handing , but safer , IMHO.
  11. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    I'm gonna say what everybody is thinking about this thread: SPAM!!!!

    50lb turkey, blind friend, liquor....anyway...
  12. travelbilly

    travelbilly Fire Starter

    You think I should grind it up and make a Spam? Or, throw it away and smoke some Spam? I'll post some pics, my life really is that amusing, to me anyway...
  13. travelbilly

    travelbilly Fire Starter

    That's what I was thinking. Split down the middle, smoke half and deep fry half.
  14. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    As a safety factor , you said you will (likely) fry one - half . If that is the plan , be sure to watch out placing the cold bird in the hot oil... my solution to prevent fires and being injured is to 'turn the gas OFF as you place the Bird in ... thererfore deleting

    a factor for a flash fire , then relight the burner...

    Have fun and enjoy your bird...

    sqwib likes this.
  15. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That's actually a really great idea![​IMG]
  16. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Do you mean TROLL?

    It actually never crossed my mind, I have heard crazier stories.
  17. sawhorseray

    sawhorseray Smoke Blower

    So a blind guy walks into a bar with a fifty pound turkey and orders a couple of Capt. Morgan and coke on the rocks. The bartender says to the blind guy, "sorry pal, we don't serve his kind in here". The blind guy turns to the turkey and tells him, "go wait in the car, I'll be out to drive us home in a few minutes"............................................ RAY
  18. beefy bill

    beefy bill Meat Mopper

    When deep frying, I get the temp to 325, turn off burner, and relight after bird is submerged..
  19. travelbilly

    travelbilly Fire Starter

    so I finally picked up this bird and it's nowhere near 50 pounds, I doubt that it was 50 pounds even live! So I'm feelin a little ripped off, and this farmer won't answer the phone. whatever...

    I don't understand this danger zone thing. After 168 degrees germs and bacteria are all dead, so what's the point???
  20. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The 'trots' ...

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