what factors could lead to a wide range in smokiness in a turkey?

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Original poster
Aug 14, 2010
Hello all,

Maybe this is a problem common to everyone, but I'm puzzled by the difference in the intensity of smoky flavor that i get from one cook to another. Typically I get a good smoke ring whenever I do ribs or a good pink zone on brined turkey. I use a vertical gas water smoker, keep the air vents open at the bottom and about 1/2 closed on top. Temp reached, generally 225-230 but occasionally spikes to 275. I use large chunks of hickory, soaked for 24 hours or longer, with wood chips to catch a bit more quickly. I keep the water bath full to within an inch of the rim, starting with hot tap water. I generally brine turkey and use a Maverick remote thermometer to monitor cooking. Generally, a 12 lb. bird will cook in 4 hours or more depending on wind and other conditions. No, I don't peek inside, other than to remove something else that's finished cooking. Once the bird reaches 140 degrees I stop smoking, and that's just about when the first panful of wood dies out, anyway. I think that the bird being previously frozen or fresh makes a difference in juiciness, that's about the only variable I can think of from bird to bird, and generally I use the same brand.  Any thoughts?
I would suggest doing the opposite with you vents...top open bottom closed. You may be creating some turbulent floew in the smoke chamber adding cold air to hot in the smoke chamber itself. I modded my Smoke Vault 24 so I can close the bottom completely for hot smokes, and I get more evenly distributed heat this way.

You're most definitely getting inconsistent smoke and/or flows through the smoke chamber.My Vault has a cast iron smoke tray and if I use chips, I form a small pile (handful) towards the front/center and they smolder nice and slow for several hours. If I used chunk, I use small ones with no more than 3/4 to 1" in thinckness, and just a few will go for hours as well.

BTW, welcome to SMF!

Good luck!

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That's the first thing that I saw too. I always keep the top vent open fully, and close the bottom vents down to control temps, but I have a charcoal smoker. However I would think the same principal applies to both with respect to the top vent.
Welcome to the SMF...I also run a vertical gasser. I, as well, keep the bottom vents almost totally closed and the top vent wide open. I also had to do some easy door mods with fiberglass rope to keep the smoke leakage down and help control the heat loss in my windy/rainy weather conditions. I have become a non-soaker of the wood chunks. I start with one good sized chunk and add others, 1 at a time, to the tray when the TBS stops. I have also switched from water in the pan to sand filled, believing it stabilizers the heat better. Many forum members are split on this but for me, it seems to stop the temp spikes. As far as fresh or previously frozen, fresh IMHO would be better buttttt, the last turkey I smoked had been in the freezer at work for about a year and a 1/2, leftover from a Thanksgiving give away.....one of the best smoked turkeys I ever had after brining it....go figure
Hey2na, the guys have lead you right,your exhaust should "ALWAYS" be open fully when cooking,"ALWAYS"
 The wood chunks you so lovingly soak, well all this does is to cause a smoldering which gives a lot of smoke(white and billowy).By not soaking you get a quicker ignition of the wood and keeps it from  cooling of the wood thus extending the ingition process.
. Always adjust the heat by the inlet,

Hope you have better luck, and as always,

I was more wiped out than I thought last night writing the post. I keep the top vent pretty close to open, bent the prongs of the vent covers up so that I can close them down fully

I'll give dry wood chunks a try!
I'd try what the others have said and see if that makes an difference, I smoke like the others and have had great success.  Keep us posted. 
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