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What temperature do you smoke your turkey at and why?

jakester

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This year will be my first time smoking a turkey in my WSM. I have read a lot of threads and i noticed that the smoking temperatures vary from 225 degrees to 325 degrees and I have a hard time understanding what temp is better. 

I am just trying to understand why such a difference? What is the benefit of smoking at 225 vs 275 vs 325? 

I know when roasting in the oven the temp is usually 325, you rarely see anything under 325. 
 

SmokinAl

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I smoke mine at 270, and I also part them out.

That way if the breast gets done before the thighs you can take it out.

Breast to 157, Thighs to 175-180. Then rest on counter 1/2 hour.

Carryover cooking will bring the breast up to 165.

At 270 the skin will be bite thru, but not crispy.

If your goal is crispy skin then smoke your turkey at 325.

I like 270, because it won't take as long as 225, and I still get plenty of smoke flavor on it.

I don't eat the skin so I'm not concerned with crispy skin.

Here's one I did a couple of days ago.

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/254111/smoked-a-21-turkey-in-3-1-4-hours-on-the-lang

Al
 

jakester

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I do like the thought of smoking at a lower temp to get more smoke on the bird. What about if I smoke it at 270-275 until breast temp reaches 140-150 degrees and then throw it on the grill at 400-500 degrees, i know that would get me crispy skin but will it dry out the bird?

Cliff - when you smoke at 325 how is the skin?
 

mdboatbum

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That'lll work but you risk charring the skin. As long as you don't go over 165° in the breast you won't dry it out.
The reason for the variances in recommended temperatures is just that everybody has their own methods and priorities. They do what works for them and produces the result they want.
For me, I like a whole, beautifully browned bird that looks like it came out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It reminds me of the turkeys on the table when I was a kid. To get that result I brine, then let it sit in the fridge uncovered for 24 hours to dry the skin. Then I smoke it at 325°. In my smoker, the thigh meat will hit 170°-180° right about the time the breast hits 160°. I brine, so even if carryover takes the white meat to 175° it won't dry out.
Good luck with your bird and make sure and let us know how it turns out!!
 

dirtsailor2003

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325°. You get plenty of smoke. At 325° the skin should be nice and crisp.

Another important element to getting good skin is making sure that the skin is dry. The best method is to air dry the bird in the fridge at least for 8 hours, but best overnight. Place the bird on a drying rack over a pan. Pat dry and place in the fridge uncovered, I usually rub the bird at this time. I use SPOG. If you want add a 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder to your rub. This will help dry the skin and imparts no flavors into the final product.

If you so choose to try a lower temp cook and then crisp over a hot grill or under the broiler make sure that your rub and brines have no sugar or very minimal sugar as they will burn.

For even cooking I prefer to spatchcock poultry. Can be tough to do with a turkey if your smoker is small.
 

jakester

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I guess i won't be putting it on the grill because I do not want to char the skin, I love a perfectly browned bird (not black) over crispy skin. I will be doing a dry brine for 2-3 days and then rinse it off and put butter underneath the skin and put it in the fridge uncovered overnight to 24 hours. I just need to decide what temp I should smoke it at 275 or 325. 

Has anyone smoked one at 270-275 and one at 325 and what difference did you see? 
 

SmokinAl

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Yes, I have done both.

Obviously the 325 turkey will get done quicker, and since there is not as much time in the smoke, it won't be as smokey.

It will however have a crispy or at the very least, bite thru skin.

As far as juiciness, I didn't see any difference.

You could always split the difference & smoke it at 300.

Al
 

jakester

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With me sticking butter underneath the skin i don't think i will get crispy skin or maybe i'm wrong. 
 

SmokinAl

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How do you get a wsm up to 325?
Start with about 1/2 chimney of lit charcoal & put that on top of a ring full of unlit charcoal.

Open up all 3 bottom vents & it will run right up there.

No water in the water pan either.

Al
 
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