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 Smoking Turkey for the Holidays 
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I've seen it mentioned in several threads that people are going to smoke their turkey for Thanksgiving, so I thought there should be a thread to share the knowledge, recipes and techniques.

I've got a 6# turkey breast thawing right now that I'm going to attempt to smoke (first time for turkey). Any tips on prep, temps, wood flavors used would be most appreciated!

My plan so far is to prep the breast (bone in) the same way I do my chicken parts - dry seasoning (most likely Montreal Chicken seasoning with some sugar) in a bag for ~hour and then dry in the fridge over night --- I'm thinking I'll go ahead and slit the skin to allow the rub into the meat (its been working really well with the chicken!) since I'm after flavor more than plate appeal. Plan on smoking it at ~220 (as usual - the lowest temp I can get on my grill) with pecan and cherry pellets on the gas grill in a pan so I can collect any drippings. I figure I'll give it 3-4 hours on the grill - depending on how quickly the temp comes up - thinking to 140-150 ish - I will then take it off the grill and baste it with butter (thinking about mixing some fresh rosemary into the butter now) and finish it in the oven @325 to brown up the skin. I'm also willing to deviate from the plan and turn the heat off and allow the turkey to 'warm smoke' for a longer time if need be when it hits ~110-120 ish - or finish is on the grill @325-350 depending on how things go.... My goal is a nicely smoked turkey breast!

Share your technique!!!

BTW - my turkey breast is already pre brined, so no need to say 'brine it'.....
I'm choosing to smoke at a lower temp because I know these breasts cook in ~2.5 hours in the oven @325 --- I give my chicken legs/thighs 3 hours of smoke @225 and I figure the turkey breast will need more than that.
I choose to slit the skin since I've found that that allows the rub spices to penetrate into the meat instead of just being a surface coating and I'm pretty sure it allows ALOT more smoke to penetrate the meat too.

Some of the info I've looked at to come up with my plan....
https://kingofthecoals.com/smoke-whole-turkey/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsogHJRCf88
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QiuvHtUBtw

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Plan B is actually repeating Plan A.... it just involves much more alcohol.

Of the ten voices I hear in my head, only three keep telling me NOT to shoot....
Do I go with the majority or common sense?


Sun Nov 22, 2020 10:04 am
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This thread is relevant to my interests. thumbsup

I just bought a frozen turkey breast, but I don't have a plan for it yet. In the past, I've cooked whole turkeys on the smoker but I generally just use it like an oven, set for 325 and let it run until done. They've always come out great.

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Sun Nov 22, 2020 2:42 pm
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Gotta ask --- when you smoke it like that, how far do you feel that the smoke is getting into the meat? Since this is the first time for me trying it, I'm willing to do anything/everything to make sure I get as much smoke flavor deep into the meat and not just have a 'surface smoke'.

On a side note.... I was just doing some thinking and looking at my grill.... I've always wanted to get a second grate to place in the grill ~3+ inches off the grates so I can use the whole cooking area for more indirect cooking/smoking.... I took a tape measure out to the grill and measured that the 'warming rack is 5" off the cooking grate..... got to thinking and looking around and low and behold --- 12 oz cans are 5" tall! since I was going to have a pan under it anyways, I'm thinking that I can support the pan with one or two pop cans and the warming grate pretty easily :thumbsup2: This buys me two huge benefits - the turkey breast will be higher up in the grill - ABOVE the smoke smoke outlet - NICE!!! and with both burners on low I know the lid temp holds right ~325 so perfect temp. I think I have a better plan coming together....

_________________
Plan B is actually repeating Plan A.... it just involves much more alcohol.

Of the ten voices I hear in my head, only three keep telling me NOT to shoot....
Do I go with the majority or common sense?


Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:05 pm
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When I cooked it at 325, I don't think the smoke did much. The turkey was great, just like a great turkey out of the oven.

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Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:44 pm
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Here’s what I do:

Brine for 24 hours, rinse like crazy and pat dry.

I shove pads of butter under the skin and hang a bag with four thick bacon strips over the turkey for the smoke. I season with oak ridge bbq secret weapon or with a brown sugar based rub.

I smoke turkey in my wsm with sand in the water pan, turkey on the top rack.

Temp is around 330-350degF controlled with a genius fan, all vents closed except top vent cracked open a tad.

Since weather is usually cold, I pack my firebox with lump charcoal with a ton of apple and cherry wood chunks.


I had a few pictures from past turkey smokes, but the turkey doesn’t last a whole lot of time, it’s usually one of the first things to go on the Thanksgiving table. Haven’t smoked a turkey in a couple years, but I think I might do one this year for Christmas with the friends.


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Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:56 pm
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Its one thing to COOK a turkey in a smoker..... the goal needs to be to SMOKE the turkey.....

MadPick wrote:
When I cooked it at 325, I don't think the smoke did much. The turkey was great, just like a great turkey out of the oven.

I suspected that is the case with most who smoke a turkey - optional oven with some surface smoke.... NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

Follow my lead on this one --- I'm betting you'll be amazed. I was thinking some more.... to score /cut the skin - I realized that I have an xacto knife in the junk drawer in the kitchen - I was thinking razor blade, and I do have a scalpel too - but any will work..... I was planning on slitting the skin up and down, but now that seems stupid.... I'm going to slit the skin @~30 degrees so that when any juices come out or when I baste, it cascades down :thumbsup2: Slits ~every 1/2-3/4" should do. What I am trying to figure out is how to get the smoke that gets INTO the cavity makes it into the meat --- I'm thinking scoring the ribs with a blade to break the membrane --- won't know how easy that will be until I open up the breast, but thats the limiting barrier here.
The plan just keeps getting better....

Mr. Q wrote:
Here’s what I do:

Brine for 24 hours, rinse like crazy and pat dry.

I shove pads of butter under the skin and hang a bag with four thick bacon strips over the turkey for the smoke. I season with oak ridge bbq secret weapon or with a brown sugar based rub.

I smoke turkey in my wsm with sand in the water pan, turkey on the top rack.

Temp is around 330-350degF controlled with a genius fan, all vents closed except top vent cracked open a tad.

Since weather is usually cold, I pack my firebox with lump charcoal with a ton of apple and cherry wood chunks.


I had a few pictures from past turkey smokes, but the turkey doesn’t last a whole lot of time, it’s usually one of the first things to go on the Thanksgiving table. Haven’t smoked a turkey in a couple years, but I think I might do one this year for Christmas with the friends.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I'd love to do this on the WSM, but the same basic problems are still there --- I've learned that the skin really impedes smoke penetration.... although I know the raw power of the WSM to flavor meats. I want to do this breast with pecan and cherry.... the only chunks I have for the WSM are hickory and maple, so I need to do it on the gas grill with pellets. Cherry is coming next spring --- hopefully I'll stock up with breasts when they are on sale after the holidays to play with the WSM!

_________________
Plan B is actually repeating Plan A.... it just involves much more alcohol.

Of the ten voices I hear in my head, only three keep telling me NOT to shoot....
Do I go with the majority or common sense?


Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:09 pm
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Unless you're using a smoke tube I don't think much smoking happens above 300deg. My bone-in breast last year was friggin amazing, but i can't remember what I did! This year I'm going to try something I read from Jeff at Smoking-meat.com. A paste of butter and bacon whipped through food processor and put that under the skin. Should hopefully baste with bacon fat and butter while it cooks. I'll stuff cavity with aromatics as well.

I like the idea of scoring the inside of the cavity to allow for more penetration.

And although most breasts are already pre-brined, salting is better than brining if you want crisper skin.


Mon Nov 23, 2020 12:50 pm
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JMB, any concern about losing moisture if you cut the skin? Yeah it would allow smoke in, but it may allow moisture to exit as well.

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Mon Nov 23, 2020 12:57 pm
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Not doing a turkey for Thanksgiving, doing a double smoked spiral ham instead. We did get a free turkey that I'll do at a later date, and when I do I'm going to try spatchcock for the first time. Guys in the CampChef groups swear by it.

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Mon Nov 23, 2020 6:53 pm
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MadPick wrote:
JMB, any concern about losing moisture if you cut the skin? Yeah it would allow smoke in, but it may allow moisture to exit as well.


I was thinking the same thing. I know people will score a duck breast, but duck has way more fat than a turkey.

So I'm wondering, would you smoke the bird breast down? Some professional chefs will say to cook the turkey breast down to allow the bird to cook more evenly. Thoughts?


Mon Nov 23, 2020 10:34 pm
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todd1803 wrote:
Not doing a turkey for Thanksgiving, doing a double smoked spiral ham instead. We did get a free turkey that I'll do at a later date, and when I do I'm going to try spatchcock for the first time. Guys in the CampChef groups swear by it.

Sent from my SM-T387V using Tapatalk


Good choice on the spiral cut, they are excellent with the 2nd smoke. :thumbsup2:

JohnMBrowning wrote:
Its one thing to COOK a turkey in a smoker..... the goal needs to be to SMOKE the turkey.....

MadPick wrote:
When I cooked it at 325, I don't think the smoke did much. The turkey was great, just like a great turkey out of the oven.

I suspected that is the case with most who smoke a turkey - optional oven with some surface smoke.... NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

Follow my lead on this one --- I'm betting you'll be amazed. I was thinking some more.... to score /cut the skin - I realized that I have an xacto knife in the junk drawer in the kitchen - I was thinking razor blade, and I do have a scalpel too - but any will work..... I was planning on slitting the skin up and down, but now that seems stupid.... I'm going to slit the skin @~30 degrees so that when any juices come out or when I baste, it cascades down :thumbsup2: Slits ~every 1/2-3/4" should do. What I am trying to figure out is how to get the smoke that gets INTO the cavity makes it into the meat --- I'm thinking scoring the ribs with a blade to break the membrane --- won't know how easy that will be until I open up the breast, but thats the limiting barrier here.
The plan just keeps getting better....

Mr. Q wrote:
Here’s what I do:

Brine for 24 hours, rinse like crazy and pat dry.

I shove pads of butter under the skin and hang a bag with four thick bacon strips over the turkey for the smoke. I season with oak ridge bbq secret weapon or with a brown sugar based rub.

I smoke turkey in my wsm with sand in the water pan, turkey on the top rack.

Temp is around 330-350degF controlled with a genius fan, all vents closed except top vent cracked open a tad.

Since weather is usually cold, I pack my firebox with lump charcoal with a ton of apple and cherry wood chunks.


I had a few pictures from past turkey smokes, but the turkey doesn’t last a whole lot of time, it’s usually one of the first things to go on the Thanksgiving table. Haven’t smoked a turkey in a couple years, but I think I might do one this year for Christmas with the friends.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I'd love to do this on the WSM, but the same basic problems are still there --- I've learned that the skin really impedes smoke penetration.... although I know the raw power of the WSM to flavor meats. I want to do this breast with pecan and cherry.... the only chunks I have for the WSM are hickory and maple, so I need to do it on the gas grill with pellets. Cherry is coming next spring --- hopefully I'll stock up with breasts when they are on sale after the holidays to play with the WSM!


If you smoke a whole Turkey and slit the Skin and meat all over, i'm betting you end up with a dry Turkey. All those juices running out to "baste" is a recipe for just that.

If you really want to lay some smoke into a Turkey, just smoke a skinless Breast at 275 and do it in the WSM. The smaller Breast won't dry out before reaching temp and will get the smoke flavor you want.
You honestly cannot expect to lay some serious smoke flavor into a large piece of Meat like a whole Turkey using a gas grill and a smoke tube. No offense, but the smoke tube is for adding "extra" smoke in a Pellet Grill, it's not a substitute for burning Wood or pellets in a real smoker.
You acknowledge the "Raw Power" of the WSM to flavor meats, even with Charcoal and chunks of Wood it's far superior to a gas grill and a smoke tube because the Fire is coming from burning Wood chunks and Charcoal made from Wood, not gas with some smoldering pellets.
You fuel the Fire with Wood/Charcoal, that's how you get that smoke flavor. You can't expect the same result using Propane for the heat and dusting it with some smoke from a tube.
I'm not bagging on you, you have done some great looking Chicken thighs and even a Pork butt, but it's honestly just not the same as fueling the fire with Wood/Pellets or Charcoal.

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Mr. Q wrote: so basically, if you have to smoke some asshole, make sure they become fertilizer and then Bounce? got it.

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Tue Nov 24, 2020 12:28 am
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Wetpaperbag wrote:
MadPick wrote:
JMB, any concern about losing moisture if you cut the skin? Yeah it would allow smoke in, but it may allow moisture to exit as well.


I was thinking the same thing. I know people will score a duck breast, but duck has way more fat than a turkey.

So I'm wondering, would you smoke the bird breast down? Some professional chefs will say to cook the turkey breast down to allow the bird to cook more evenly. Thoughts?


I'm not too worried based on what I've done with chicken thighs --- they have never dried out --- and when I've done b/s breasts and thighs, I haven't had any problem with drying either..... I'm thinking its because I almost always smoke at ~225-250 instead of 275-300 that most recommend for birds. Plus I plan on basting/glazing with butter with honey towards the end before I finish at higher heat. I figure the slits will allow the butter down into the meat very nicely while basting.

There is always the option to put some liquids/moisture in the cavity too to keep the moisture up, but I'm not too worried about at this point --- it actually kinda backfired on me when I tried a whole (small) chicken a while ago. You can always add a water pan in the smoker too if you are really worried, but from what I've read, that has minimal effect on the meat. From what I recall from cooking these pre-brined breasts in the oven at 325, they were always really juicy without any effort so I'm not expecting any issues.

Edit to add --- when ever I've done b/s breasts I've noticed that once a smoke pellicle forms on the surface of the meat, it forms a 'moisture block' that holds the moisture in. I think there is a balancing act that goes on between how quickly you are heating the liquid vs the smoke pellicle formation going on.... low and slow always wins. It also seems that some fat/oil on the surface helps greatly too.

_________________
Plan B is actually repeating Plan A.... it just involves much more alcohol.

Of the ten voices I hear in my head, only three keep telling me NOT to shoot....
Do I go with the majority or common sense?


Tue Nov 24, 2020 9:31 am
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Wetpaperbag wrote:
So I'm wondering, would you smoke the bird breast down? Some professional chefs will say to cook the turkey breast down to allow the bird to cook more evenly. Thoughts?

I don't know about how it would work out for smoking - definitely not if you are slitting the skin - but I was listening to the Men's Room and Thrill said that his wife mistakenly put the bird in the oven upside down - didn't realize it until ~4 hours in and then flipped it over.... He said it was the juiciest bird he had ever had. Kinda makes sense since all the juices would collect around the breast.... They were also talking about why stuffing was put in the cavity ---- it was to keep the breast from drying out! Some talk about how its really a problem once the bird passes ~12# --- the breast is much more prone to drying out.... makes sense when you think about it. Miles said he screwed up one year and left the giblets and neck in the bird while cooking and it turned amazing - juicy and more flavorful..... So there is alot to be learned there.

I've never cooked a full bird myself and I'm only on my 4th turkey breast and this is the first one being smoked. I'm choosing to forego juicy meat in favor of smoky meat myself, and not just surface smoke. When I think back over the years, I realize that some of the best smoked meat I've had - pheasant, duck, fish - has always been on the dry side.... starting to realize that if you want really smoke, you may have to give up some of the juicy side to get it, especially with white meat birds.

_________________
Plan B is actually repeating Plan A.... it just involves much more alcohol.

Of the ten voices I hear in my head, only three keep telling me NOT to shoot....
Do I go with the majority or common sense?


Tue Nov 24, 2020 5:29 pm
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I am smoking seven giant turkey legs on my Kamado Joe (from Shawn's Quality Meats)

Following John Setzler's video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn2DXXBmTZ4

From this video:
"Turkey Leg Cure -
1 quart of water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup molasses
4 cloves smashed garlic
1 t black peppercorns
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
A few fresh sage leaves
1/4 tsp MSG (optional)
dash of hot sauce
1 1/2 tsp prague powder #1 curing salt

I let mine cure for between 18-24 hours. Don't let them go longer than 24 hours.

I set up my Kamado Joe Classic 3 grill for indirect cooking with the SLoROLLER in place. I started out at 225°F for about 45 minutes with a chunk of hickory wood for some smoke. Then I removed the legs from the grill and ramped the temp up to 425°F to finish the cook and help crisp up the skin a little. The second segment of this cook took about 25 minutes to bring the temperature of the leg meat up to 165-170°F. I wrapped them in foil and let them rest for 20 minutes after the cook. Turkey (and chicken) legs can be cooked to an internal temperature of anywhere between about 165-190°F without much worry."


Tue Nov 24, 2020 10:48 pm
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Never made a turkey befor. Apple and hickory wood on the webber kettle for about 4 hrs now. Almost done.Image

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Thu Nov 26, 2020 2:31 pm
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