Cooking my turkey - need advice!

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by Frosty, Dec 26, 2010.

  1. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2008
    DH is working this weekend, basically his hours are 3:30 AM - 5:30 PM so we are doing our turkey tomorrow. It is a BBW and weighs around 17.5 pounds. I took it from the freezer I think on Friday and it's at the point now where I can move the wings a bit and there is a slight give when I poke at the breast. Otherwise, it still feels pretty frozen. So is brining out of the question?

    Next question... I was debating smoking it... temps are looking to be in the mid 20's to lower 30's. Any thoughts on that? How warm does the smoker grill need to be? How long should it take to cook? It's a charcoal grill, should be fun getting it up to temp... and I need to dig the smoker box end out of the snow. I grilled a roast last night (about 15F out), winds have been staying down for the most part so haven't had trouble maintaining 300F in the cooker.

  2. Denninmi

    Denninmi Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2009
    Is brining out of the question at this point? -- absolutely not! What I would do in your situation is put it into a sink full of water to help it thaw faster. In a couple of hours, it should be reasonably well thawed. Change the water every 20 minutes. Use cold water to discourage bacterial growth, although, in my VERY unprofessional opinion, it's ok to run some warm (not hot) tap water through the cavity towards the very end to help defrost. Hopefully, the cavity isn't stuffed full of ice as can happen on a commercial turkey. Just don't over-warm it, and chill it again quickly afterwards.

    You should be able to brine overnight, which should be plenty of time. Even if you just brine for 3 or 4 hours, it would still do a lot for it.

    As far as the smoking goes, I don't think the outdoor temp makes THAT much of a difference. Yes, it's like 30 or 40 or even 50 or 60 degrees colder outside now than it might be in spring or summer or fall when you're doing the same thing, but fires are pretty darned hot. Any chance you could get a hot-burning wood or charcoal like mesquite to add a little extra oomph to the grill if need be? Wind would be your real enemy more than just the cold, actually, IMO.

    To hot smoke/grill it, it should be between 275 and 375, IMO (once again, NOT a professional chef by any means), probably around 325-350 would be best. The hotter it is, the faster it will cook, obviously. A 17 lb bird would probably take about 4 hours at 350, maybe a little more or less. I'd go more by internal temp than time -- should be like 170 in the breast meat and 180 in the thigh meat (make sure the probe of the thermometer doesn't hit the bones, though, which can give a false reading).

    Sounds delicious. I might just need to do this myself on New Years. Have a great holiday.
  3. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2008
    Thank you!!! I have the bird in the sink and I'm going to start the brine as soon as I post this... the one good thing about the outside temp is that I can get the brine chilling pretty fast. I did find one website that suggests after brining to leave it out of the brine, uncovered on a pan overnight to dry out the skin? I'll be up until at least 3:30 AM so I'll probably do that right before I head off to bed.

    I think temp has some effect, at -20F I have trouble getting the grill hot enough even with direct cooking. And at those temps, I don't try to grill if it's windy or I would never get it heated enough to cook at all. I guess if I have trouble getting it up to temp I could always cheat and add a few coals in the main box in the end away from the turkey, kind of a cross between indirect cooking and smoking. I am wondering if the drippings would be good for gravy, or if they would be too smoky?

    Thank you again!
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    If you let the skin dry out, it helps to make a crispy crunchy skin. That's one of the steps to crispy duck recipes.

    Good luck! I've never grilled or smoked a turkey.
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Quote:I agree, submerge it in water - actually whatever temp water, if it is still a little frozen it will chill the water right up.

    I don't smoke much but I barbecue in this weather and sometimes it can make things a little harder to bring up to temp. Not a problem for red meat though. Tastes better when rare.
  6. ColbyNTX

    ColbyNTX Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 2, 2009
    Woods, TX
    Down here in Texas when we smoke meat, brisket, pork, turkey ect, we slow smoke everything. That is why it is called smoking, not grilling. Grilling is cooking fast at high temps, smoking is slow at low temps. We smoke at 250 degs for a long time. A turkey that size would smoke for 10 hours at 250degs. Brisket that size about 12 hours. They would get totally rapped in foil after about 2 hours to hold in the juice in and make them not so smoky. A good misquite or hickery or any fruit or nut wood(pecan, apple, cherry, ect) Low temps for a long time make it tender.
  7. Junkmanme

    Junkmanme Chillin' With My Peeps

    Normally, I figure 1/2 hour for each pound of turkey when smoking.

    COLD Weather will cause it to take a little longer, usually. (I've been smoking turkeys for 35 years. Love 'em ! )

    When a leg practically "falls-off" the turkey's ready (or over-done). You just twist the leg slightly.

    Check the breast away from a bone with a meat thermometer after an appropriate smoking time...I am happy with 160 F temperature.

    I always wrap the turkey with Aluminum foil that I have pierced with many allow for juices to drain and to allow the smoke to penetrate.

    Smoking makes the absolute BEST TURKEY in my opinion. [​IMG]

    For some reason, the dark meat seems to pick up more of the smoked-flavor.

    Yummy !!!

    -Junkmanme- [​IMG]
  8. pdpatch

    pdpatch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2008
    Hastings, Nebraska
    How long you smoke meat depends on what kind of smoker you use and the technique you use.

    The one we have has the heat directly under the meat, with a water pan. Its a combination unit that
    you can use charcoal, wood, or propane. This type usually takes about 1/2 the time as the indirect
    heat type. An indirect heat type has the wood/heat source mounted to the side.

    I always use the water pan and fill it between 3/4 to full with wood chunks in it. These last about
    2 or 3 smoking before I change them out. I also put some wood in the charcoal once I start the
    meat smoking. Using a water pan the water is converted to steam with the wood flavor in it. The steam
    with wood flavor seem to penetrate the meat better, but not give the meat to smokey of a taste.

    Preparing your meat is an important part of the final taste. You must let the meat rest/age this
    is so the rigor leaves the meat. At a bare minimum 4 hours is needed for poultry but 24 hours is better.
    Some let the meat breast for several days. In any case you should keep the meat cold during this time.
    The USDA recommend below something like 35 degrees, but household refrigerator only goes down to around 37
    or 38 degrees on it's lowest setting. Others use ice water but you must change the water several times a day.

    While you are resting the meat you can also brine or marinate the meat. We don't brine because I watch
    how much salt it intake. A marinate can be used to alter the flavor of the meat, there are many recipes on the Internet
    so I won't go into details. When brining don't use table salt, use kosher, of canning salt as these usually don't
    contain iodine.

    I also rub seasoning salt into the meat before I start it. Seasoning salt has about half the sodium content
    as regular salt. Using a light to medium amount sprinkled and rubbed into the meat.

    With out smoker a BBB Breast takes around 4 to 5 hour in an oven the same size breast takes about 2 hours.
    But always use a meat thermometer to measure the inner temp, if I can get the inner temp meat to around
    165 to 170 it's done. A full size Heritage turkey can take up to 8 hours. I have no Idea for a full size
    BBB since it doesn't fit.

    Mixing wood and charcoal flavors can create some unique taste. Most charcoal in brickets has some coal where
    chunks and pieces does not. So smoking with just charcoal briketes usually give less then the best results.
    So you usually end up adding some sort of hard wood, hickory is the most common. Several years ago I was running
    out of one flavor so I mixed cherry and Jack Daniel's barrel wood for one batch. It ended up being the best of all the batches
    for that year. So if you have the time and inclination you might want to experiment with you choice of woods.

  9. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2008
    Thanks guys, you are awesome!

    First lesson: It was 18 degrees out last night so I left the bird in a bucket of brine outside. I put it in the back of my truck (with a tonneau cover) because the lid that I had didn't snap on, and I could just see the barn cats knocking it off and having a turkey dinner. But when the temps drop to about 7F, the salt in the brine is NOT enough to keep it from at least starting to ice up, and the turkey felt like it was partially freezing again.

    This is one of our own turkeys, I haven't had a Butterball for 15 or 16 years so I forget what they taste like. She was done the Saturday before Thanksgiving and sat in the refrigerator for about 6 days before she was frozen.

    This is the grill that I will be using, it is one of the ones with the fire box on the side. I do have one of the upright types that uses gas and/or charcoal out there... somewhere. Maybe I should see if I can find it and dig it up? I figure if the smoker doesn't heat up enough, I can add some charcoal to the other end so it's partially indirect cooking (which also cooks it slow, and isn't that basically what the smoker does?) The other grill that you can kind of see the end of in the background doesn't get used as much, I got it because it has a rotisserie so that is what it mostly gets used for. I almost wish it had a smoker box because it has an adjustable rack so larger items fit better. Forecast for today is 31F, winds are around 18 mph, so pretty calm out there. Can't ask for much better at this time of the year!

  10. ColbyNTX

    ColbyNTX Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 2, 2009
    Woods, TX
    That smoker will work perfect and you should be able to regulate the temp pretty well even in those temps. Make a good charcoal fire in the fire box on the far left and once that gets going good, add 3 or 4 pieces of wood. Leave it open so the wood will catch well and wait until it starts to hot coals. Once you have a good coal base, you are ready to start cooking. Add wood and charcoal every 1-2 hours as needed. Remember to put your turkey in the middle of the smoke box or more twords the smoke stack. If you put it at the end near the fire and there is a flare up, you could burn one side of the turkey. You can also rotate the turkey 180 degs about half way through cooking because the side facing the fire box does get hotter especially depending on how close the bird is to the fire.

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