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Smoking the Thanksgiving Turkey

RedStones

Travel Squad
5 Year Member
My sister talked me into smoking one of the 3 turkeys planned for our Thanksgiving meal. I'm fairly new to smoking meats. Been doing it for about a year and a half. I've done ribs, brisket, and a few turkey breasts and am mostly happy with how everything turned out. But I haven't done a full size turkey before and I'm looking for suggestions and ideas so I don't screw this up.

First, I'd like to keep it simple. Brining and maybe a good rub. I've read quite a bit on the subject and have some questions for you guys.

The turkey: 18 lbs.

Smoker: Traeger pellet smoker.

Brining: I'm planning to brine the turkey but I'll only have about 24 hours to do it. Is that enough time?

Butterfly: Should I butterfly (or spatchcock) the turkey or leave it whole?

Wood: I'm thinking of using an Apple/Cherry blend but the wife wants me to include some Mesquite. We both love Mesquite but just about everything I've read says to avoid it with poultry. Would a 25 or 30% mix

Time: This is where I just don't know. If I butterfly it I assume it will cook much faster but I don't want it to cook too fast so that it will have time to get a good smokey flavor.

Temp: I'm thinking 225°

Internal temp: I've read that I shouldn't exceed an internal temp of 150° to avoid getting the bird too dry. 165° is the government recommended temp. Anybody have thoughts on this?

Anything else I need to consider or is there anything I've missed?
 
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Smoker

Ed Force One
5 Year Member
I've never used a pellet smoker,
I Always used fruit wood, mainly apple because I have lots of it.
Brine is ok. I usually use dry run

I always smoked it whole, you don't have to

I try to keep the smoker around 220 to 225 degrees, i think is ideal

As far as time, good question, I don't know on pellets smokers, the longer the better

Internal temp, you need to reach the 165 degrees,
Good luck!
 

chicago husker

Scout Team
2 Year Member
i use apple and pecan and i think mesquite might be too strong. i have a pellet fec100 smoker and for turkey the best is spatchcocked and a dry brine of 3 parts kosher salt to 1 part baking powder. the baking powder helps get crispy skin. i brine for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. beyond 24 hours drape a cheese cloth over the bird. I smoke at 275 and a 14 lb bird will take 2.5 to 3.5 hours depending on your smoker. I point the legs toward the hot side of the smoker and pull when the breast is around 155. i also top turkey with butter soaked cheese cloth for the first 1 to 1.5 of the cook so the skin doesn't get to dark and it helps keep it extra moist i also mix herbs with the butter and cheese cloth. I then foil, wrap in towels and place turkey in heated cooler to hold until i am ready.
 
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KingTM

All Big 10
5 Year Member
I'm roasting one and smoking one, again this year. Everything has pretty much been covered but my personal preference is to brine the bird for 24 hours, spatchcock it and then throw it on the smoker.

I'll be doing mine on my Weber kettle this year as it is going to be cold, my smoker is down on the patio while my Weber is under a covered deck and I'm a Nancy. I'll use the water barrier, snake method.

I've done this with chicken, turkey, ribs and butt and it works like an absolute champ.

I didn't have anything to add but as a self proclaimed fat kid, I love Thanksgiving like no other holiday. This is the second year that we get to host and we finally convinced my wife's 85 year old Grandmother to come out and spend a few days. I can't wait, good times.

ETA: I must admit that I am very intrigued by the cheesecloth idea, I will have to give that a try. Also, the spatchcock method allows one to turn the bird over on the coals for a few minutes to crisp the skin, at the end.
 
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Pops

I have squandered my resistance
10 Year Member
Try a apple brine and apple wood...wont be disappointed
 

Pops

I have squandered my resistance
10 Year Member
Also using a weber put a steal bowl with apple juice for moisture in the center.....
 

KingTM

All Big 10
5 Year Member
Also using a weber put a steal bowl with apple juice for moisture in the center.....
:thumbsup:

I actually just use a foil pan and put it between the coals/wood chunks, and the meat so that it forms a vapor barrier. I've read (I think it may have been here) that using juice doesn't help as all of the "flavor" evaporates away and you're left with nothing but water. I have no idea if that's true though, YMMV.
 

RedStones

Travel Squad
5 Year Member
OK here's the plan.

I'm going to spatchcock and dry brine the turkey Tuesday night, 3 parts kosher salt to 1 part baking powder, wrap and refrigerate until early Thursday morning. Still debating on the cheese cloth idea but I'm intrigued. I'm estimating that it will take up to 5 hours to cook the 18 lb bird so I'll need to get an early start so that it's ready when the other turkeys are done and ready for carving. I plan to start around 5 am so I have time to get the bird done, wrapped and in a cooler with plenty of time to spare.

I'll be using Apple wood pellets and I'll either use a garlic & butter soaked cheese cloth (as suggested by Chicago Husker) to keep the meat moist or I'll periodically spray garlic butter on it. If I had more time I'd definitely go low and slow but I'm a little concerned about getting it done on time so I'm going to start out at about 250° and if the internal temp isn't about where I want it at 2.5 hours I'll bump it up.

I'll also be deep frying a turkey and my sister is doing one in the roaster.

I appreciate the suggestions and ideas and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wish me luck!
 

KingTM

All Big 10
5 Year Member
OK here's the plan.

I'm going to spatchcock and dry brine the turkey Tuesday night, 3 parts kosher salt to 1 part baking powder, wrap and refrigerate until early Thursday morning. Still debating on the cheese cloth idea but I'm intrigued. I'm estimating that it will take up to 5 hours to cook the 18 lb bird so I'll need to get an early start so that it's ready when the other turkeys are done and ready for carving. I plan to start around 5 am so I have time to get the bird done, wrapped and in a cooler with plenty of time to spare.

I'll be using Apple wood pellets and I'll either use a garlic & butter soaked cheese cloth (as suggested by Chicago Husker) to keep the meat moist or I'll periodically spray garlic butter on it. If I had more time I'd definitely go low and slow but I'm a little concerned about getting it done on time so I'm going to start out at about 250° and if the internal temp isn't about where I want it at 2.5 hours I'll bump it up.

I'll also be deep frying a turkey and my sister is doing one in the roaster.

I appreciate the suggestions and ideas and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wish me luck!
Outstanding. Nothing beats a beer and a shot at 0500 to get the day started out right. :thumbsup:

Good luck, sounds like it'll be great.
 

chicago husker

Scout Team
2 Year Member
OK here's the plan.

I'm going to spatchcock and dry brine the turkey Tuesday night, 3 parts kosher salt to 1 part baking powder, wrap and refrigerate until early Thursday morning. Still debating on the cheese cloth idea but I'm intrigued. I'm estimating that it will take up to 5 hours to cook the 18 lb bird so I'll need to get an early start so that it's ready when the other turkeys are done and ready for carving. I plan to start around 5 am so I have time to get the bird done, wrapped and in a cooler with plenty of time to spare.

I'll be using Apple wood pellets and I'll either use a garlic & butter soaked cheese cloth (as suggested by Chicago Husker) to keep the meat moist or I'll periodically spray garlic butter on it. If I had more time I'd definitely go low and slow but I'm a little concerned about getting it done on time so I'm going to start out at about 250° and if the internal temp isn't about where I want it at 2.5 hours I'll bump it up.

I'll also be deep frying a turkey and my sister is doing one in the roaster.

I appreciate the suggestions and ideas and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wish me luck!
i item of note on the cheese cloth. when you peek in on the bird every now and then give the cheesecloth a little wiggle so it doesn't stick to the skin. doesn't take much and you can also spritz it every now and then.
 

RedStones

Travel Squad
5 Year Member
i item of note on the cheese cloth. when you peek in on the bird every now and then give the cheesecloth a little wiggle so it doesn't stick to the skin. doesn't take much and you can also spritz it every now and then.
Thanks for the tip. I wondered about that because I don't want to rip the skin off.
 

Bean

Gray Shirt
5 Year Member
I started roasting my turkey over different types of coals, i.e. hickory, apple, several years ago. I saw some of my Weather forecasters do this while we were deployed to Honduras back in 1992' and was impressed with the way it looked and tasted. Tomorrow I will do it again on a rotisserie with coals, not underneath it, but to the sides. I plan on brining it overnight and then spitting it. Always look forward to this and it mostly turns out great. My family really likes the smoke flavor.
 
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