Smoking Turkey

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Assistant Cook
Jun 4, 2004
I am getting ready to smoke a turkey for the first time, and a friend of mine told me the turkey had to be less than 12 pounds. Does anyone know how big the turkey I can smoke safely. Also, I am planning on using maple to smoke it, but does anyone have any other recomendations? Thanks for your help.

Hi Jim.
I use hickory to smoke turkeys. Mmmm. It's the best turkey I ever had. Honest. Never heard about Maple. Any hardwood would work, I think. My buddy gave me some apple wood. I'm trying that next.
I have found out that you can "oversmoke" A turkey. I smoke mine for about 2 hrs. in an aluminum dish, and then I cover it, and continue cooking. I don't know what kind of smoker you have tho.
If you "brine" A turkey before smoking, it turns out very juicy. Brining is A method where you soak the bird in A saltwater solution (like overnight).
I don't know about 12 lbs. or less for smoking (Iv'e did bigger birds then 12lbs). It does take A long time, but it's worth it! I have A digital meat thermometer. It's the only way you know for sure. I also put A temp gauge in my smoker, and man, am I glad I did. I smoke between 200-250 degrees F. My friend used to smoke his turkey overnight. He went thru, like A case of beer tho :shock:
Don't go poking your bird every 30 minutes to see the temp tho. All the juices will leak out.
You might screw something up the first time, or maybe not! I messed up, and not just the first time. Thats the great thing about screwing up- You learn from it, so it isn't A waste of time. I would start with A small bird. Less money and time if you wreck it, and you won't be out much $$.

Let us know how it turned our please!!
I have said it before and I will say it again.

People that like to cook USUALLY love gadgets. I am not a huge gadget fan BUT...invest in a digital probe thermometer that you place into the meat, set the temp and alarm and leave it in until it screams at you. These can be had for about 18 bucks at the big home improvement superstores and they will save you HUNDREDS of dollars in less than perfect roasts, turkeys, chickens, etc.

As far as turkey size goes, I have done as large as 24 pounds. Tasted wonderful!
You should be able to smoke any size turkey. If it is frozen turkey, it probably comes packed in solution (which is like a brine).

We use pop up timers in ours. We use hickory and pecan, cook at about 240-250. It usually takes 4-5 hours.
The problem with those pop-up timers is that they are glued down with a resin that is not supposed to melt until the temp hits 180. I only cook my bird (the dark meat) to 170 and then resting brings the temp up.
Geez, guys I'd love to find out how you can locate pecan wood chips (I'm in Canada!) but most hardwoods will work, including maple (note that you could try alder when smoking fish)

The digital meat probes ensure your success in cooking; I completely agree that one shouldn't go poking it every twenty minutes, because of both leakage and temperature variances issues...but note that the bigger the bird or chunk of meat, the more it carries on cooking while it "sits" (ie waiting to be carved!) and thus, its my experience that you should cook it only to 10 degrees Fahrenheit below the "recommended" internal will warm itself to that amount sitting on the carving board, and be all that more juicy...and of course with poultry, we've all been guilty of overcooking at one time or another, which makes it dry...and with pork, cooking to "sawdust" texture does not hide the fact that in 40 odd years, nobody has been hurt by the somewhat underdone juiciness...(and tenderness!)

I smoked a 17 pounder.....just make sure you use a meat thermometer. I take mine off when it has reached 170.
I smoke my turkeys on a Webber Covered Kettle Barbecue, over a divided bed of coals, and with a drip pan underneath. I usually selct a 20 to 22 lb. bird. I use both maple and birch from aorund my home (fallen sticks and such). I use a meat thermometer (I too like the digital with the remote alarm you wear on your hip) and cook to an internal temp of 155 with the tip in the turkey "armpit", not touching the bone. I once overcooked a bird to about 180' and it was dry. I removed the breasts and placed in a ziplock bag with about a quarter cup of water. I then placed the whole breasts into the refrigerator and let sit overnight. I took the turkey to work the next day for a pot-luck and just heated it in the microwave. It was as tender and juicy that you'd have thought it had been cooked to perfection. I got lucky. That doesn't always work. Mind the internal temp and your bird will be perfect.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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