My First Thanksgiving Turkey – The Good and The Bad

My wife and I decided to stay home for Thanksgiving this year.  We did this a couple of years ago and really enjoyed ourselves.  My original idea was to do a fried turkey this year, but instead we decided to do one on the smoker.  Earlier that week, I received a Thanksgiving care package from Heather at Stubb’s BBQ that contained two bottles of injectable marinade and a bottle of chicken rub.  It was serendipity!  The stars were aligning – smoked turkey was my destiny for this year!

So it was time to do research.  The one common theme that I found was to PRACTICE a turkey cook beforehand.  But you know what?  I live dangerously.  As it stands, my first smoked turkey was cooked on Thanksgiving day.  On to the products I used…

For the injection, I used Stubb’s Texas Butter Injectable Marinade.

And for the seasoning, I used Stubb’s chicken rub.

My next point of research was to figure out how to actually cook the darn thing.  After lots of reading, I settled on using the Ultimate Smoked Turkey guide written by Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com.  It’s rare to see such an in-depth and detailed guide into cooking a turkey, but this certainly fits the bill! 

The turkey that we purchased was already “enhanced” with a salt solution, so I skipped on the brine.  I did make a wet rub consisting of equal parts vegetable oil and Stubb’s chicken rub.  This wet rub went not only on the skin of the bird, but also under the skin in the breast area.  Afterwards, I injected the bird in three spots on each side of the breast, each leg, and each thigh.

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I also prepared a roasting pan full of gravy according to the Ultimate Smoked Turkey guide.  This ended up going on the bottom grate in my Weber Smoky Mountain smoker while the bird went on the top grate with the breast meet up.  I used an 80/20 blend of apple and pecan woods in the smoker.  I used 9 medium-sized wood chunks at the beginning and added 3-4 small pieces during the cook.

So everything was going smooth… or so I thought.  The one thing I learned during this cook is that out of the box, the Weber Smoky Mountain cookers like to settle in at around 250 degrees.  I had some difficulty getting the cooker up to the 325 degree range, so I tried to prop open the door to let some more air in.  Then the door fell off, and before I know it I’m well over 350 degrees!  Needless to say, I fought with the temperatures for most of the day before dialing it in to the 300 degree range where I thought my cook would take longer.  Again, so I thought…

Anyway, here’s a pic of the bird at the 2 1/2 hour mark.

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At the 3 1/2 hour mark, I went to check the internal temperature of the breast meat expecting it to be about 15 degrees or so below 160 (my target for the breast).  Needless to say, I was way more than surprised to see the breast meat over 170 degrees!  Holy crap!  I overcooked the bird.  So I went ahead and pulled it off.  It sure did look pretty though…

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So what did I take away from my first turkey cook?  First, the good…

  • The Stubb’s products worked very nicely on the turkey – gave it a very nice color and an even better flavor.
  • Meathead’s method for cooking a turkey is pretty spot on.

And the bad…

  • The breast meat was a bit dry – my fault for not monitoring the temperature closer than that. 

Lesson learned here: go ahead and put that temperature probe in the breast meat.  You’ll be thankful for it later. 

  • http://www.nibblemethis.com Chris

    Yeah, you can’t turn your back on turkey for too long. They’ll go from being done to over cooked in no time flat. Didn’t realize getting the WSM dialed in at 350 would be a problem. That would be a pain to contend with.