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SeattleSmoke

Epic Christmas Turkey fail

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I thought I would share my epic holiday fail on the Akorn and see what you guys think went wrong.  

 

The hubby got a free turkey from work, so I suggested we try to smoke it as our first attempt at a whole turkey.  It was just small 12 lb. turkey dinner for the two of us, so low risk.  I’ve been smoking ribs, chicken, sausage, pork loin, and even turkey legs for 3 years on the Akron, but I’ve

never tried a whole turkey.  I thought it would be a good experiment.  I have low and slow down pat, and have been using a tiptoptemp for a while to hold temp -  How hard could it be?!  Bwa-ha-ha!!!

 

Well, I’m a fan of the amazing ribs.com website, so I did a little homework between that website and kamadoguru- im sure most here would agree that both are excellent resources - and decided in simple Simon & Garfunkel wet rub at 325 degrees. This was a factory-salined turkey, so we opted to not brine.

 

First mistake - cooking at the recommended 325 deg F instead of what I’m more accustomed to low temp smoking at 225 degrees.  At 12 lbs, estimated cook time is 3 hours, and supposedly double that for true low and slow.  Both my Maverick and Thermapop indicated i hit 160 deg in the breast in 2 hours. Is it possible it was really done in 2 hours?!  I took the turkey out at 3 hours because I didn’t believe it cooked be fully cooked safely that quickly.

 

Mistake #2 - not trusting my thermometers and insertion points.  I would have pulled the turkey before 3 hours and hopefully before it was as dry as drywall.  Honestly, I reinserted the meat probe and thermampop 6 times thinking I was at the wrong depth in the breast and leg.

 

At any rate, the turkey was as dry as cardboard when we cut into it after 3 hours and a 30 minute rest!

 

I am so disappointed, but hey- that’s how we learn.  I’ll try again at a lower temp.  I just find it hard to believe the turkey was done in 2 hours at 325 deg., but 3 hours was way over cooked.  Does this surprise anyone?

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It sounds to me like you based your cook time believing your thermometer was accurate.  Here's something to consider.  Your 12 lb. of thermal mass assuming it was not long out of the fridge was likely around 40˚F.  It's proximity to the dome thermometer assuming it was accurate in the first place would have a pull down affect on the air around it this causing the thermometer to read at a lower temperature at least initially.  I suspect your actual cooking temperature was higher than you thought.

 

I would also point out Akorn Thermometers are not known for their accuracy.  In my case both my Akorn therms read as much as 80˚ lower at higher temps.  I've found them to be more accurate in the 200-250 range.  Either or both of these factors would shortened your cook time.  

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I think you hit on your mistake in your post. You cooked your turkey for an hour after it was done.

Every turkey smoking recipe I've seen calls for temps in the 325-375 range, which makes sense if you think it about it. There's no need to cook a turkey at 225. It's not like a butt or a brisket where you're trying to slowly render and soften fat and connective tissue.

 

I'd do the same thing you did before but pull the bird off when your probes say it's done. I'm guessing you'll like the result.

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I also use amazing ribs dot com... and i have smoked turkeys using their methods for the last 3 years... i spatchcock the bird, use the S&G rub, and cook it at about (i think) 325...

 

to answer your question, in MY experience, the birds cook in about 2.5 hours... truly amazing time saver and frees up room in the oven for the rest of the tribe to cook their stuff!

 

trust the thermometer is what *I* have learned.. when in doubt, i'll use a different one to check it

 

and youre right, it is/was a learning experience... learning is the best part! (aside from eating, of course)

 

youll NAIL it next time!

 

TB

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9 hours ago, SeattleSmoke said:

 

 

First mistake - cooking at the recommended 325 deg F instead of what I’m more accustomed to low temp smoking at 225 degrees.  At 12 lbs, estimated cook time is 3 hours, and supposedly double that for true low and slow.  Both my Maverick and Thermapop indicated i hit 160 deg in the breast in 2 hours. Is it possible it was really done in 2 hours?!  I took the turkey out at 3 hours because I didn’t believe it cooked be fully cooked safely that quickly.

 

Mistake #2 - not trusting my thermometers and insertion points.  I would have pulled the turkey before 3 hours and hopefully before it was as dry as drywall.  Honestly, I reinserted the meat probe and thermampop 6 times thinking I was at the wrong depth in the breast and leg.

 

 

The first mistake you listed is not a mistake at all.  Whatever temperature you choose is not an issue.  I personally like to cook turkey at 400f.  

 

I agree that the mistake was you not listening to your thermometers.   I am used to seeing people spend hundreds of dollars on electronics for cooking bbq.  What I'm not used to seeing is what they tell you being overridden by a 'hunch' :)

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Thanks for the input guys!  I guess after 3 years of using the Akorn, I’m still just AMAZED at how efficient the darn thing works.   I mean - a turkey done in 2 hours - crazy!  I just figured there was no WAY it would cook that quickly.  There was no way my meat thermocouple and thermompop were measuring in the correct locations.  

 

It really didn’t turn out that badly - I used a couple small blocks of cherry wood, and the flavor is amazing - just too dry for my liking.  

 

I might give it another go for New Years!

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Then there's this to consider...some turkeys are just tough and dry.

We cooked a tiny hen (VERY expensive free range organic never frozen) last year on a pellet burner, time and temps ran spot on to plan and yet it turned out horrible.

It was so tough we could barely cut it with a sharp knife and eating it was like chewing leather.

All future birds are going to be cheapo grocery store birds and over 14 lbs.

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52 minutes ago, Charcoal Addict said:

225 F would increase risk of dry Turkey with soggy skin.

Soggy skin, yes, and way too smokey to eat if you added wood. You give up the skin when smoking a bird, but you couldn't be more wrong about dry meat.

 

Gentle cooking yields tender, juicy meat, every time I do it. But you must trust your instruments, or repair them so you can. My 6 lb breasts were over 150F in 2 hours, and then stalled needing nearly an hour to get close to 160F.  That was at 225-250F. Skin was a disaster, but the meat needed neither gravy nor knife. 

 

But then I'm picky about my temperature targets, preferring to pull it low and hold, cooling slowly after removing the meat from cooking. 

 

Have fun,

Frank

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I did the turkey on the Akorn this year for the first time.  My wife was worried that her family wouldn’t approve, but they were all converted!  I followed loosely the process from allthingsbbq on YouTube https://youtu.be/Je5cVaLGcaw

 

The bird was so big that I could barely fit the tray in the Akorn, so that changed airflow. I had a probe at the back that I watched for 400F and that is where the dark meat end went. I put a small deflector at the front under the breast area and watched the dome for 350F.

 

 It all worked out well, so I would agree that watch the internal temps but also add that spatchcocking the turkey is the way to go. 

 

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