TURKEY SMOKING HOUNDS- YOUR HELP IS REQUESTED!
A friend of mine is going to be smoking a whole turkey (self basting injected frozen bird) for the first time in his Weber Smokey Mountain.
He is trying to find out information about the difference between wet smoking and dry smoking the bird (with or without the filled water pan.)
He tells me "The smoking temperature is high, around 275-300, and the times are only around 3 hours." (I don't know what that means, but maybe others here will).
FYI, he has already dry smoked a whole chicken and it came out great. What he really needs to know is whether he really needs the filled water pan, and how the results will be different for each type of smoking.
I do this all the time in my WSM. I always use the water pan because if you don't, the fat drips on the coals and will ignite and incinerate your bird. If you leave the pan in place without the water, the drippings will char in the pan and become very nasty, like creosote. Use the filled water pan.
An injected bird loses a huge amount of water very quickly when you cook it, unlike a chicken, so I wouldn't advise the pan-less method.
Note that this is more like smoke-roasting, not true smoking. You wouldn't want to brine an injected bird as it would become too salty. But you will lose the ham-like texture and flavor of a true brined slow-smoked bird. But that's okay -- this bird will come out great. It will cook shockingly quickly -- as little as six or eight minutes per pound. Monitor the internal temperature closely. I do mine on a vertical roaster in the WSM with the WSM temp up around 375. Results in very smoky crisp skin and unbelievably juicy meat. I remove the bird when the breast meat hits 150.
Taking if off the Bullet is tricky -- the skin wants to slide off the bird. But it's only an issue with a really big bird done vertically. And I've rigged up a little contraption to deal with that. Otherwise, I highly recommend the vertical method.
To add to acgold's response, the water filled drip pan also helps to stabilized the interior cooking chamber , especially in breezy or colder temp. The water retains heat well acting as a heat sink and keeps teh temp regulated if removing lid alot or if having to add fuel or smoking wood.
275-300 is higher than the usual 225-250 smoking process, but for poultry, the 300-325 range helps to produce a nice crispy skin, as I have found that the 250 leaves a nice juicy interior but the skin is often soft, either meaning skin removal and broiling to brown (if the desire is to keep teh skin) , or throwing the whole bird under the broiler. And then that sets up a lot of overcooking possiblities if done incorrectly.
Well, a lot will depend upon the size of the bird. You can certainly worry about a dry bird, especially Turkey, if you cook it too long. You can slow-smoke a Turkey at low temp and have it come out moist if you brine it, but you wouldn't do this, as we mentioned above, with a pre-brined (Injected or Basted) bird. That's why I like the fast, hot Smoke-Roast method for this.
300 is sort of in-between -- too hot for slow-smoking but too low for Roasting, I think.
The key, to me, is getting the bird off the heat at what most people would think is a ridiculously underdone temp. If you're cooking at a high heat like 375 or 400 in the WSM, especially if you use a vertical roaster as I mentioned above, the white meat will continue to cook and will end up somewhere around 160 or 165 after resting -- well out of the danger zone, no longer pink but still incredibly juicy and flavorful.
I happen to be passionate about both Turkey and my WSM and I think they are a perfect match.