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Mar 5, 2014 10:29 AM

Pulled Turkey?

I have a 14 lb turkey sitting in my freezer, and I'm wondering if it's possible to cook it so it's pullable, either in my Weber kettle or my offset smoker. There are plenty of recipes out there using turkey parts smothered in "BBQ" sauce in crockpots, but does anybody have experience doing it with a whole bird and real fire? Is it possible to keep the breast meat from drying out too much while the legs/thighs get to a pullable temperature? Will brining or injecting help?

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  1. Haven't done it with turkey but put boneless chicken thighs in the smoker and they pull great. No brining. Just a good rub and leave the skin on to add moisture

    1. I always buy extra turkeys to keep in the freezer during the holidays just so I can put one on the grill and make pulled turkey later during the year.

      I always cook it over indirect heat and I don't brine it but I imagine it would help in a way; the downside to that is brining involves a ton of salt and sugar, which I don't like to add to my bird. You could brine the bird in buttermilk, which would keep it moist (pat well before cooking).

      You could take the breasts off and cook them once the rest of the bird has cooked to your liking then put them on so that the whole bird finishes cooking at around the same time. I rotate the bird every 30 minutes or so that it evenly cooks.

      Sometimes I'll wrap the turkey with heavy foil once it has cooked about half way then continue to rotate it evenly until it's done. Also, sometimes once the turkey is about 80% cooked, I'll put the wrapped turkey into a low heated oven (250F. degrees or so) to finish cooking. If you do it this way, you can save any juices from the bird to add to a sauce.

      Here's some help:

      5 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw

        Thanks, but your first link is pretty much how I usually do a turkey on my kettle, and the bird is not pullable at 160F, and I'm afraid that if I take it to 190-200F, it'll be bone dry.

        When you make pulled turkey, what internal temp are you cooking it to?

        1. re: ricepad

          Dark meat can take a lot more cooking and stay moist. You can take it to 190 and still be fine. Even dark meat chicken will handle this temp well without drying out.

          White meat no so much. 170-175 max.

          You may want to consider spatchcocking the turkey or cutting into parts so you have more control over when a part comes

          1. re: ricepad

            I take it off the grill at 165, cover it and let it rest before pulling. You could separate the breasts at this point and continue to let the rest of the bird cook a little longer.

            1. re: ricepad

              You don't need to take poultry to 190-200. You're not dissolving collagen.

              1. re: JayL

                But will the breast ever get pullable? Or is that a leg/thigh thing only? Is the breast just too lean to pull?

          2. I smoke turkey often, but never white and dark meat together.

            I have rubbed turkey thighs, rested them overnight, brought to room temperature, and smoked them, both with hickory and with fruit wood. Made very good BBQ, much like pulled pork. Legs will work, too, but the tendons make it a pain to pull.

            Turkey breast cooked enough to pull will be dry and stringy. But i've had very good luck with turkey breast brined overnight (soy/honey/sage), brought to room temp, and smoked over very mild wood - sugar maple is absolutely the best. Watch the temp like a hawk, then rest & slice like your Thankgiving bird. I like this cold at least as much as hot.

            I'd thaw the bird and smoke the parts on two separate days - I'm betting you'll love them both.

            1. Shouldn't be a problem. I've had pulled turkey a number of times so it's do-able.

              1. We smoke whole Turkeys all the time at our restaurant and it's easy to pull. Just slow smoke the way you normally would anything else, but once you cross about 140 you should resort to the "Texas Crutch" -- put it in a covered foil pan to finish cooking and let the natural moisture in the bird help everything fall apart. You don't need to add liquid but you won't lose any either. 165 is more than done enough.

                Our pulled Smoked Turkey sandwich is one of our biggest sellers and flies off the Trucks during summer events. It is extremely moist and juicy and fully flavored with the smoke.

                We buy injected (pre-brined) birds but use a dry rub and air-dry in the cooler for a couple of days.

                We smoke and roast them on Vertical Roasters. You can add sauce if you like after pulling but it isn't necessary.

                2 Replies
                1. re: acgold7

                  Thanks! This is the kind of information I was hoping to get back. What temp are you running your cooker...225-250F?

                  1. re: ricepad

                    Yep, we smoke at 225. Oven at 250 when we make the transfer from the smoker to the oven.