Smoking a Half Turkey

by Evan T.
(Lakewood, Colorado, USA)

Is it still possible to smoke half a turkey? Are there additional steps to take or modified ones? I live in Colorado. Will the cold weather affect the finished product?

Comments: Smoking High Altitude Turkey Half
by: Bill

Cold weather can make it difficult to keep your smoker up to the correct temperature, so yes, the cold could require some different smoking methods. And smoking half a turkey instead of a whole one requires a few changes in procedure, too. (continued below...)

First, place your smoker out of any wind, if possible. The cold wind can suck the heat right out of smokers. If you can't move the smoker, put up a temporary smoker enclosure, which will prevent wind from affecting your smoker.

Second, smoke your half-turkey at a higher temperature. All poultry will smoke nicely above the usual smoking temperature of 225 degrees
Fahrenheit. Keep the smoker temperature up between 275 to 300 degrees. The higher temperature will help fight the cold.

Another thing you're fighting is the high altitude. I've corresponded with a fellow smoker who lives in Mexico City, Mexico. He was having problems smoking brisket, which seemed to never get done. His smoker was kept at the "correct" temperature for brisket, about 225-235 degrees Fahrenheit. But after 10 hours or more, it just wasn't getting done. We decided that the altitude was the problem.

Mexico City lies at about 7300 feet above sea level, which is a couple thousand feet higher than you. But there still may be some effect of your elevation on your smoking success, so keeping the smoker a little hotter will help in that respect, too.

Brine the half turkey for a shorter time than you would a whole one. Cut the time in half to prevent it from becoming too salty. Season lightly with a turkey rub, then place it in the smoker with the cut side up. If you have no problems with the taste of bacon, drape several slices over the cut side of the turkey to protect it from drying. Or instead of bacon, you can cover the cut side with a piece of clean cheesecloth that's been soaked in butter.

Since your fighting the cold and the altitude, it's difficult to give you a time-per-pound guideline. My guess is you're looking at 20 to 30 minutes per pound smoking time, but to be sure, let a good smoker thermometer tell you when it's done.

The breast meat needs to reach 165 degrees, and the thigh, at the joint where it attaches to the body, needs to reach 175 degrees in order to be safe to eat. When the half turkey reaches done temperature, remove if from the smoker and let it rest under a tent of foil for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

I use foil
by: Malagua

I generally get a larger turkey and have it cut in half and smoke both halves. I put the cut side up and after about 3 hours, I cover the cut side with tin foil after basting it with some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and stock mixed. Comes out great.

Additionally, I've used a variety of chips but this year I'm using apple with cider in the pan. Also, I've been using electric smokers the past couple of seasons just for convenience. I respect the "purist" and the results but I've gotten lazy. To that end, I just had a very expensive electrical job done and now have an outside outlet on my patio for my smoker. Happy Thanksgiving y'all !

Malagua from Amarillo.