by Carl Shivers
(Little Rock, Arkansas)
I have been smoking turkeys for about 30 years. It is usually an all night proposition of tending the fire and sleeping on the floor; too smelly to get in bed. I saw a recipe for smoking turkey after cutting it into pieces as you would a chicken. It was stated that it took 1/2 the time as smoking a whole bird. I'm interested in your opinion on this process.
Only way to go.
I've been smoking turkeys on the holidays for the last fifteen years. My secret, at least it was until now, was to cut a whole bird up and smoke the parts. I smoke everything including the neck and organs. I smoke at 250˚ to 275˚F for three to four hours.
I pull the breast when it gets to 157˚F and wrap it in foil in a cooler for 30 minutes or up to an hour. I pull the wings, neck and organs with the breast (those are my treats for the next few nights).
I leave the legs and thighs on for 30 more minutes while the breast rests. I usually cook around 35 pounds of meat (2 tenderloins, ham and turkey) for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
16 years ago my father in-law cooked a whole turkey for Thanksgiving dinner on his new smoker, dinner was 6 hours late and I inherited a smoker.
I have only smoked turkey breasts and they come out very good. I was surprised. They are more consistent than a whole turkey. On the parts side, I have smoked chicken breast with rib meat (and the bones) and they are much easier, more consistent flavor and cooking time, than a whole chicken.
How do you cut it up and estimate the time?
I am also interested in smoking a cut up turkey vice a whole turkey (I need my rest to make it through the day with my in-laws). Please provide any tips you may have on how to divide up the meat and approximate the cooking time.
For example, do you split the breast meat or just cut them free from the bone? Is the cooking time based on the largest piece or the total weight?
Whole Turkey vs Cut Up
My self I prefer cut up, I don't have the patients for whole turkeys. I find that I get a better smoke with cut up and a more intense flavor.
For Quicker Cooking Cut It Up
I've found that by dividing a turkey into its separate parts, it will take less time to cook in the smoker. It also makes it possible to end up with a perfectly cooked breast every time. When it reaches 160 degrees, remove it from the smoker.
I leave the breast whole but remove the ribs. The drumsticks remain attached to the thighs. After the wings are removed, the back section is saved for making stock, although you could smoke the back too if you wanted.
Continue smoking the leg quarters and wings until they reach the temperature you prefer. I like the dark meat to reach 175-180. It's much more tender, and has better flavor, in my opinion.