The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

WFT (Wood-Fired Turkey)

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ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

WFT (Wood-Fired Turkey)

Yeah, I baked bread for T-G (baguettes and epi), but there's plenty of bread pics on here. So here's a few pics of another use for the WFO: T-G turkey.

We had planned on a small-ish bird this year, but My Lovely Assistant got to the store a bit too late and all they had left was jumbos. We got a 21 lb. bird.

Made our traditional stuffing (with cornbread, regular bread, mushrooms, carmelized onions, celery, apples, dried cranberries, water chestnuts, hot sausage, peppers, eggs, stock, etc.) and prepped the bird by rubbing herb butter under the skin. But it was really tough for some reason to separate the skin on this bird. Hmmm.  W'sup with that?

I had pre-heated the oven on Wed nite, baking sweets and 5 lbs of multi-color fingerlings. (Interesting factoid: I had baked bread on Sunday and the oven was at about 100 deg. surface temps on Wed. nite.) Thursday at 8:30 a.m., I fired it up again and got down to coals by 10:00. Let it soak for about 45 minutes and raked the remaining coals off to one side. I use a piece of angle iron to hold them and keep the fire banked.

Here's the coals:

I loaded the turkey into a roasting pan and into the oven and tossed a handful of sawdust on the coals every 10 minutes for about an hour. The oven was still pretty hot at this point (600+ deg. surface temps.) so I kept the bird covered loosely with foil to prevent burning.

Here's what it looks like after an hour of smoking. Note the skin burst -- must have been something about it being so hard to separate. Dunno.

At 21 pounds, I was figuring for 5-1/4 hrs of cooking. So I closed the door and went back to the kitchen for the rest of the meal preparation.

My oven is about as small as you build in a WFO, so it can't retain heat as long/hot as a larger oven, So, by about 4 hours, the oven had fallen to about 300 deg., so I moved it into the kitchen oven for the last hour. Probably could have left it in there, but I wanted to put the bread in to heat. (I had frozen a bunch of loaves that I planned to finish just before dinner.)

So here's the final result. Everybody loved it. Tender, moist and smokey. I'm now relishing the thought of leftovers and turkey stock.

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

That looks delicous, ClimbHi.  I love the beautiful coloring that the smoking gave it, and I can just imagine what a flavor boost it provides too.  What kind of sawdust did you use?  Anything special?  I have been working in oak lately so I could come up with oak sawdust, otherwise it would have to be douglas fir or pine (the usual garge project woods) unless I make a special effort to get it.

Also, in another thread (here) you said to "avoid walnut".   Why avoid walnut?  Is it because of the flavor, or is there something in the burn byproducts?  I am curious, because one of the woods I have access to for fuel for my own WFO is walnut.

Happy Thanksgiving ClimbHi, and thank you too for your generous support of us other WFO owners here on TFL.
OldWoodenSpoon

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

As it happens, this particular load was a bucket of white oak sawdust. I avoid pine (too much pitch -- tastes like turpenine) and other softwoods for smoking.

Walnut contains a poison. It's so toxic, you can't even use it for bedding for horses as it makes them sick. See: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1148.html 

I wouldn't worry about burning it for fuel because the oven gets so hot it'll burn away all combustion byproducts, but smoking is a different matter. I've used cherry for smoke and it gives a nice flavor, but some say it's mildly poison as well. But I've never had any problems with it.

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I might be wrong about this but I don't believe cherry wood is poisonous but the pits contain cyanide as do peach pits, apple seeds, almonds......  Nothing to worry about when burn cherry wood though.

Gerhard

We cooked our turkey in our green egg this year, I used pecan wood chunks for the smoke flavour.

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

That bird looks great. What kind of roasting profile did you use? (Temp/time). I've been tempted by the Egg for a while.

Eric

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Thanks for the compliment.  I maintained a temperature of 350 for almost 4 hours, my goal was 180 internal and the meat was nice and moist.  I know there are lots of people that recommend a temperature below 170 but we really prefer the texture of a bird cooked to a higher temperature. 

Gerhard

ehanner's picture
ehanner

For a time I had a large wood fired smoker dedicated to roasting turkey drums at festivals and events. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the drums were the best turkey they ever tasted. The secret was to season with only garlic salt and cook at 350F to an internal temp of 190F. You would think it would be ruined but, the meat is moist and full of concentrated flavor. You couldn't do this with white meat obviously.

My way of approaching the need for a full roast on the dark meat while delivering moist breast white meat is to start the dark meat first. I put the well thawed  bird in a stoppered clean sink and run hot water in, up to the top of the thighs, bottom of the breast. I try to get the drums in the warm water for at least some of the time. Every couple minutes I pour some boiling water in to keep the temperature near 150F. This pre heating goes on for just 12-15 minutes. The grill or oven needs to be ready to go. The bird comes out of the bath water, is quickly seasoned and into the smoker/oven. Done-ness is determined by the breast meat. No red under cooked thigh joints and usually very moist breast meat. Works for me.

Eric

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I tend to agree with you, but there is this:

"DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Damaged leaves pose the greatest risk. All parts are
potentially toxic. "

Therefore, I don't worry about using the wood for fuel, but I don't recommend it to others as a source of smoke which I would think could pose more risk since the wood doesn't really burn, tho' I have done so myself without ill effect.

Nice turkey. Which came first, the bird or the egg? ;-)

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have used Cherry wood as my number one choice for turkey for over 40 years. Never heard of any ill effects or seen a credible risk assessment. The folks that make smoke pellets for the commercial smokers and packing houses don't seem to be concerned. My personal favorite.

Eric

 

polo's picture
polo

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Prunuse.htm

The wood itself (other than twigs) poses no risk. I've been using black cherry pretty much exclusively in my oven.

 

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

Looks great ClimbHi!  I would have loved to see a picture of your stuffing too!! :)  I think my turkey looked like that after an hour of smoking, but when it was done the skin was pretty black.  But, still tasted good!  Thanks so much for all the tips on smoking the bird, we have another one sitting on the counter ready to go in tonight!  I'm excited to experiment and see how it turns out! :)

Thanks for the FYI on walnut.  We have LOTS of walnut here too, but we don't use it to smoke, just fule.  But, good to know!  We used oak too, just soaked some big pieces over night and threw them in, worked great! :)

Maybe I'll get my pictures up next month when my downloading resets!! ;)

Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving!

And yes, my dad would love to hang out and turn some wood with ya!! :)

Stop by anytime, if you're in this part of the woods!! :)

-faith

sam's picture
sam

Looks delicious ClimbHi!   

We smoked a couple of smaller 15lb turkeys in a Weber smoker, with hickory and a baste of honey, red wine, and other stuff.  We also did a larger 25lb in the normal kitchen oven.  (Lots of family this year).  

Here's a pic of one of the smoked turkeys:

 

 

 

Laurentius's picture
Laurentius

The size of the oven has no bearing on its ability to retain heat, its the insulation under the floor and surrounding the oven what's important. Most hard woods and some herbs are excellent for smoking, cherry(fruit and flowering), hickory, alder, pecan, maple, peach, apple. Rosemary, sage, dill are also good. This year we had a traditional oven roasted turkey dinner and the next day, I cold smoked(flowering cherry wood) the left over, which was a turkey minus a breast.

polo's picture
polo

I would think, given two ovens of different mass and both very well insulated, the oven with the larger mass would retain heat for a longer period of time.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

The total mass of the masonry is a key factor in heat retention. The more mass, the more heat can be stored. The bigger the oven, the more mass. For example, heat a swimming pool up to 90° and heat a glass of water up to 90°, insulate as much as you want, and the glass will invariably cool faster than the pool. Immutable law of physics: H=cp X m X ΔT. So, given equal insulation, the larger oven (i.e., more massive oven) will stay hot longer and have more heat to give up to the food that's loaded into it.

I'm with you on the cherry -- I like the flavor it gives. But I've been called a fool more than once for using it. ;-(

So I always point out the opposing views and let the user decide.

Herbs are a great idea. That's going on the "to do" list -- thanks!

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Laurentius's picture
Laurentius

Hi ClimbHi,

You are correct. I didn't mean to imply that mass was not a major factor in heat retention, its most definitely is, but a small oven thats well insulated and fully saturated with heat will retain its heat better than a larger non insulated oven(depending on how much larger.) My friend and I have the same basic oven(his has more mass if you consider the sand and glass) his is insulated with air, sand, and glass, which are not materials for heat retention. His oven can retain usable heat for a few hours after saturation. Mine on the other hand is insulated with ceramic fiber board, under the cooking floor and ceramic fiber blankets around the dome, can be use almost a week. Don't worry about the name calling, Native American was smoking meat and fish with cherry, way before our forefather made headway here. If you cook lamb, try bundling it with rosemary tied all around it, fantastic.

Terri Karsten's picture
Terri Karsten

Your turkey looks beautiful! I roasted one about two years ago in my WFO when I first fired the oven, just roasting, no smoking. I had baked bread the day before so the oven was still about 250 degrees in the first layer of bricks the next day.  A small, short burn brought it back up to temperature, and the bird tested done almost two hours earlier than it would be in a regular oven. The skin split on the sides for me.

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

Hello, I just have a couple smoking questions.  First, breast side up, or breast side down?  The first one I did breast side up, it was moister than my breast side down, but I did the BS down one over night.  So what do you think?  

Second, me and my friend are trying different smoking things.  I told her to do it in her grill with chips (she doesn't have a WFO).  She put the firebrick splits on the grill and put her roasting pan on top of that, next to the soaked chips.  She smoked for 1.5 hours.  Worked perfect, then she put it in the oven at 350 for an hour, then down to 180 overnight.

I didn't think it needed to have the 350 step, cause it would dry it out.  But "people" say that bringing it up to 350 kills the surface bacteria?  Well, both my turkeys were never brought to 350 and we are still alive?!  What do you think abou the whole 350 hr. thing?

Her turkey was great and falling apart, but the white meat was dry!  And I told her to check it first thing in the morning cause it would probably be done, which it was.  It was at 170.  But her directions told her to cook it till 11am, like 4 more hours!!  They say at 180 you can't over cook it!  What?!  No way, it would have gotten dryer and dryer, right?

So, what is the answer?  We did ours 1 hr. smoking, and 4.5 hours at 250ish and it was almost perfect, a touch dry.  I guess I'm just wondering if you can smoke at around 180ish the whole time until done and still be "safe" to eat without the 350 step.  

Am I making sense?  Thanks a bunch!! :)

Faith

This was the Thanksgiving day turkey, smoked at an hour.  

 

This was the breast side down, smoked all night.  Not enough smoke.  Skin was nicer and it fell apart way more than the first one, which I liked.  But too dry!  But, way more juice, yeah, cause it all came out of the bird!!! ;)

 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

What Laurentis said. I smoke for flavor, not preserving. I find an hour or two of heavy smoke is sufficient for the flavor and if you need to cook longer, just do it w/o smoke if you want. BTW, save the carcass on smoked birds -- makes KILLER soup!

Breast meat is done around 150 deg. Legs/Thighs at around 165-170 deg. Some recommend cooking until the breast reaches around 145 deg and then take it out of the oven, removing the legs/thighs for additional cooking by themselves until they get up to 165-ish. I find that method too tedious, so I cover the breast with foil to keep it a bit cooler and add butter under the breast skin to help keep the meat moist if it gets a bit too hot. Moist stuffing helps a lot too since it adds steam to the bird from the inside. The higher temps are good for crisping the skin. Otherwise, not essential.

The overnight method at low temp always worried me for big things like stuffed turkey since the interior is in the temp danger zone for longer than I'm comfortable with. At 180 deg, the insides are at a perfect temp for promoting bacterial blooms. Still, never heard of anyone dying from it!

PS: Nice pan/rack for that bird. Easy to pick up and elevated to keep it from drowning in its own juices.

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

Thanks guys for the info!  I will try again, I did put foil on it after the hour was up.  I think maybe I'll just try a bit cooler temp!  Yes, love the pan!  Sam's club!!  Only $15 bucks for a Kitchen Aid Roasting Pan!  All these years using junk, finally have a better pan!! :)

Laurentius's picture
Laurentius

There are basically, two primary method of smoking (hot and cold). I use the hot method mainly for barbecues or cook and eat dinners. The cold method for me is to perserve the meat so we can eat it at a slower pace and not have to worry about spoilage. With the hot methed there is an internal temperature the meat must get to so that the pathegens are killed, insuring that the meat is safe to consume. There is also a limitation on your smoking time to avoid losing to much fat and moisture, resulting in a dry and over cooked meat. In a tradional cold smoke, the meat is cured beforehand, in a dry salt rub(included sometimed, sugar, spices, herbs) or a brine solution soak, to remove moisture from the cells of the meat, which make it a more hostile environment for the pathegens to survive. The smoking can be from a few hours, depending on the cut of the meat(jerky), up to weeks(my mother's Georgia Sugar Cured Ham). I perfer my turkeys smoked breast up in my WFO, since the smoke goes to the top of the dome and settle down on the breast, I seal my door and let it smoke 8 to 24 hours, opening the door every few hours to regenerate the charcoal pan so that the woodchips will smoke rather than die.

Foamheart's picture
Foamheart

I don't know about Walnuts but people generally throw away the best part for use in smoking, the shells. Pecan and Almond shells are great for smoking use. Any fruit tree, apple, peach, pear, although I have never tried citrus. Hardwoods work fine with each having its own taste as well and the intensity. Oak and Pecan are very mild while Mequite and Hickory are robust. Soft woods usually taste bad, and as above mentioned pine has resins which are terrible! I like Pecan, Cherry, and Mesquite depending upon what I am smoking. Dark meats take heavy smoke, lighter or fish require a very mild smoke.

The breast skin breaks away when you cook either too hot or too dry. Those perfect smoked turkeys you see in the pictures are usually water smoked which is a slow, low and humid smoke. Like those done in a smoke house where hams are done also. Most home smokers can do water smoking but few ever master the tech involved due to the increased amount of time it takes to complete it. Huge difference in timing.

A couple of suggestions I try to use. I have always believed that any turkey over 16 pounds should be left to a pro. It really needs a water smoke. Buy two 16's instead of a 20-25, its so much easier and you get MORE drumsticks and left overs for sandwichs and gumbos. I have never brined before smoking, although I have friends that swear by it. I do sometimes inject the meaty portions, sure its added flavor, but when done properly it makes the moistest fowl you have ever enjoyed. A properly smoked fowl's meat has a completely different texture than you can ever achieve in an oven, I don't know why. I swear by "Kitchen Bouquet" liquid used to make sauces, rub the bird down with it. It seems to make the bird more susceptible to the smoke while insuring a smooth even color to the skin (no pigment patching). Rub it down with oil, its like putting on sunscreen, it limits the smokes damage to the skin, from dry heat.

Turkey injection:

½ stick melted butter

2 caps of Garlic juice

1 cap of Onion juice

1 cap of Worcestershire sauce

½ t. of salt

Tabasco to taste

Optional, ½ cap of liquid smoke

Mix all in a sauce pan, heat till butter melted and salt is dissolved. I use the individual bottle caps for measurements because I like a little added flavor without overpowering the natural taste.

Can be stored in refrigerator.

Injection needles, get it from the local feed and seed, cost less than 2 bucks and they work great, ask the cows.

 

Practice with a chicken a couple a weeks before the big bird to check equip and your time temp equations.