Big Poppa's Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

Big Poppa

Each year we talk about great ways of doing turkey.

Spatchcock is really wonderful..the only drawback is some may not like the presentation.
It is really nice as you can get both sides cooks quicker (12-15 minutes a pound depending on temp.

I cook mine traditionally and at 275. Figure around 20 minutes a pound and give your self a resting time of at least 20 minutes in your calculations. The other main reason why I like the lower cooking is that Thanksgiving is usually a communal cook and when your bird is done Aunt Marges is still futzing with her cranberry jello surprise and uncle morty is trying to open the canned onions for his famous string beans with goopy soup and canned onion. If you cook your bird at 350 the residual cooking will continue and give you an over cooked bird cause the 'jello surprise" wasnt ready. At 250 to 275 you have time....

Couple of things to remember....Big Turkeys are harder to cook. By the time the inside of the breast is done the outside is usually over done. Buy 2 smaller ones and you will have much better results I never cook larger that 14 lbs

Avoid seasonings with Paprika...they tend to burn on the skin. There is nothing wrong with rubbing the bird with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Do not stuff smoked turkey. I really dont know why except for the concern of health. (It doesnt make sense to me if you are cooking to the same it as the oven, but why risk it.

I love to cook mine in the little aluminum half pans. I like a snug fit and I usually put thinly sliced apples onions and chunks of celery and carrots and some stock...not much. THis is a great way of keeping the juices and makes for a moister bird.

Notice the probe is from the top horizontal to the deepest part of the bird...make sure you are clear of the bone.
The single biggest tip other than size is LET THE TURKEY REST for at least twenty minutes. I cannot tell you how many times that I have watched uncle morty pull the turkey out of the oven put it on the cutting board and immediately slice into it and everybody ooooohs and ahhhs over how juicy it is...l"Look at all of the's so juicy it's running off the cutting board. All of that juice stays in the bird if you let it rest and relax.

On stuffing. This is my favorite part. GO crazy. Make that old boxed stuff for the people who have to have it. understand that you can do anything you want....go crazy. Last year of the three stuffings I make the Chorizo and smoked jalapeno cornbread stuffing was gone is 30 seconds. Stuffing is sauteed onion, carrot, celery...any kind of dried bread and anything else you want. I did a soudough pistachio italian sausage one....A kings Hawaiian sweet bread with linguica and pineapple....this is where you get to show off your creative chops....leave the turkey alone...roast it right.


Cranberry sauce. The recipe on the back of the ocean spray bag is a no brainer. Do one that way. Have a canned one for those who need it....and then be creative! Put some pineapple jalapeno relish in it....put some orange zest....put some stuffing this is where you get to elevate the plates flavor profile.



Carving! Very very important. The way your Dad did it is wrong. You want to carve the breast against the grain. What you do is you cut each breast out. Make in incision along the breast bone and slice the whole breast down to the bottom then cut around the breast to release it the cut thin slices against the bone. You will get better texture and a greater





Keeping food warm these little buffet warmers are great for sides



Big Poppa

Those heatied serving/chafing warmer dealies are the bomb.....look for them at target and wallys and they make a dinner work out much better no cold food whiclw you wait for the jello surprise


New member
FYI, Macy's has that triple buffet warming doohicky for $19.99 after rebate - today and tomorrow only.. Just saw the ad in today's paper.


New member
One other option... essentially cut the breasts out as you have.... but do it BEFORE cooking... Roll them together in a roast, wrap in the breast skin, and then wrap in prosciutto. Roast this double wrapped breast of love at 275-300 degrees, indirect, in your cooker... It allows you to get the breast cooked right (take to 155, to pasteurize, it only needs to be there 1 minute.) I pull at 150, and it usually carries to 157. Cook your dark meat in a foil 1/2 pan - you can cook it at 250-275, and let all that connective tissue gelatinize, and produce killer dark meat that will rival that perfectly cooked white meat.

You have the same issue as spatchcocking... you dont get that golden bird presentation; BUT, sliced on a tray with the dark parts along side is pretty darn impressive looking.

Here is an example of the breast rolled.
View attachment 958

We teach a holiday bird and ham class that included brined, injected, and marinated birds. Traditional; spatchcocked, and completely broken down birds as well. It was alot of fun, and a packed house at the All Things BBQ Kitchen in Wichita where I was teaching this last weekend!
View attachment 959
Last edited:


New member
Thanks BP. I have heard people say that that is the best way to carve. However, seeing pictures of it being carved makes it a whole lot better. Thanks for posting the pics.


New member
Thanks BP. I love learning new ways to cook. The smaller bird and smaller pan make a whole lot of sense to me. I especially like the way you carved that bird.

I see Patron is an essential part of the Thanksgiving day festivities. I think I'll add that too. :)



New member
i just read your thread to my wife. she would like the hawaiian bread / linguica / pineapple stuffing info plz. she said we have having that one for our thanksgiving stuffing. :) good for you.

Big Poppa

If your wife would make an appearance I wwould give her all my recipes...I want to see her torn between the Cute Sparky and the Chick Magnet Big Poppa

I made up the recipe on the spot for the chorizo but here is is from memory

Do the normal dicing of carrots celery and red bell pepper....if you want heat in the jalapenos just chop them crown needs the jalaps mild so I seed and core and smoke till soft...(a little evoo helps) Then I dice it real fine.....The make some corn bread Preferable a coupla days in advance cause stale is ok.....saute the chorizo in a separate pan and when it is done set aside and reserve...saute the onion diced peppers and jalapenos until the onions are translucent and then mix the chorizo in.........take the cornbread and mix it in a bowl with the chorizo veggie mix and season with salt and pepper....pour enough chicken stock to make it seem like stuffing and put in a baking dish and smoke at 300 for about 45 minutes....I hope I didnt forget anything....

you can also make the cornbread with the chorizo in it with some fo the jalapenos and some shredded mexican cheese and honey dont forget the honey if you are making it as a cornbread side dish.


Turkey carving
Here are a couple videos that should demystify carving a turkey. I carve my turkeys like BP indicated above by removing the breast meat from the carcass so they can be sliced cross grain. The benefits are more tender pieces of meat having been cut cross grain and I think you get more usable meat than if you just sliced it off the carcass. Some would argue that you can cut the breast slices thicker when off the carcass which helps preserve more of the juices than if you sliced it thin while on the carcass. I'm not positive about that but it seems plausible.
Both videos will demo the process. The first video will demo how to remove the wishbone before cooking which makes carving the breast meat off so much easier and you end up with more meat slices because if you leave the wishbone on then it acts as a knife guard for that large chunk of meat under the wishbone. Place the removed wishbone in the cooker and cook it with the rest of the bird so your family will be able to make a wish with it later. It also covers slicing but doesn't go into details of slicing the leg and thigh meat off the bone.
The second video shows great closeups of carving the whole turkey but doesn't explain how to remove the wishbone before cooking.

Removing the wishbone and some carving

More indepth on carving
Last edited:


We can also talk about another important aspect to the turkey which is a really good turkey gravy. Gravy can be a little daunting to some, it was for me until I researched it on youtube a few years ago. Buy some turkey wings and get your gravy done way ahead and then reheat on the big day!

All you need to make gravy is a tasty turkey stock (Hopefully including pan drippings) and equal portions of flour and fat (butter or turkey fat or any variable combination of both)! You can make the gravy hours or even days in advance of Thanksgiving day.

You can start with the boxed turkey stock in the store (Instead of water) to make your own stock but I wouldn't use it right out of the box to make gravy as it's no where near intensely flavored to make gravy from right out of the box or can. It's pretty simple to make your own. Remember, you want the most flavorful roasted turkey stock you can get your hands on to make your gravy. Deb posted here in the weekly contest making her turkey stock ahead of time for her gravy on Thanksgiving day and it's a safe bet it will make a tasty gravy! You can use the backbone from your spatchcocked turkey along with the neck and some wings. With a big knife or cleaver chop through all the bones so they'll be exposed to the simmering. Also cut through the skin on all sided to allow juices and fat to flow more freely. Add some pepper and very light on the salt and roast them in your cooker until deep golden brown. Don't forget to deglaze your roasting pan with boxed turkey stock to get all the flavorful roasted brown bits on the bottom then add it all to the stock pot with your turkey parts. You can add anything to your stock pot of roasted turkey parts and boxed stock. I like to saute separately some celery, onion, carrots, garlic and some whole pepper corns and add it to the pot. Pour in enough boxed turkey stock to cover the veg and turkey parts and simmer for an hour. Use a potato masher to pulverize the veg and turkey parts completely to release the maximum amount of flavor then simmer another hour and you have a rich tasting turkey stock! Pour through a strainer and then into a separator and save the fat for later. Measure how much of your rich defatted stock you have then determine below how much flour and fat you'll need to make the gravy.
Try to keep the salt to a minimum until you are at the end doing your final seasoning. Once salt is in, it's difficult to remove.
I get roughly 3-4 cups of finished stock from 2 roasted wings. Four wings is better.

Armed with some good roasted turkey stock you can make a fantastic gravy to go with your turkey!

To make 1 cup of gravy you need: 1 cup of stock, 1/8 cup flour, 1/8 cup fat
To make 2 cups of gravy you need: 2 cups of stock, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup fat
To make 4 cups of gravy you need: 4 cups of stock, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup fat
Remember, the fat can be butter, turkey fat or any variable of combination of the two.

How to make gravy: Wisk together the fat and flour in a pan making a roux (pronounced "roo" as in rooster) and cook until you achieve the color you want (I like it fairly brown but not burned), gradually pour in the stock whisking as you go then bring to a simmer and presto! You have homemade gravy you can be truly proud of!!!

The videos below will teach you everything you need to know to make a great turkey gravy along with your smoked turkeys!

Jamie Oliver Stress Free Turkey Gravy (I use turkey wings, not chicken)

Tyler Florence Ultimate Turkey Gravy
Tyler's Ultimate Turkey Gravy Recipe | Food Network - YouTub

Gordon Ramsay The Most Amazing Gravy
The Most Amazing Gravy - Gordon Ramsay - YouTub
Last edited:
Top Bottom