Turkey 101

Learn how to cook turkey in the Barrel House Cooker using two different methods: the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit or H-Frame with hooks.

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Turkey 101

Items Needed

  • Seasoning
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Disposable drip pan (optional)
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes per lb
  • Meat Internal Temp: 165°F


How much turkey can you cook in the BHC?

You can cook up to a 20 lb turkey in the BHC.

How long does it take to cook a turkey in the BHC?

A fully thawed turkey will take about 15 minutes per pound to cook. The recommended cooking temperature should be on the higher side (see "What temperature should the BHC be at for cooking a turkey?") for better flavor and moisture retention. Ideally, a 20 lb turkey will be finished in 4 to 5 hours. Since turkey doesn't have the same tough collagens to break down as other meats, it is not recommended to cook a turkey "slow and low".

What temperature should the Barrel House Cooker be at for cooking a turkey?

To get the barrel cooker to the ideal temp for turkey, let the charcoal burn for 25-30 minutes before putting the barrel back on the base and placing the turkey in the cooker. The thermometer on the top should read around 300°F before putting the turkey in. The temperature will drop 50+ degrees after putting the turkey in. Keep in mind that the thermometer on the top shows a lower temp than what the barrel is actually cooking at because the thermometer sits above the exhaust points. If the thermometer is still not quite reaching the 300°F mark after 5 minutes with the lid down and no meat in, then lift the lid for 5 minutes so that it sits slightly ajar to allow more air into the cooker. You can also open the intake an additional notch to keep the temp in the right zone.

Can you cook a turkey on the grates or does it have to be hung?

We strongly recommend hanging a turkey (see instructions for hanging methods) for best results; however, you can use the grates to cook the turkey. The cooking dynamics of hanging allows for even cooking.

Do you need a drip or water pan?

You do not need a water pan but can use a drip pan. The cooking dynamics of the barrel trap in moisture so there is no need for a water pan. A drip pan can be used to regulate the amount of smoky flavor produced from drippings hitting the hot coals. We recommend placing a disposable pan (about 6"x 8" and 1" deep) on a grate at the lowest level of the cooker to catch some of the drippings to limit the amount of smokiness in the turkey.

Can you use wood chips for extra smoky flavor?

Absolutely! Wood smoke will add a nice smoky flavor. Just toss 3-4 wood chunks in after the charcoal has been lit. The kind of wood chunks you use is entirely based on personal preference, but fruitwoods tend to produce great results.

How do you know when the turkey is done?

We strongly recommend investing in a food thermometer to guarantee food is not only perfectly cooked, but also safe to consume. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast to get a good reading. Turkey (and other poultry) should not be consumed until it has reached at least 165°F. We recommend taking it out of the cooker when it's reached 160°F in the deepest part of the breast, then letting it rest uncovered for 5-10 minutes (no longer than 30 minutes for best results). The temperature will rise the additional 5°F during the resting period. Any food thermometer will work, but if you need one, the Javelin Instant Read Thermometer is convenient, fast, and accurate for a great price.

How do you season a turkey?

If you look up turkey recipes online, you'll find thousands of them. What you end up choosing depends on your personal preference. For a simple, yet delicious option, use your favorite rub/seasoning under the skin and then lightly coat the outside of the skin in olive oil and more of the rub. Using some wood chips will add even more delicious flavor to the meat itself.

How do you cook a turkey breast by itself?

Season under the skin and the outside, insert a hook through the breastbone, and hang it in the cooker. Make sure the cooker temperature is at 275°F or higher on the lid thermometer. Take the turkey breast to about 160°F in the thickest part of the breast before removing to let rest uncovered. It will probably take a couple hours, but use a food thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat.


Turkey Using the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit

Turkey using the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit.

Hooked Turkey

Turkey using hooks through the breastbone.

Turkey Hanging on H-Frame

5 lbs turkey hanging on the H-Frame.

  1. Prepare the turkey for cooking with the preparation style and seasonings of your choice. Most common are rubs, compound butter under the skin, and brine. You can find ideas all over the web.
  2. Light the cooker according to the instructions, but let the charcoal burn for 25-30 minutes before putting the barrel back on the base and placing the turkey in the cooker. Bump the intake setting to the next highest elevation setting to be sure the thermometer reads 250°F+ during the cook. You will want to let the cooker get hotter than normal to cook the turkey faster. Slower cooking is not optimal for a tender, juicy turkey.
  3. Turkeys drip quite a bit during the cook, which can produce a very strong smoky flavor. You can control the amount of smoke flavor by setting any sized drip pan on the lower level of the cooker. The larger the drip pan, the more drippings caught and less smoke flavor. Determine how much of the drippings you want to be caught and also consider adding wood chunks to the charcoal for an additional flavor profile.
  1. METHOD ONE: EZ-LOAD TURKEY PLUS KIT (sold separately). Screw one EZ-Load Cross Bar on the second from the bottom section of threads. Push the hook end of the EZ-Load Hanger through the cavity of the turkey and out the neck. Position the Cross Bar under the cavity and under the leg joints. Hang the prepared turkey on the H-Frame and carry it to the cooker. Place the whole system down on the top level of the cooker. Close the lid.

    METHOD TWO: H-FRAME WITH HOOKS. Insert two hooks from within the neck cavity, one under each breastbone so that the legs are pointing down. Make sure the hooks are all the way through under the bone, pointing up and slightly away from each other. Note that for turkeys larger than 15 lbs, the tips of the hooks may not make it all the way through. As long as they are hooked under the breastbone, they should be secure. Hang the hooked turkey on the H-Frame and then place the turkey and frame together on the top level of the cooker. Close the lid.
  1. Cooking Temperature: When properly started, the temperature inside the barrel will be around 300°F; however, the thermometer will typically read around 250°F with the turkey inside. The lid thermometer shows a lower temperature than where the food is cooking because it is affected by the exhaust. Thermometer displays about 40-50 degrees lower than actual temperature.
  2. The size of the turkey will determine how long it cooks for. Use an instant read thermometer, such as the Javelin, to check the internal temperature. The thickest part of the breast should be between 160-165°F when removed from the cooker. If removing before it hits 165°F, let the turkey rest for 10-15 minutes uncovered. The turkey will rise an additional 5°F during that time. Poultry is not safe to consume under 165°F.
  3. When the cook is done, lift the turkey out of the cooker by the H-Frame and place the turkey onto a large pan or cookie sheet.
  4. Unscrew the Hanger from the Cross Bar to remove the EZ-Load components or remove the hooks.
  5. Carve the turkey, serve and enjoy!