How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Turkey

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Turkey?

Want to know How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Turkey? This guide has everything you need to know, including approximate cooking times and tips for success.

A lot of individuals are always on the lookout for some good food on Thanksgiving. Some people have come to be accustomed to eating turkey with all the trimmings during this period. 

It is believed that over 46 million turkeys are consumed during the holiday season in America alone. Whether you are planning on cooking your own or looking at buying one from a supermarket, it is very important for you to learn how long it will take before you can actually enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. The following article seeks to educate readers about How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Turkey? and also various things they should be aware of when smoking their birds.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Turkey

What is a turkey?

A turkey is basically a domesticated bird that is native to North America. They are usually the center of attraction during Thanksgiving celebrations all around the globe. This is because they are considered as one of the most popular kinds of poultry that can be consumed during this period.

The good thing about turkeys is that they are relatively cheap compared to other kinds of meat you would want to have on your dinner table, especially with Thanksgiving just around the corner. Generally speaking, raw turkeys weigh about 12 pounds each on average and it takes 8-10 hours (on what power setting) for them to actually smoke on an offset smoker.

What are the benefits of smoking the turkey?

If you are not convinced that smoking a turkey is the way to go and you would rather cook it in the oven, then we hope we can change your mind with the following benefits:

  1. The smoky aroma: Smoking your turkey will definitely give it a nice smokey flavor that will leave the meat moist and tender
  2. Using a smoker ensures that you do not overcook or burn the skin of the bird as opposed to cooking it in an oven
  3. Slow cooking allows for the flavors to be absorbed evenly by the meat resulting in a very tasty meal even if you don’t stuff/marinate it before smoking
  4. Cooking a turkey on an offset smoker does not take up as much time as traditional roasting so you have more time for other things especially family activities!

How long does it take to smoke a turkey?

The following heat schedule/temperatures are just rough estimates but the times given below should be good enough for you to get an idea of how long it will take to smoke your bird:

  1. Keep the smoker’s temperature between 245 degrees Fahrenheit and 275 degrees Fahrenheit throughout (the entire time)
  2. Smoking a turkey takes anywhere between 4-6 hours before letting it rest in your refrigerator for 6-8 hours making sure that the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Letting your bird sit overnight or until room temperature is considered as best practice when smoking pork because this allows some juices to redistribute back into the meat making them more flavorful/succulent
  4. If you plan on serving smoked turkey cold, then leave it overnight in the fridge first to allow time for the flavors to diffuse before removing it from your smoker.

What to look for when buying a turkey

Tips: Before actually going out to purchase any turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, make sure you go through the following tips so that you know what to look for when in the market:

  1. Look at the grade of turkey before making a purchase – USDA Prime Grade or USDA Choice would be considered as top quality and should definitely be on your shopping list if you want an unforgettable Thanksgiving meal
  2. Look at the size of the bird before purchasing it – While this may seem like common sense, we highly recommend that one checks the weight/size of his/her potential purchase and avoids getting something too big or too small
  3. If you want moist and tender meat, then opt for a fresh turkey – It does not take rocket science to figure out that frozen turkeys have a longer shelf life as opposed to their fresh counterparts. This is because the freezing process helps kill off some bacteria which may cause food poisoning if they are not completely killed before eating
  4. The more time you allow your turkey to rest in your refrigerator after purchasing it, the better – Large birds have some amount of fats around them which solidifies when put in your fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours. When you smoke the bird, these fats help keep the juices inside making it even more delicious
  5. Be careful with garlic salt rubs – Many people who are smoking their birds tend to use these types of rubs to give them flavor. However, if you are not careful enough, you may end up having too much salt in the meat which could lead to food poisoning
  6. You can prepare your turkey in advance but do not ‘stuff’ it – Many people tend to stuff their bird before placing it on the smoker but this is not advisable because when heated, the stuffing will expand and cause some potential health hazards because stuffing does contain raw eggs.

What types of smokers should I use?

What types of smokers should I use? The following are some of the most common/popular types of smokers that you could potentially use to smoke a turkey:

Pellet Smoker – This is becoming extremely popular with many people because it makes smoking meat very easy and convenient to do. They also come in different sizes, shapes, and designs hence allowing one to choose a unit based on their preferences. Most pellet smokers can be set to a temperature between 180°F and 450°F which makes them suitable for smoking turkey too!

Electric Smokers – If you want an electric smoker then this type would be perfect for you as they allow going beyond temperature control since there is no flame created when using them. Smokers using electric heat sources permit users to set the amount of time their meat is going to stay in it without worrying about other parameters.

Charcoal/Gas Grills – If you have a charcoal or gas grill then this will also allow you to smoke a turkey but bear in mind that they are very limiting since one cannot adjust the temperature setting and must learn to do a bit of fiddling around before getting it right. They can be used for smoking turkeys by placing your seasoned bird on low heat and closing your grates with aluminum foil after putting your soaked chips inside the unit (note: make sure that you place them under your grate not directly below).

What temperature should I set my smoker on?

An ideal temperature to smoke a turkey will be in the range of 220°F and 240°F (this is actually our favorite setting for smoking poultry) for between 8-10 hours. The only thing you need to ensure is that you do not go above 250°F since this can result in some burnt bird as opposed to a smoked one.

10 Things You Need To Know When Smoking A Turkey:

First things first, you will need to figure out what kind of smoker you are going to use for this purpose. There are many options available on the market today but electric smokers are usually preferred because they provide consistent results time after time. This is especially true when it comes to achieving moist meat compared to different types of smokers out there in the marketplace today.

Next thing would be figuring out how much turkey you want to smoke at any given time because this would determine the amount of cooking hours it will take to get the job done. For example, a 12lb turkey will need about 8-10 hours to smoke and this is even if you use an electric smoker.

The size of your bird can be ascertained by measuring its weight and height and you should take into account that the turkey has been defrosted before cooking. Also, it is very important for you to take note that there are actually 2 kinds of turkeys out there in the market today namely: the Broad Breasted White (BBW) and Heritage breeds. These types can often be differentiated from their physical features such as the color and width of the breast bone. We recommend sticking with the BBW type because heritage breeds usually require more time to cook compared to their counterparts (not to mention that they are usually more expensive).

Prepare your turkey for smoking by giving it a good rinse under cold running water and pat-drying it using paper towels (inside and out). It is important that you eliminate excess moisture to prevent flare-ups especially when you start cooking. However, make sure not to completely dry the skin because this will lead to the loss of natural juices which contribute greatly towards keeping your meat moist.

Make sure your turkey is free from any pin feathers before moving on because these little guys can wreak havoc when cooked inside the smoker due to their sharp edges. You should definitely trim away any fatty deposits found around the tail area because these may catch fire while cooking (or worse) plus they can also lead to a less-than-desirable flavor.

Now it is time for you to get things under control by filling up your smoker with wood chips and preheating the cooking chamber to the right temperature depending on what type of smoker you are using (electric or charcoal). You should probably use more than one wood chip if your smoker uses electric heat because this will help achieve an even smokier taste during cooking. On the other hand, charcoal smokers will need less smoke in order to produce a similar result so make sure you fill up your pot halfway at most.

Seasoning a turkey prior to smoking is definitely a must but make sure not to overdo it because too much seasoning can actually lead to a bitter taste. The trick here is to sprinkle the desired amount of herbs and spices in step with your preferred recipe (or simply follow the instructions found on your seasoning mix). You can then store any unused seasoning for later use plus you may even want to consider combining more than one type of spice just for kicks.

Smoke your turkey by placing it inside the cooking chamber before closing up the lid tightly. Make sure that there are no leaks around the lid because these little details can really affect how well your smoker gets things done especially when it comes to smoking meat until perfection is reached.

Smoking time varies depending on factors such as fat content, size, weight, etc so make sure to keep an eye on your bird when cooking to avoid overcooking it. You can tell when your turkey is done by using a meat thermometer or just simply piercing the thickest part of the thigh with a fork – if it turns out clear then you are good to go (if not, leave it in for another 15-30 minutes).

No matter what type of smoker you are using (electric or charcoal), make sure to replenish your wood chips every hour or so depending on how big your turkey is because this will help keep things smokin’ hot especially when cooking takes longer than usual. When smoking with charcoal, you might also want to pour some water at the bottom of the firepot (or use foil) to produce steam which works like magic in keeping the meat tender and moist.

What rubs do you use for smoking turkey?

It is important that you search for rubs that do not contain any sugar (or at least minimal amounts of it) because the high temperature inside the smoker will cause this ingredient to burn easily. If you have no problems with sugar, then feel free to use whatever type of rub tickles your fancy but remember that turkey does not really need a ton of seasoning in order to taste good.

If you are on a low-fat diet or just simply want to keep things healthy during cooking, try spraying some butter or olive oil on your bird prior to smoking – just make sure that the skin is up so it can catch all these tasty droplets. You can even brush melted butter over your turkey while cooking if there’s some leftover but make sure that the temperature inside the chamber is not too high or else this could end up burning.

You can also try adding some marinade to your turkey before smoking it though you may want to add a bit of oil to help keep things moist during cooking especially if you are planning on using a recipe with minimal amounts of seasoning. If your bird is already brined prior to smoking, then there’s no need for additional seasoning plus this method can really produce an excellent result in terms of texture and flavor.

Since a turkey is a fairly large piece of meat, it will most likely take longer than usual when smoked so make sure to set aside at least two-and-a-half hours just for this purpose – three hours would be even better so you can end up with a bird that is perfect for Thanksgiving and other holidays.

Charcoal or wood, which is better for smoking?

It is difficult to say which one is better for smoking turkey because both charcoal and wood produce excellent results when used properly. You will need to acquire more experience if you want to use wood and this is especially true if you are using a charcoal smoker (where things like temperature control are much easier).

If you plan on using charcoal, make sure that the firebox of your unit has enough space in it so the briquettes can burn hotter and longer – don’t stuff them together or else they may not be able to catch fire easily. While adding more coals every 1-2 hours is highly recommended for this type of smoker, electric models give you total control over all cooking elements so there’s really no need to replenish anything during smoking unless absolutely needed.

In terms of wood, you will need to acquire a suitable type for smoking turkey and this can be difficult especially if you are using an electric smoker – don’t expect your choice of hardwood to be enough because the flavor may not come through as desired. If you have a charcoal smoker then things are much easier since you can just keep adding chips or chunks every time the existing supply starts running out – just make sure that there’s always a steady stream of smoke coming out from your unit during cooking.

Are there any special tools needed for smoking turkey?

You will need a meat thermometer for taking the internal temperature of your turkey just in case you are unsure whether or not it is already done. A digital probe-type thermometer is more accurate compared to the standard analog type so if you have some cash to spare, then definitely go with this option – it can also be used on other meats aside from turkey.

If you want brown, crispy skin during cooking, make sure that your smoker has a spray bottle where you can mist down water every hour or so – this works by producing steam which keeps everything moist and prevents the skin from becoming too dry which actually helps achieve that superbly crisp texture after smoking. You can even try brushing butter or oil onto your turkey before closing up the lid to make this effect even better.

What recipe do you use for smoking turkey?

Beer Can Turkey Recipe – Believe it or not, this method involves simply inserting a whole turkey (you can also opt to include some aromatics as well) atop an open can of beer and then cooking everything over the coals. The reason why this works is that the steam produced by the liquid helps keep things moist and tasty while working as a natural baster. This process also allows your meat to be infused with that rich flavor coming from the beer alone (and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to eat smoked turkey with beer?)

Smoked Turkey Legs Recipe – Before adding all those spices and rubs, try marinating your legs in olive oil, garlic, and some other seasoning for at least eight hours. This helps keep things moist during cooking especially if you are planning on adding an additional layer of smoke – plus it’s not just about the flavor but also protein so marinating is definitely important!

Smoked Turkey Breast Recipe – The best way to go about smoking turkey breast is by bringing it first. In a solution of warm saltwater, you can add some sugar as well as that seasoning that you want to use and then place everything in the fridge for around 4-6 hours before cooking. After soaking, simply pat dry your breast and then sprinkle with your favorite grill rub before placing on top of the grate for smoking.

As a general rule of thumb, aim for a constant temperature of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit so there’s no need to worry about overcooking even if you smoke your bird over several hours. It’s also important for you to know that when smoking turkey breast, it can be done in as little as two to three hours while the legs take anywhere from four to six hours – this is why it’s best for beginners to aim for whole birds so they have something big enough to practice on.


Do I need to baste the meat during cooking?

Don’t forget to oil your turkey first – this is actually really important because it helps prevent the skin from getting too dry before your bird can be fully cooked. You can even opt for a simple marinade or use the beer method that we mentioned earlier – either way, you want to make sure that your protein is covered in some kind of sauce before hitting the smoker. Make sure not to oil the grate beforehand so you do not contaminate your turkey with grease before putting it on top of the grate. Just remember, smoking works by infusing flavor wherein there are no shortcuts involved here!

Smoking times may vary depending on several factors including the weight and size of the turkey being cooked. As a general rule though, an 8-10lbs whole bird should take about 6 hours while legs are done in around 4 hours.

What is the best way to cook smoked turkey wings?

You can cook smoked turkey wings just like any other part of your protein by either baking them in the oven or frying over low heat on the stovetop – smoking adds flavor so you are not really adding anything new here with this method although it’s important that they are fully cooked before serving. Also, remember to use poultry shears when cutting through the joints – doing things manually causes unnecessary stress for yourself!

How do I know when my turkey is done cooking?

A great way to tell if your protein is already cooked through would be by inserting a meat thermometer inside the thickest part of your turkey’s breast or thigh – make sure it doesn’t touch bone because this will skew its accuracy! For white meat like the breast, go for 160 degrees Fahrenheit while dark meat like the leg requires 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

For smoked whole turkeys, check if their internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another important factor to consider would be the color of your smoked turkey’s skin – once it turns golden brown, you can remove it from the smoker and let it rest for a good 15 minutes before serving. This will ensure that your meat won’t lose its flavor and moisture while waiting!

How do I make crispy skin when smoking a turkey?

One way to tell if you’re doing things right is by making sure that your protein’s skin looks dry and crisp (although we all know that the best-tasting part of smoked turkey comes from its moist and tender meat). So, how can you achieve this? First, brushing your protein with oil before placing it on top of the grate really helps in preventing moisture loss.

The next thing would be to control the temperature so you don’t end up overcooking your bird – avoid anything higher than 250 degrees Fahrenheit so there’s no need for you to constantly check on it while cooking. You can even opt to cook at lower temperatures but just keep in mind that this requires more patience and longer cooking times.

How should I serve smoked turkey?

The best way to enjoy a perfectly-smoked protein would be by slicing it into thin pieces or serving them whole with pan drippings over the top. If you’re really confident about your game, go ahead and carve your bird in front of your guests just to show them a thing or two about how it’s done!

Do I need to brine my turkey before smoking it?

To be honest, you really don’t have to brine your protein first if you don’t want to! We all know that the primary function of this process is to infuse flavor inside but there’s no proof yet that its effects on the texture of smoked turkey are truly beneficial – in fact, some people even prefer not doing this because it can make their bird too salty.

Smoking adds flavor to your turkey so there’s really no need to brine if you don’t want to – it’s up to you!

How do I deal with flare-ups?

If you’re using charcoal or propane grills, avoid placing too much wet wood chips on top of your fire at once – this can produce too much smoke which can cause flare-ups. If possible, don’t put any chips on the pile but try placing them along with your protein (this should also ensure that they’ll cook evenly).

What are some common mistakes made when smoking turkeys?

One big mistake that beginners always do is assuming that there are only two parts to this dish – cooking the protein and adding flavor. When your fire’s perfectly prepared, make sure to remove all traces of it by cleaning your grill with a wire brush before placing your turkey on top. This way, you’ll keep any chemical residue out of your food (adding unnecessary flavors) and avoid contaminating it with potential bacteria!

Over-smoking is one of the most common problems that smokers have. The truth is, it doesn’t really take long for your turkey to get cooked. If you notice that your bird’s skin starts turning too dark, cover it immediately with foil so you won’t have to wait until the very end.

Another common issue would be leaving its skin unattended for too long – if you plan on grilling or smoking skin-on poultry, remember that they require less heat than meatier cuts like beef brisket so you should set up your temperature accordingly.

Another problem would be using too much wood at once which can greatly reduce heat inside your smoker. Avoid doing this by following the right ratio – every time you add a new piece of wood, decrease the amount of coals inside so they’ll still ignite easily.

How to store leftover smoked turkey?

If you’re fortunate enough to have leftovers, make sure to place it in an airtight container and transfer it to your fridge – don’t use wax paper or aluminum foil because they aren’t really the best for this purpose.

You can also freeze leftover smoked turkey but there are a few precautions that you should take first:

Never use normal freezer bags because they’re not moisture-proof – if any liquid seeps through them while freezing, the ice crystals will get into your protein’s pores and ruin its flavor completely. This is why you should opt for vacuum-sealed ones instead or wrap your meat with a layer of foil before putting them inside a bag. Make sure to repackage them properly so there won’t be liquids trapped inside.

How long can I leave a smoked turkey in the fridge?

Leftovers from your smoked turkey should only last for 3-4 days when stored properly in an airtight container. You can even extend this time by several days by using ice packs so there’s no need to rush when preparing your servings. On the other hand, there are certain untreated parts of your bird that you can store inside the freezer for up to 6 months although these have not been cooked yet – things like giblets and livers!

How can I reheat my leftovers?

The safest way to reheat your leftover turkey would be to place it inside a steamer or microwave oven so you won’t have to use the stove and open flames. Generally, the turkey should only be microwaved for about 2 minutes per pound but there are shortcuts that you could take:

If you’re in a hurry and still want to try this method, just add some water into an oven-safe dish and cover it with a damp paper towel before microwaving. This way, the moist heat will shorten its cooking time by around 5 minutes!

You can always remove parts of your bird that have already been cooked beforehand because they’re safe until they reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit – these include dark meat or white/red meat depending on which one you prefer. Just make sure to retain the turkey’s moisture by putting them inside a sealed container and heating it until hot before eating!

Is smoked meat dangerous?

Smoked meats are safe for consumption but should only be eaten if their surface is brown instead of pink – this means that all harmful bacteria have been killed already and the meat has gone through proper cooking. Still, always remember that these products’ shelf life (even if they’ve been frozen) only lasts as long as their earliest expiry date so eat them as soon as possible or cook them again before serving.

What does smoking do to your food?

Smoking your meats is a process wherein you expose them to smoke from smoldering wood chips at low temperatures so the food will absorb all of its flavors without actually burning or charring it.

This method will leave you with a tender and moist cut of meat because it breaks down the cellular structure as well as enzymes – if done properly, your bird’s skin will also turn into a deliciously-crisp casing that’ll easily fall off once you take a bite!

What are the different types of smoking?

There are 2 main methods that people use when it comes to barbecuing, grilling, or smoking meats:

Cold-smoking – this is a technique wherein your meat is exposed to smoke at temperatures between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time – this helps infuse smoke particles onto your protein but doesn’t actually cook it.

Hot-smoking – on the other hand, you expose your food to much higher temperatures (usually between 170 and 200 Fahrenheit) so they’ll be ready in just a few hours! Your food will retain most of its moisture because these high temperatures kill all bacteria hiding inside, turning them into succulent meals that’ll leave everyone begging for more.

How do you keep a turkey moist while smoking?

Just like any other food that you grill or smoke, your turkey won’t become too dry as long as you handle it properly! There are two secrets to achieving a tender and moist bird:

Temperature control – this is one of the most important steps when smoking meats because there’s no sense in letting all those flavors settle for hours if it’ll result in a product that’s either overcooked or undercooked. Keep an eye on your smoker’s thermometer and make sure your food stays inside until it reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before taking them out! Additionally, make sure they’re sitting over indirect heat instead of direct flame so they can receive even heating that prevents surface burning while retaining their juices.

Foil wrap – don’t be afraid to wrap your bird in aluminum foil a few times during smoking because this will help you retain their moisture! Just make sure that they’re wrapped properly and then place them near the heart of your smoker so it’ll absorb extra smoke while cooking. You can always unwrap them before serving but make sure you do it at least 20 minutes before your guests arrive so they won’t feel too rushed!

How long should you smoke a turkey?

This is one of the most asked questions on Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings but it really just depends on how big your bird is and what type of smoker you’re using. If you want to follow a recipe, we recommend smoking your turkey for around 45 minutes per pound and basting them every hour so they’ll be ready by the time everyone’s seated!

What turkey size is best for smoking?

The best turkey size for smoking will depend on how many people you’ll be feeding and how often they visit your table.

If you’re a family of 3-4 people, a 12-pound bird should be more than enough! This can serve up to 15 people so make sure you have extra sides ready in case everyone’s super hungry or if your smoker tends to cook faster than expected.

On the other hand, a 21-pound turkey is perfect for 5-6 adults because each person will only get around 1/3 lb. of meat while there are still plenty of leftovers for sandwiches or quick dinners during the week! If you have teenage boys at home, this could also feed up to 10 teenagers who eat nonstop so keep that in mind when buying your bird or you’ll end up wasting a lot of meat that could’ve been eaten.


Smoking a turkey is actually pretty easy but, just like any other recipe, it all depends on what type of smoker you have available. If you’re using a gas or electric smoker then the cooking time will depend more on your climate and how big your bird is – on average, you’ll need to smoke them for around 3-4 hours!

On the other hand, if you’re using a charcoal smoker then try smoking them for 7 hours instead because that’ll really allow your meats to soak up those scrumptious smoky flavors that make turkey so irresistible! Also, keep in mind that larger turkeys take longer to cook inside their thickest part which is between the breast and thighs.

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