How Long to Smoke a Turkey – Detailed Smoking Times and Temperatures

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. That's right, the best. Why? Because it's all about one thing...turkey.

Okay, maybe it's about giving thanks and being grateful for what you have. And maybe it's about spending time with family and friends. But honestly, what we really care about is the turkey.

But how are you going to cook it?

You could go the traditional route and roast it. Or you could try the deep fried approach. But if you want to save room in your oven, and avoid a deep fried disaster, why not give smoking a try?

But how long to smoke a turkey? Well, it depends on a lot of factors. I am going to show you detailed smoking times and temperatures for whole turkey and specific parts. 

Should You Smoke Turkey?

Before jumping in the smoking times and temperatures, first let's explain why smoking a turkey is just as easy as cooking any other poultry or red meat.

I think that smoking meat is one of the life's simple pleasures. It involves delicious food, fire and it gets you outdoors. What could be more awesome than that?

Maybe you're an old pro and have used smoker grills for years. If this is you, you're in for a treat. We've got some tips and tricks that might be new to you.

If you've never smoked meat before, that's okay too. We don't judge.

Turkey is a great meat to start with. It's pretty forgiving and doesn't take much time. Although the question of how long to smoke turkey can be a mystery for even the most seasoned backyard pit masters.

How Long to Smoke a Turkey?

Smoking Turkey

We've all heard the old saying...slow and low. The rule of thumb for smoking most meats is about 1-1.5 hours per pound at a consistent temperature of 225°F. This holds true for turkey too.

Mostly.

Many things will factor into your turkey smoking time. The weight of the bird and the weather are two of the biggest. The type of meat you're working with will dictate smoke time too.

Red meats, like pork and brisket, will take longer to smoke and need that constant 225°F heat. You want this to take time. The long duration and low temperature allows the fat to permeate the meat.

Lean meats don't have a high fat content.

Poultry, like your turkey, can be cooked at a higher temperature and a shorter cooking time. This means less time on the grill.

You can shave off about half the time when smoking a turkey. Plan for about 30-40 Minutes per Pound at around 240°F. It's even okay if you get to 275°, but we wouldn't suggest going much higher.

Still, it's always a good idea to have your food thermometer handy. Check the internal temperature of your turkey about 2 to 3 hours into your cooking time. It should be well on its way to the desired 165°F.

Also, down below, I have prepared a infographic with some turkey cooking tips to help anyone cook the perfect turkey. You will find everything you need to know, starting from the types of turkeys, how to safely thaw a turkey, brining, recommended finished internal temperatures, cooking times and how to safely store leftovers.

I hope you liked it and it helped you with your turkey preparation. 

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Turkey Smoking Tips Infographic

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Smoked Turkey Cooking Times When Using a Smoker

Whole Turkey

For smoking a whole turkey, set the smoker at 240°F. It is recommended to cook it for 30-40 Minutes per pound. A 8 pound turkey will take in average 4 hours while a larger, 12 pound turkey will take about 6 hours.

Whole Turkey Smoking Times

Smoker Temperature:

240​°F

Smoki​ng Time:

4-6 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Turkey Breast

For smoking the turkey's breast only, set the smoker at 240°F and is recommended to cook it for 30-40 Minutes per pound. The average turkey breast weights 6 pounds, so it will take about 3 hours to finish cooking it.

Turkey Breast Smoking Times

Smoker Temperature:

240​°F

Smoki​ng Time:

3-4 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Turkey Legs

For the turkey legs, set the smoker at 225°F and cook them for about 4 hours in total.

Turkey Legs Smoking Times

Smoker Temperature:

225°F

Smoki​ng Time:

4 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Turkey Wings

For the wings part of the turkey, set the smoker at 225°F and cook them for about 1.5-2 hours in total.

Turkey Wings Smoking Times

Smoker Temperature:

225°F

Smoki​ng Time:

1-2 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Smoked Turkey Cooking Times When Using a Grill

Whole Turkey

For grilling a whole turkey, preheat the grill to medium-high heat (or about 325°F) and set up to cook with indirect heat. It is recommended to cook for about 15 minutes per pound, or 3 hours for the average turkey.

Whole Turkey Grilling Times

Grill Temperature:

325°F

Smoki​ng Time:

4 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Turkey Breast

For grilling turkey breast, preheat the grill to high heat (or about 350°F) and set up for indirect heat. You should cook it for about 1-2 hours.

Turkey Breast Grilling Times

Grill Temperature:

355°F

Smoki​ng Time:

1-2 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Turkey Legs

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 325°F) and set up for indirect cooking. Sear over the direct heat for only 3-4 minutes per side and then let it roast over indirect heat for 45-60 minutes.

Turkey Legs Grilling Times

Grill Temperature:

325°F

Smoki​ng Time:

45-60 Minutes

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Turkey Wings

For grilling the turkey wings, you have to preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 325°F) and cook them for about 30-40 minutes.

Turkey Wings Grilling Times

Grill Temperature:

325°F

Smoki​ng Time:

30-40 Minutes

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

How to Smoke a Turkey in Cold Weather/Country?

Smoking Turkey on Cold Weather

Depending on where you live, Thanksgiving weather can be unpredictable.

Being at the end of November, you better be prepared for a cold snap. Nothing can put a damper on your turkey smoking plans quite like a sudden November freeze.

A water smoker and a chilly forecast don't play well together. Colder air outside the grill means it will be more difficult to regulate temperature inside the smoker. That said, you can still achieve ideal heat with some smoking tricks and tips.

Take steps to insulate your smoker in advance. There are a few methods to achieve this:

  • Shield your smoker with a cardboard barrier
  • Outfit the cooking chamber with a welding blanket
  • Build a plywood border wrapped with flexible insulation

The theme here is that you want to protect your grill from the elements. Wind and cold air are your enemies. Anything that can prevent these forces of nature from encroaching your cooking space will do.

More fuel will be needed too when you're competing with the cold. Double up on the amount of coals you would normally use.

You can worry less if you're using an electric or gas powered smoker. The outside air temperature won't have an impact like it does on a charcoal setup.

Oh, and please remember to never bring your grill indoors. We can't stress that enough.

How to Smoke a Spatchcocked Turkey

This is going to be the most fun you've had all year.

A little known secret to great smoked turkey is the spatchcock. This is a super simple cooking prep technique that can be done in minutes. It'll make you feel like a badass too.

Did we forget to mention it helps shorten your turkey smoking time? You don't want to keep your guests waiting for the main course. Any extra time you can spend entertaining instead of cooking is time well spent.

A spatchcocked bird allows the underside of the turkey to cook without having to turn it during cooking. More surface area is exposed as it sits flatter on the grill grates.

The spatchcock method is simple. You will need:

Spatchcocked Turkey
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Hands
  • Brute force

To start, use a pair of kitchen scissors to remove the backbone of your turkey. Start at the neck and cut along the outer edges of the spine. Work your way through the length of the bird.

This part can take some effort. Take your time as you cut and try not to leave any bone fragments. Feel along the breast cavity for any strays that can be removed.

After you've removed the spine, flip your turkey so it is breast-side up. Place your hands over the center of breast. Now, use your body weight to press down firmly and crack the breastplate.

Congratulations! You have now spatchcocked your turkey.

Should You Brine Your Turkey for Smoking?

Turkey prep 101 usually calls for brining a turkey at least 24 hours in advance. Lucky for you you're smoking your turkey this year. That means no brining.

What? No brining? Have you lost your mind?!

Buckle up because you're about to experience what might be the moistest bite of white meat you've ever sunk your teeth into. Trust us on this.

One of the awesome things about using a smoker is how the smoke and moisture help flavor the meat. This eliminates the need to brine ahead of time.

Choosing the right type of wood is a critical step here. You want it to complement the turkey. It should also match the rest of your meal.

We've found that fruit woods work really well with poultry. Apple wood pairs particularly nicely. It has a light taste that isn't overpowering and let's the turkey flavor come through.

Grab about 3-4 chunks of wood and add them early on in your cooking. This is when the most smoke flavor is absorbed.

If you absolutely must brine, a dry brine is recommended. Sprinkle the turkey with some salt and let it sit overnight.

Final Thoughts

So, how long to smoke turkey? Long enough to get it to the recommended cooked temperature. That's about 30-40 minutes per pound and 165°F finished internal temperature. Plan for about 6 hours with a 12 pound turkey.

Also, you can remove your turkey from the smoker when it's internal temp reaches 160 degrees.

Then leave it alone!

Enjoy the aroma and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Don't worry, it'll still be cooking while it sits.

Smoked Turkey

Hold off on carving until it reaches 165°. When it does, grab your sharpest knife and get to work.

We told you this was the best holiday of the year.

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