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 one of the best meats to smoke and a great option to start with. It's pretty forgiving and doesn't take much time, although the exact answer to the time needed to make smoked turkey can be a mystery for even the most seasoned backyard pit masters.

How Long Does it Take 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 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 full 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

Smoking 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

Smoking 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

Smoking 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

Smoking Time:

1-2 Hours

Finished Internal Temperature:

165°F

Smoked Turkey Cooking Times When Using a Grill

Whole Turkey

For grilling the complete 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

Smoking 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

Smoking 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

Smoking 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

Smoking 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 Speed Up the Cooking Time?

If you are in a hurry and don't have all day to dedicate to cooking the turkey, then there is one cooking method which will make it to cook faster.

The best way to speed up the cooking process for your turkey is to spatchcock it. Spatchcock is a cooking technique, where you butterfly the turkey by cutting the backbone out, and as a result, the cooking time is reduced significantly.

You can read more about this amazing method down below.

How to Smoke a Spatchcocked Turkey

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

A little known secret for a great smoked turkey recipe is the spatchcock method. 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.

Spatchcocked Turkey

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:

  • 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.

How Much Smoked Turkey per Person?

As a general rule, I plan 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. I am taking in consideration that your turkey will weight less than 15 pounds, so it will easily feed around 10-12 people.

Have in mind that you are going to cook a whole turkey, including all the bones, skin, wing tips and a lot of other parts which are not going to be consumed by anyone.

1 1/2 pounds of meat per person is more than enough for anyone and to also have some leftovers for sandwiches the next day. If you are planning to cook for more than 12 people, then you can look for a larger than 15 pound turkey or just cook two or three medium sized turkeys.

What Equipment and Wood Type to Use?

Before determining what wood type to use when making this smoked turkey recipe, first you have to decide what type of smoker you are going to use.

Obviously, going for a proper smoker will make the job much easier as you will have more control over the process. If you don't have a smoker, then a grill with a very low indirect heat will do the job too.

Since you are going to cook at 225-250°F, a smoker or grill with adjustable thermostat will work better since it will easily maintain the recommended temperature.

Now, what type of wood is best for turkey? Wood flavor is kind-of personal preference however there are certain wood type flavors which work better with certain meats.

A lot of chefs recommend apple or alder wood for turkeys. They have both a mild but flavourful smoke, which combines perfectly with the turkey.

As for a second choice, I think hickory would be a great option, followed by mesquite. Both these wood types work great with almost any meat type, including poultry.

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 smoke 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.

What Spices work Best for Smoked Turkey Recipes?

Most of the people prefer to go for the simple salt and pepper combination.

While the simple approach always works great, you can try a combination of salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion and maybe some paprika, if you are a fan of it.

These spices will boost the flavor of your turkey and make it more enjoyable to eat, depending on your preferences.

Quick Tips for Making Smoked Turkey 

Here are a few tips to have in mind when making this smoked turkey recipe at home:

  • Maintaining the recommended temperature for the whole cooking session is key for the best results.
  • Don't open the smoker lid very often - Doing so will help the heat escape and will not allow you to keep the temperature consistent as well as keep enough smoke in.
  • To prevent skin burning and meat tasting bad, try to smoke it over indirect heat, especially if you are using a grill. Placing the meat over direct heat will cause it to burn before it is finished cooking inside.
  • Take in consideration that there will some temperature carryover, so have in mind to remove the turkey about 5-10 degrees lower than the temperature you are aiming for. The meat will continue to cook for a few minutes, even after it is removed from the heat.
  • Don't skip the rest phase - Letting the meat rest is essential for the juices to settle. If you skip the resting, the meat will be dry and not so juicy.
  • Don't pre-soak your wood chips before cooking - Doing so will cause them to take longer to burn and maybe cause unnecessary smoke.

How to Use Leftover Smoked Turkey?

Since making this smoked turkey recipe will require several hours of your time, a lot of people prefer to cook a large turkey and actually have some leftovers to use later on.

You will be amazed by how many recipes are out there making use of every leftovers, including turkey carcass or neck, which many people may not prefer to eat at all.

If you know how to properly cook them, you can actually make some amazing turkey stock using those leftovers. Other recipes you can put them in use is turkey soup, ramen, mashed potatoes, use it for smoke gravy etc.

As for the actual leftover turkey meat, probably the most popular recipe is making sandwiches or crunchy panini. Just take the leftover meat, put it on a toasted bun, add some pickled red onions, some cranberry sauce and you are good to go.

Other recipes to try are the smoked turkey soup, breakfast hash or chili. 

How to Reheat Leftover Smoked Turkey?

As I mentioned in the upper paragraphs, you can make some amazing recipes with your leftover turkey meat. But, how can you properly reheat it, so you can use on recipes?

To avoid the meat drying out when reheating, just simply wrap it using aluminum foil and warm it on low and slow method, at 275°F in oven for around 35-45 minutes. To be sure that the meat is reheated completely, you can use a thermometer to check if the temperature of it has reached 130°F. For best results, make sure to reheat smaller batches of meat in aluminum foil.

If you like the crispy skin, then place the skin side down in a hot oiled skillet to give it the finishing touch.

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.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, currently living in Kansas, who loves to share his knowledge about cooking and grilling with everyone (Read More)

4 thoughts on “How Long to Smoke a Turkey – Detailed Smoking Times and Temperatures”

  1. Been smoking for a decade but this site brings new and good information. A true stick burner with a 275-gallon offset double stack trailer, we’re rolling up 9 birds to feed the less fortunate in our neck of the woods this holiday season. Thanks for the good information!

    Reply
  2. I have been smoking turkeys for the last 6 years for Thanksgiving and have never smoked a turkey for more than 4/5 hours. Last years turkey weighed in a 22 lbs and I smoked it at 250 degrees for 5.0 hours. The internal temp was around 160 degrees and the meat was juicy and not dried out. As long as you hold the meat at about 150 degrees for around 4+ minutes, the salmonella will be killed. Could not possibly imagine smoking a turkey for 8 – 10 hours, we are not making turkey jerky!

    Reply

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