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Can You Smoke A Turkey Too Slow?

Looking to up your turkey game this Thanksgiving? Want to wow your guests with a succulent and flavorful bird? Well, forget the traditional oven roasting method and consider slow smoking your turkey instead. Not only does it infuse the meat with mouthwatering smoky notes, but it also results in a juicy and tender texture that will leave everyone asking for your secret. But you may be wondering, can you smoke a turkey too slow?

Yes, smoking a turkey too low and slow can cause problems:

  • Rubbery skin: Cooking low and slow can cause rubbery skin that’s unpleasant to eat.
  • Danger zone: Cooking low and slow can cause the turkey to spend too much time in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F, which can lead to bacteria growth.
  • Higher temperature: Cooking at a higher temperature can result in crispy skin.

Some recommend keeping your smoker between 275°F and 350°F. You can plan on cooking your turkey for about 25-30 minutes per pound. The thickest part of the turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

So don’t be afraid to take it slow this Thanksgiving and give slow smoking a try. Your taste buds (and guests) will thank you. Keep reading for our tips on how to achieve the perfect smoked turkey masterpiece.

What is the Best Temp to Smoke a Turkey?

The optimal temperature for smoking a turkey falls between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This specific temperature range not only guarantees a thorough and safe cooking process, but it also greatly impacts the overall flavor and texture of the turkey.

When smoking a turkey, it is vital to maintain a slow and low cooking method. This allows for the smoke to deeply penetrate the meat, providing that luscious, smoky taste. The low temperature also aids in preserving the natural juices and flavors of the turkey, resulting in moist and tender meat.

However, cooking at excessively high temperatures can lead to a dry and tough texture. It can also cause uneven cooking, where some parts of the turkey may be overcooked while others remain undercooked. This not only affects the taste and texture of the meat but also poses potential health risks.

Moreover, maintaining the recommended temperature range ensures food safety. Cooking at 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit guarantees that the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which is deemed safe for consumption. Lower temperatures increase the likelihood of bacteria growth, while higher temperatures can result in overcooking the exterior of the turkey before the interior reaches a safe temperature.

Why the Temperature For Smoking Your Turkey Matters

The temperature you use to smoke a turkey depends on your preferences and methods. Some recommend smoking at a higher temperature (325–350°F) to crisp the skin and achieve a better bird. Others recommend cooking the breast to 155°F and the legs and thighs to 165°F.

Turkey breast is low in fat and connective tissue, so it can dry out and toughen if cooked too high. For food safety, the recommended temperature for cooking turkey breast is 165°F (74°C). However, you can achieve the same bacterial kill-off levels at lower temperatures held for longer times. For example, skinless turkey breast reaches the same kill-off at only 157°F (69°C) in only 47.9 seconds.

You can use an instant-read thermometer to check the turkey’s internal temperature. The turkey is done when it reaches 145°F.

What Temperatures Can You Smoke a Turkey at?

Smoking a turkey is an art that requires precision and attention to detail. The temperature at which you smoke your turkey can make or break the final result. While it may seem tempting to experiment with different temperature ranges, the optimal temperature for smoking a turkey is 275°F.

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This temperature range is ideal for several reasons. Firstly, it helps to combat common issues such as long cooking times, dry meat, and bland taste. The smoke is able to penetrate the skin and create a depth of flavor at this temperature. Additionally, chemical reactions are promoted that tenderize and enhance the flavor of the meat.

To take your smoked turkey to the next level, try using fruit wood like apple wood chips. This adds an extra layer of flavor to the turkey that cannot be achieved with other types of wood. However, it’s important to note that in order to maintain this temperature range, you need an accurate and customizable temperature gauge on your smoker.

The weight of your turkey also plays a role in determining cooking time at 275°F. On average, an 18-pound turkey will take around 10 hours to smoke. To ensure optimal tenderness and safety, the dark meat in the thigh should reach an internal temperature of 180°F, while the white breast meat should reach 160°F.

While it may be possible to smoke a turkey at other temperatures, they will not provide the same benefits as smoking at 275°F. Lower temperatures can result in longer cooking times and drier meat, while higher temperatures can lead to overcooked or burnt meat.

How Do You Know When a Smoked Turkey is Done?

When it comes to determining if a smoked turkey is ready to be devoured, the most accurate method is using a digital thermometer. To guarantee safe consumption, the internal temperature of the turkey should reach 165°F.

However, take note that dark meat, such as the thighs and legs, are best cooked to a higher temperature of 180°F for optimal tenderness. On the other hand, white meat like the breast and wings should be taken out once it reaches 165°F to avoid dryness.

To use a thermometer effectively, insert it into the thickest part of the turkey meat, being careful to avoid any bones. Once the desired temperature is reached, remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing into it. This resting period allows the juices to evenly distribute, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful bird.

If you decide to stuff your turkey, make sure to check the stuffing’s temperature as well. It should also reach 165°F for safe consumption. To prevent the turkey breasts from drying out while cooking the dark meat to 180°F, you can cover them with tin foil.

Remember to always ensure that your turkey is fully cooked before serving it to avoid any risk of foodborne illness. Undercooked turkey can carry dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, so it’s crucial to cook it until it reaches the appropriate internal temperature.

For further reference, here is a table listing the types of meat and their respective safe internal temperatures:

Dark Meat (thighs and legs) 180°F
White Meat (breast and wings) 165°F
Stuffing (if cooked in bird) 165°F

Best Turkey Size for a Smoker

The optimal size for smoking a turkey is between 10 to 12 pounds. This specific size allows for the bird to cook evenly and in a reasonable amount of time at smoking temperatures. However, if you require more than 12 pounds of turkey, it is recommended to smoke two smaller birds instead.

When smoking a turkey, it is crucial to consider that the larger the bird, the longer it will take to cook. This is due to the fact that the heat from the smoker must penetrate through the entire turkey to achieve the desired internal temperature. Using a larger bird may result in uneven cooking and potential food safety concerns as the heat may not fully penetrate the meat in a timely manner.

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Can You Smoke A Turkey Too Slow-2

Using smaller turkeys also promotes more balanced distribution of smoke and heat throughout the bird, resulting in a more flavorful and evenly cooked turkey. Furthermore, handling and maneuvering a 10-12 pound turkey in and out of the smoker is much easier compared to a larger bird.

If you are anticipating a larger gathering and require more than 12 pounds of turkey, it is recommended to smoke two smaller birds instead. This not only guarantees even and timely cooking, but also allows for more variety in terms of flavor as you have the option to use different seasoning and brine for each bird.

To make your preparations easier and more organized, here is a table showcasing the suggested turkey sizes for smoking based on the number of guests you are expecting:

Number of Guests Recommended Turkey Size
4-6 8-10 pounds
6-8 10-12 pounds
8-10 12-14 pounds
10-12 14-16 pounds
12-14 16-18 pounds
14-16 18-20 pounds
16-18 20-22 pounds
18-20 22-24 pounds
20+ Two smaller birds, totaling to desired weight

Tips for Smoking a Turkey

Expert tips for achieving a flavorful and juicy smoked turkey, without the risk of slow cooking.

Master the Spatchcock

Spatchcocking or butterflying your turkey allows for faster and more even cooking, resulting in tender and juicy meat.

Dual Probe Thermometer is Key

To ensure precise temperature readings and maintain an ideal smoking temperature, invest in a dual probe thermometer.

Size Matters

Opt for a smaller turkey, between 8-12 pounds, as larger ones may take longer to smoke and result in rubbery skin.

Don’t Trust Built-In Thermometers

Built-in or pop-up thermometers are not always reliable, so use a separate thermometer for accurate measurements.

Fresh is Best

For maximum flavor and juiciness, choose a fresh turkey from your local butcher instead of a frozen one.

The Power of Brining

Brining your turkey before smoking, whether through a wet brine or kosher salt sprinkling, adds moisture and enhances the flavor of the meat.

Cook at the Right Temperature

For a perfectly crispy and flavorful turkey, smoke at a temperature between 275 – 350°F. Avoid low and slow cooking, which can result in rubbery skin.

Give it Time

Be patient and allow enough time for your turkey to cook, especially if using an electric smoker that may experience temperature swings.

Don’t Rush to Carve

After removing from the smoker, let your turkey rest for about 10 minutes before carving. But be careful not to wait too long as it can dry out the meat and affect the crispiness of the skin.

Keep the Lid Closed

Resist the temptation to frequently open the lid while smoking as this can affect cooking time. Instead, trust the process and enjoy some quality time with family and friends.

Remember, smoking a turkey should be a fun and enjoyable experience. So relax, have a good time, and don’t stress about perfection.


In conclusion, slow smoking your turkey this Thanksgiving is not only a guaranteed way to impress your guests, but also a deliciously flavorful cooking method. And the best part? There’s no such thing as “too slow” when it comes to this process. By maintaining a low and steady temperature of 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit, you can infuse your turkey with mouthwatering smoky notes and ensure a juicy and tender texture.

Slow smoking not only adds depth of flavor, but also evenly cooks the meat, eliminating any risk of undercooked or overcooked areas. Plus, there’s something mesmerizing about watching your turkey slowly cook over coals or wood chips.

Remember to keep the temperature low and steady for optimal results – between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures food safety and maximizes flavor. Regularly monitoring temperatures throughout the cooking process and using a thermometer to check that the internal temperature reaches 165°F is crucial for safe consumption.