How Long Does It Take To Smoke Turkey?

When preparing Thanksgiving turkey, there are method options galore: roasting, frying, grilling, and, of course, smoking. Smoking a turkey is a culinary art that requires time, patience, and careful monitoring. While Thanksgiving most often serves as the main event for this mouthwatering masterpiece, time is essential for delivering a succulent, flavorful bird.

So, how long does it take to smoke a turkey? Mashed recipe developer Stephanie Rapone recommends a guideline of at least 15 minutes per pound when smoking a turkey. The journey begins with selecting a high-quality turkey and properly assembling it for the smoker. Many home cooks and pro chefs agree it's essential to brine the turkey beforehand. Brining, giving it a lovely saltwater bath, helps infuse the poultry with delectable umami notes. Once your turkey is brined and seasoned to your liking, it's time to fire up the smoker.

The first key moment arrives around the 90-minute mark when you should check the overall color. If the skin appears to be developing a deep, rich hue, it's time to intervene. Turkey skin can darken quickly during the smoking process, so covering it with foil can prevent it from over-browning. This will also keep the skin from becoming too brittle — or worse, burnt.

Smoking a turkey demands your undivided attention

To ensure a safe and satisfying meal, the goal is for the turkey's internal temperature to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal reading for both the breast and thigh meat, as Rapone suggests. A trusty meat thermometer is crucial for accuracy. If the internal temperature has not yet reached 165 degrees, go ahead and allow one extra minute of smoking for each degree needed. For example, if the thermometer displays 155 degrees, continue smoking the turkey for 10 additional minutes. Again, you want to make sure it's thoroughly cooked. Otherwise, your guests are at risk of food poisoning and various unpleasant side effects. And who wants to feel crummy over a long weekend filled with leftovers?

The beauty of smoking a turkey lies in the infusion of flavors, the crispiness of the skin, and the juicy tenderness of the meat. While the ideal time may vary depending on your turkey's size and your specific smoker, the 15-minute per pound benchmark offers a reliable starting point. With these helpful tips from food expert and turkey aficionado Stephanie Rapone, your Thanksgiving table will be graced with a turkey that embodies the essence of the holiday.