Setting the correct temp to smoke an entire turkey is very important.
It influences cook time and the results of this flavorful bird.
It can mean the difference between juicy and dry meat or soggy and crispy skin.
Through trial and tribulation, I have found the best temp for a smoked turkey.
Read further as I reveal my secret.
As well as some frequently asked questions about the cooking process.
To achieve a perfectly finished turkey.
What Temperature to Smoke Turkey At.
The optimal temperature to smoke a turkey at is 275°F
This is what I use to smoke a turkey for all my family gatherings.
Why Are We Smoking at 275°F?
A whole turkey needs some love and plenty of time.
Low and slow with indirect heat and space.
Oh, and kosher salt!
But more of that later…
Turkey is a little hard to master due to the below factors.
– The size and long smoking times.
– Different types of meat that are prone to going dry.
– It can be bland tasting if you don’t brine it correctly.
– Risk of serious food poisoning if not cooked properly.
But don’t let that put you off!
The 275°F temperature range helps you combat all of these issues and more.
Why I Smoke My Turkeys At 275°F
Below are some of the reasons you should smoke your turkey at least 275°F
Turkey can take up to 12 hours of smoking time in lower temperatures like 250°F.
At 275°F a turkey will smoke at roughly 30-35 minutes per pound.
At this temp you don’t won’t always be waiting a whole day!
Note: Read further for a more detailed look at the cooking times.
This temperature is hot enough to get the meat past the danger zone (as long as you don’t cook a turkey over 14lbs) If you need to cook for a larger crowd I recommend cooking two smaller turkeys rather than one large one.
So there is no nasty surprise when you start carving!
Smoking is our cooking method but it also adds extra flavor.
At 275-300°F the smoke has enough time to penetrate the skin.
Which helps create a depth of flavor you will never forget!
Chemical Reactions for Tender Meat & Crispy Skin
The smoke and temperature will also create some tasty chemical reactions!
The heat will partly evaporate the moisture within the proteins.
The juices will then baste which keeps tenderizes and forms flavorful meat.
The smoke will also bind and render the fat in the skin and connective tissue.
Using brown sugar in the rub? You should!
The Millard reaction will help form a picture-perfect crust on the skin!
Note: Read further for my cooking tips.
I share how to counteract the juices from evaporating completely.
What Kind of Smoker Should We Use?
I recommend you use an pellet smoker with wood chunks or chips as fuel.
An electric smoker gives you more control than a traditional charcoal one.
Especially over the temperature in the cooking chamber.
What Kind of Wood Chucks or Chips?
Fruit wood is my favorite wood to smoke a turkey.
Nothing says Thanksgiving than the aroma of apple wood chips smoldering over a stuffed bird.
Setting & Monitoring the Temp of 275°F?
I used a Traeger smoker the last time I cooked a juicy turkey at 275°F
But whatever individual smoker you have will be fine!
Just make sure it has an accurate and customizable temperature gauge.
Prime and load the smoker and then set the temperature.
Sit back with a beer until the convenient LCD screen informs you it has come to temp.
The Optimum Temperature Range of a Smoker
It is nearly impossible to achieve a constant temp.
Throughout the whole cooking process!
The standard temperature range is 20°F above or below your set temperature.
So don’t be worried if it jumps up to 295°F.
Or drops down to 255°F.
The Average Weight of a Turkey
The weight of a turkey can be anywhere from 7 lbs to the larger turkeys at 30 lbs!
The average of this range is typically around the 18-20 lbs mark.
How to Estimate the Time of the Smoking Process at 275°F
At a temperature of 275°F, the cooking time scale is 30 – 35 minutes per pound.
You have an 18-pound turkey and are smoking at the ideal temp of 275°F
18 x 35 = 10 hours.
What Types of Meat Is There in a Turkey?
There are 2 types of meat in a turkey.
Dark meat in the thigh and white in the breast meat.
The darker meat is located nearer the bones.
It has a gamey taste and more fat.
White meat is lighter-tasting, dense, and tender.
But can be prone to going dry.
What Internal Cooking Temperature Does the Meat Need to Be?
You are monitoring 2 internal temperatures on an accurate meat thermometer.
The digital probe in the dark meat should read 180°F.
The digital probe in the white meat should read 160°F.
Use a Temperature Probe
This is the most accurate way to measure the turkey temperature for both types of meat.
As a rule of thumb, you should have more than 2 instant-read thermometers.
In case some are faulty!
Do I Defrost Before Smoking at 275°F?
Always defrost a frozen turkey thoroughly before cooking.
Defrosting a Raw Turkey
– Defrost refrigerated while still in the packaging at a rate of 30 mins per pound at 4°F.
– Fill your sink with cold water and submerge the turkey – replace the water every 30 minutes.
Tip: The minimum temperature to defrost a turkey is 39°F.
Any higher and you increase your chances of food poisoning.
How Will I Know My Raw Turkey Is Defrosted?
The turkey flesh should have a little bounce to the touch.
A good tip is to try and move the wings to judge the wiggle room.
They will move freely and without any sound.
This is a good indication you no longer have frozen meat.
Are There Other Temperatures I Can Smoke At?
Below are some other temperatures that are fine for smoking a turkey.
Even though they will get the job done…
They will not cover all the previous points previously made at 275°F.
A low 225°F at 40 – 45 minutes per pound.
A high 325°F at 20-25 minutes per pound.
My Top Cooking Tips for Smoking at 275°F
– Brine your turkey with a kosher salt and water solution
– Use a spice rub with olive oil and sugar to help create caramelization.
– Wrap the turkey breast in aluminum foil while you wait for the internal temp of the dark meat.
– Use a probe as well as the time formula for measuring at 275°F.
– Rest to allow carryover cooking.
Food Safety Questions & Advice for Cooking Poultry
– Pay attention and wash any surfaces or utensils you have used when handling raw meat.
– Always thaw turkey refrigerated.
– Don’t leave raw or cooked meat out of the refrigerator for more than 30 minutes.
– Do not attempt to thaw in hot water.
– Cook the thawed meat within 2 days.
– Use a meat thermometer to measure internal temperatures accurately.
– Do not try and cook in extreme weather conditions.
– Do not cook on a faulty device.
– Smoke outside in a ventilated area.
– Store leftover turkey in an airtight container in the fridge. (Up to 3 days)
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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