What Size Turkey for Smoking (Plus Exactly How to Cook It)

You want to smoke a turkey this year but what size turkey is the best for smoking? Should you buy a larger turkey to feed everyone? Or should you get two smaller turkeys?

Buying a properly sized turkey is a great way to ensure that you have a good smoked turkey.


What Size Turkey Is Best for Smoking?

A 10-12 pound turkey is the optimal size turkey for smoking. It is better to smoke smaller turkeys as a larger bird may take too long to cook at smoking temperatures. If you need more than 12 pounds of turkey, you can smoke two smaller birds.

How Much Does a Turkey Weigh?

Store-bought turkeys typically range between 10-30 pounds.

It is becoming easier to find small turkeys every year.

Wild turkeys generally weigh between 8-18 pounds.

No matter your preferences, you should be able to find a fresh turkey small enough for your smoker.


How Much Turkey per Person?

You need 1-1.5 pounds of turkey per person.

You can estimate less if you’re serving children or have a lot of side dishes.

For 15 people, you’d want a turkey that weighs about 20 pounds.

Instead of one big turkey, consider buying two smaller birds.

You can put each turkey on one of the grill grates. If they both fit on the same rack, that’s another option.

How Long Should You Smoke a Turkey?

We recommend smoking a turkey for about 23 minutes per pound at 275°F.

You should cook the turkey for longer at lower temperatures.

For instance, it might take 30 minutes per pound at 225°F.

A good rule of thumb is to give plenty of time for lower temperatures.


How to Tell if a Turkey Is Done?

A turkey is done once it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

Insert a meat thermometer at the thickest portion of the turkey to measure the temp.

Dark meat can cook up to 180°F. However, you should avoid cooking the turkey breast meat past 165°F.

Overcooking the white meat will result in dry turkey.

If you let the white meat cook through indirect heat, it should be ready at the same time as the dark meat.

We recommend using a temperature probe thermometer to monitor the temp while it is in the smoker.

This prevents cold air from getting in and adds extra time until it’s ready.


Turkey Smoking FAQs

What Wood Chips Should I Use for Turkey?

Apple wood chips are one of the most popular options when smoking turkey

You can use any other fruit wood if that’s your preference.

A lot of people like smoked turkey cooked with pecan or maple chips, as well.

How Do I Thaw a Turkey?

For best results, thaw the frozen turkey in the refrigerator for a few days.

If you don’t have a few days, you can defrost it in the microwave or cold water.

The cold water method takes about 30 minutes per pound.

The microwave method varies by microwave.

Never thaw a turkey at room temperature or in hot water.


Should I Spatchcock My Turkey?

Spatchcocking your turkey allows more surface area for seasoning.

This method also allows the turkey to cook more evenly and quickly.

This can result in juicy breast meat and crisp skin.

Many people prefer cooking a spatchcocked bird, but others think it’s too much effort.


How Should I Season My Turkey?

We recommend keeping it simple. You can season it with kosher salt for great results, you can also use your favorite spices or turkey rub. Some popular seasonings are garlic powder, black pepper, and brown sugar.

Remember the wood chips will provide a delicious smoky flavor, making seasoning redundant.

Should I Brine a Turkey?

While brining is optional, many people swear by it and its how to get crispy turkey skin in smoker with ease. You can use a wet turkey brine with cold water and kosher salt. You can add apple juice or other liquids to the wet brine.

Most people use a dry brine with coarse salt and their favorite aromatic seasonings. Leave it in the fridge overnight.

Should I Stuff My Turkey?

While stuffed turkeys were the standard in years past, it is no longer recommended.

Stuffing the turkey increases the cook time. It can also result in soggy stuffing.

Cook the stuffing separately for best results.

Should I Baste My Turkey?

Many people think that basting the turkey will help it become juicy.

However, this is an unnecessary step.

It doesn’t make a big difference. There are other ways to make white meat juicier.

Also, it increases smoking time. This is because you let cold air in every single time you open the lid.


What Should I Do With My Turkey Drippings?

Catch the turkey drippings with a drip pan.

Use the drippings to make turkey gravy with a smoky flavor.

Even if you don’t plan to make gravy, it is good practice to use a drip pan.

This will make cleaning up easier.

Should I Rest the Turkey?

Many people let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

The theory is that this allows juices to be redistributed throughout the white meat.

Some people argue that this isn’t necessary. Shorter rest times may result in crispier skin at the time of serving.

Most people consider this the last step of the cooking process. It also buys you time to finish the other dishes.


What if My Turkey Is Pink?

Smoked turkey with a pink hue is safe to eat as long as it reached a safe temperature.

A protein in turkey maintains that pink color when fully cooked.

As long as the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, it is safe to eat.

While every type of smoker requires a different smoking process, they’re all similar.

After reading this you will be ready to smoke a delicious turkey.

Now that you know you should use the smoker for small turkeys, you’re ready to cook a smoked turkey.

Follow these guidelines for a delicious smoked turkey everyone will enjoy!

Whether you have a wood pellet grill or an electric smoker, you’ll be able to cook a flavorful bird.

This method takes plenty of time, but your turkey will have a scrumptious smoke flavor.


Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

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 recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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