Can You Smoke a Turkey the Day Before (Bonus Tips For A Juicy Turkey

Wondering if you can smoke a turkey the day before you plan to eat it, smoking an entire turkey takes planning and time but it can done.

Did you know a larger bird can weigh up to 30 pounds and it can take up to 8-9 hours to cook it, that means the cooking process has to start early morning. However you can cook it the day before, to save time and space in your oven

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Smoking Turkey the Day Before You Plan On Serving

Below is my comprehensive guide for smoking a turkey a day ahead, we cover how long to cook your turkey, the resting period, whether you break it down or keep the turkey whole and reheating it. I have added food safety notes on the reheating process at the end.

Remember to defrost a frozen turkey before smoking it

Estimate the Cook Time

The cooking time for a smoked turkey is based on weight and cooking temperature, which you still need to do, even the day before when you have plenty of time!

Below are the average times per temperature.

At 225°F a turkey will cook at 40 – 45 minutes per pound.

At 275°F a turkey will cook at 30 – 35 minutes per pound.

At 325°F a turkey will cook at 20-25 minutes per pound.

Monitoring the Cooking & Internal Temperatures

You need to monitor the temperature of the cooking unit and the internal meat temps, a pellet grill will likely be installed with temperature probes. But a charcoal smoker or gas grill may not.

Having calibrated digital meat thermometers will help you measure these.

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Resting & Cooling Turkey for Next Day Reheating

The true and best method for resting and cooling a turkey is as followed;

– Check the correct internal temperatures have been met.

– Remove the turkey from your smoker or oven space.

– Place on a wire rack in an oven tray.

– Keep the probes inserted.

– Double wrap with foil.

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Break It Down or Keep it Whole?

You have two option when it comes to cooking the day before, you can either keep the turkey whole or break it down. While it looks more impressive when you serve the turkey whole I have found that it can be dry when reheated. So I would recommend breaking it down, but its up to you.

Breaking Down The Turkey for Reheating

Monitor the internal temperature until it reaches 165°F.

Rest the turkey as per the above.

Carve down into individual parts.

Remove the skin, if you want to know how to get crispy skin on smoked turkey the best method is brining it.

Shred and separate the white meat and dark meat.

Chop up the skin and add the dark meat.

Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Keeping the Turkey Whole for Next Day Reheating

Monitor the internal temperature until it reaches 165°F.

Rest the turkey as per the above.

Remove the layer of aluminum foil and cover it with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate until the next day.

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Reheating Turkey on the Day of Serving

So it’s Thanksgiving and you are ready to start the heating process again.

How Long Does It Take?

A whole turkey will take around 3 hours to reheat back on the smoker The chopped turkey meat will take 20-30 minutes in a microwave or oven.

Note: The actual time depends on the pounds of turkey meat you have.

Reheating a Whole Turkey

Remove the plastic wrap.

Cover the skin with cooking spray or olive oil.

Wrap in foil.

Insert cleaned temperature probes.

Put back on the smoker or in an oven at a temp of 225°F, increasing the temperature to 350°F for the last 5 minutes is how to get crispy turkey skin after smoking.

Monitor until an internal temp of 140°F.

Reheating Turkey Meat in a Microwave

Add a small amount of cold water or chicken broth to the turkey meat.

Reheat in batches in a microwave until steaming.

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What to Think About Before Considering This Method

Wondering why you should smoke a turkey ahead of time? Find out below.

More Time For Other Tasks

You need plenty of time to smoke a turkey when considering the brine time and the length of the cooking process, not to mention resting and preparing other dishes.

Worried you don’t have enough time on the day, smoke it the day before and get prepared!

How Are You Serving Turkey?

Leftover turkey meat is delicious in sandwiches or even thrown into a curry. Want your holiday meal to be casual and not a traditional smoked roasted turkey? Do it the day before.

What Are You Using for Your Smoking Process?

There are all different types of smokers with unique functions. Do you have a traditional charcoal grill or a fancy electric smoker? The different types of unit may have an affect on your cooking times.

Are you able to just fill a hopper with wooden chips and leave it, or will you constantly have to be igniting and rotating coals? Below we explore the best type of smoker for a turkey in advance.

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The Cons of Smoking a Day Before

Traditional presentation cannot always be achieved when reheating, this is because you might have to break down the turkey. Or the crisp skin can be lost while in the fridge. You also risk dry meat from loss and preservation of moisture.

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How Different Cuts Of Turkey Cook

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.

The probe thermometer in the dark thigh meat should read 180°F.

The probe thermometer in the white breast meat should read 160°F.

Tips & Tricks When Smoking an Entire Turkey

– Know the weight and work out timings before cooking.

– Consider a dry brine to help achieve tender meat and a more flavorful bird.

– Don’t be afraid of strong seasonings or spices for additional flavor.

– Cook with indirect heat.

– The ideal temperature to smoke a turkey is 275°F.

– A wood pellet grill will give you more control over the smoking process.

– The type of wood in a pellet smoker will give extra flavor.

– Accurately monitor the internal temperatures for both types of meat.

– Wrap the delicate breasts in aluminum foil while you wait for the dark meat.

Food Safety Advice for Reheating Turkey

Do not let raw turkey meat stay out of the fridge for more than 30-45 minutes.

Accurately monitor the internal temperatures while cooking and reheating.

Be careful of cross-contamination on utensils between raw and cooked meat.

Do not keep cooked turkey meat in the fridge for longer than 2 days.

Store airtight.

Smoke On!

Charlie

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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