Is Your Smoked Turkey Done Too Early? (4 Tips to Saving Your Bird)

Is your turkey already done and your guests or sides aren’t already? Finishing too early and having to wait for your guests can be disastrous!

Most of us tend to only tackle this task once or twice a year! It can be a daunting one to get the timings just right for all the dishes to arrive at the table together. 

So, find out below how we manage to keep the turkey juicy and moist while waiting on your guests!

Smoking Your Turkey Can Be Tricky (But Worth it)

One of the best ways to prepare your turkey is to smoke it. There is nothing like that crispy skin and juicy meat infused with smoke.

There are various flavors of wood chips you can use for turkey, we recommend using applewood or cherrywood.

Although smoking itself can be an unreliable cooking process. Many factors can affect the cooking time, such as the size of the bird, the outside weather conditions, the moisture level of the meat, and whether you wrap your turkey.

At the end of the day, the temperature will indicate the cooking time, rather than the clock. It is important to remember to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey.

Test by inserting the meat thermometer probe in a turkey breast as well as the turkey leg, taking care to avoid the bone.

You should always place your turkey breast side down when cooking it. This allows it to baste as it cooks.

Wondering What The Cooking Time is For Smoked Turkey?

To smoke a turkey it takes 15 minutes per pound in a conventional oven set at 325F. The weight of the turkey dictates the cooking time.

For smoking, the average recommended time for smoking is 30-40 minutes per pound. An 8-pound turkey will take roughly 3 – 4 hours, while a 12-pound bird takes around 5-6 hours.

Larger turkeys tend to dry out in the smoker because they need a longer time to reach the temperature. If a large quantity of meat is needed, perhaps think about cooking two smaller birds, rather than one large one. Plenty of meat for less cook time.

Another possible option is to smoke several pieces of turkey breast meat rather than the whole bird. It’s also a great option for those who prefer white meat over dark meat.

Smoked Turkey Finished Cooking Too Early? 

If you have misjudged the timing, don’t panic! These handy tips can help.

1. Release the Heat

Releasing the heat is an important step to prevent the bird from continuing to cook while resting.

Once removed from the oven or smoker, let the finished turkey sit uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows the internal heat to ease off, while still keeping the bird moist, and reduces the amount of condensation build-up when covered in foil.  

2. Keeping it Warm

Once the meat has rested, it’s ready for the next step. 

If you are looking to eat within the hour, wrap the turkey in foil and cover it with a thick towel to keep the bird warm and the delicious flavors intact. If your turkey is done

Unwrap and serve when you are ready to eat.

3. Reheating in the Oven

If you are a couple of hours ahead of mealtime, let it rest as above to release the initial heat.

Then carve the turkey breast meat, legs and thighs and arrange them on a platter or warming drawer. Cover the bird with tin foil. If you remove the skin you can also reheat that,

Just before you are ready to serve, make your turkey gravy, then reheat the platter, still covered in aluminum foil, in the oven. Heat for about 20 minutes at 350F degree oven this is how to get crispy turkey skin after smoking without having to make your guests wait.

It won’t be as spectacular a centerpiece as a whole bird, but the meat will be juicy and moist, the turkey warm, and food safety won’t be an unwelcome guest.

4. Hot Water

Boiling water is a great way to keep the meat warm when oven space is running short.

Tightly wrap the turkey in several layers of aluminum foil and place in a dish or tray of boiling water.

This allows the food to stay heated and maintain the internal temperature, without applying any direct heat source. It’s an especially handy technique if oven space is running short and you need to keep the turkey warm.

Do you create a cooking plan for your Thanksgiving meal?

Smoke On!


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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