Best Temp to Smoke a Turkey (Plus Turkey Smoking Tips!)

You’ve decided to smoke the turkey this year. But what temperature should you be smoking it at? We’ve got the answer!

In this guide, you will discover:

  • The best temp for smoking a turkey
  • Tips for smoking your turkey
  • And much more!

What is the Best Temp to Smoke a Turkey?

Just as there isn’t one way to cook your turkey in the oven, there also isn’t just one way to cook it in a smoker. But keep in mind that your smoker is designed for low and slow cooking. 

For best results, you should smoke your turkey at 275 degrees. At this temperature, your turkey will cook at a rate of about 20 minutes per pound. 

While some people do prefer to smoke their turkeys at a slightly higher temperature, this one will definitely give you the juiciest meat. Want to learn more about smoking your turkey this year? 

Read on to learn more about smoking turkeys and some tips and tricks to make it a breeze. 

Why the Temperature For Smoking Your Turkey Matters

There are some people out there who will just chuck their turkey in the smoker and hope for the best. While you can also do this, you do have to be careful with the temperature you smoke your turkey at because it is poultry. 

Poultry is a less dense meat, meaning it is highly susceptible to carrying food-borne illnesses like salmonella, which breed at temperatures below 140 degrees. Once these bacteria are allowed to breed, they may stay in your food even if you cook it at high temperatures. 

Therefore your smoker needs to be set at a high enough temperature that it will destroy these bacteria and not allow them to breed. But if you choose a smoker temperature that is too high, you risk drying out your turkey, and as everyone knows, dry turkey is not pleasant to eat. 

What Temperatures Can You Smoke a Turkey at?

Although we believe that 275°F will yield the best results, there are other temperatures you can smoke a turkey at. 

The lowest we’ve seen is 250°F. And even though you can smoke foods at lower temps than that (most notably pork butt, which some people smoke at 160°F), we don’t recommend cooking a turkey at less than 250°F.  

Especially because at this temperature, it takes 30 minutes per pound for the bird to cook fully. Meaning a 15lb bird cooked at 250°F will take almost 8 hours to cook.  

On the high end, some people choose to smoke their turkey at 325°F. After 275°F, this temperature is our second favorite as it is still slow enough to seal in the juices but can help you trim a little time off of smoking your meat as it only takes about 15 minutes per pound. 

Be very careful, though, because it is very easy to overcook your turkey when the smoker is set to 325°, especially if your smoker runs a bit hot. For this reason, we suggest beginners always use 275°F for their smoking temp. 

Remember, all smokers vary. So don’t be afraid to try smoking a turkey at slightly different temperatures each time you try. You never know when you may find the perfect temperature for you!

Related >> Best Electric Smokers

seasoned turkey with all plastic removed sitting in an electric smoker

How Do You Know When a Smoked Turkey is Done?

When you choose to smoke your turkey at 275°F, you should plan for 20 min per pound of meat. This means for a 10lb turkey, you should plan at least 4 hours for cooking. 

Always estimate high to be on the safe side, as well as to allow turkey time to rest before you serve it. 

The best way to know when a smoked turkey is done is via a temperature probe. Turkey meat must reach an internal temperature of 165°F in order to be safe to eat. But you also don’t want to cook the turkey much past this, as this is when the breast meat will start to dry out. 

The easiest way to ensure your turkey is done properly each and every time is to invest in a WIFI meat smoking probe. This probe will allow you to set a temperature alert on your phone, letting you know when your meat is about to reach the right temperature. 

Without a WIFI probe, you will want to start to check on your turkey during the last hour of expected cooking time. Once it reaches 162°F, plan to pull it out and let it rest. Turkeys will continue to cook a bit more as they rest. 

Be cautious not to check the temperature of your turkey too frequently, however, because each time you open the smoker door, this lets out precious heat and could actually cause your turkey to take longer to reach a safe temperature. 

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Best Turkey Size for a Smoker

Because the amount of time you have to allow a turkey to smoke will widely depend on how large it is, this may leave you wondering what the best size of turkey is for your smoker. 

The answer to this question widely depends on several aspects. The first is the clearance of your smoker. 

A smoker generally needs to have at least 9 inches of clearance to be able to hold a full turkey, and even then, it usually needs to be under 12lbs to fit. Smokers with more clearance allow you more space, but then the length of the smoker may also become an issue. 

Regardless of the size of your smoker, we recommend sticking to a turkey 15 lbs or less because anything larger will take a very long time to smoke. Plus, when it comes to turkey meat, bigger isn’t always better as these larger turkeys are sometimes the older turkeys, which have more tough meat to begin with. 

Rather than upping the size of your turkey in a larger smoker, we recommend smoking two smaller turkeys instead, as it is easier to control the end result. 

Related >> Best Smokers for Turkey

Tips for Smoking a Turkey

As we said in the beginning, there is no one way to smoke a turkey. Below are some tips to give you ideas for perfecting your own method of turkey smoking that suits your family and your smoker. 

1. Try the High-Low Method

Generally, it’s easier to keep your smoker at the same temperature as you smoke a turkey. But you don’t have to. Try the high-low method, where you start your turkey smoking at a temperature like 350°F, then lower the temperature to 275°F after the first 30 minutes. This method keeps the turkey juicy but gives you a nice crispy skin to bite into.

2. Try the Low-High Method

The opposite of the above, the low-high smoking will give your turkey a more smoky flavor and is ideal when you are smoking meat to be cut up and used for other purposes. For this method, start the smoker at 250°F, then raise it to 300°F about halfway through the cooking process. 

3. Baste Your Turkey

Smoked turkeys aren’t basted the traditional way, but this doesn’t mean you should skip basting altogether. We find that the best way to baste a smoked turkey is by slipping butter and spices beneath the skin prior to cooking.

You can also place your turkey in the smoker in a pan rather than directly on the rack if you want to use a more traditional basting technique. You can also stuff your bird with spices, apples, oranges, or whatever other flavors you want to be infused in the meat.

More Turkey Tips

Looking for even more tips on cooking a turkey? We’ve got you covered!

Final Thoughts on Smoker Temps

Overall, there are many different temperatures to smoke a turkey at, but for a good combination of juicy meat and crispy skin, 275°F really does get the job done.

So plan in advance, and calculate how many hours you will need to cook your turkey at this temperature so you won’t feel rushed on the day of your event! 

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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