How Long To Smoke A 20 Pound Turkey (Is It Possible? And If So How To Do It Safely)

Wondering if you can smoke a 20-pound turkey? And if so how long do you need?

Below you’ll learn why there is intense debate about cooking turkeys this size.

So make sure you read to the end to ensure you cook your turkey correctly.

Is A 20 Pound Turkey Safe To Smoke?

A 20-pound turkey one of the larger birds!

It is safe to smoke a turkey this size, but you need to pay attention to the smoking temperature.

Smoking below 225°F will take too long to start the cooking process which will leave the turkey at a temperature range for bacteria growth.

The ‘danger zone’ range for turkey is between 40°F and 140°F. The heat energy at or below 225°F will not transfer into the proteins quickly enough.

Leaving the inside meat in the danger zone and at risk. This is why we recommend cooking at or above 275°F.

Estimating The Cooking Time For A 20-Pound Turkey

So we have confirmed the pounds of turkey before the smoking process. Before estimating the cooking time, we need to see the smoker’s temperature.

The Absolute Best Smoker Temp For A 20 Pound Turkey

Get ready to set your smoker temperature at 275°F. As it is my recommended and best temp to smoke this beautiful entire bird.

From being at a safe temperature and reducing food poisoning as well as achieving juicy meat!

We are now ready to estimate the time to cook a 20-pound bird.

Read further to understand why your type of smoker should be set to 275°F.

How Long To Smoke A 20 Pound Turkey At 275°F?

At a temperature of 275°F, the cooking timescale is 30 – 35 minutes per pound.

You have a 20-pound turkey and are smoking at the ideal temp of 275°F.

20 x 35 = 10 hours at this consistent temperature.

Can I Smoke At Other Cooking Temperatures?

Below are some other temperatures that are fine for smoking a turkey.

Although I highly recommend you stick with 275°F until dinner time. So you can get the best results like a juicy turkey with crispy skin.

A low 225°F at 40 – 45 minutes of smoking per pound.

A high 325°F at 20-25 minutes of smoking per pound.

turkey-popper-not-popping

How To Be Sure You Have A Perfect Smoked Turkey

The smoking time for your entire turkey helps but it shouldn’t end there.You will need a probe thermometer to know the exact internal temperature.

Not only can you be sure the types of meat in a turkey are cooked but you will also lower the risk of food poisoning.

Using An Accurate Meat Thermometer

It is almost impossible to estimate the exact time in any of your cooking methods.

Accurate temperature readings from a digital thermometer give you space to adjust. Adjust to temperature fluctuations that can happen when smoking meats.

Extra time from smoking a part-frozen turkey. Or less time due to a higher heat source.

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.

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 ice cream lighter-tasting, dense, and tender. But can be prone to going dry.

What Does Smoking Do For Turkey Meat?

This temperature is first a balance in achieving the perfect holiday meal.

With that delicious smoky flavor filling the room minutes before carving!

Indirect heat with simple rub ingredients for a delicious flavor.

Safety

This temperature is hot enough to penetrate the meat and cook it thoroughly. So there are no nasty surprises when you start carving!

Adding Flavor

Smoking is our cooking method, but it also adds extra flavor.

The smoke flavor at 275-300 degrees has enough time to penetrate the skin. This helps create a depth of flavor you will never forget!

The type of wood you use will make a difference in flavor too. I use fruit woods in my meat smoker for turkey.

Chemical Reactions For Tender Meat & Crispy Skin

The smoke and temperature will also create some tasty chemical reactions!

The heat will partially 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.

Are you using brown sugar in a spice rub? You should!

The Millard reaction will help form a picture-perfect crust on the skin!

turkey cooking class

Note: Read further for further cooking tips when smoking a 20-pound turkey!

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 thigh meat should read 180°F.

The digital probe in the white breast meat should read 165°F.

My Top Cooking Tips For Smoking A Turkey

– Buy fresh and free range.

– Apply a brine solution to the turkey with kosher salt and water the night before.

– 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 temperature of the dark meat.

– Use a probe with the time formula based on weight for measuring at 275°F.

Rest to allow carryover cooking.

Food Safety 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)

Smoke On!

Charlie

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 the 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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