How Long Should I Smoke My 20 Pound Turkey? Tips And Tricks

If you are planning on serving up the perfect holiday feast, there is no tastier option than a delicious smoked turkey.

How Long Should I Smoke My 20 Pound Turkey? Tips And Tricks

As well as leaving your family members with a meal to remember, your smoked turkey has a wealth of different uses. Sandwiches, stews and casseroles galore! The list goes on and on. 

It is obvious that if you are catering for a larger family, or are looking to make your turkey go that extra mile, the bigger the bird, the better. If you are looking to smoke your turkey, you might be wondering how long it will take to cook a larger portion of meat in this manner. 

Below, we take a look at exactly how long it takes to smoke a 20-pound-turkey and if this is the right option for you.

Size Matters

The size of your turkey is the determining factor in how long it should be smoked. Smaller turkeys will be cooked at a faster rate than larger ones because the weight will not be confined to one area. 

Begin by checking the temperature of your turkey an hour before you expect to remove it from the heat. Follow on from this by checking every half an hour until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the densest portion of the thigh.

If you are smoking an 8-12 pound bird, or a 12-16 pound turkey, you can expect it to be smoking for 5 hours. 

It is important to consider temperature when smoking your turkey. 165 degrees will mean that your bird will be cooking at an elevated rate.

The hotter the temperature, the less smoke time. For every 2-3 degrees that your heat is lowered, add an hour to the smoke time. 

How Long Does A 20 Pound Turkey Take To Smoke?

Here it is, the big question. Put simply, a 20 pound turkey at 225 degrees should cook at a rate of 30 to 40 minutes per pound of meat.

If the temperature is increased, you are looking at 25 to 30 minutes per pound. It’s important to note that when cooking a turkey this large, you should keep the smoker temperature above 225.

If you fail to do this, you risk putting your turkey in a hazardous area between 40 and 140 degrees. 

Smoking A 20 Pound Turkey: Put Simply

With the smoker set to 225 degrees, your turkey should cook for 30 – 40 minutes per pound. Be sure to set enough time aside, as this will mean that your turkey will be cooking for at least 10 hours. 

Once you reach the end of that 10 hours, make sure that you have a meat thermometer at the ready. Begin checking the internal temperature of the bird at the densest portion of its thigh. If it is at 165 degrees, remove the turkey and allow it to rest. 

Is It Safe To Smoke A 20 Pound Turkey? 

Yes – it is safe to smoke a larger bird provided you follow the instructions above and make sure to cook your turkey at a high enough heat.

As we mentioned earlier, if you leave them in the hazard zone of 40 -140 degrees for longer than 4 hours, they can begin to breed poisonous bacteria. 

What Is The Best Wood For Smoking Turkey?

The great thing about smoking a turkey is that you have options in terms of flavor. Depending on the type of wood that you use, you can give your turkey its own unique taste.

If you are looking for that signature smoky taste, oak and hickory make great choices. Again, if you want a smokier flavor, mesquite is a good option, however, it does tend to get hotter than other woods so make sure that its age has been properly seasoned. 

If you are looking for a sweeter flavor, apple, cherry and peach work well. Especially when paired with a good rub or glaze. 

Can My Turkey Be Smoked Overnight?

How Long Should I Smoke My 20 Pound Turkey? Tips And Tricks

If your turkey has been set to smoke at 225 – 250 degrees, this will ensure that you have enough time to leave the turkey on overnight.

Leaving it on overnight is also a good idea because opening the smoker before it’s done causes the temperature to cool, disturbing its cooking progress. 

Should I Wrap My Turkey Before Smoking?

This is generally not recommended, as wrapping your turkey may cause its skin to steam, resulting in a soft texture and diminished flavor

How Much Turkey Should I Serve For Each Person?

The answer to this question depends on the people who are planning on eating the turkey. Some prefer larger portions than others, and so this should be accounted for when purchasing your turkey.

Because turkey is a dish cooked primarily on thanksgiving, it is better to overestimate the amount of meat needed in case you run out and are left with some ravenous guests!

It is also a good idea to purchase a turkey on the larger side because you can keep the leftovers and utilize them in other dishes later in the week. 

We recommend that you buy 1-½ pounds of turkey per person, to be on the safe side. If you are planning on smoking a 20 pound turkey, which we presume you are if you’re reading this article, this will be enough to serve 12 guests. 

How Long Can I Leave My Turkey Out Before Serving? 

Another thing to note in terms of health and safety is that you should under no circumstances leave a cooked bird out for more than 2 hours after cooking. Doing so could cause bacteria to fester.

If you have leftovers that you need to store, simply place them in the refrigerator immediately afterward. Consume these within 24-48 hours. 

How To Reheat Frozen Turkey

If you have some leftovers from your turkey, you can simply freeze these and eat them at a later date.

To reheat your turkey, place it in a 300-degree oven and heat for approximately 20 minutes per pound. Don’t overheat the turkey as it’s already cooked and you could end up with a very dry portion of meat.

Preparation Is Everything

It is important to note that your turkey’s weight will be less than is stated on the packaging by the time you are looking to cook it.

This is because of the weight of the neck and giblets, which will need to be removed before smoking. This will mean that your turkey will be around 18 pounds once these items are removed. However, these items can be used for the gravy. 

Final Thoughts

The most important factor when choosing to smoke a turkey is timing. Although this method takes a prolonged period of time, if you make the necessary preparations and leave your turkey to do its thing, you will be left with a delicious meal to serve up at the dinner table.

If you take care to check on your turkey during the early stages of cooking to make sure that it’s not dropping too low, you’re on to a winner.

Tommy Hall