How Long Does it Take to Smoke a 20LB Turkey? Guide and Tips

How long does it take to smoke a 20lb turkey? This question has been asked for years. There are so many variables involved. What size of smoker do you have, what type of wood you use, what temperature do you cook at, and what size bird do you have?  

When Thanksgiving is around the corner, it means one thing for most people: time to think about cooking an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. To prepare a great meal, you need to know how long To smoke a 20lb turkey for.

How long does it take to smoke a 20LB Turkey

In the following paragraphs, I will answer all these questions and offer advice on how to get the perfect smoked turkey! Find out how long to smoke a 20 pound turkey & everything you need to know about smoking a 20lb turkey by reading this article.

How can you make sure your turkey comes out perfectly? Read on to learn how! 

How Long To Smoke A 20lb Turkey? Full Answer

You will need to smoke the turkey for a certain amount of time depending on its size. In general, smaller turkeys finish faster than larger ones because all the weight isn’t concentrated in one spot.

Start checking your turkey’s temperature about an hour before the expected end time and check it every half hour until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoking an 8-12lb turkey or a 12-16lb bird should take about 5 hours – if not longer. 

Remember to take into consideration that pre-basted turkeys may cook faster because of the added moisture from being injected with butter or flavors.

Another important factor in how long it will take to cook your turkey is the temperature of the smoker. Cooking at 165 degrees Fahrenheit means that you are cooking hot and fast! It takes less time to smoke the same size bird at a higher temperature.

If you lower your heat by 2-3 degrees, you should expect to add an hour or more to your smoking time – if not more depending on the size of your bird.

Depending on the type of wood you use, the temperature can also vary. Hardwoods like hickory, oak, pecan, and fruitwoods all burn hotter than a milder tasting wood such as apple, cherry, or peach. Keep this in mind when using a wood such as mesquite and adjust your temperature accordingly.

What Size is Your Turkey?

In my opinion, this is the most important question of all because it will determine whether your bird will be moist and juicy or dry and stringy.

Due to their size and shorter cooking time, smaller turkeys benefit from smoking at higher temperatures for short periods of time.

Once an hour, check 2-3 lbs birds and then every half hour until they are done. I recommend checking them sooner.

Larger turkeys typically need lower temperatures for longer periods of time in order to keep their moisture content high. Try smoking a 20lb or larger turkey between 200-225 degrees 

Fahrenheit for 5-6 hours, depending on thickness and size.

Here’s everything you need to know about How Long To Smoke A 20lb Turkey. The chances of your bird turning out delicious and juicy are high if you follow these guidelines!

What are the Best Smoking Woods for Turkey? 

You can choose different types of smoke depending on the type of Turkey you are smoking. Oak and hickory are good for poultry since they impart a smoky flavor without being too overwhelming. The flavor of pecan is not as intense, but it still comes out with a great, slightly nutty taste.

Apple, peach, and cherry woods also add a nice flavor to your bird that pairs well with savory rubs and glazes. Every guide that answers your question about how long to smoke a 20lb turkey must offer full options for smoking woods.

Using mesquite will add a smoky flavor to your barbecue, but it burns hotter than most other varieties, so make sure it’s been properly seasoned before using!

Poultry should be cooked at lower temperatures like 225 degrees Fahrenheit for a longer period of time. It keeps the meat moist and tender without burning or drying it out too much.

Prep Your Smoker Before Cooking Your Turkey 

Be sure that the inside of the pot is clean and there is no creosote or debris left from a previous cooking session. To help keep your smoker moist during cooking, you can place a metal container filled with water next to the wood chips.

The low fat content of turkey makes it unsuitable for higher cooking temperatures. The high temperature will also dry out the meat, leaving it tough and stringy.

A smoked turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before it is removed from the heat source, so be sure to use a digital thermometer.

Take your turkey’s flavor to the next level by smoking it on oak wood! Oak has long been considered one of the best types of wood for roasting turkeys due to its deep and rich smoke. This adds a wonderful flavor to the meat.

If you smoke your turkey too long, it will dry out and lose its great juiciness. Depending on the size of your bird, 2-3 hours at 225 degrees Fahrenheit should be enough time to infuse with smoky flavor. When determining “how long to smoke a 20 pound turkey”, keep this in mind.

Depending on the type of wood you use and how hot your smoker is, smoking a 20lb turkey can take anywhere from 5-10 hours! Keep an eye on the temperature gauge inside and use a digital thermometer to check if it is done. 

If you’re looking for how long to smoke a 20 pound turkey, lower the heat to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

You now know all there is to know about how long to smoke a 20lb turkey! Once you have read this, you should have enough information to smoke the perfect holiday turkey every time. Happy Thanksgiving!

Does Brining or Injecting Help With the Flavor of Smoked Meat?

If butter/chicken stock or marinades are injected into turkey before smoking or grilling, then yes, this would apply. Don’t use sugary marinades or too much oil when grilling because it will burn.

Whenever you inject, make sure you use a meat injector needle and angle the needle tip at 45 degrees. This will ensure that once the needle is inserted into the meat, you pull back on the plunger a bit before releasing the juice to avoid air bubbles.

A brined turkey is much more flavorful than one that has not been brined. Moreover, it helps to retain moisture, so that the meat does not dry out during cooking.

As far as injected turkeys are concerned, if you are talking about a marinade or just butter, then yes, it will give the meat more flavor and moisture.

However, we feel that injecting flavors into the muscle fibers should be left to someone else since it does make clean up more difficult.

Final Words

Timing is key when it comes to smoking a turkey. Follow this handy guide and monitor the temperature periodically throughout the smoking process to ensure that your bird has been smoked long enough.

Our guide will provide you with all the information that you need to know about smoking a turkey and how long it takes, so be sure to check it out before your next big meal! 

When it comes time to prepare your Thanksgiving meal this year, we hope these helpful hints and tricks prove helpful to you.

To help you get the best smoked turkey for your next holiday, here is the Ultimate Guide to “how long to smoke a 20 pound turkey.”

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