How Long To Smoke a 20 Pound Turkey, And Other Tips

Smoking a whole turkey can feel overwhelming when you’re inexperienced.

How Long To Smoke a 20 Pound Turkey, And Other Tips

If you’re new to smoking a turkey, you might be wondering: How long should you smoke a 20 pound turkey?

In this article, we will cover how long to smoke a 20 pound turkey, alongside some handy tips to bear in mind.

So, let’s get started.

How Long To Smoke a 20 Pound Turkey

How much time does it take to smoke a 20 lb turkey? And how long should I let my turkey rest before carving? These questions are common ones, but they can also be tricky to answer.

There’s no getting away from the fact that cooking a large bird takes time. At 225 degrees, a 20 pound turkey will need to cook for 30 to 40 minutes per pound. Bearing this in mind, it would take a minimum of 10 hours to smoke a 20 pound turkey.

When your turkey has been smoking for a minimum of 10 hours, you can begin using a reliable meat thermometer to test the internal temperature of your turkey at the thickest part of the thigh.

The internal temperature of the turkey must reach a minimum of 165 degrees before you remove it from the smoker. Once it reaches this temperature, you can remove it and allow it to rest before you serve it up.

If you increase the smoker’s temperature to 250 degrees, then the meat will cook slightly quicker (25 to 30 minutes per pound).

What Is The Size Of The Average Turkey?

The answer to this question has changed significantly over the years. While the size of the average turkey used to be around 13 pounds, this number has now grown to a whopping 30.5 pounds.

This means that if you were to smoke a 30.5 pound turkey, it would require approximately 18 hours to complete.

However, as you’ll likely know from finding a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, it’s easy to find more modest-sized turkeys.

When cooking for a smaller group of people, you might want to aim for a 12 to 14 pound turkey.

That being said, you can see the appeal of having a giant centerpiece for your table!

Is It Safe To Smoke A 20 Pound Turkey?

It’s perfectly safe to smoke a 20 pound turkey provided that you get the temperature of the smoker hot enough and manage to maintain it. 

However, you should also be aware of the risks that come with smoking your turkey. Turkey needs to be kept either at temperatures below 40 degrees, or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The temperature “danger zone” is between 40 and 140 degrees. If your turkey is left within this zone for longer than a period of 4 hours, the risk of the meat becoming a breeding ground for bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses increases significantly.

If your smoker dips below 225 degrees, a 20-pound turkey could remain in the danger zone for too long, meaning that all your hard work could be for nothing and the meat could be unsafe to eat.

Is It Possible To Smoke A Turkey Overnight?

Yes, it is possible to smoke a turkey overnight. In fact, setting your smoker to a temperature of either 225 or 250 degrees will ensure that you’ll have plenty of time to get a full night of rest before your turkey is ready.

As opening the smoker can reduce the temperature, smoking your turkey overnight is a good way to prevent this from happening. 

However, you’ll have to make sure that there’s enough wood chips on the fire so that the temperature doesn’t drop too low. This is essential to ensure that your turkey doesn’t remain in the temperature “danger zone” for longer than 4 hours whilst you sleep.

When smoking a turkey overnight, make a note of the time that you place it into the smoker and be sure to set an alarm for 10 hours. It’s good practice to check your turkey after 8 to 9 hours have passed.

Your aim is for succulent turkey meat. As a result, you will want to make sure that you don’t wait any longer than 10 hours to check it, as you want to avoid overcooking your turkey as this will lead to dry meat. 

How Much Turkey Should You Serve Per Person?

If you’re not used to cooking a big bird for large groups of people, you might not know how much turkey to serve each person, either.

Generally speaking, you should aim to feed your guests a minimum of 1-1/4 pounds of turkey per person.

However, you will have to bear in mind that this can vary significantly depending on the appetite of your guests.

It’s better to be over prepared than under prepared when it comes to hosting large groups of people. It’s hard to accurately predict how much turkey everyone is going to eat.

When it comes to buying a turkey, it’s much better to have more meat than you require. After all, a whole turkey is often eaten on celebratory occasions such as Thanksgiving!

In addition to this, having more turkey than you need means you have plenty of leftovers for turkey sandwiches for the following days!

That being said, if you know you’re only going to be feeding 4 people, plan accordingly. While leftovers are great, you don’t want to unnecessarily waste any food! Bearing this in mind, avoid buying a turkey that is too big.

Tips For Smoking A 20 Pound Turkey

There are a variety of tips for smoking a turkey that you will want to bear in mind.

Get A Reliable Meat Thermometer

When you’ve waited a minimum of 10 hours to smoke your bird, you don’t want to end up under or overcooking your turkey!

Make sure that you invest in a reliable meat thermometer to ensure you can pull out your turkey to rest as soon as it’s done. This is the most reliable way to know that your turkey is done!

Leave Your Bird To Rest

Once the turkey has cooked all the way through, it’s time to leave it to rest!

How Long To Smoke a 20 Pound Turkey, And Other Tips (1)

You will want to allow your turkey to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. However, you can extend this to up to 1.5 hours. 

Failure to rest your bird properly will result in dry turkey.

Experiment With The Leftovers

As I’ve mentioned above, having leftovers is a great way of feeding your family for days after the big celebration has happened.

From turkey sandwiches, to turkey curry, you can really experiment with the leftover meat and create a bunch of delicious recipes. This allows you to get creative in the kitchen, and have a lot of fun in the process!

Have Patience

There’s no getting away from the fact that smoking a 20 pound turkey takes time! You will need to plan ahead and have patience, as the key to making the perfect turkey is to cook low and slow.

If you’re under a tight time constraint, it’s better to opt for the oven. This way you can significantly speed up the cooking process, and you won’t have to risk pulling the bird out before it is done.

In Summary 

It will take approximately 10 hours to smoke a turkey when you cook it at 225 degrees.

That being said, you will need to wait until the internal temperature of your turkey reaches a minimum of 165 degrees before it is safe to consume.

Hopefully after reading this article you have a better understanding of how to smoke a turkey.

You’ll become more confident with time and as you gain more experience, but we hope these tips were helpful.

Good luck smoking the perfect turkey!\

John Rinder
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