As a rule, when we smoke food, we use low temperatures—under 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Using higher temps will speed the process, but it has other side effects that you may or may not find appealing. Let’s find out how long to cook turkey at 375 degrees.
How Long To Cook Turkey at 375
When the smoker is set to 375 degrees, your turkey should cook at a rate of 10 to 12 minutes per pound. Since we suggest birds weighing no more than 12 pounds for the smoker, your bird could be ready in just 2-1/2 hours—including resting time.
A Word About Safe Temperatures
When you smoke whole poultry, your goal is to allow the bird to absorb plenty of smoke flavor while cooking to a safe temperature. This is defined as 165 degrees, but the dark meat of the legs and thighs should actually cook to at least 180.
You want to set the smoker temperature high enough to allow the meat to rise above the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees. If the turkey spends more than 2 hours within this temperature range, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
As long as the smoker temp hovers above the 200-degree mark, you shouldn’t have to worry about this. Keep an eye on the thermometer, however, if your smoker is erratic or if the temperature outside is particularly cold that day.
What’s The Best Smoker Temperature For Turkey?
Our general recommendation is to set the smoker to 275 degrees when turkey is on the menu. This temperature gives the smoker the time it needs to suffuse the meat with delectable woodsy flavor.
When set to 275 degrees, the smoker should do its work at a rate of 20 to 25 minutes per pound. A 12-pound turkey, therefore, will need 4 to 5 hours on the smoker.
If you don’t want to wait that long, you have other options. That’s one of the reasons why we put together this guide.
What’s The Best Size Turkey For The Smoker?
Even if you have a smoker large enough to accommodate an oversized turkey, we prefer to buy smaller birds when using this cooking method. Try to stick to turkeys that weigh 10 to 12 pounds.
There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, a small bird will reach the desired temperature sooner than a large one. That means you’ll have dinner on the table that much more quickly—and if you’re aiming for a high smoker temperature, that’s what you want.
Second, small turkeys are younger than their giant counterparts. Young birds have more tender flesh, so you’re already heading in the right direction before you even start to cook.
Finally, it’s easier to handle smaller cuts of meat. If you’re serving a lot of people, consider buying two 10- to 12-pound turkeys and smoking them side by side instead of opting for a larger bird.
How Long To Smoke Turkey at 375 Degrees
At 375 degrees, the turkey will reach its optimum temperature much more quickly. Expect the bird to cook at a rate of 10 to 12 minutes per pound. That means a 12-pound bird could be finished cooking in just 2 hours.
The downside to this is that the meat won’t have as much smoke flavor as it would if it were allowed to cook at a lower temperature. You might also find that the meat isn’t as tender when it cooks this quickly.
You can offset these issues by applying a bold spice rub and brining the turkey to help it retain moisture. We’ll provide details on these strategies in the sections below.
When you spatchcock—or butterfly—a whole bird, you remove the backbone and flatten the carcass to expose more surface area to the heat. This gives you a stellar combination of juicy meat and crispy skin.
To spatchcock a turkey, place the bird on a cutting board with the breasts facing down. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut along the ribs on one side of the backbone. Then cut along the opposite side of the backbone, taking care to leave 2 inches between cuts.
Remove the backbone carefully. If you’ve done the job properly, it should come right out. Press down on the breasts, then turn the bird over and press down on the breastbone until the turkey lies flat.
Some say that there’s no need to spatchcock a turkey when using the smoker because the dark meat cooks through more quickly than it would in the oven. However, doing so will cut down on your cooking time, and the skin will crisp up beautifully.
Spatchcocking the turkey can reduce the cooking time by up to one-third. That means that if your smoker is set to 375, a 12-pound turkey can be finished cooking in 1-1/2 hours—perhaps slightly less.
If bold smoke flavor is your goal, this might not be the best course of action. On the other hand, if you want the bird to be done sooner, then go ahead and use the “butterfly” method.
If you’re daunted by the prospect of spatchcocking a bird or just don’t want to take the time, ask your butcher to do it for you.
About Brining and Dry-Brining
Brining meat, or exposing it to a salt solution, allows its muscle fibers to retain more moisture. This means the turkey will be juicy and moist when it comes off the smoker, even if you’ve used a high temperature.
It goes without saying that the salt solution also promotes better flavor. If you’ve brined the bird in advance, consider using a bit less salt in your seasoning rub.
When you wet-brine a turkey, you soak it in a saltwater solution for several hours, and preferably overnight. This technique imparts moisture on its own, which is a plus.
However, it can be difficult to find containers that are large enough to hold the bird and fit inside the fridge. Since you can’t brine a turkey at room temperature, this makes the method a no-go for some home chefs.
Dry-brining, on the other hand, provides a similar benefit, but there’s no need to use a water bath. All you need to do is rub the turkey all over with salt (or a combination of salt and spices) and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
When it’s time to cook the turkey, just scrape off the salt and prepare the bird according to your chosen recipe. You can rinse the salt off if you’re worried that the flavor will be too overpowering, but this step isn’t necessary—or particularly sanitary.
Best Seasoning Rub Ingredients For Smoked Turkey
You can season your turkey with nothing more than kosher salt and black pepper, but if you’re going to the trouble of firing up the smoker, why not get creative with the seasonings?
Add a few teaspoons of dark brown sugar to your spice rub. The sugar will caramelize as the meat cooks, lending a lovely mahogany color to the crispy exterior.
Dried herbs make excellent additions as well. Sage, rosemary, and thyme all provide lovely floral accents to the smoked turkey. If you’re able to make a gravy out of the drippings, try adding a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs to the mixture as well.
A hint of garlic and onion will give the turkey a more savory kick. Use garlic in its granulated or powdered form. Onion powder works better than dehydrated onions, which may burn as the turkey cooks.
The Bottom Line
Do you need to get your smoked turkey on the table in a hurry? If so, then spatchcocking the bird and cooking it at a higher-than-average temperature is your best bet. Be forewarned, though, that you might be sacrificing some smoky goodness in the process.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!