As all good pitmasters know, the total cooking time depends on a number of factors. The weight of the meat, the reliability of the smoker, even the outside temperature—all of these can affect the length of the smoke.
However, selecting the right smoker temperature can help you predict the amount of time your turkey might need to cook. Here’s our ultimate guide on how long to smoke a turkey at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Long To Smoke a Turkey at 300
Turkey should cook at a rate of about 20 minutes per pound in a 300-degree smoker. While we usually recommend a slightly lower temp, 300 is as high as we would go if you want a smoked bird rather than a traditionally roasted one. For faster cooking, try spatchcocking the turkey beforehand.
Selecting The Right Smoker Temperature
For cuts like beef brisket, pork shoulder, and spare ribs, we advocate setting the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. For poultry, however, we go for a slightly higher temperature.
The reasoning behind this has to do with the fat content of the meat. Brisket, pork shoulder, and ribs are all high in fat. That means it needs to cook for a long time over low heat, or the fat will give the meat a stringy texture.
Those cuts also contain a lot of connective tissue. Like fat, collagen needs time as well as heat in order to transform into a liquid state. That’s it’s imperative to use lower smoker temperatures.
Poultry, on the other hand, is leaner than beef or pork. While it’s still important to cook the meat thoroughly, it should be tender and juicy even when it’s cooked at higher temps.
When you smoke a large cut of meat like a whole turkey, you want to make sure it cooks to a safe temperature while absorbing plenty of smoke flavor. For turkey, this safe temperature is 165 degrees, although the dark meat should cook to at least 180.
Avoid setting the smoker to temperatures lower than 200. While you can get away with lower temps when making beef jerky, whole poultry plays by a different set of rules. At temperatures this low, the meat might be rubbery instead of tender.
On the other end of the spectrum, a smoker temperature higher than 300 might cook the turkey before it has a chance to absorb all that smoky goodness. You can set it to 350 or even 375 if you want to speed things along, but the bird will taste different.
We typically advocate a cooking temperature of 275 degrees for smoked turkey. Setting the unit to 300 won’t make a significant difference, but it might speed things along a bit. Best of all, the turkey will have time to achieve the right flavor and texture.
Best Size Turkey For The Smoker
Because large birds take longer to cook, we like to seek out small specimens when we plan to put them on the smoker. An average weight of 10 to 12 pounds is ideal.
Turkeys are available in larger sizes—often up to 30 pounds. However, it would take a very long time for a bird that size to reach the optimum serving temperature. In the interest of keeping things simple, it’s better to choose smaller birds for this method.
What if you’re serving a lot of people, and a 12-pound bird isn’t sufficient? If this is the case, consider buying two 12-pound turkeys and putting them on the smoker at the same time. The cooking process will be the same as for a single turkey, but you’ll have twice the total meat yield.
How Long To Smoke Turkey at 300 Degrees
A smoker that’s set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit should cook the turkey at a rate of about 20 minutes per pound. At 275, the process may take up to 25 minutes per pound—only a slight difference, but one that can tack an extra hour or two onto the total.
Let’s assume you’ve taken our advice and selected a 12-pound turkey for your smoking experiment. At 300 degrees, it should be ready to come off the smoker at around the 4-hour mark.
If you set the smoker to 275, the bird might be done in the same amount of time, but there’s also a chance that it could take 5 hours or longer. By setting the temperature just a bit higher, you’ll have dinner on the table within a more reasonable time frame.
Did you know that spatchcocking a bird can reduce the total cooking time by around 30 percent? If faster cooking is your goal, it might be worth a try.
Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is a popular technique, especially in restaurants. It involves removing the backbone from the bird and pressing down on the breastbone so that the carcass lies flat.
You can ask your butcher to spatchcock the turkey for you, but if you’ve opted for a frozen turkey and defrosted it yourself, this might not be an option. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to do the job at home, provided you have the right equipment.
Place the turkey breast-side down on a large, clean work station. Use a sharp carving knife or set of poultry shears to cut along both sides of the backbone. Once it can be freed, remove and save it to make stock later, if desired.
Now that the backbone is gone, you should be able to open the turkey like a book. Turn it so that the breast side is facing up.
Lay a hand on one side of the breast and press down until the breastbone cracks. Repeat the process on the other side. You may need to stand on a step stool to gain better leverage.
Pull the thighs out, laying the turkey flat on the work surface. Tuck the wing tips beneath the bird and secure them so that they don’t dry out during cooking.
How Long To Smoke Turkey Legs at 300 Degrees
If you want to save time and offer an eye-catching treat at your next barbecue, consider smoking a batch of turkey legs instead of the whole bird.
The average turkey leg weighs just 1 pound apiece. That makes it easy to estimate serving sizes. Plan on 1 turkey leg per person, or perhaps 2 per person if you’re serving a group with heartier appetites. As always, round up slightly if you’re hoping for leftovers.
Since turkey legs are individual cuts, they won’t take as long to cook as the whole turkey, even if the total weight is the same. At 300 degrees, your turkey legs should be finished cooking in 2 to 3 hours, depending on how large they are.
Remember to rely on temperature rather than time when smoking meat. This is true of all cuts, but since it can be dangerous to consume poultry at temperatures lower than 165 degrees, it’s crucial when it comes to turkey.
The turkey legs are done when they’ve cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Take them off the smoker and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, the temp should rise to about 185, and the meat will be succulent and juicy.
The Bottom Line
300 degrees is an acceptable temperature for smoked turkey. If you opt to spatchcock a 10-pound bird before adding it to the smoker, it could be cooked to perfection in a little over 2 hours.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!