It can be more challenging to smoke a whole turkey than it is to smoke other large cuts. That’s mainly because poultry is leaner than smoker staples like brisket and pork butt, which makes it prone to overcooking.
If you decide to go for it, what’s the protocol for smoking turkey at 350 degrees? And is this the recommended smoker temperature? Read on to find out.
Smoking Turkey at 350
If you’re wondering how long to smoke a turkey at 350 degrees, plan on 13 minutes per pound if the bird is unstuffed, or 15 minutes per pound if it’s stuffed. A spatchcocked turkey—one that’s had the backbone removed so it lies flat—may cook at a rate of just 10 minutes per pound at this temperature.
Best Temperature For Smoking Turkey
While 325 and 350 degrees are acceptable temperatures when roasting a turkey, we prefer to turn the heat down a bit lower when we put turkey on the smoker.
Although turkey is leaner and therefore cooks more quickly than cuts like beef brisket, it still needs time to absorb the smoke flavor. Otherwise, you might as well not bother to use the smoker at all.
In a smoker that’s set to 275 degrees, a turkey can take up to 25 minutes per pound to cook through. If you’ve opted for a bird that weighs over 15 pounds, it could be more than 6 hours before the meat is ready to come off the smoker.
It’s fine to speed things along by cranking up the smoker temperature. Just be aware that the bird won’t absorb as much smoky goodness when the temp is set above 300 degrees. Of course, depending on your tastes, this might not be a bad thing.
How Long To Smoke a Turkey at 350 Degrees
Assuming that the smoker is maintaining a consistent temperature of 350 degrees, the turkey should cook at a rate of 13 minutes per pound. Therefore, if you’ve followed our advice and prepped a 12-pound turkey, it should finish cooking in just over 2-1/2 hours.
Stuffing the turkey will increase the cooking time, but only by a couple of minutes per pound. Expect a stuffed 12-pounder to be on the smoker for about 3 hours.
As a side note, we should point out that we don’t usually stuff the turkey when using the smoker. The exposure to wood smoke makes the stuffing taste bitter.
What’s more, since the stuffing came into contact with raw poultry, it will need to cook to at least 165 degrees before it’s safe to eat. You may have to remove it from the cavity and put it in a dish to finish cooking as the bird rests.
If you want to serve stuffing with your smoked turkey, consider cooking it separately from the beginning. Place the prepared stuffing in a buttered casserole dish and bake in a 350-degree oven until hot.
We’ve found that spatchcocking the turkey yields impressive results when the smoker is set to higher temperatures. Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, exposes more surface area to the heat, which results in delectably crispy skin.
When you spatchcock a whole bird, you remove the backbone, then press down on the breast bone until the bird lies flat. As you can imagine, this allows the meat to reach the optimum temperature more quickly.
At 350 degrees, a spatchcocked turkey should cook at a rate of 10 minutes per pound. That means the same 12-pounder that would ordinarily take over 2-1/2 hours can be ready to come off the smoker in just 2 hours.
You can cut out the backbone yourself using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, or ask your butcher to do it for you. Smaller turkeys will be easier to manage (see below), but this technique is also a great way to prepare oversized birds for the smoker.
What Size Turkey To Get For Smoking
In theory, you can smoke a turkey of any size as long as your smoker is large enough to fit the bird inside. You’ll need to close the lid completely during the smoking process, so don’t be tempted to buy the biggest turkey you can find.
Our advice would be to select 10- to 12-pound turkeys for the smoker. They’re easier to handle, and they’ll cook through faster to boot.
Keep in mind that you should buy 1-1/4 pounds of turkey for each guest on your list, or 1-1/2 pounds if you want plenty of leftovers. That means a 10-pound bird might not cut it. If this is the case, consider buying two turkeys and smoking them at the same time.
Smoking a Partially Frozen Turkey
It takes a long time to defrost a turkey in the fridge. Although this is the safest method, you’ll need to plan on around 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of meat. Therefore, a 15-pound turkey will need to defrost in the fridge for at least 3 days.
If you unwrap the turkey only to find that it’s still frozen in the cavity, don’t worry. You can still forge ahead with your plans—it will just take a little bit longer for the turkey to finish cooking.
Meat that’s still partially frozen can take 25 percent longer to cook than meat that’s fully thawed. So if you’ve set the smoker to 350 and your 12-pound turkey has patches of ice here and there, you should estimate your cooking time at 3-1/4 hours.
Smoking Turkey Legs at 350 Degrees
If you don’t want to bother with smoking a whole turkey, consider buying a batch of turkey legs and giving those the royal treatment instead.
Turkey legs, or drumsticks, consist of dark meat. That means they can cook to an internal temperature of 180 to 185 degrees without drying out. In fact, we prefer these temps when it comes to the legs and thighs, as it makes the meat more tender.
Smoke turkey legs at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the meat registers 180 degrees. Take care not to let the thermometer probe touch the bone, or the readout won’t be accurate.
Smoking Turkey at 350 Degrees: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Start with a 10- to 12-pound turkey. If you want the bird to lie flat on the cooking grate, ask your butcher to spatchcock the bird, or do it yourself once you’ve taken the turkey home.
2. Brine the turkey, if desired, using whatever ingredients you’d prefer. In general, a brine consists of 2 cups of kosher salt for each gallon of liquid.
It’s fine to use just salt and water, but you can flavor the brine with apple juice, herbs, and aromatic vegetables as well.
3. Let the turkey sit in the brine for 8 to 24 hours. Don’t leave it in the solution for any longer than that, or the meat will be unpleasantly spongy when it’s cooked.
4. When you’re ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. You can also take it out of the brine up to 1 day in advance and let it dry uncovered in the fridge overnight.
5. If you opted not to brine the bird, make sure to season it well. You can keep it simple with a blend of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, or use your favorite seasoning rub. A thin layer of cooking spray can help the spices adhere to the skin.
6. Set the smoker to 350 degrees. As soon as it’s hot enough, place the prepared bird on the cooking grate with the breast side facing up, then close the lid. Check the smoker temperature to make sure it’s holding steady at 350, and adjust as needed.
7. Cook the turkey undisturbed for 10 minutes per pound if you spatchcocked the bird, or 13 minutes per pound if not. The turkey is done when the breast meat has achieved an internal temperature of 160 and the dark meat has cooked to 180.
Pro Tip: If the breasts are done before the legs and thighs, carve them off and set them aside, loosely tented with foil, while you return the rest of the bird to the smoker to finish cooking.
8. Let the turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute, leaving you with juicy, succulent meat. You can keep the meat warm by covering it loosely with foil as it rests.
The Bottom Line
Smoking turkey at 350 degrees isn’t our preferred method, but it can be done if you want to get dinner on the table faster. You also might enjoy this technique if you enjoy the texture of smoked turkey, but prefer a milder smoke flavor.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!