Plus, does smoked turkey taste different from roasted?

By Corey Williams
Updated July 21, 2020
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You’ve got smoked turkey questions, we’ve got answers.

How Long to Smoke a Turkey?

Credit: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

It depends on the size of your turkey and the smoker you’re using. Generally, though, you should allow for about 30-40 minutes of smoking per pound. So, if you have a 20-pound turkey, it’ll probably take 10-12 hours to completely smoke it.

You should always determine doneness by internal temperature and not by time. A turkey is ready and safe-to-eat when your meat thermometer registers 165° at the innermost part of the thigh.

Smoked Turkey vs. Roasted Turkey

Credit: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Trying to decide whether to roast or smoke your turkey this year? Here are some fast facts to help you out:

Taste

Smoked turkey tastes, well, smoky. It also packs an extra punch because it’s brined before cooking. If you’re not a fan of that deep, woody flavor, smoking may not be the turkey cooking method for you. The smokiness does lend itself to certain seasonings and spices (take, for instance, this flavorful Cajun Smoked Turkey recipe).

Roasted turkey has a milder taste. It doesn't have the natural flavor that smoked turkey does, so you’ll need to be a little heavier handed with the seasoning.

Texture

Smoked turkey is blackened on the outside, while roasted turkey (when done well) has a crispy, crunchy skin.

If cooked correctly, both smoked and roasted turkey meat should be juicy and moist.

Don’t be alarmed if your fully-smoked turkey is slightly pink just under the surface—that’s normal.

Equipment

There’s a reason roasting is the most popular Thanksgiving turkey preparation method: Most people have an oven, but not everyone has a smoker.

Smokers are generally pretty pricey, but if you really love the flavorful results or good barbecue, it may be worth the investment.

If you’re thinking about purchasing one, ask yourself what type of smoker (electric, gas, charcoal, pellet, etc.) you’d get the most out of. For what it’s worth, this electric Masterbuilt model is relatively affordable and has great reviews.

Preparation

The difference in preparation is simple: Smoked turkey is smoked in a smoker (you can use a grill in a pinch, but smokers generally produce more consistent results). Roasted turkey is roasted in an oven.

Smoked turkey is always brined (soaked in salty water) before cooking. Since it’s cooked at a lower temperature, usually somewhere around 225°, smoking takes longer than roasting.

Roasted turkey is generally cooked around 325-350°, though some recipes may ask you to increase the temperature toward the end to crisp up the skin.

How to Smoke a Turkey

Credit: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Paige Hicks

It’s totally understandable if you’re nervous about smoking a turkey for the first time. Fortunately, with one of our detailed recipes, we’ll be with you every step of the way: