Timing Turkey

Turkey on a Spit - Regarding BBQ, Inc.
Turkey on a Spit.  Regarding BBQ, Inc.

One of the best things you can do with a turkey is to take it out to the Grill or Smoker. Since you probably only cook one turkey a year, you are going to need to get this right and that means getting the timing right. This turkey is going to need to be ready on time and not two hours late, but outdoor cooking offers a wide range of options and this means a wide range of cooking times. A 20 pound turkey may take more than 10 hours to smoke, but can be fried in an hour.


Of course, getting the temperature right is the first step and my recommended cooking temperatures are as follows:

  • Smoking250 to 275 degrees F/120 to 135 degrees C
  • Grilling325 to 350 degrees F/160 to 175 degrees C
  • Rotisserie: 350 to 375 degrees F/175 to 190 degrees C
  • Frying: 350 Degrees F/175 degrees C for the cooking oil
    6 to 8 pounds/2.7 to 3.6 kg3 to 4 Hours2 1/4 to 2 3/4 Hours 2 to 2 1/2 Hours18 to 24 Min
    8 to 12 pounds/3.6 to 5.4 kg4 to 6 hours2 1/2 to 3 1/2 Hours2 1/4 to 2 3/4 Hours24 to 36 Min
    12 to 16 pounds/5.4 to 7.3 kg6 to 8 Hours3  to 3 1/2 Hours 2 1/2 to 3 Hours36 to 48 Min
    16 to 20 pounds/7.3 to 9.1 kg8 to 10 Hours3 1/2 to 4 Hours2 3/4 to 3 1/2 Hours48 to 60 Min
    20 to 24 pounds/9.1 to 11 kg10 to 12 Hours*4 to 4 1/2 Hours3 1/4 to 4 Hours60 to 72 Min

    I know what you are thinking, my grill just doesn't have the temperature control of an oven. This is very true and knowing your cooking equipment is vital to getting a good turkey, cooked in perfect time. This is why it is important to closely monitor the bird and watch the rate at which it is cooking.

    Be prepared to adjust fires, wrap and hold, or eat a little late. This are simply the rules of outdoor cooking, but if you follow these guidelines and watch closely, your turkey should be ready when you are.

    A turkey is completely cooked when the internal temperature of the coldest part is 165 degrees F/75 degrees C.

    A turkey needs to be tested with an accurate thermometer in several locations. Because a turkey may cook unevenly, test each breast in the thickest part and in the meatiest part of each thigh. To be properly cooked, the thighs should ready over 175 degrees F/80 degrees C. This has to do with a certain science of turkeys that yields the most flavorful results. It is vital that turkey is completely cooked to ensure proper food safety. 

    *Smoking a very large turkey, over 20 pounds is not recommended as it allows too long a period of time for bacteria to grow uncontrolled.

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