|Script: Smoking A Turkey
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service "Food Safety At Home" podcast series, featuring topics
for the safe handling, preparation and storage of meat, poultry
and processed egg products. So, sit back, turn up the volume and
I’m Tina and my colleague, Nadine and I are food safety experts
for USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. We will be your hosts for
As you already know… a turkey in the oven is the traditional way
to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving and through out the year,
but today we’ll explore how to safely smoke a turkey. I am Tina
and my colleague, Nadine and I are technical information
specialists for USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. We will be your
hosts for this segment.
Actually, my brother smoked a turkey for dinner last week. It
had a great flavor, and the meat was really tender. We loved it!
My brother spent lots of time preparing the turkey for smoking
to make sure he was food safe, but it was worth it!
It’s true that planning ahead can help prevent foodborne
illness. It’s important that the turkey be completely thawed
before smoking, and that can take several hours or days
depending on the size of the turkey. Because smoking uses low
temperatures to cook food, the meat will take too long to thaw
in the smoker, allowing it to linger in the “Danger Zone” (the
temperatures between 40 and 140 °F) where harmful bacteria can
multiply. Thawed meat also cooks more evenly.
Good point Tina! When cooking in a smoker it's also important to
place the smoker in an area shielded from winds to maintain a
safe, even cooking temperature.
Some smokers have built in temperature indicators. If yours
doesn’t, place an appliance thermometer on the smoker rack
before starting or lighting your heat source.
Charcoal smokers have two pans—one for charcoal and one for
liquid. When using a charcoal smoker, fill the pan for liquid
with water, apple juice, beer or other flavor-enhancing liquids.
Fill the charcoal pan with a good quality charcoal. Light it,
and place the cover on the smoker. When the smoker has reached
an internal temperature of 225 to 300 °F, quickly place the
turkey on the smoker rack and replace the cover.
That's an important step: add charcoal every 1 to 2 hours, as
necessary, to maintain the 225 to 300 °F temperature. Replenish
the liquid as necessary. Heat and liquid are critical to
maintaining the hot smoke that cooks the turkey.
How long to cook the turkey depends on many factors: the size
and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature
of the coals, and temperature of the outside air. It can take
anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to smoke meat or poultry, so it’s
imperative to use a thermometer to monitor temperatures.
For the cooking time, estimate about 20 to 30 minutes per pound.
Stuffing the turkey is not a good idea. Smoking cooks at a low
temperature, so it can take too long for the temperature of the
stuffing to reach 165 °F. Also, smoked stuffing just doesn’t
taste very good.
And most importantly, remember to always use a food thermometer.
The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer indicates
that a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F has been
reached in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the
thickest part of the breast.
You can find all of this information and more, by visiting the
FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for
assistance from our virtual representative “Ask Karen” at
Thanks for joining us. Now we are going to get our headsets
warmed up so we can help answer your questions this holiday
season. Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat &
Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854.
Tina & Nadine:
Remember, check your steps at FoodSafety.gov.
Thanks for listening to this Food Safety At Home podcast. Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending
your comments to
Last Modified: January 25, 2012