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How long does it take to smoke a turkey in the Big Green Egg?

Smoking a turkey in a Big Green Egg is a delicious way to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving or any special occasion. The smoky flavor that the charcoal and wood chips impart really takes the turkey to the next level. However, smoking a turkey takes more time than simply roasting it in the oven. There are several factors that impact the total smoking time.

Turkey Smoking Times

In general, smoking a whole turkey in a Big Green Egg takes approximately 5-6 hours. This allows enough time for the turkey to fully cook through to a safe internal temperature and for the smoke to properly penetrate the meat.

Here is a rough timeline for smoking a 12-15 lb turkey:

Timeline for Smoking a Turkey in a Big Green Egg

Time Elapsed Process
0 hours Remove turkey from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (30-60 minutes)
0.5 hours Prepare Big Green Egg with charcoal and preheat to 225-250°F
1 hour Place turkey in Big Green Egg and being smoking process
2 hours Spritz turkey with apple juice or other liquid
3 hours Check internal temperature – should be around 140-150°F
4 hours Spritz turkey again if needed
5-6 hours Turkey should reach 165°F internal temperature in thigh – remove from Big Green Egg
5.5-6.5 hours Let turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving

As you can see, the active smoking time is around 5-6 hours but when factoring in preparation and resting time, it takes about 6.5 hours from start to finish. The exact time will vary based on the size of your turkey. Plan for approximately 30 minutes per pound, so a 15 lb turkey will take about 7-8 hours total.

Factors That Impact Smoking Time

There are several key factors that impact how long it takes to smoke a turkey in the Big Green Egg:

Turkey Size

The weight of your turkey is the biggest determining factor for smoking time. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 30 minutes of cook time per pound. So a 12 lb turkey will take roughly 6 hours while a 20 lb turkey may take 10+ hours. Opt for a smaller 12-15 lb bird if time is limited.


Soaking the turkey in a saltwater brine before smoking will increase the total time. The brining process adds moisture and seasoning but will take 12-24 hours upfront. Factor in brining time if using this technique.


The target temperature for smoking a turkey is 225-250°F. The lower the temperature, the longer the full smoking process will take. Maintain a consistent temperature in this range for best results.


The Big Green Egg holds heat extremely well. Other charcoal smokers may lose heat and increase cook times. Monitor your smoker’s temperature closely and add more charcoal as needed.

Weather Conditions

Wind, cold temperatures, rain, or snow can impact the smoking time. Maintaining the right heat in poor weather requires more effort. Protect your smoker if needed.

How to Tell When Turkey is Done

When smoking a turkey, you can’t rely on cook times alone to determine doneness. Use these steps:

Use a Meat Thermometer

An instant read thermometer is essential for smoking turkey. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone. The turkey is done when it reaches 165°F.

Check Appearance

The skin will be nicely browned and the thighs will look loose when fully cooked. The juices should run clear with no traces of pink when pierced.

Test for Tenderness

Try moving the thigh and drumstick. The turkey is finished when they twist easily. The meat should start to pull away from the bone slightly.

Monitor temperature frequently near the end to avoid overcooking. Let the turkey rest 30 minutes before carving for juicy, tender meat.

Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey

Use these tips for moist, flavorful turkey perfectly smoked in your Big Green Egg:

Brine the Turkey

Soaking in a saltwater brine ensures seasoned, tender meat. Brine for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator.

Dry Brine Instead

For a quick brine, simply rub kosher salt inside the cavity and under the skin a day ahead.

Prep the Big Green Egg

Get the temperature stabilized at 225-250°F before adding turkey. Use enough charcoal and preheat for at least 45 minutes.

Add Smoking Wood

Use chunks of fruitwoods like apple, cherry, or pecan for best flavor. Avoid soft woods like pine.

Use a Drip Pan

Put a disposable foil pan under the turkey to catch juices for basting and gravy.

Monitor the Temperature

Keep the lid closed as much as possible and adjust vents to maintain even heat.

Baste the Turkey

Baste with juices every 1-2 hours for added moisture and flavor. Mop turkey with reserved brine if needed.

Let It Rest

Never rush the carry process. Letting it rest ensures the juices are reabsorbed for tenderness.

Common Smoking Mistakes

Avoid these common pitfalls when smoking a turkey for the first time:

Not Brining the Turkey

Skipping brining can lead to dry, bland meat. Brining adds seasoning, locks in moisture and improves texture.

Using the Wrong Wood Chips

Certain woods like mesquite give off a bitter taste. Stick to fruitwoods or neutral woods like oak or hickory.

Forgetting to Prepare the Smoker

Failing to preheat your Big Green Egg properly will lead to temperature fluctuations and longer cook times.

Not Monitoring the Temperature

Use your thermometer often to ensure you pull the turkey off on time. Overcooking leads to dryness.

Letting the Fire Go Out

Make sure you have enough charcoal and wood chips before starting. Refuel as needed to maintain temperature.

Rushing the Resting Period

Letting the turkey rest ensures the meat absorbs the juices for tenderness and moisture. Never skip this step.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to some common questions about smoking turkey:

Should I brine the turkey before smoking?

Yes, brining is highly recommended. It seasons the meat, locks in moisture, and improves texture. Brine for 12-24 hours.

What is the best wood for smoking turkey?

Apple, cherry, pecan, and hickory are all excellent options. They impart mild, fruity smoke flavor.

Do I need to prep the Big Green Egg before smoking?

Proper preparation is vital. Allow 45-60 minutes to preheat to the target temperature before adding food.

Should I mop or baste the turkey while smoking?

Mopping or basting every 1-2 hours will help keep the turkey moist and add flavor from fruit juices or brine.

Is it safe to eat turkey smoked in a Big Green Egg?

Yes, smoking is safe when the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to verify doneness.


Smoking a turkey in a Big Green Egg results in extremely moist, flavorful meat when done properly. While it requires more time than roasting, the effort is well worth it for the delicious smoky taste. Allow at least 30 minutes per pound, monitor temperature carefully, brine the bird, and preheat the smoker fully to ensure turkey perfection. With minimal hands-on effort, you’ll enjoy mouthwatering smoked turkey all season long.