Smoking a 20lb Bird

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Original poster
Nov 23, 2013
Hello, I need some help, I am trying my first attempt at smoking a 20lb Turkey. I have smoked buts chickens and turkey breasts, but never a whole bird. I need some tips and cooking times. I am using an electric box smoker so my cooking temps will be consistent.

Thanks in advance....


Master of the Pit
Dec 31, 2012
North East Indiana
It's just a big chicken...just get it past the danger zone as quickly as possible.   Get your smoker as hot as possible. It could be done but i probably wouldn't cook a bird that big on an electric .  It's just too slow of a cook of poultry for my taste and could be dangerous. 

Will you have warm weather for the smoker?


Fire Starter
Nov 9, 2012
Brandon, MS
the rule is to go from 40-140 in 4 hours or under.

with whole cuts of meat like butts or brisket you can kinda sorta get away with more than 4 hours as long as you don't inject or poke holes in them. but since a turkey or a chicken has a huge cavity in it you need to make sure that you get it to 140 as quickly as possible. so make sure you let it thaw completely. 20# is a lot of bird. you will want to go as hot as you can manage and still keep a consistent temp.

i think most people would recommend spatchcocking a bird that big. i usually try to leave my turkeys intact (mainly because it just looks good when your slicing at the table) but a bird that big you will probably want to break down a little bit first just to make sure you are safe and aren't cooking it all day long.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Jan 23, 2010
Chester (Kent Island), Md
That is a big bird to smoke, so yes spatchcocking it will help.  If you can get the smoker to 325-350.  Poultry does not benefit from low and slow. 


Master of the Pit
Jan 29, 2010
Waitsburg Washington
That is a big bird to smoke, so yes spatchcocking it will help.  If you can get the smoker to 325-350.  Poultry does not benefit from low and slow. 
I did A 22 pounder last winter and you can get it done and stay within the danger zone if you spatchcock. Make sure it is room temp before you smoke. That helps alot. My uds likes to run 225-250 no matter what the outside temperature is. I did that bird in 4 hours and change. It was huge. If you are wondering how to spatchcock A bird there are many tutorials in this website. Just search in the search bar or go to the Poultry section. You can split the bird either on the breastbone or the backbone. I prefer the backbone so that the breast is in the middle and the legs and wings are to the outside. The presentation is different but still can look pretty cool.

I kind of was able to reassemble it to look like a normal roasted turkey. But the backbone went into the pot for stock.
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