Smoking a Frozen Turkey: Tips for a Flavorful Feast

August 06, 2023 5 min read

Smoking a Frozen Turkey: Tips for a Flavorful Feast

If you’re wondering whether smoking a frozen turkey is safe or not, then the simple answer is no!

Smoking a frozen turkey is not particularly safe. Smoking them in a frozen state keeps them in a temperature of danger zone (40°F - 140°F). At this state, the turkey is very prone to be infected with bacteria. Simply smoking a frozen turkey may not kill them effectively. So, you need to thaw the turkey properly before smoking.

 Well, there is more. In this article, we will explore the potential hazards and safety considerations associated with smoking a frozen turkey. Keep reading!

Key Takeaways

  • Smoking a frozen turkey is possible but not entirely safe.
  • It’s better to freeze in a refrigerator rather than any other methods of preserving it.
  • Maintaining the temperature in every step of smoking a frozen turkey is a must.

Is It Safe to Smoke a Frozen Turkey?

The short answer is no; it is not safe to smoke a frozen turkey. Smoking a turkey, or any poultry, from a frozen state poses potential health risks. Also, it poses cooking challenges that should not be ignored.

When you smoke a frozen turkey, the exterior of it will be subjected to prolonged periods of low heat. While the interior remains frozen.


This uneven cooking can create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria to thrive. Because the turkey spends too much time in the temperature danger zone (40°F- 140°F) or (4°C - 60°C).

The temperature range between 40°F and 140°F is regarded as the "Danger Zone" in the culinary world. During this time, bacteria can multiply swiftly and infect your food with dangerous poisons. 

Bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, can be present on raw poultry. And smoking a frozen turkey may not kill these pathogens effectively. Thorough cooking is necessary to eliminate harmful bacteria and prevent foodborne illnesses. 

Safety First: The Thawing Dilemma

The risks associated with smoking a frozen turkey must be understood before you start. It is difficult to cook a turkey from frozen state. Because it takes longer for the meat inside to reach a safe temperature. To get rid of dangerous bacteria, it needs to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Definitely a bit different than the temp to pull brisket.


Thawing your turkey in the fridge is the best and safest way to prepare it. There are 3 safe ways to thaw the turkey.

Refrigerator Thawing (Recommended)

The USDA advises defrosting your turkey in the fridge. The turkey will defrost at a steady, safe temperature using this procedure, making it the most secure. 

Allow one day for every four to five pounds of weight since this approach requires some time. It will take around four days for a 16-pound turkey to thaw. You can begin thawing the turkey six days before Thanksgiving just to be safe. Because it will remain safe for an additional two days once thawed.

Cold Water Thawing

Put aleak-proof plastic bag with the frozen turkey in cold water and soak it there. To keep the water cool, change it every 30 minutes. Per pound of turkey, allow for a thawing time estimate of 30 minutes.

Microwave Thawing

Tothaw the turkey, use the microwave's "defrost" setting. Try this approach, though, only if your turkey will fit in the microwave and you can cook it right away.

In general, when thawing a turkey in the microwave, allow six minutes of heat per pound. During the thawing process, be sure to twist it numerous times and even flip it.

Allow the turkey to rest for about five minutes before continuing the thawing process. That is if it begins to cook rather than just defrost.

Steps to Smoking the Turkey

It's crucial to keep a constant temperature throughout the cooking process when smoking a frozen or partially thawed turkey. To produce a delicious and secure smoked turkey, follow these instructions:


Step 1: Preparation and Seasoning

Your turkey should be prepared and seasoned for smoking once it has been partially thawed. The turkey needs to be carefully washed in cold water and dried withpaper towels. Remember to take out any neck or giblets that may be present.

Next, consider seasoning options to enhance the turkey's flavor. You can opt for a simple rub consisting of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and other herbs. Or try more adventurous spice blends to suit your taste preferences. If time allows, you can also brine the partially thawed turkey to infuse it with additional moisture and flavors.

Step 2: Preheat the Smoker

Set up your smoker and preheat it to a temperature between 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C). This low and slow cooking method ensures the turkey cooks evenly while absorbing the smoky flavors.

Step 3: Monitor Internal Temperature

To correctly track the interior temperature of the turkey, invest in adependable meat thermometer. Avoid touching the bone as you insert the thermometer probe into the thickest portion of the bird. By doing so, you can determine when the turkey is ready and make sure it achieves the recommended internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Step 4: Baste and Rotate

Every hour or so, baste the turkey with a mixture of melted butter, broth, or your favorite marinade. This helps keep the meat moist and adds another layer of flavor. If your smoker has hot spots, rotate the turkey occasionally for even cooking.

Step 5: Smoking Time

Smoking time can be different for different types of meat. The time to smoke turkey can differ from how long it takes for brisket.

Smoking a turkey can take several hours, especially if it's still partially frozen. Plan for approximately 30 minutes of smoking time per pound of turkey. However, this can vary based on your smoker's temperature, the turkey's size, and the degree of thawing.

Step 6: Rest and Serve 

Remove the turkey from the smoker once it has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). And the meat is moist and tender. 30 minutes should pass after it has rested before carving and serving. The redistribution of the liquids while resting results in a moister and more delicious turkey. This is definitely not the same as theinternal temp of 205 for brisket.

If you are still confused, check out this awesome hands-on video on the full Turkey smoking process-

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How do you defrost a turkey in 24 hours?

The quickest method to defrost a turkey is by submerging it in ice water. Even a 24-pound chicken can be defrosted in about 12 hours by being immersed in ice water. Thermoworks recommends allowing roughly 8 hours for a 15-pounder.

How long does it take to defrost a 4kg turkey?

According to standard NHS guidance, you ought to let ten to twelve hours per kilogram if using a refrigerator. For instance, defrosting a 4 kilogram turkey in the fridge would require about 44 hours, or two days. Allow three to four hours per kilogram if defrosting in a chilly room (perhaps below 17.5C).

Can you overcook a turkey in a smoker?

Yes, a smoked turkey can be overcooked. So it's crucial to make use of a meat thermometer to monitor the turkey's internal temperature as it smokes. You can cover the turkey with aluminum foil to stop it from burning if the skin on the outside of the bird starts to turn too dark.


Hope I have resolved all your queries aboutsmoking a frozen turkey.

It is generally recommended to thaw a turkey thoroughly before smoking. 

After that cooking a turkey can be done safely and successfully with proper precautions. 

However, always exercise caution and pay close attention to the internal temperature to ensure food safety. Remember that smoking a frozen turkey will take longer than a thawed one. But the delicious, smoky results will be well worth the effort. 

Happy smoking and enjoy your flavorful, succulent feast!

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