Does a turkey stall when smoking? The correct answer

Last Updated on: 24th June 2023, 06:40 pm

Have you ever wondered if a turkey stalls when smoking? It’s a question that piques the curiosity of both seasoned grillmasters and culinary enthusiasts alike.

In this article, we unravel the mystery behind the turkey stall and provide you with expert insights to enhance your smoking experience.

In short, yes, a turkey can indeed stall during the smoking process. The stall occurs when the turkey’s internal temperature plateaus, leaving you wondering why your delicious creation seems to be at a standstill.

But fear not! We’ll explain why this happens and share tips on how to overcome it, ensuring your turkey emerges from the smoker perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor.

But wait, there’s more to discover! In our comprehensive article, we dive deeper into the science of the turkey stall, exploring the factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

We’ll equip you with practical strategies to optimize your smoking technique, allowing you to achieve consistent and mouthwatering results every time.

So, let’s embark on this flavorful journey together and unlock the secrets of smoking a turkey to perfection!

first of all, Stall is a phase of smoking, which usually occurs when the moisture of the meat starts evaporating.

Due to evaporation, the temperature of the meat stops increasing.

But it is most common in meat like brisket and pulled pork.

key takeaway: in my experience, Smoked turkey can stall for 40-70 minutes at 160ºF due to Low temperature , humidity, and an inaccurate thermometer

So it might be confusing for beginners to decide whether a turkey stall when smoking.

We are going to answer that in this article.

Here is the short summary of what we are going to explain below.

  • Turkey will not stall normal. But if you are a beginner, then the turkey might stall due to inexperience.
  • You need to probe the turkey effectively to measure its accurate temperature.

Does turkey stall when smoking?

A stall is basically a plateau of temperature while cooking meat with a hard texture and high moisture content.

It is most commonly seen while smoking brisket.

rubed turkey 1

The evaporation of moisture hinders the increase in temperature.

While in the case of Turkey, the conditions are different.

Turkey is a type of poultry.

Poultry is lean meat which contains a small amount of moisture.

This moisture doesn’t have enough effect on the temperature of the brisket.

Stall usually occurs in red meat that contains higher moisture, e.g.brisket, pulled pork.

But poultry contains a small amount of moisture, so there is no significant effect of stall on turkey.

Poultry is a type of lean meat .

Lean meat has a lower amount of fat and moisture.

Stall usually occurs when the evaporation results in cooling.

As a result of the low moisture content, there will be no or few minutes of stalling in turkey.

In addition to having low moisture, turkey is smoked for a shorter time to prevent overcooking.

So it can stall for a maximum of 30 minutes to 4 hours .

Smoking Time (hours)Internal Temperature (°F)Turkey Progress

There are several factors that determine whether a turkey breast will hit a stall or not during smoking.

They are discussed below.

Factors that can make a turkey stall

As discussed above, smoked turkey does not stall because it has less moisture content.

But there are still some factors that can affect the texture of turkey and stall its temperature for some time.

These factors are discussed below.

#1:Low temperature

Smoking is done at low smoker temperature to cook the meat with indirect heat and enhance its flavor with smoke.

But a very low temperature can result in the turkey stall when smoking.

It can be really frustrating because it can result in the turkey’s drying out.

The temperature needs to be high enough when smoking a turkey to remove the moisture present in the bird and breakdown the connective tissues to make it soft.

the process involves breakdown of collagen to gelatin which makes the tissues soft.

If the temperature is too low , then even a little bit of evaporative cooling can push the turkey towards stalling.

You should consider increasing the smoker temperature if the turkey stalls during smoking.

Usually, best temperature to smoke poultry is around 200–250°F. you need to check the temperature and balance it frequently .

Low temperatures are also bad for flavor of brisket. brisket usually absorbs less smoke after smoking for few hours. so you should smoke at high enough temperature to develop bark and smoke effectively

However, if the turkey breast stalls, consider increasing heat until temperature reaches above 300 °F.

The increase in temperature will resist the evaporative cooling and power the stall.

An important point to keep in mind is that turkey won’t stall for a long time because its moisture will evaporate out quickly.

So if you have to increase the temperature, make sure to lower the temperature after the internal temperature of the turkey starts increasing.

The reason is that keeping the temperature higher for a longer time can result in the drying out of the turkey but it is inevitable for breakdown of collagen.

there is nothing like best temperature to smoke, so you will have to figure it out by trial and error.

you need to let turkey rest after smoking so that the temperatures should balance out .

#2:Too much moisture

In addition to the low temperature, having too much moisture in the smoker can also result in the turkey stalling.

As you might know, having too much moisture in the smoker can also result in the turkey stalling.

a stall is basically a plateau of temperature due to evaporative cooling.

But if the moisture content is higher in the smoker, then the temperature will not increase. you need to check the temperature regularly to notice it quickly.

In other words, a higher concentration of humidity can result in a lower temperature and hence stopping the breakdown of connective tissues.

which further leads to the stall when smoking a turkey and also it will stop you from getting a crispy skin on your turkey.

So, while smoking turkey breast, you need to be really careful about the moisture present inside the smoker.

A normal reason for the increase in moisture is the water pan present inside the smokers.

A water pan is used to maintain the moisture of the smoker, but a lot of beginner backyarders consider it compulsory to use a water pan when smoking.

Using a water pan while smoking a spatchcock turkey can result in increased moisture and stall.

A water pan should be used only in prolonged smoking processes like smoking brisket or pork.

But while smoking gobbler, you should consider removing the water pan from the smoker.

you need be extremely careful about this letting turkey rest after smoking.

it usually affects when you are smoking more than 20 pound turkey.

#3:Inaccurate thermometer

Thermometers are one of the most important pieces of equipment when it comes to smoking turkeys.

If you are smoking a gobbler without one , then it’s like shooting arrows in the dark.

But if the thermometer is inaccurate, then it might be misleading you.

The majority of low-quality smokers have inaccurate built-in thermometers.

So, even if your temperature is increasing, the thermometer will display an inaccurate reading .

you also need to make sure that you are inserting probe in the thickest part of turkey.

So it is better to consider checking your thermometer for accuracy from time to time.

It is one of the most common reasons turkey stall when smoking .

An inaccurate thermometer may display the same reading for an extended period of time, leading you to believe that the turkey is stalling.

So before tweaking anything else, make sure to check your thermometer for accuracy.

The best way to check for thermometer accuracy is to insert it into boiling water and check its reading.

If the thermometer is faulty or inaccurate, then you should consider calibrating it or upgrading to a good quality thermometer.

it can affect the process whether you are smoking a 8 pound or 24 pound turkey. so make sure to calibrate it and insert it in the thickest part like legs or breast side to get the accurate reading.


Spritzing meat is a really effective way to avoid the meat drying out and also helps in absorption of smoke flavor.

But if overdone, it can make your spatchcock turkey stall .

It is one of the most common reasons for stalling in brisket when temperature reaches 180°F (after the usual stall at 160°F).

Spritzing is usually done while smoking brisket to avoid it from drying out during the prolonged smoking process but on the flip side , you wont get the crispy skin.

But in the case of turkey, the smoking process usually lasts for only a few hours, so spritzing is not really needed except if you do it for increasing smoke flavor.

Applying too much rub or placing in rub for longer time can also affect at what temperature will the turkey stall. the reason is moisture present in rubs. you can also read our guide on how long you need to apply rub on turkey here.

But some of the pitmasters like to use spritzing to enhance the flavor of the turkey.

But while doing so , they can increase the moisture in the smoker, which results in putting the turkey in a stall phase while smoking.

So a better way to avoid this is to not spritz the spatchcock turkey breast at all.

But if turkey starts to dry up or you want to spritz turkey to enhance flavor, then make sure to spritz it just a little bit.

You can also use mopping or injecting as an alternative. the rules remain the same whether you are smoking a normal or frozen turkey.

#5:Inaccurate probe insertion

Lastly, inaccurate insertion of the temperature probe thermometer can also be the reason for the turkey to stall.

A temperature probe is usually an instrument that is inserted into the turkey breast to measure the internal temperature of the turkey.

If the probe thermometer is inserted into the air pocket or near a bone , then the internal temperature of the gobbler won’t increase. consider using a dual probe for more accuracy.

It is basically one of the rarest errors, but there is still a possibility if you are inexperienced with smoking gobbler.

smoked turkey

To minimize the possibility of this error, you should consider taking out the temperature probe and inserting it in different spots to check if the temperature is increasing or not.

But while doing so , you should avoid poking too much, which can result in the leaking out of meat juices.

Tips to avoid turkey stalls

  • First of all, you should consider smoking your turkey at higher temperatures to avoid being affected by evaporative cooling.
    If your spatchcock turkey is stalling, you should usually smoke it between 250°F and 300°F.
  • Another tip is to always use an accurate thermometer while smoking anything, let it be gobbler or anything else.
    Smoking with an inaccurate or no thermometer means shooting arrows in the dark, which will not produce any significant results.
  • Before making any changes or final decisions, you should probe your gobbler at various points.
    You should avoid inserting your temperature probe near bone or in an air pocket.
  • Finally, you should consider controlling the moisture in the smoker.
    Preferably, you should remove the water pan and stop spritzing until and unless there is a possibility of drying out the turkey.

Frequently asked questions

now that we have cleared the main misconception let’s discuss some common FAQs that you might have.

does turkey have a stall temperature

yes, if you are not experienced with smoking turkey , then it can hit stall around 160F. usually turkey dont stall , but if it is not smoked correctly then it can stall at any given temperature .

but if you maintain the temperature high enough , then usually you can skip this period entirely or get passed it in 10 to 20 minutes.

best temperature to smoke it is higher than the stall temperature.

what causes the stall when smoking meat

Stall is the period which occurs around 160F when smoking meats during which the temperature stops increasing . the main cause is the evaporation of moisture from the surface of meat.

the evaporation cools down the surface of mat which stops the temperature from increasing and temperature enters a plateau known as stall. it lasts until most of the moisture is evaporated.

should you spritz smoked turkey

There is no black and white answer to this. you should spritz turkey if you notice it is drying out, but if it is has enough moisture to retain tenderness then you should avoid spritzing it.
spritzing turkey can result in stall due to increased moisture. so you should only spritz it if it is necessary.


A turkey won’t stall while being smoked effectively. turkey stalls when smoking due to user inexperience or a thermometer fault.

You need to be careful about the thermometer you are using because it is your guiding star. If it’s inaccurate, it will take you anywhere.

Jakob miller
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