Does a turkey stall when smoking? The correct answer

Last Updated on: 8th November 2023, 08:03 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 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 overcoming 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 a summary of what we are going to explain below.

  • Turkey will not stall normally. But if you are a beginner, the turkey might stall due to inexperience.
  • It would be best if you probed the turkey effectively to measure its accurate temperature.

Does turkey stall when smoking?

A stall is 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.

In the case of Turkey, the conditions are different.

Turkey is a type of poultry.

Poultry is lean meat that 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 or 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 30 minutes to 4 hours.

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

Several factors 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 contains less moisture.

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 a 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 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 break down the connective tissues to make it soft.

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

If the temperature is too low, even a little evaporative cooling can push the turkey toward stalling.

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

Usually, the 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 the flavor of brisket. brisket usually absorbs less smoke after smoking for few hours.

So you should smoke at a high enough temperature to develop bark and smoke effectively

However, if the turkey breast stalls, consider increasing heat until the temperature exceeds 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 a breakdown of collagen.

There is nothing like the best temperature to smoke, so you must figure it out by trial and error.

You need to let the 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 a plateau of temperature due to evaporative cooling.

However, if the moisture content is higher in the smoker, 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, hence stopping the breakdown of connective tissues.

smoked turkey
image : @i_am_the_big_deal /instagram

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

So, while smoking turkey breast, you need to be 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 to be extremely careful about letting the turkey rest after smoking.

It usually affects you when you are smoking more than 20 pounds of 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, 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 increases, the thermometer will display an inaccurate reading.

You also need to insert a probe in the thickest part of the turkey.

So, it is better to consider checking your thermometer for accuracy occasionally.

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

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

So, before tweaking anything else, 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, you should consider calibrating it or upgrading to a good-quality thermometer.

It can affect the process whether you are smoking an 8-pound or 24-pound turkey. So calibrate it and insert it in the thickest part, like the legs or breast side to get an accurate reading.


Spritzing meat is an effective way to avoid the meat drying out and also helps in the 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 the temperature reaches 180°F (after the usual stall at 160°F).

smoked turkey breast
image : @tommymart83 /instagram

Spritzing is usually done while smoking brisket to avoid it from drying out during the prolonged smoking process, but on the flip side, you won’t get the crispy skin.

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

Applying too much rub or placing in the rub for a longer time can also affect at what temperature the turkey will 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.

However, 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.

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 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 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, 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 always to use an accurate thermometer while smoking anything, whether it be a 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.
    Avoid inserting your temperature probe near the 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 doesn’t 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 you can skip this period entirely or get passed it in 10 to 20 minutes.

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

What causes the stall when smoking meat

The stall is the period that 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 the mat, which stops the temperature from increasing, and the temperature enters a plateau known as a 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 has enough moisture to retain tenderness then you should avoid spritzing it.

spritzing turkey can result in a 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