Ever wanted to try something different with turkey? I find that smoked turkey is a sure fire way to impress your guests! You might have tried cooking your turkey in a gas grill but that can be hard work! You need to monitor it the whole time!
A pellet grill allows you to automate the whole cook. Similar to using an oven, you can set the digital controller and the pellets are fed into the auger as needed!
That means you have more time to catch up with your family when they arrive for Thanksgiving or weekend cookout I have seen some folks using an electric smoker to smoke their turkey.
However, my problem is, most electric smokers are too small for the turkeys we cook. Hopefully, in the future, a manufacturer will bring out a model big enough for my family.
Table of contents
What You Need for a Smoked Turkey
- The turkey
The size depends on how many people your feeding, what the occasion is and how many sides your serving. See how much turkey you’ll need per person here.You could also try using turkey tail, its really juicy and full of flavor.
- Wood pellets:
Make sure you have enough wood pellets. I usually grab a few bags for when we plan to smoke a turkey
- A Smoker
I use my Pit Boss for this bird, but if you don’t have a smoker, you can turn your gas grill into one.
- Meat thermometer:
You will need to constantly check the internal temperature of the turkey. Do this with a digital meat thermometer during the smoking process. We recommend picking up an instant-read thermometer.
Smoked Turkey Brine and Rub
First, we will start with brining the turkey.
First, you need to start with 4 cups of boiling water. Then add 1.5 cups of salt and /5 cups of sugar. Stir to ensure everything is combined.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics for a simple turkey brine. But I also like to add in some other flavors. Like herbs and spices such as garlic, rosemary, thyme
But you can also try some other interesting flavors like;
- Chicken broth or chicken stock
- Apple cider vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Black pepper
- Apple juice
- Orange zest
Preparing the Turkey for the Pellet Smoker or Grill
Prepping your turkey is just as important as the cook!
Follow these steps carefully, that way you’ll end up with a juicy bird with great smokey flavors!
- If you have a frozen turkey, defrost the entire bird.
- Remove the neck and other gizzards. Then clean the turkey.
- Make your brine. First, you need to start with 4 cups of boiling water. Then add 1.5 cups of salt and /5 cups of sugar. Stir to ensure everything is combined. Then add whatever flavors you like.For example, using herbs and spices like garlic, rosemary, thyme.
- Put the turkey in a large container cover with brine. Make sure it’s completely submerged
- Then you want to brine the turkey for 12 -16 hours. You may want to rotate at least once during the cook.
- After 12-16, hours carefully dry the outer skin after running it under a steady stream of cold water.
- If you like, you can tie the turkey legs and secure them with some butcher’s string. See the video below for how to truss your turkey for smoking.
- Lastly, coat the surface of the turkey with baking powder then rub with melted butter or olive oil. This will ensure that you’ll be left with crispy skin when it comes out. After that, you should add on any last-minute dry seasonings before it goes into the grill for smoking.
5 Steps for a Perfect Smoked Turkey
Ready to smoke the best turkey of your life, here is how I do it.
- Make our brine and let the turkey brine for 12-16 hours. Then I give it a good rinse and dry the turkey off with a paper towel.
- Then I give the whole bird a good rub with butter and place it on the rack. I always let my turkey come up to room temperature.
- Then I prep our pellet grill for indirect cooking. I get it up to 450°F. I add my flavored wood (usually cherrywood) then add my drip pan filled with water to ensure the turkey stays moist.
- To get that crispy skin you cook it at 450°F for an hour, then 225°F. Then you want to smoke your turkey for around 13 minutes per pound.
That means when I cook a 15-pound turkey at Thanksgiving it usually takes;
13 x 12 = 156 minutes
= 2 hours 36 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey which is usually the thighs hits 175°F
- Then I take it out and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving it. This allows the juices to redistribute themselves.
- If your turkey is finished cooking and your guest are’nt ready to eat, here is what you should do if turkey done too early. This will ensure its still juicy and delcious when your ready to eat.
8 Trade Secrets to The Perfect Smoked Turkey
1. No Need to Stuff Your Turkey
It’s best not to stuff the turkey when you’re smoking it. Firstly, it’s not necessary. Secondly, it can seriously ruin the airflow inside. Thus, never stuff the turkey when you’re smoking a turkey.
2. Getting The Skin Crispy
If you want smoked turkey with crispy skin make sure you don’t tent the turkey with foil or wet brine. Dry brining your turkey is the best method for crisp skin,
4. Grill Size Matters
Just make sure that you have at least a 24-inch pellet grill. (You need to make sure that it’s big enough to hold a whole turkey.)
5. Don’t Use a Roasting Pan
You want to smoke your turkey on the grill gates. If you use a roasting pan you find that your turkey won’t crispy up. I do usually place a pan under the grates, that is fille with water. This water pan helps to create a moist environment.
6. Get Leftovers?
If you have some leftovers and you will want to know how to reheat a whole smoked turkey, it can be tricky so make sure you follow the steps closely.
7. Avoid carving your Turkey
Don’t carve the whole turkey. Take your smoked turkey out and then break it up into smaller pieces before you begin carving it. This way you able to get all the meat from each part of the turkey.
Choose the Right Wood Chips, Chunks, or Pellets
I like to use applewood or cherrywood wood chips for smoking turkey, it gives it a nice mild flavor.
Optimal Temperature for Your Pellet Grill
Your pellet grill needs to be between 450ºF for the first hour then 225°F for the rest of the cook.
Your Smoked Turkey is Ready When;
The internal temperature of the turkey thighs hits 175°F and/ or the turkey breast internal temperature hits 165°F. You may notice that the internal temperature will continue to climb after you pull it from the smoker, don’t worry.
Using the Smoked Turkey Drippings
You can save any smoked turkey drippings and create a delicious gravy. This is the smoked turkey gravy we prepare every year at Thanksgiving.
Smoked Turkey Recipe
We’d like to share one of our favorite smoked turkey recipes with you.
Pellet Grill Smoked Whole Turkey
- pellet grill
- 1 whole turkey
- 3 tbsp butter
Brine for Turkey
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1.5 cups salt
- 1 whole orange
- 1 whole onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 4 whole bay leaves
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1.5 gallons cold water
- .5 cup sugar
Brining The Turkey
- First, you need to start with 4 cups of boiling water. Then add 1.5 cups of salt and .5 cups of sugar. Stir to ensure everything is combined.
- Then add in the rest of the brine ingredients. Stir to combine
- Once the brine has completely cooled, add the turkey and ensur eit totally submerged and put it in the firdge for 12-16 hours
Smoking The Turkey
- Give the turkey a goo rinse and dry the turkey off with a paper towel.
- Then give the whole bird a good rub with butter and place it on the rack. I always let my turkey come up to room temperature.
- Then I prep our pellet smoker for indirect cooking. I get it up to 450°F. I add my flavored wood (usually cherrywood) then add my drip pan filled with water to ensure the turkey stays moist.
- First you smoke the turkey at 450°F for an hour. Then bring it down to 225 °F, then smoke your turkey for around 13minutes per pound. That means when I cook a 15-pound turkey at Thanksgiving it usually takes for a 13 pound turkey;13 x 12 = 156 minutes= 2 hours 36 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey which is usually the thighs hits 175°F
- Remove from the pellet grill when the thickest part of the turkey which is usually the thighs hits 175°F
- Then I take it out and let it rest for at least30 minutes before carving it. This allows the juices to redistribute themselves.
We love this citrus recipe because it is completely different from all the other smoked turkey recipes we’ve tried. It’s salty, sweet, and tangy
Side Dishes for Smoked Turkey
Five side dishes we would recommend would include:
- Cheesy Smoked Potatoes
- Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Smoked Zucchini
- Smoked Asparagus
- Corn on The Cob
- Cheesy Rotal Dip
Hopefully, your bird will come as good as mine! If you have any questions I am always here to help!
Happy smoking and feasting!
Author: Justin Carrtington
Hi I’m Justin, I am one of the taste testers (hard job I know) here at Simply Meat Smoking! I have been grilling, smoking and cooking up a storm since I was young. I like use all types of fuel from charcoal to gas, wood and even electric!
When I not trying to perfect my ribs or brisket I am hanging out with my friends,mainly acting like a big kid.
You can read more on our About Us page.