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Traeger Smoked Turkey

Forget the oven and forget the fryer, and fire up your Traeger smoker to make this amazing Smoked Turkey! Cooked low and slow, it bastes in its juices, and I’ll show you just how to create the moistest, juiciest, most flavorful turkey you’ll ever have!

Whole Traeger smoked turkey on a cutting board.

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A simple rub and smoking your turkey low-and-slow is all it takes to transform a humble turkey into a show-stopping meat-fest. And let me tell you, is this Smoked Turkey ever good! The skin is flavorful and crispy, the meat is tender and juicy, and when it smokes low and slow, it bastes in its juices, creating unbelievable flavor.

I fell in love with smoked turkey back in Texas. It would be available all-year long at some BBQ/smokehouses, and is it ever good! Once I moved north – realllllyyyyy far north – I lost access to convenient BBQ so I’ve had to do my own and I’m going to show you how to nail a perfectly smoked turkey every time!

Don’t be daunted by smoking a turkey! It’s not hard at all – just ensure you’ve got some time because the bigger the bird, the longer it’ll take to smoke. Then, settle back and let your bird smoke low and slow, and you’ll dig into the best smoked turkey!

What you’ll love about sMOKED Turkey


  • It’s so. Darn. Good!!! Meaty, juicy, flavorful – all the best that a Thanksgiving turkey should be!
  • Smoked turkey is an affordable way to feed a crowd.
  • Smoking a whole turkey is so easy, and this smoked turkey recipe is foolproof!

Do You Need To Brine A Turkey Before Smoking It?

If there was ever a hot-button topic, it is this: to brine or not brine a turkey before smoking it. Everyone has their own opinion on this, and after smoking a variety of turkeys, I will tell you that brining is unnecessary in most cases. Here’s why:

  1. Most commercially available turkeys are already brined. They’ve been injected with a solution (a saline-based solution) that has essentially brined the turkey. Often labeled as “basted,” “seasoned,” or just called out on the label, these turkeys have been injected with a saline solution to keep the meat tender and juicy. If your turkey has been injected with any solution, then consider it already brined, and you don’t need to brine it again.
  2. People have been overcooking turkeys for years, but for a good reason. Turkeys are notoriously tricky to cook evenly. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever cut into a turkey with perfectly cooked breast meat and still pink thigh meat. So, to compensate for the overcooking (and consequent drying out of the meat), turkeys have gotten a rap that they need to be brined. However, cooking a turkey low and slow allows for a much more gradual and even cooking. Cooked this way, even the biggest turkeys don’t need to be brined.
  3. The only time I would brine a turkey before smoking it is if it were a 100% organic turkey with no injected solution, and it’d have to be a big turkey 16 pounds or more before brining it would make any difference. Young, small turkeys tend to be juicier and more tender.
Sliced smoked turkey on a platter.

What Is Brining?

Brining is a cheffy term for immersing the turkey in a saline solution. The idea is that the salt water gets into the cells in the meat and stays there during the cooking process, resulting in juicier meat. As a professional chef, I’d often brine meats to infuse extra flavor. Brining, however, is challenging because you have to have a large enough container and room in your fridge to hold the turkey at the proper temperature (the FDA says your fridge should be under 40 degrees F).

You can also easily over-brine a turkey, resulting in salty, spongy meat. Nobody wants that.

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Brining vs. Not Brining

My best advice is to buy a young turkey from a good brand. Injected, infused, basted, or whatever is fine. Let it thaw in the fridge if frozen, then give it a rub and a smoke. No extra brining is necessary.

Ingredients

  • Turkey – Look for young turkey, frozen or fresh.

Smoked Turkey Rub Ingredients

  • Salt – I use kosher salt. If you use table salt, only use half the suggested amount.
  • Paprika
  • Brown sugar
  • Black pepper – Freshly ground black pepper has the best flavor.
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried thyme
  • Dried sage
  • Cooking oil – Olive oil, avocado oil, or your favorite cooking oil is fine.

How To Make The Best Traeger Smoked Turkey

  1. Remove the turkey from the fridge 1 hour before smoking so it can warm up.
  2. Mix the salt, paprika, brown sugar, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme, and dried sage in a small bowl.
  3. Rub the turkey with the dry rub and leave it on the counter for an hour before smoking.
  4. Preheat your Traeger pellet smoker – or any other electric smoker – to 180-F as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Place the rubbed turkey directly on the rack in the smoker. Smoke it at 180-F for about an hour, then turn the temperature up to 250-F. Continue smoking the turkey at 250-F.
  6. When the turkey reaches about140-F, brush it all over with the cooking oil. This will help the skin get crispy.
  7. Smoke the turkey until it reaches 165-F with an accurate digital meat thermometer. Always check the meatiest part of the thigh, inserting the instant-read thermometer right next to the bone.
  8. Remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
  9. Enjoy!

How Long Does It Take To Thaw A Frozen Turkey?

I keep my fridge at the FDA-recommended temperature of 40-F, and it took a whole week to thaw a 15-pound unstuffed turkey. Always give yourself more time than you might think to thaw a turkey. Always thaw a frozen turkey in the fridge, never on the counter or in a sink full of water.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Whole Turkey?

This is a tricky question to answer. Always cook to temp, not time. So many variables can affect how long it takes to smoke a whole turkey, including how accurate your smoker’s temperature is, how cold or windy it is outside, how big the turkey is, and how cold the turkey is when it goes on the smoker. Use a probe thermometer to get an accurate reading, and always cook a turkey until it reaches 165-F in the meatiest part of the thigh, then let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. The last turkey I smoked was 15 pounds, and it took just about 6 hours.

whole smoked turkey on a cutting board ready to be carved.

Should I Tent Turkey With Foil While Resting?

Tenting helps to keep the bird hot, but it will also steam the skin, and the skin will become soft and not crispy. I do not tent my turkeys while resting – they stay plenty hot, and the skin will remain crisp.

What kind of wood pellets to smoke a turkey?

This is a long, low-smoke, but turkey meat won’t hold up to an aggressive pellet. Opt for something like hickory pellets or a mild blend. Traeger has a limited edition turkey blend pellet if you can get your hands on a bag of that.

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Always give yourself plenty of time to smoke a turkey, and smoke to the internal temp (165-F), not time.
  • Don’t bother brining your turkey – see my comments above.
  • Allow plenty of resting time.
  • Temp the turkey in the thickest part of the thigh, right up close to the body. Get the thermometer close to the bone for the best reading.
  • If you start running out of time, turn the heat up to a maximum temperature of 300-F.
  • Don’t worry if the thigh and leg meat looks pinkish – if it is cooked to 165F, then that pink color is from the smoke!
  • Smoked turkeys won’t make good gravy unless you have a roasting pan under the turkey to catch all the juices and fat that drips from it. You can use the turkey drippings to make gravy, but it’ll have a smoky flavor. Also save the carcass to make soup, and you’ll have some of the best soup around!
  • Please don’t smoke a stuffed turkey. Stuffed turkeys take too long for the internal temperature of the stuffing to come up to a safe temp and it may never get fully cooked to 165-F in the center of the stuffing. Instead, make dressing. Bake your stuffing instead of cooking it in the bird.

Recommended

Make It A Meal

I cook turkey all year long, but turkeys have a special spot in my heart at Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I’m smoking a big turkey for the holiday table, I like to pair the bird with tasty sides like:

Storage

Leftover smoked turkey can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days, or freeze the leftovers! I like to pull the meat off the bone and make turkey stock. Wondering what to do with leftover smoked turkey? I love making soups, sandwiches, quesadillas, and casseroles with the leftover turkey.

Step By Step Process

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Whole Traeger smoked turkey on a cutting board.
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5 from 49 votes

Smoked Turkey

Oh-so-juicy and flavorful Smoked Turkey is perfect for your holiday table or whenever you need to feed a crowd. Delicious, moist, tender, and that rub is pure perfection! Pair this easy Smoked Turkey with your favorite sides!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword pellet smoker, smoked turkey, smoker, turkey
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 7 hours
Servings 8 servings
Calories 883kcal
Author Chef Jenn

Equipment

  • Traeger pellet grill/smoker
  • hardwood pellet blend

Ingredients

  • 15 pound turkey or however big

For the dry rub:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt use half as much table salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Remove the turkey from the fridge 1 hour prior to smoking so it can warm up.
  • Mix the salt, paprika, brown sugar, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme, and dried sage in a small bowl.
  • Rub the turkey all over with the dry rub and leave it on the counter for an hour prior to smoking.
  • Preheat your Traeger pellet smoker – or any other electric smoker – to 180-F as per the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Place the rubbed turkey directly on the rack in the smoker. Smoke it at 180-F for about an hour, then turn the temperature up to 250-F. Continue smoking the turkey at 250-F.
  • When the turkey reaches about140-F, rub it all over with the cooking oil. This will help the skin get crispy.
  • Smoke the turkey until it reaches 165-F with an accurate digital meat thermometer. Always check the meatiest part of the thigh, inserting the instant-read thermometer right up next to the bone.
  • Remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Always give yourself plenty of time to smoke a turkey, and smoke to temp (165-F), not time.
  • Don’t bother brining your turkey – see my comments above.
  • Allow plenty of resting time.
  • Temp the turkey in the thickest part of the thigh, right up close to the body. Get the thermometer close to the bone for the best reading.
  • If you start running out of time, turn the turkey up to a maximum temperature of 300-F.
  • Smoked turkeys don’t make a lot of juice for gravy, but save the carcass to make turkey stock, and you’ll have some of the best soups around!
  • Don’t worry if the thigh and leg meat looks pinkish – if it is cooked to 165F, then that pink color is from the smoke!

Nutrition

Serving: 6ounces | Calories: 883kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 131g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 435mg | Sodium: 1551mg | Potassium: 1381mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 410IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 6mg

A Note on Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for this recipe is provided as a courtesy and is calculated based on available online ingredient information. It is only an approximate value. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

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5 thoughts on “Traeger Smoked Turkey”

  1. 5 stars
    This is definitely better than buying a smoked turkey! The meat is much more juicy and flavorful. We’ll be doing this again at Thanksgiving. Thanks!

    Reply

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