August 31, 2020

One of the delicious ways to prepare your turkey is to smoke it, and a smoked turkey is the best kind of turkey to serve on Thanksgiving. However, poorly smoked turkeys are also a Thanksgiving nightmare that can put a damper on this festive holiday.

You can smoke a turkey at home as long as you’ve got a grill on your deck. This guide focuses on using a pellet grill and provides detailed information on how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill.


How To Smoke A Turkey On A Pellet Grill

Things You Will Need

Here is a list of what you will need in advance to ensure that smoking your turkey is a success:

  • Turkey: This is the first and major item. After all, there can’t be a smoked turkey without a turkey.
  • Wood pellets: Make sure you have plenty of pellets before you start smoking your meat. You can get different flavors of wood pellets depending on the flavor of the meat you want. Hickory, cherry, or applewood pellets are great for smoking turkey.
  • Drip pan: Smoked turkeys are juicy, so ensure that you have a drip pan handy to catch all the juice.
  • Probe meat thermometer or instant-read meat thermometer: Consistent cooking temperatures are critical when smoking a turkey, and the thermometer will help you check the temperature.
  • Seasoning: Seasonings can often add dimension to the flavor of a smoked turkey.

Smoking a turkey usually takes a longer time than roasting a turkey, so you may need more time and patience to prepare a smoked turkey.

Get Started

Before you start, get a good turkey size that is enough to feed your guests and make sure your turkey fits inside your pellet grill. A maximum of 15 pounds of turkey is recommended for food safety reasons.

Ensure that the turkey is fully defrosted. If you had purchased a frozen turkey, it might take about two to three days to defrost your turkey by placing it in the refrigerator. 

man standing up with family on table while preparing food

Avoid leaving your frozen turkey out on the countertop to defrost it more quickly as that can lead to the growth of bacteria.

Remove the neck and giblets. While some home cooks still serve smoked turkeys with the bag of giblets in place, we advise that you save them for making gravy or stock.

Brining

Whether you need to brine [1] your turkey depends on whether the turkey you purchased has been pre-brined. 

If you purchased a pre-brined turkey, go ahead and fire up your pellet grill and get smoking. If not, you can make your brine for the turkey. Doing this is better because you can add some flavor to the brine.

If you have to do your brining, thoroughly mix a half cup of salt and half cup of sugar in a gallon of water. Completely submerge your turkey in it for about 12 to 14 hours. The brine will infuse salt flavor into the meat.

If possible, avoid pre-brined, already-seasoned turkey or a turkey that has been injected with a brining solution. You may end up purchasing a waterlogged turkey or, worse still, a salt bomb.

Cooking

After brining your turkey, make sure you rinse your turkey with cold water and pat it completely dry, in and out, with plenty of paper towels even if you didn’t brine it. Here is how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill:

Pellet Grill Turkey Recipe

Preheat the pellet grill at a temperature of about 225˚F for 15 minutes. Coat the outer skin of your turkey with seasoning. After that, rub canola oil over the entire outside skin of the turkey.

Place the turkey breast-side up directly on the grill grate on the indirect heat side of the grill. You don’t need a roasting pan for this. 

Pellet Grill Turkey Cooking Time

Allow the turkey to smoke in the pellet grill for about 2½ to 3 hours. Increase the temperature to close to 300°F. Cook for another 3½ to 4 hours depending on your turkey’s size, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast is about 165°F to 170°F.

Don’t forget to always use an instant-read thermometer to check the turkey’s temperature in the breast and thigh. Smoke your turkey for a total of 6 hours. 

Remove the smoked turkey from the pellet grill and allow it to rest for another 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Important Tips in Smoking Your Turkey

At a preheat temperature of 225°F, you can run your grill at about 30 minutes per pound of turkey. If your turkey is 15 pounds, then the cooking time would be 450 minutes or 7½ hours of cooking time. At a preheat temperature of 250°F, you can run your pellet grill at about 25 minutes per pound of cooking time.

overlay photo of a turkey being sliced

After the turkey reaches a temperature of 125°F, spray the turkey with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes. Doing this helps your turkey to smoke better while retaining its moisture. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill?

It takes 30 minutes per pound of turkey, so a 14-pound turkey would take 7 hours to smoke. 

Do you have to brine a turkey before smoking it?

You don’t have to brine a turkey before smoking it. Some turkeys are already pre-brined at the store. However, many people opt to brine their turkey to add some flavor. 

Do you cover a turkey when smoking it?

No, it’s not necessary to cover a turkey when smoking it.

Conclusion

In this guide on how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill, we summarized the basics of preparing your turkey, brining it, and adding seasoning before leaving it to smoke. The time to smoke a turkey depends on your turkey’s size, and you need to closely monitor the cooking temperature to ensure your turkey is fully smoked for that excellent smoked flavor.


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