This Traeger Smoked Turkey is juicy, tender, slightly smoky and so easy to make! This Traeger turkey recipe will definitely make sure your dinner makes the holiday newsletter!
I’ll admit – I’d never made a WHOLE turkey – I’ve done lots of turkey breasts – in the air fryer, oven and Traeger grill – but this is the first time I’ve made a whole bird. And let me tell you – it’s a different story!!! It’s more work on the prep end and a longer cook time – but definitely worth it.
How do you brine a turkey?
The low and slow method of cooking with the Traeger smoker is one of my favorite ways to ensure the turkey breast meat is super juicy. Plus, it adds a delicious smoky flavor and pinkish hue to the dark meat. All in all – definitely a success. And I’m all about simple – so I really went for the easiest route possible to get to the perfect turkey!
Brining your turkey is simply soaking it in salted water for many hours. Why do it? This is a great way to help the turkey absorb moisture while also soaking in any seasonings that are in your brining liquid, and the salt helps break down muscle proteins, which prevents the meat from losing moisture as it cooks.
Now – the how to brine a turkey!
- Heat cider, brown sugar, salt, herbs and citrus in stock pot, bring to a boil and let cool
- Add cold water
- Place turkey in bag and pour in brine
- Refrigerate overnight (see next paragraph for funny)
Now – the last couple steps posed some difficulty for me. After searching my entire house – I found I don’t have a container large enough to hold a turkey. So I bought these Ziploc XL bags and that worked perfectly! Then – I realized I didn’t have anything to put that bag filled with the turkey brine in! So – I had to empty the cheese drawer in my fridge and set the turkey-filled bag in the cheese drawer – and remove shelves from the fridge so I could fit it in the fridge. But – the turkey was finally in the fridge (at 1am) and brining away.
What seasoning do you put on the turkey after brining?
After brining, you’ll start the cooking process! I like to mix together a compound butter filled with herbs and seasonings and rub that bird! Here’s what you’ll need:
- softened butter
- fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary & sage
- seasonings: black pepper, coarse sea salt
After the bird is coated – you’ll want to chop up an onion, a lemon and an apple and stuff the turkey with them and any extra fresh herbs. This helps add extra moisture which makes even more tender meat!
How do you smoke a turkey on a wood pellet grill?
After you’ve brined your turkey overnight, you’ll be ready to smoke the bird!
- Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel
- Mix together room temperature butter, herbs and seasoning
- Schmear the mixture under the skin of the turkey and right onto the breast meat
- Take the rest of the butter and schmear it on the outside of the turkey
- Add onion, lemon and herbs into the cavity of the bird
- Refrigerate your bird for another hour
- Get the Traeger started and set to temp at 225 – be sure you have plenty of pellets! You’ll need to fill the hopper mid-way
- Place the turkey on a wire rack in a roasting pan and place the pan on the grill grate – shut the lid and let the turkey smoke for 2 hours. Check temp around the 90 min mark. You want the bird to get around 110 degrees.
- When the internal temperature reaches 110 degrees (placing the temperature probe in the thickest part of the breast) – turn the temp up to 350 and let go for another 2 hours (or so) until the turkey reaches 160 degrees (or the little thing pops out)
- At this stage, check the temp every 30-45 minutes either with a thermometer or the Traeger probe
- Turning up the temp will get that crispy skin everybody likes!
- For best results, take your turkey off at 155 degrees (keep that meat thermometer handy!). The turkey will continue to rise in temp and it needs to rest for approx 30 minutes
- Place your turkey on a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil until ready to carve
- Save those turkey drippings! You can add them to a stock pot on the stove, add flour and make some delicious turkey gravy!
- EAT THAT TURKEY DINNER!
Tips, Tricks and FAQs
The best thing to do is put it in the refrigerator 3-4 days before you’re going to brine. Exact time really depends on the size of your bird – a smaller turkey – like a 12 pound turkey will take 3 days to thaw, a large turkey – say a 16 pound bird will take 4 days, etc. As a general rule of thumb, 4 pounds = 1 day.
I’ve seen this question all over Facebook – I put it in a pan for a couple of reasons: 1. To catch the drippings so I could use it for gravy 2. To not make a mess on my grill. The pan worked great – I did put it on a roasting rack so it wasn’t sitting in the juices. So I would say – 100% in a pan on a rack!
Kind of…the dark meat had a much more pinkish hue (Seinfeld throwback for us old folks) than the breast meat.
No – you don’t have to – if you use a good rub – with some moisture (butter) – you could go without. That said, this Traeger Smoked Turkey recipe does brine because it helps tenderize the meat.
Salt, sugar, acid and herbs. You can create your own combo. For example, I used Kosher salt – be sure to check your recipe as the amounts for kosher vs. table are very different. Sugar – I used brown sugar and apple cider. Acid – I used apple cider (there’s some acid in there too) along with lemon and orange slices. Herbs/Seasonings – I used allspice berries (I bought a big bag super cheap for this Simmer Pot Gift Bag) and fresh sage, rosemary and thyme. Normally I go with dry spices but for this – I went the extra mile to use fresh.
I would not put your stuffing in the turkey if you’re smoking it. You’re cooking at a lower temp and that doesn’t work great for stuffing. Keep them separate for this method.
There are many flavors of pellets that work in your Traeger pellet grill. I keep it simple and always use the Traeger Signature Blend which is a blend of Maple and Cherry. That said if you’re looking for something specific for turkey – the best are Pecan, Apple and Cherry.
What to side dishes to serve with your holiday smoked turkey?
Other delicious ways to make your holiday turkey…
- Smoked Turkey Breast – don’t miss this turkey breast recipe – if you’re just doing the breast – it’s the way to go!
- Grilled Turkey Tenderloin
- Air Fryer Turkey Breast
Turkey Leftover Recipes
- Leftover Turkey Casserole
- Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich
- White Chicken Chili (just swap the chicken for turkey!)
Traeger Smoked Turkey
- 13-15 lb turkey
- 1/2 lb butter softened
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 5-10 sprigs fresh Thyme
- 1 sprig fresh Rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh Sage
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
- 1 onion
- 1 lemon
- 1 apple
- extra fresh herbs
Brine the Turkey
- Heat cider, brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, allspice berries, fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon and orange in stock pot, bring to a boil and let cool2 quarts apple cider, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/4 cups Morton Kosher Salt, 3 bay leaves, 3 tbsp Whole allspice berries, 1 sprig Fresh Rosemary, 2 sprigs Fresh Sage, 5 sprigs Fresh Thyme, 1 lemon, 1 orange
- Add cold water4 qts cold water
- Remove turkey from packaging and rinse. Be sure to remove neck and bag of innerds (check both ends of the bird) and discard
- Place turkey into brining container (I used a Ziploc XL bag)13-15 lb turkey
- Pour in brine mixture and be sure turkey is covered
- Refrigerate the turkey in bring between 12-24 hours (at least overnight)
- Remove turkey from brine and set on counter in roasting rack
Smoke the Turkey
- Mix together softened butter, garlic, fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, pepper and salt with a spatula1/2 lb butter, 6 cloves garlic, 5-10 sprigs fresh Thyme, 1 sprig fresh Rosemary, 1 sprig fresh Sage, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
- Create a pocket between skin and meat on turkey breast and as much around the bird as you can
- Rub softened butter mixture into the pocket – once inside the pocket – push further into the skin by pressing on the outside
- Rub remaining butter mixture on outside of bird
- Chop apple, onion and lemon into quarters and stuff inside bird with extra fresh herbs1 onion, 1 lemon, extra fresh herbs, 1 apple
- Place turkey in refrigerator for 1 hour to chill
- Turn Traeger to smoke. Once smoke dissipates (about 5 min) – change temp to 225 and bring to temp.
- Place turkey in roasting pan onto Traeger
- Smoke turkey (be sure the hopper is full) until the internal temp is 110 degrees. This will take approximately 2 hours – but always check with your instant read thermometer or temp probe on Traeger
- Increase the temp to 350 degrees on the Traeger.
- Continue to cook until internal temp registers at 160 (or the red plastic thing pops!). Be sure to check temp in the thickest part of the breast. Check the temp every 30 minutes or so. This will take approximately 2 hours. But be sure to check yourself as things can vary depending on outside temp, size of bird, etc.
- Remove turkey from the grill and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving
- 8 to 10 pounds = 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
- 10 to 12 pounds = 3 to 4 hours
- 12 to 14 pounds = 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours
- 14 to 16 pounds = 4-1/4 to 5-1/3 hours
- 16 to 18 pounds = 5 to 6 hours
- 18 to 20 pounds = 5-1/2 to 6-3/4 hours