Cooking Turkey on a Pellet Smoker: A Comprehensive Guide

When you own a pellet grill, you can smoke meat all year long and show off your juicy, mouthwatering meat candy to your loved ones. However, there are much higher stakes during the holiday season.

Anxiety can creep in when everyone is depending on you to prepare a perfectly seasoned and smoked turkey, especially if it’s your first time. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you step-by-step through the process and address any questions you may have about the smoking of turkey.

Here is a helpful Table Of Contents that we made so you can navigate to the various stages of the procedure.

Hey there, grill masters! Are you looking for the ultimate guide to cooking a juicy, flavorful turkey on your pellet smoker? Well, look no further! This comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of the process, from prepping your bird to achieving that perfect smoky finish.

Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a newbie to the world of pellet smoking, this guide has got you covered. So, grab your apron, fire up your smoker, and let’s get cooking!

Preparing Your Turkey:


  • The Secret to Juiciness: Brining your turkey is the key to achieving a moist and flavorful bird. It’s like giving your turkey a spa treatment, infusing it with deliciousness and ensuring it stays tender throughout the smoking process.
  • Brining Basics: Choose a brine recipe that suits your taste, whether it’s a classic salt-and-water brine or a more adventurous concoction with herbs, spices, and even fruits. Submerge your turkey in the brine for 12-24 hours, depending on the recipe and the size of your bird.
  • Fresh or Frozen?: If you’re using a frozen turkey, make sure to thaw it completely in the refrigerator before brining. This ensures even cooking and prevents any nasty surprises.

Drying and Seasoning:

  • Pat it Dry: Once your turkey has enjoyed its brine bath, pat it dry with paper towels. This helps the skin crisp up beautifully during the smoking process.
  • Flavor Fiesta: Now comes the fun part – adding flavor! You can use a dry rub, a compound butter, or even a simple salt-and-pepper rub. Get creative and experiment with different flavors to find your perfect match.

Firing Up Your Pellet Smoker:

  • Fueling the Fire: Choose a mild wood like apple, cherry, or pecan for your pellets. These woods impart a subtle smoky flavor that complements the turkey’s natural taste.
  • Temperature Control: Set your smoker to 225-250°F (107-121°C). This low and slow approach ensures even cooking and prevents the turkey from drying out.

Smoking the Turkey:

  • Time for Smoke: Place your seasoned turkey on the smoker grate, ensuring it’s not directly over the heat source. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and close the lid.
  • The Waiting Game: Smoking times vary depending on the size of your turkey. Generally, it takes about 30 minutes per pound. So, for a 15-pound turkey, expect a smoking time of around 7-8 hours.
  • Basting (Optional): If you want to add extra flavor and moisture, baste your turkey with a mixture of melted butter, herbs, and spices every hour or so.

Checking for Doneness:

  • Temperature is Key: The most reliable way to check if your turkey is done is by using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast should reach 165°F (74°C).
  • Rest and Relaxation: Once your turkey reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender and flavorful bird.

Carving and Serving:

  • Slicing and Dicing: Use a sharp carving knife to slice your turkey into thin slices. Be sure to include both white and dark meat for a variety of textures and flavors.
  • Accompaniments: Pair your smoked turkey with your favorite Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

Pro Tips for Pellet Smoker Turkey Perfection:

  • Don’t Spatchcock: While spatchcocking can speed up cooking time, it can also dry out the turkey. Stick to the traditional method for optimal results.
  • Don’t Stuff Your Turkey: Stuffing your turkey in the smoker is a no-no. Instead, cook your stuffing separately in the oven to avoid any food safety concerns.
  • Use a Separate Meat Thermometer: Don’t rely solely on your smoker’s built-in thermometer. Use a separate meat thermometer for accurate temperature readings.
  • Allow Plenty of Cooking Time: Don’t rush the process. Give yourself ample time to smoke your turkey properly. It’s better to have a slightly overcooked turkey than an undercooked one.

Additional Resources:

  • Urban Cowgirl: For a detailed guide with step-by-step instructions and beautiful photos, check out Urban Cowgirl’s article on smoking turkey on a pellet grill.
  • The Grilling Dad: The Grilling Dad offers a concise and informative guide with helpful tips and tricks for smoking turkey on a pellet grill.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Do I need to brine my turkey?

Brining is highly recommended as it helps to keep the turkey moist and flavorful. However, if you’re short on time, you can skip the brining step.

  • What type of wood should I use?

Mild woods like apple, cherry, or pecan are ideal for smoking turkey. Avoid using strong woods like mesquite or hickory, as they can overpower the delicate flavor of the turkey.

  • How long should I smoke my turkey?

The smoking time depends on the size of your turkey. Generally, it takes about 30 minutes per pound.

  • How do I know when my turkey is done?

The internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast should reach 165°F (74°C)

Cooking a turkey on a pellet smoker is a rewarding experience that yields a juicy, flavorful, and smoky bird. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a pellet smoker turkey pro. So, fire up your smoker, grab your turkey, and get ready to impress your family and friends with this delicious dish!

How Long To Rest Smoked Turkey

Remove the turkey from the smoker and place it in a roasting pan or sheet pan once it reaches 165 degrees. Do not remove the digital thermometer probe just yet.

Just bring it all inside the house for a nice long rest. The turkey will release some juices while it sits, depending on its size, and any juices that come out are ideal for mixing into your gravy.

cooking turkey on pellet smoker

Make it a family tradition that the turkey is the best dish served at Thanksgiving dinner—now THAT’s juicy and delicious!

You can take the probe thermometer out of the breast after 30 to 1 hour (larger turkeys will require more time than smaller turkeys), and then get ready to carve this flawless turkey!

How To Prep The Pellet Grill For Smoking Turkey

While each pellet grill is slightly different, this section of the guide will serve as a reminder of the essential details that all pellet smokers, electric smokers, and even gas grillers need to keep in mind when getting ready.

First, you will want to make sure the grill grate is sparkling clean. You can accomplish this by either bringing the grill inside and washing the grates in the sink, or by heating the grill on high and thoroughly cleaning the grates of any debris.

cooking turkey on pellet smoker

This is a good time to remove the old foil and replace it with a fresh sheet if your wood pellet grill has a flat bed beneath the grates, as I like to line these with foil for easy cleanup.

If your pellet grill has a grease run off with a little bucket, dispose of the grease, clean the bucket, and put it back for this cook.

Easy Smoked Turkey Recipe for Thanksgiving (on a Pellet Grill!)

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