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How to Smoke a Turkey on a Traeger

Turkey Smoked on a Traeger is one of my favorite ways to cook turkey for Thanksgiving. Come check out my tried and true method along with my 8 pro tips for the best smoked turkey!

Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Turkey Day! Check out this recipe for lots of tips on how to brine and roast a turkey.

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The Traeger has seriously been one of our best purchases during the last couple of years. Or, at least one of our favorite purchases. We use it so much and everything we cook on it tastes great! I honestly can’t believe it took us so long to get one.

One of my favorite ways to cook turkey these days is to smoke it on our Traeger Pellet Grill.

With Thanksgiving ONLY ABOUT A WEEK AWAY, I thought that I’d write a post about How to Smoke a Turkey on a Traeger and share my 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

I even consulted with Kevin on this one just to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything from our method! Though, you should know, that I do plenty of the cooking on the Traeger myself.

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What Do You Need to Smoke a Turkey?

Before you begin preparing your smoked turkey on a Traeger, you’ll need to make sure you have some of the required equipment.

If you aren’t new to smoking, none of this should be new to you.

In order to smoke a turkey, you need a few things:

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

How to Smoke a Turkey and 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

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What is the best wood to smoke turkey with:

It really depends on your personal preferences, so it is important to experiment to find out what you like best.

We have tried all different types of wood pellets for our Traeger Smoked Turkey. Our favorite wood pellet flavors are: apple, pecan, oak, and hickory.

  • Apple – mild and sweet flavor
  • Pecan – rich, sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Oak – medium flavor, not overpowering, quintessential smoking wood
  • Hickory – mellow smoky flavor, not over powering, savory, hearty, one of the most versatile

Don’t be afraid to mix different wood pellet flavors together. Using blends of different type of wood pellets can give the turkey extra flavor depth. We often use a combination of apple and hickory blended together.

8 PRO TIPS for the Best Smoked Turkey

  1. Smoke 2 small turkeys instead of 1 large one
  2. Brine your smoked turkey
  3. Don’t stuff your turkey
  4. Cook by internal meat temperature, not time
  5. Don’t lift the lid on the Traeger
  6. Don’t make panic induced adjustments
  7. Finish the smoked turkey in the oven
  8. Let the turkey rest!

Read on for more details and explanations on all of the tips!

In our house we have a running joke where we frequently say things like “hey, pro tip here…” when we’re giving one of the kids advice or something. I thought I’d give you some of MY “pro tips” to make the best smoked turkey.

These tips are all personally tried be us and have yielded great success for us when it comes to smoking a turkey.

How to Smoke a Turkey and 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

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Pro Tip #1 Smoke 2 Small Turkeys Instead of 1 Large One

Larger turkeys have a tendency to dry out on a smoker since they take so much longer to reach the appropriate temperature.

If you need a lot of meat, it is better to use 2 small turkeys than 1 large turkey when you are smoking a turkey.

Multiple smaller birds will allow you to cook faster, have plenty of meat, AND have meat is still juicy. A 12-14 pound turkeys is the ideal maximum size.

Another option is to smoke several turkey breasts rather than whole turkeys. We do this quite often as most of our family prefers the white meat to the dark meat.

How Much Turkey Should I Plan Per Person

Plan to purchase 1 lb. per person attending.I f you like to have plenty of leftovers for the freezer or cooking up a big batch of soup, plan on double that, about 2 lbs of turkey per person.

What if you don’t want a lot of meat?

Try smoking a turkey breast, or Easy Smoked Chicken instead of a whole turkey. You can follow the same tips and methods described in this post.

How to Smoke a Turkey and 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

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Pro Tip #2 Brine Your Smoked Turkey

When thinking about Smoked Turkey Preparation, one of the most important things to do is brine the meat.

Should I brine a Turkey?

YES! Brining a smoked turkey before you put it in your Traeger helps the meat to retain moisture that is often lost when poultry is exposed to long cook times.

Rather than dry turkey meat, you’ll end up with a juicy, flavorful bird that is seasoned all the way through rather than just on the surface.

You’ll want to look at the label before purchasing your turkey and avoid anything labeled as kosher, pre-salted, or salt injected. Brining any of these will result in an over salted turkey.

In order to brine and roast a turkey, you need a few things:

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Brine Recipes, Tips, and Tricks

You’ll find a lot more information about how to brine, along with a variety of recipes, in the below posts.

Fresh Herb Citrus Brined Turkey combines lots of fresh herbs with a subtle hint of citrus.

Brining your turkey with this Apple Cider Sage Brined Turkey before smoking will not only infuses the meat with the delicious flavors of fresh apple cider and sage, but it will help keep the meat moist and tender.

Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Turkey Day.

This recipe for Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine is really simple and produces juicy, seasoned turkey meat. There is no soaking required!

Pro Tip #3 Don’t Stuff Your Smoked Turkey

I don’t recommend stuffing a turkey if you are smoking it.

Here’s why you shouldn’t stuff a smoked turkey:

  • Lower cooking temperatures that occur in smoking can cause the turkey to stay in the danger zone (40-140 degrees F) for too long if the bird is stuffed. The stuffing will not reach a high enough temperature to kill any bacteria.
  • Besides safety reasons, the heat, and smoke, needs to circulate freely throughout the bird for optimal flavor.
  • And lastly, your turkey will cook faster without a stuffed cavity.

How to Safely Stuff a Smoked Turkey

If you really love stuffing inside your turkey, there is a way to safely stuff a smoked turkey.

  1. First, prepare and cook the stuffing separately while the turkey smokes.
  2. Then, place the stuffing into the turkey once it is done smoking.

Pro Tip #4 Cook by Temperature Not Time

There are a few things to know about smoking your turkey, and an important keys to success is cooking by temperature.

Turkey smoking times vary depending on a variety of things, such as:

  • the size of the bird
  • internal temperature the bird when you begin
  • outdoor weather conditions (cold or windy days may cause your Traeger to run cooler)

So, it is better to have general time guidelines and specific temperature milestones to meet rather than cooking for x number of hours.

You avoid overcooked dry meat and undercooked unsafe meat when you use a digital probe meat thermometer. Place the probe in the thickest part of the breast before you begin cooking.

How long will it take to smoke a turkey? I need to plan my timelines!

For general guidelines, you can plan for approximately 45-55 minutes per pound of turkey for your total cook time. But, these are just guidelines.

Times will always vary due to individual smoker (does your smoker run hot or cold?), did you start with a cold turkey or a room temperature turkey?, and what is the weather like outside?

How to Smoke a Turkey and 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

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Turkey Smoking Temperatures and Times

  • Cook on Smoke (150-160 degrees F) for 3-4 hours
  • Raise temp to 225 -250 degrees F
  • Cook until the breast meat reads 165 degrees F at the thickest portion
  • Do not remove the probe until the turkey has rested for 20 – 30 minutes.

Some recipes I have seen recommend raising the temperature to 325 degrees F after the initial smoke phase. We prefer the way the turkey turns out when we cook it at 225 degrees F.

MY TURKEY FINISHED COOKING TOO EARLY – WHAT DO I DO?

First, don’t panic! There are plenty of solutions to troubleshoot a turkey that has cooked too fast!

If you’re meal time is in 2 hours or less:

  1. Place a disposable roasting tray inside a well insulated cooler.
  2. Then, place the finished turkey on the roasting tray.
  3. Close the cooler, and store until ready to serve (within a reasonable amount of time).

The cooler will act as a warming drawer for the turkey, and the juices will have plenty of time to redistribute while it rests.

If your turkey finished earlier than 2 hours too early, then you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Carve the breast meat, legs, and, thighs.
  3. Arrange the carved meat on a large serving platter.
  4. Cover the platter with foil. Transfer the platter to the refrigerator.
  5. Just prior to serving your meal, reheat the platter in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Pro Tip #5 Don’t Lift the Lid of Your Traeger

Heat and smoke escape every time you lift the lid. Just don’t do it. Your thermometer will tell you everything that you need to know.

Pro Tip #6 Don’t Make Panic Induced Adjustments

Perfect, tender, smoked turkey takes time. Don’t be impatient.

When smoking, meat can often experience a “stall.” It might seems like the thermometer is stuck at the same temperatures for hours at a time.

Don’t make the mistake of impatiently increasing the heat. Seriously, one of the worst things you can do is panic and make a bunch of rapid fire adjustments on your Traeger.

You think the turkey isn’t cooking fast enough, so you crank the temperature up. Then, you crank it down because it is cooking too fast.

Sound familiar? If the answer is yes, it is time to stop doing that.

How to Smoke a Turkey and 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

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Pro Tip #7 Finish the Smoked Turkey in the Oven

You can certainly keep the turkey on your Traeger Smoker until the breast meat reaches 165 degrees F.

I prefer another way. I’ve found that the best way to get a nice, brown, crispy skin on a smoked turkey is to pull it off the Traeger and finish the turkey in the oven.

How to Get a Crispy Skin on a Smoked Turkey

  1. When the turkey reaches 150 degrees F, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. At the turkey temperature of 155 degrees F, remove it from the smoker.
  3. Transfer to a roasting pan and roast in the 425 degree F oven until the temperature probe reads 165 degrees F in the breast meat.

Pro Tip #8 Let The Turkey Rest

I know, the last thing you want to do after spending ALL DAY smoking a turkey is to wait even longer before slicing in to it.

Let the turkey rest for 20 – 30 minutes before slicing into it for the best results. The turkey will be easier to cut and the meat will stay juicer. It is worth the wait.

Can I Make Gravy with Smoked Turkey Drippings?

Yes, you can. Place a wire rack inside of a disposable turkey roasting pan and smoke the turkey on that. That will allow air circulation on the underside of the turkey but still allow you to catch the drippings.

Adding in some turkey or chicken stock to the drippings to augment the amount would help lessen the smokiness if you are concerned about your gravy tasting too smokey.

For example, in this How to Make Turkey Gravy with Drippings post, I say that if you have 2 cups of drippings but you want 3 cups of gravy, you would need to add 1 cup of broth. Maybe something like that? I would love to hear how it turns out if you try it! I wish I was more help on this particular question!

Reader Reviews for this Smoked Turkey

“This was amazing! We did a trial run yesterday and it turned out fantastic! The breast was super juicy and the four hours of smoking penetrated deep. The meat was so flavorful. I brined it for 24 hours prior and used a roasting pan with it elevated on to allow airflow. I added some chicken stock to the bottom of the roasting pan to help keep moisture.  I didn’t account for the cold weather so it took about 40 minutes longer than I had planned.”

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If you are wondering how to roast a turkey, check out my Turkey Roasting Tips to learn more about the method that I like to use to roast my turkey. There are tons of hints, tips, and tricks for roasting a juicy, flavorful, and tender turkey.

Have you smoked a turkey before?

Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Turkey Day! Check out this recipe for lots of tips on how to brine and roast a turkey.

How to Smoke a Turkey on a Traeger

Yield: 1 -12 lb. turkey
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 9 hours
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours 30 minutes

Turkey Smoked on a Traeger is one of my favorite ways to cook turkey for Thanksgiving. Come check out my tried and true method along with my 8 pro tips for the best smoked turkey!

Ingredients

  • 12 pound Brined , Unstuffed Turkey (no more than 14 pounds)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the turkey brine according to your chosen recipe instructions.
  2. For a liquid brine, rinse and pat the turkey dry after the brine time. For a dry brine, there is no need to rinse (unless your recipe specifically tells you to). Simply pat it dry afterwards.
  3. Prepare your smoker to a low heat setting. On our Traeger, we use the "smoke" setting (around 150-160 degrees F) and we either use Oak, Hickory, Apple, Pecan or a blend of pellets for our wood.
  4. Transfer the turkey to the smoker, insert the probe of a digital meat thermometer that is safe for BBQing into the thickest part of the breast, and smoke on 150-160 degrees F for 3 - 4 hours.
  5. After 3 - 4 hours, Increase the temperature to 225 degrees F and continue to cook until the the meat thermometer registers 150 degrees F in the thickest portion of the breast.
  6. When the turkey reaches 150 degrees F, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  7. At the turkey temperature of 155 degrees F, transfer your turkey to an oven safe roasting pan and transfer it to the oven.
  8. Roast at 425 on the lower rack to crisp and brown the skin until the temperature probe inserted turkey breast reaches 165 degrees F.
  9. Remove the turkey from the smoker and let rest, loosely tented with foil, on a platter for 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Notes

This method can also be used with a whole chicken or a skin on turkey breast.

If you need more turkey than 14 pounds, it is best to use 2 smaller birds rather than going larger than 14 pounds.

General time guidelines:

45 minutes per pound for a starting timeline for planning purposes only. I really recommend using a probe thermometer, and if possible doing a test run before Thanksgiving.

Oops! Did the turkey finish too early?

  1. Place a disposable roasting tray inside a well insulated cooler.
  2. Then, place the finished turkey on the roasting tray.
  3. Close the cooler, and store until ready to serve (within a reasonable amount of time).

The cooler will act as a warming drawer for the turkey, and the juices will have plenty of time to redistribute while it rests.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 16 Serving Size 3/4 pound turkey
Amount Per Serving Calories 643Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 371mgSodium 350mgCarbohydrates 0gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 97g

GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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I’d love it if you let me know what you think! Snap a photo and tag me on Instagram at @goodlifeeats with the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

This recipe for Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine is full of flavor and will make your turkey shine on Thanksgiving! Dry brining a turkey is really simple and produces juicy, seasoned turkey meat.
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John Olson

Thursday 28th of November 2019

What’s the time frame that you mentioned for 40-140? How much is too long to go in that temp range?

Katie

Thursday 28th of November 2019

Cooking the turkey on the smoke setting for 3-4 hours (around 150 degrees) is safe for that time period. After that turn it up to 225. Having cold stuffing in the cold turkey while it is cooking on the smoke setting will prevent the turkey temperature from raising fast enough. If you want stuffing in the turkey always recommend waiting to add the stuffing to the bird until the end, once the turkey is at least measuring temperatures of 150 degrees in the breast portion. I also recommend that the stuffing be fully heated when you add it to the turkey so that the stuffing reaches high enough temps to be safe to eat after being in an uncooked turkey.

Elda

Wednesday 27th of November 2019

So you are saying it would be 12hrs of cook time  for an 18lb Turkey??  That seems preposterous!

Katie

Wednesday 27th of November 2019

Hi, when you're smoking a turkey the cooking temperature is only around 140-160 degrees F when cooking at the "smoke" setting. You cook on "smoke" for 3 - 4 hours first. After the smoke time, you raise the temperature only to 225 degrees F, so cook times are much slower than in the oven. If you would like a faster cooking time, feel free to cook your turkey on the Traeger at 225 the entire time and you can plan on approximately 30 minutes per pound. However, you won't have as much smoke flavor without the initial smoke period. If that's still to long for you, then I recommend roasting it traditionally in the oven.

James

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

Hello! Thank you so much for all this info. It is very helpful! Re: Stuffing. Would you suggest doing the stuffing during the oven period? or when the heat in the smoker is turned up?

Thank you!

Katie

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

Hi James, thanks for your kind words! I would suggest having the stuffing hot and ready to go just as the turkey finishes up the smoke period. Then, stuff it quickly (don't pack it too tightly) just before your put it in the oven. Make sure the breast meat cooks to 165 degrees F and it is also helpful to take a quick temp of the stuffing to make sure it is plenty hot as well. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Karen

Sunday 17th of November 2019

We are thinking about smoking a Turkey on our new Traeger grill for Thanksgiving.  I appreciate you sharing your recipe.  One question I have is concerning gravy.  If I capture the juices to make gravy, how does it taste in your opinion?  Is it too smoky and therefore I should find another way to get gravy or would you suggest trying it?

Katie

Monday 18th of November 2019

Hi, I personally have not made gravy from smoked turkey drippings. I think adding in some turkey or chicken stock to the drippings to augment the amount would help lessen the smokiness. For example, in this How to Make Turkey Gravy with Drippings post, I say that if you have 2 cups of drippings but you want 3 cups of gravy, you would need to add 1 cup of broth. Maybe something like that? I would love to hear how it turns out if you try it! I wish I was more help on this particular question!

Susan

Saturday 16th of November 2019

We just got a Traeger smoker a couple weeks ago. We've done hamburgers, whole chicken, and ribeyes on it. Amazing results! This will be our first Thanksgiving turkey on the Traeger though. Our plan is to go with two 11-ish-pound turkeys, brine them, season with herbs on the outside, and maybe do a butter-herb spread under the skin on the breasts. I think I'm going to elevate them on carrots and celery in a roasting pan. My question is what other people have asked, so I'm sorry for the redundancy. After the 3-4 hours on SMOKE, what is the estimated remaining time at 225 degrees? I don't really have the option to use my oven that day, so we will leave the birds on the Traeger the whole time. I'm thinking it's going to be another 2-3 hours. Thank you!

Katie

Sunday 17th of November 2019

Hi! For general guidelines, you can plan for approximately 45-55 minutes per pound of turkey for your total cook time. But, these are just guidelines. Times will always vary due to individual smoker (does your smoker run hot or cold?), did you start with a cold turkey or a room temperature turkey?, and what is the weather like outside? (windy or very cold days often yield longer cook times). I hope that helps!

If you find that throughout the day your turkey is cooking too fast, you can turn the temp down one notch to try to slow it, but don't make a lot of rapid fire adjustments in a row. Likewise if it really seems like it isn't going to cook fast enough, turn it up one notch. If after another hour it is still cooking way too fast you can try turning it down one more notch.

Here is some info for if your turkey finishes too early...

MY TURKEY FINISHED COOKING TOO EARLY – WHAT DO I DO? First, don’t panic! There are plenty of solutions to troubleshoot a turkey that has cooked too fast!

If you’re meal time is in 2 hours or less:

Place a disposable roasting tray inside a well insulated cooler. Then, place the finished turkey on the roasting tray. Close the cooler, and store until ready to serve (within a reasonable amount of time).

The cooler will act as a warming drawer for the turkey, and the juices will have plenty of time to redistribute while it rests.