Everything You Need to Know About Smoking a Turkey On a Pellet Grill

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Last Updated on April 20, 2021
Doug Stephen

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.

how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill

Turkey has traditionally been the Thanksgiving meal of choice since time immemorial. However, you can serve up this bird on any other special occasion, ranging from get-togethers to graduation parties. 

Even though many people prefer to bake their turkeys, one of the best, yet to be discovered ways to cook turkey meat is by smoking it. Smoking gives the turkey a deep, enriched flavor, and it makes the meat juicy while leaving the skin crispy.

You can smoke a turkey at home on any type of grill, but for purposes of this post, we are going to show you how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill.

1. Things you need to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill

The main advantage of smoking turkey meat on a pellet grill is that you don’t require any sophisticated equipment. You only need your meat, grill, and a few ingredients to get started. Here is a list of things that you need to gather before smoking a turkey.

  • Turkey meat

Turkey meat is the main and most important item you need for your smoked dish. Ideally, you should buy a turkey weighing about 15 pounds.

  • Pellets

Pellet grills use special wood pellets as fuel. No matter the size of your turkey, make sure you have an adequate supply of wood pellets. As you probably know, pellet grills make better smokers compared to other types of grills. You just need to add different wood pellets to the grill to obtain the flavor you want.

  • Thermometer/Meat probe

Smoking is a style of cooking that uses very low temperatures, and you need to monitor any changes to guarantee consistency and precision. You can only do so using a grill thermometer or a meat probe thermometer.

  • Seasoning ingredients

Smoking will give your turkey meat different smoky flavors depending on the type of pellets you use. However, this is not enough. You can add a different dimension to the flavor by using seasoning ingredients such as paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, and cayenne paper.

  • Drip pan

Depending on how you smoke your turkey, you should expect plenty of juice from the meat. A drip pan will come in handy in collecting all the juice dripping from the turkey meat.

2. Selecting a turkey for smoking

raw meat

You might not know this, but not any type of turkey meat is ideal for smoking. The bigger the meat, the more vulnerable it will be to bacteria. 

Since smoking involves cooking on low heat and it takes longer than other techniques, some parts of your turkey meat might not receive sufficient heat. This will leave them susceptible to contamination from bacteria and other pathogens. Considering this, it is safer and only logical that you choose a turkey that weighs less than 15 pounds.

Make sure the turkey defrosts fully before tossing it to your grill. If you purchase a frozen turkey, it might take up to 3 days to defrost fully.

3. How to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill – step by step guide

rubbing-the-chicken-with-oil

The process of smoking a turkey on a pellet grill can be confusing and overwhelming at the same time. This is particularly true if you are smoking a turkey for the first time. You may not know whether to brine your turkey or stuff it with carrots, apples, or celery. This guide will show you exactly what you need to do.

Step 1 – Defrost the turkey and remove the neck and giblets

If you purchased a frozen turkey, start by defrosting it overnight. It is best to defrost it in the refrigerator for food safety reasons and to avoid bacterial growth. Once the turkey is fully thawed, remove the neck and giblets and save them for your stock or gravy.

Step 2 – Brine your turkey

Brining is optional, but if you want to prepare juicy, smoky flavored turkey, then consider brining the meat. Mix half a cup of sugar and half a cup of salt in 4 quarts of water until fully dissolved, and then submerge your turkey in the solution for 12-14 hours.

Step 3 – Rinse with cold water

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with cold water. Next, pat it dry using paper towels.

Step 4 – Preheat your pellet grill

Add your favorite flavored wood pellets and preheat your pellet grill for about 15 minutes until the temperature reaches 225°F.

Step 5 – Transfer turkey to grill

Coat your turkey with your preferred seasonings and herbs such as canola oil, and then transfer it to the grill. Place the turkey on the cooking grate and cook over indirect heat. Allow the turkey to smoke for 2-4 hours, depending on the size while monitoring the temperature of the grill.

Step 6 – Measure the internal temperature of the meat

You can smoke your turkey for up to 6 hours, depending on its size. During this period, you should monitor the internal temperature of the meat regularly using a meat probe or an instant-read thermometer. The ideal temperature of the meat should be between 165°F and 170°F.

Step 7 – Remove turkey from grill

Once the desired temperature is attained, remove the turkey from the grill and place it on the countertop, ready for serving.

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

roasted chicken

You should allow your turkey to smoke for 2 ½ hours to 3 hours, depending on its size. If you are smoking a whole turkey that is heavier than 15 pounds, you should smoke it for up to 6 hours until the thigh and breast of the meat reach an internal temperature of between 165°F and 170°F.

5. What is the best temperature to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill?

food temperature

The best temperature for smoking your turkey should be between 250°F and 275° while the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat should be between 165°F and 170°F.

6. Should I stuff my turkey when smoking it on a pellet grill?

No – you should NOT stuff your pellet smoked turkey. The reason for this is to allow as much air and flavored smoke to flow around the dish instead of the stuffed ingredients absorbing the smoke.

Doug Stephen

Doug Stephen

Final Thoughts: 

If you want to impress your guests this Thanksgiving or any other special occasion, consider smoking a turkey on a pellet grill. Smoking is one of the most delicious ways of cooking turkey meat. The main advantage of this technique is that there’s very little to no chance of error, meaning you will never go wrong with smoking your turkey. 

Try it today and enjoy a dish of juicy, crispy turkey…