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Traeger Smoked Turkey

Traeger smoked turkey is a showstopper for any meal. Learn how to smoke an amazing Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey on your Traeger, pellet grill or electric smoker.

Kevy and I did our annual deep freeze inventory and re-org last weekend. He's such an overachiever, even made me draw a location map to tape to the outside! Ha!

He pulled out a frozen turkey I had picked up a few months ago and said "Honey! I didn't know we had another turkey. We gotta smoke this mofo."

He started reminiscing about the other turkeys we've smoked and was sincerely offended when I reminded him that I still haven't shared our smoked turkey recipe. That was it. The wheels were in motion and I am sharing the goodness!

This Traeger smoked turkey recipe is dedicated to rectifying that oversight!

Smoked turkey in a roasting pan.

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Tips + tricks

No. 1 --> Plan ahead! This recipe requires 2 days of brine time. We want to have plenty of time to cook this bad boy and less stress, so please plan ahead!

No. 2 --> To keep the bird submerged in the brine, I like to place an upside down plate on top of the turkey, then place a bowl on top the plate that is just barely tall enough to touch the lid of my brining pail. This will keep everything in the brine!

No. 3 --> Start this recipe with a thawed or mostly thawed bird. The turkey will thaw in the brine, but we don't want to introduce too much extra water to our brine. You can quickly thaw a wrapped turkey in cold water in the sink.

No. 4 --> When carving your smoked turkey, place a large cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet, this will capture all the juices and not only save the mess, but be perfect for gravy makin!

Sliced smoked turkey breast.

Ingredients

Check out the printable recipe card below for quantities!

Smoked drumsticks.

How to smoke a turkey on a Traeger

Day 1:

  1. Mix the turkey brine: Combine the warm water with the sugar and salt and stir vigorously until both are completely dissolved. Once the sugar and salt are dissolved, add the garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and the orange zest. Then add the cold water. I have a 3-gallon brining bucket that I use and it's perfect!
  2. Prep the bird: Open the turkey package and pluck any rogue feathers and give it a good rinse under cold water. Remove the giblets, then place the turkey into the brine. Place an upside-down plate overtop the turkey to keep it submerged in the brine. I like to put a plate and then a short bowl on top. The bowl pushes on the lid of my brine bucket and keeps that turkey right in the brine.
  3. Chill the brine: Place the lid on your brining bucket or pot, or cover with plastic wrap, then place it in the fridge for 48 hours.

Day 2:

  1. Stir the brine: Move around your turkey and give the brine a little stir. Recover and return to the fridge.
  2. Dream about turkey: Since there is minimal work to do during the second day, you're left dreaming about the turkey. I like to use this day to plan my side dish recipes.

Day 3:

  1. Preheat the smoker: fire up the Traeger or whatever you've got to 185f.
  2. Rinse the bird: Carefully lift the bird out of the brine, and rinse it well under cold running water, ensuring to rinse the cavity as well. We want to remove as much salty brine from the surface of the turkey as possible. At this point, if your turkey is trussed, untruss it.
  3. Prepare the bird: Prepare your turkey for smoking by patting the skin completely dry and allowing it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Just before smoking, rub the entire skin with butter or oil.
  4. Smoke the bird: Place the prepared turkey, breast side up, directly on the middle rack of your smoker. Place a drip pan below the turkey with about 1" of water in it, to keep the smoker moist. We're going to smoke the bird at 185f for 2 hours before increasing the temperature to 325f. Smoke the turkey for approximately 20 minutes per pound. The turkey is done when the thickest part of the breast and thigh reach 165 degrees fahrenheit, if the thigh is higher, closer to 175f, that's ok, as it tastes best cooked a little higher!
    * If your smoker does not have 2 racks, place a raised rack inside a baking sheet and put a small amount of water in the cookie sheet. Don't allow the water to touch the bird!
  5. Rest the bird: Pull the turkey from the smoker, place on a v-rack inside a roaster if you have one or simply leave the bird on the raised rack and rest uncovered 15-20 minutes before carving.
  6. Serve the Traeger Turkey: When carving a turkey, I like to deconstruct the bird rather than carve directly on the bone. Remove the breasts, drums, wings, thighs, then serve each piece as you like. It's much easier that way.

Why brine?

Do you have to brine the turkey? No, most certainly not. Should you brine the turkey? Yes, you most certainly should.

Brining the turkey helps to infuse flavor into the meat while also helping to keep the meat tender and moist. Nothing's worse than a dry turkey - so trust me, and brine that bad boy!

Brine ingredients.

How long does it take to smoke a turkey?

Each turkey will be different from the last, and as with any meat, the cook needs to keep their eye on the internal temperature more than the clock.

The general rule of thumb is that turkey takes 15 minutes per pound at 325f. Because we are cooking the turkey lower for the first two hours of the cook, I've found it cooks in roughly 20 minutes per pound.

10 lb x 20 minutes = 200 minutes / 60 minutes = 3.33 hours.

This formula was bang on for our 10 lb'er. It was done in 3 hours and 20 minutes.

3 cuts of traeger smoked turkey in a dish.

My turkey is cooking too fast!

Brined turkeys tend to cook faster than a non- brined turkey! That said, if your bird is cooking too fast or done before you're ready to serve, you have a few options:

  1. Turn down the temperature of your smoker. 275-300f, that should slow the cooking process.
  2. Pull the cooked bird off the smoker, place it in as small of a baking dish as it will fit into and tent with foil. Then line a cooler with old towels and set the turkey on top of the towels. This will keep it hot and stall most of the cooking.
Skin and meat pulling away from the leg bone.

My turkey is cooking too slow!

This is unlikely to happen, as I mentioned earlier, brined turkeys cook faster than regular turkeys, but if it does, this is not a crisis! Here's what to do:

  1. Increase the temperature in your smoker. Start slow - increase to 350f and see how the internal temperature of your turkey reacts.
  2. If the first step doesn't fix the problem, wrap your turkey in tin foil, and increase the temperature of your smoker to 425f until cooked.
Smoked traeger turkey in a roaster.

To truss or not to truss

My cooking show hero, and fellow Canuck, Matty Matheson taught me to open up a bird. "Let that shit air out" were his exact words. From that moment on, Kevy and I never trussed a bird again.

Cooking a bird breast side up with the legs open allows the air to circulate all around the legs. This not only results in a better, consistently crispy skin, it also regulates the cooking time better. It allows the thighs to cook at the same time as the breast, avoiding dry over cooked parts and barely cooked other parts.

Perfectly smoked turkey on a traeger.

What to serve with smoked turkey:

Smoker

I have, and love, and use extensively, a Traeger Timberline 1300. I have zero qualms with recommending this unit to anyone looking to purchase a smoker. We absolutely love ours!

3 gallon bucket with lid

Get yourself a 3 - 3.5 gallon food safe bucket with a lid, I can guarantee this won't be the last turkey you smoke!

Golden skinned smoked turkey.

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📖 Printable Recipe

Sliced smoked turkey breast.
Yield: 1

Smoked Turkey

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Brine Time: 2 days
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 2 days 5 hours 20 minutes

Smoke your turkey for a tender, moist turkey that the oven will never be able to duplicate! Learn how to brine and how to smoke your turkey.

Ingredients

Brine:

  • 2 liters warm filtered water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 10 cloves garlic, coarsely sliced
  • 5 bay leaves
  • Zest of 2 navel oranges
  • 6 liters cold filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Turkey

  • 1 ~10lb turkey
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Instructions

Day 1:

  1. Combine the warm water with the sugar and salt and stir vigorously until both are completely dissolved. Once the sugar and salt are dissolved, add the garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and the orange zest. Then add the cold water. I have a 3-gallon brining bucket that I use and it's perfect
  2. Open the turkey package and pluck any rogue feathers and give it a good rinse under cold water. Remove the giblets, then place the turkey into the brine. Place an upside-down plate or weight overtop the turkey to keep it submerged in the brine.
  3. Place the lid on your brining bucket or pot, or cover with plastic wrap, then pop it in the fridge for 48 hours.

Day 2:

  1. Stir the brine, and rotate the turkey a bit in the brine.

Day 3

  1. Fire up the Traeger or whatever you've got to 185f, and allow it to preheat while you're preparing the bird.
  2. Carefully lift the bird out of the brine, and rinse it well under cold running water, ensuring to rinse the cavity as well. Remove as much salty brine from the surface of the turkey as possible. At this point, if your turkey is trussed, untruss it.
  3. Prepare your turkey for smoking by patting the skin completely dry and allowing it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Just before smoking, rub the entire skin with butter or oil.
  4. Place the prepared turkey, breast side up, directly on the middle rack of your smoker. Smoke the turkey at 185f for 2 hours before increasing the temperature to 325f. The turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast and thighs reach 165f. Fill a drip pan or chafing pan with 1" of water and place it on the bottom rack of the smoker, alternatively, if you don't have a second rack in your smoker, place the turkey on a raised wire rack and place it on top a baking sheet with a small amount of water in it. Don't let the water touch the turkey.
  5. Pull the turkey from the smoker and rest the turkey uncovered either on a v-rack inside a roaster or on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. When carving a turkey, I like to deconstruct the bird rather than carve directly on the bone. Remove the breasts, drums, wings, thighs, then carve each piece as you like. It's much easier that way. Place a large cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet when carving your turkey, this will capture all the juices for gravy and save a huge mess.



Notes

Turkey cooking times:


The average turkey will take about 15 minutes per lb at 325f. We are starting a bit lower in temperature, so guestimate 20 minutes per pound.

10 lb X 20 minutes = 200 minutes / 60 minutes per hour = 3.33 hours.

Turkey cooking too fast:

Brined turkeys tend to cook faster than a non- brined turkey! That said, if your bird is cooking too fast or done before you're ready to serve, you have a few options:

  1. Turn down the temperature of your smoker. 275-300f, that should slow the cooking process.
  2. Pull the fully cooked bird off the smoker, place it in as small of a baking dish as it will fit into and tent with foil. Then line a cooler with old towels and set the turkey on top of the towels. This will keep it hot and stall most of the cooking.

Turkey cooking too slow:

This is unlikely to happen, as I mentioned earlier, brined turkeys cook faster than regular turkeys, but if it does, this is not a crisis! Here's what to do:

  1. Increase the temperature in your smoker. Start slow - increase to 350f and see how the internal temperature of your turkey reacts.
  2. If the first step doesn't fix the problem, wrap your turkey in tin foil, and increase the temperature of your smoker to 425f until cooked.


Leftover turkey:


Leftover turkey can be kept in the fridge tightly covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 5 days. It can be kept in the freezer in a freezer bag or vacuum-sealed bag for up to 6 months.


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