How to Smoke a Turkey on a Pellet Grill

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Smoking a turkey on a pellet grill is a fantastic way to enhance your bird’s flavor and ensure a tender, juicy centerpiece for a memorable feast. This method provides a delicious, smoky taste and evenly cooked meat, thanks to the consistent temperature control a pellet grill offers.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through selecting, prepping, and cooking your turkey on a pellet grill, as well as providing expert tips for the perfect smoked bird.

Selecting a Turkey

When selecting a turkey for smoking on a pellet grill, it’s essential to choose one that’s fresh or thoroughly thawed if previously frozen. A turkey weighing between 12 to 14 pounds is ideal, as larger birds may cook unevenly and take longer to reach a safe internal temperature, while smaller ones might dry out.

Organic, free-range turkeys typically yield a more flavorful and juicy end result. If you prefer a specific brand or type of turkey, be sure to factor in the time needed for pre-ordering, especially during the holiday season.

Ingredients and Preparation

To prepare your turkey for smoking, gather the necessary ingredients, including your choice of spices, herbs, and a suitable brine solution. Ensure your turkey is completely thawed and remove any giblets or excess fat. Rinse your turkey well under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Once dry, it’s time to start the brining process – this will help to achieve a tender, flavorful, and juicy smoked turkey on your pellet grill.

Brining the Turkey

Before cooking your turkey on the pellet grill, you’ll want to brine it first. Brining is the process of soaking your bird in a saltwater solution for about 12-24 hours, which helps lock in moisture and ensures a flavorful and tender result. To make a simple brine, dissolve 1 cup of kosher salt and 1 cup of brown sugar in 1 gallon of water. You may also add your choice of herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, and some crushed garlic for extra flavor.

Once your brine solution is ready, submerge the turkey completely, cover, and let it sit in the refrigerator for the recommended time. When brining is complete, remove the turkey from the solution and thoroughly rinse it with cold water to remove any excess salt before proceeding with seasoning and smoking.

Seasoning the Turkey

After your turkey has been brined, it’s time to add some extra flavor with seasoning. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel and brush it with melted butter or oil. This will help the seasoning stick and add extra moisture during the cooking process.

You can use a simple salt and black pepper seasoning or experiment with your favorite herbs and spices. For best results, don’t be shy to generously rub the seasoning mixture all over the turkey, including under the skin and inside the cavity.

Preparing the Pellet Grill

Now that your turkey is seasoned and ready to cook, it’s time to prepare your pellet grill. Start by ensuring your grill grates are clean and free of any debris from previous grilling sessions. This will help minimize sticking and ensure even cooking. If your pellet grill has a built-in grease management system, make sure it’s empty and ready to catch drippings during the smoking process.

Next, choose your preferred wood pellets for smoking the turkey. Popular choices include a blend of hickory, maple, and cherry pellets, or mesquite pellets for a stronger, bolder flavor. Fill your pellet hopper with enough pellets to last the entire cooking process, bearing in mind that the smoking time for a turkey can be quite long (around 30 minutes per pound).

Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F (107°C). This low and slow temperature will ensure that your turkey is tender, moist, and full of a smoky flavor. Once the grill has reached the desired temperature, place a water or drip pan underneath the grate on which the turkey will be placed. This will promote a moist cooking environment and catch any drippings, preventing flare-ups.

In the meantime, let your turkey sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before placing it on the grill. This will help the bird cook more evenly and achieve better smoke penetration. When the grill is ready and the turkey has rested, it’s time to proceed to the next step: smoking your delicious turkey on a pellet grill.

marinaded turkey & pork loin on grill

Smoking the Turkey

Now that your pellet grill is all set and preheated, it’s time to get that turkey smoking! Start by placing the turkey directly on the grill grates, breast side up. If you prefer, you may use a roasting pan to keep the bird elevated from the grates. This will help with air circulation and even cooking.

Close the lid and let the turkey smoke for about three to four hours at 225°F, or until it reaches an internal temperature of approximately 130°F. Keep the grill temperature consistent throughout the smoking process by periodically checking it and adjusting the vents if needed. Remember that opening the grill too often will cause fluctuations in temperature, so try to limit how often you peek at your turkey.

When the internal temperature reaches 130°F, increase the temperature of your pellet grill to 325°F for the remainder of the cooking time. This will help the skin turn crispy and golden brown while the inside remains juicy and tender.

Depending on the size of your turkey, the total cooking time will vary. Generally, you can expect about 20 minutes per pound, so plan accordingly. Even though we keep mentioning the importance of internal temperature, remember that this is only an estimation and should not replace a proper temperature check with a meat thermometer.

Checking Internal Temperature

To ensure your turkey is cooked to perfection, regularly check its internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest parts of the meat, avoiding the bone. The safe internal temperature for turkey is 165°F (74°C).

You may want to begin checking the temperature after about two to three hours of smoking and continue monitoring until the turkey reaches the desired temperature. Patience is key—never rely on the appearance of the meat alone as a gauge of doneness.

Resting and Carving the Turkey

Once your turkey has reached the desired internal temperature, remove it from the pellet grill and transfer it to a cutting board. Tent it loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes. This essential step helps the juices redistribute, ensuring a moist and flavorful turkey. After the resting period, it’s time to carve your perfectly smoked masterpiece. Start by removing the leg quarters, then slice the breast meat, and finally the wings. Serve your delectable, smoked turkey to your eagerly awaiting guests and enjoy the delicious flavors produced by your pellet grill.

Pellet Grill Flavor Options

Pellet grills offer various wood pellet options for adding unique, delicious flavors to your smoked turkey. Common wood pellet choices include hickory, mesquite, apple, and cherry. Hickory provides a traditional, hearty smoky flavor that works well with turkey, while mesquite adds a more intense, robust taste. Apple and cherry, on the other hand, impart a more subtle, fruity smoke essence to the meat. Experiment with different pellets or even a combination to find the perfect flavor profile for your smoked turkey. Be mindful of pellet quality — select only all-natural wood pellets without additives for the best results.

Safety Tips and Tricks

When smoking a turkey on a pellet grill, always follow safety guidelines to prevent accidents. Keep children and pets away from the grill and don’t leave it unattended while cooking. Ensure there’s ample ventilation and don’t allow grease to accumulate on the grill grates to minimize flare-ups. Use heat-resistant gloves when handling the grill or hot cooking utensils. Lastly, always have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case of emergencies.


Smoking a turkey on a pellet grill is an enjoyable and delicious way to prepare your holiday centerpiece. By following the outlined steps and guidelines, you’ll ensure a mouthwatering, tender, and flavorful bird that your family and friends will rave about.

The key aspects include selecting a quality turkey, proper preparation through brining and seasoning, using the right type of wood pellets for your desired flavor, and keeping a close eye on internal temperatures.

Remember to also practice safety precautions while using your pellet grill. With time and practice, you’ll master the art of smoking a turkey that is sure to impress at any gathering. Happy grilling!

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