In this guide, we’ll teach you how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill and give you some insightful grilling tips.
Although you can theoretically smoke a turkey on all grills, a pellet grill is still the ideal option. It provides plenty of indirect heat with precise temp management. It also gives more smoke for a better flavor. In addition, you can smoke as slowly or as fast as you would like.
The perfect Thanksgiving turkey has dark crunchy skin and juicy meat with a distinct smoky taste. It doesn’t need too much effort to prepare – you can leave it out of sight and out of mind till it’s time to serve! And that’s possible once you figure out how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill.
What You’ll Need
1. Pellet Grill
Pellet grills use wooden pellets and a motor to control the amount of fuel fed into the grill. This system provides an accurate way to control the smoking temperature.
In addition, their fans use air convection to provide clean-burning while circulating warm, smoky air throughout the grill. If you can’t afford a professional smoker, you can also make do with a cheaper smoker-grill combo to get the best of both worlds.
2. Drip Pan
Turkey meat tends to be juicy, so you need a drip pan to catch all the drippage while holding the turkey. This drippage also works as a tasty turkey broth.
3. Hardwood Pellets
Pellets made of apple, hickory, and cherry wood provide a clean burn while adding a fruity flavor to your meat.
4. Thermal Probe
The only way to tell your turkey’s readiness is to maintain a constant check on its internal temperature.
You can opt for a marinade injector if you’d like to inject flavoring straight into the turkey. Other barbecue items include gloves (nitrile and heatproof), sauces, spices, et cetera.
Your prep work is crucial when you want to get the perfect smoked turkey. First, you need to get the right turkey size, weighing no more than 15 pounds. That is for technical and wellbeing reasons since a giant bird can take much more time to smoke through and give bacteria more time to accumulate.
Second, get a frozen turkey. You must give it two or three days in the refrigerator to thoroughly defrost to prevent bacterial overgrowth. Finally, you can get a pre-brined turkey to start smoking immediately. It saves time, but many retailers inject the turkeys with brine instead of soaking them. That leads to a soggy or a salty bird.
It is ideal for making your turkey brine to ensure that it has the right ingredients and juiciness. However, before the brine, extract the turkey neck and giblets from its cavity to use them with the drippings to make delicious gravy.
Brining immerses the turkey in a salt-sugar mixture to imbue flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. A salt solution works fine, but it’s ideal to use a half and half mix of salt and brown sugar to get the most flavor. Let the turkey brine in the combination for 12 to 14 hours to absorb all the sugar and salt.
You can add other things like spices to the solution for more flavor. Be open to experiments, but some more popular additions include peppercorns, garlic, basil, rosemary, and citrus peels. Bring the brine to a boil first, allow it to cool completely, and then put in your turkey. Throw away the brine following that.
The Main Prep
You still need to prepare a few more things before putting your turkey on the grill. First, wash the bird for a few minutes to eliminate excess brine, then dab it dry using a fresh cloth or paper towels.
While you’re doing that, you can preheat the pellet grill between 225 F and 250 F. When you initially put it on, give it three to five minutes for the first few puffs of white smoke to rise out until you get a clean burn, then close the cover and preheat the grill for 15 minutes.
While the grill is preheating, spread some oil or butter all over and under the turkey’s skin. That can help you crisp up the skin and color it stunningly while acting as glue for any other spices or rubs you want to use. Make sure to brush the oil or butter evenly over the entire turkey.
Finally, add in the remaining ingredients like garlic, lemon, thyme, seasoning, or turkey rub and rub the mixture on the entire turkey, in and out. Coat all of the turkey and end by binding the legs using butcher twine while tucking the turkey’s wings beneath its body.
If you want to inject your marinade instead, prepare the solution and insert it in five areas into the deepest sections of the turkey on either side. That allows the turkey to stay moist, although the difference won’t be as significant as you’d think.
How To Smoke Turkey In A Pellet Grill
1. Put The Bird Into The Pellet Grill
Put the turkey on a grilling pan with the breast right side up. Place that in the grilling pan to catch the drippage if you have a drip pan. Then, put your thermal probe into the thickest part of the meat, like the breast, while avoiding bones.
2. Smoke The Bird Till It’s At 165 F
You’ve smoked the turkey perfectly when the thickest part attains an internal temp ranging between 165 F and 170 F. The smoking time is flexible, but it can take 3.5 to 7 hours. Give the turkey around 20 minutes for every pound to smoke evenly, depending on the temperature you’re smoking.
- At 300 F, the turkey needs 15 to 20 minutes for every pound
- At 275 F, the turkey needs 20-25 minutes for every pound
- At 250 F, the turkey needs 25 minutes for every pound
- At 225 F, the turkey needs around 30 minutes for every pound
Remember that the longer you smoke the turkey, the more tender and smokier it gets. That said, it also gives a chance for bacteria to grow if you stay for too long at a lower temp range. But as long as your turkey is under 15 pounds, you don’t have to worry.
If you want to have an extra crunch, you can check on the bird every hour and paint it over with butter or oil. You can also check if the turkey is still juicy at each interval. If you think that it is becoming dry, add a half cup of water into the grilling pan to add moisture to the grill.
Keep these checkup intervals to a minimum, though, since opening the cover can reduce the temperature by 50 F, affecting the smoking time and flavor.
3. Allow The Bird 15 Minutes Of Rest And Serve
Once your thermal probe shows the turkey is at the ideal internal temperature, you can remove the bird from the grill and wrap it in aluminum foil. Give it 15 minutes to rest, whereby it continues smoking inside while absorbing moisture for some juiciness.
Finally, carve the bird and serve! You can also use your gravy from the drippings earlier as a nice side sauce or dressing.
Keep reading: How Long to Smoke a 20lb Turkey at 300 Degrees?
Smoking a turkey is one of the best ways to bring your friends and family together to eat some tasty food on Thanksgiving. But unfortunately, electric and gas ovens don’t come near the exceptional flavor you get from a pellet grill.
Once you master how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill, you can impress your guests every year. Bear in mind the turkey’s internal temp and moisture, and prep three of the essential parts to smoke the perfect turkey.