How to Smoke a Turkey on a Pellet Grill

Turkey in a pan

Get one of our review cooking glovesWhen many people think of turkey, they think about Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. This fowl is suitable for more than just special occasions. As long as you have a pellet grill, you can make your own delicious smoked turkey from scratch.

Pellet grills use wood pellets to impart a rich and smoky flavor into any type of meat. You can use different types of wood pellets to give your bird a deeper and more intense flavor or to add slightly sweet flavor to the finished product. Using the tips and steps laid out in this article will help you smoke up the perfect bird. Before you start cooking, you need to use the right equipment for the job. Get one of our best reviewed cooking gloves.

To Brine or Not to Brine

To brine or not to brine, that is the question. Though you can skip the brine when using your kitchen oven, you should really use a brine when using a smoker. This adds more moisture to the bird and keeps the turkey from drying out as it cooks.

You will need at least three gallons of water and a waterproof container. Though some people use a simple plastic bucket, others use a cooler. Make sure that the interior is clean to keep the turkey from picking up odors and flavors.

When making your brine, you can use any of the spices and flavors that your family likes. Garlic and cayenne are among the more popular options. Once you have your brine whipped up, you can add your turkey to the container.

Keep the container in a cool location overnight. You may want to make room in your refrigerator for it or just keep it outside in the snow. Before using your grill, give the turkey a pat down to remove all traces of the brine.

Using a Pellet Grill

Set your pellet grill to a temperature of at least 275 degrees Fahrenheit. You may want to increase the temperature to 300 or 325 to ensure that the inside cooks all the way through.

Place the turkey inside a disposable aluminum pan. Though you can place it right on the grates, using an aluminum pan keeps the turkey from drying out. Turn the turkey over to the breast side facing up.

Placing the bird breast side up is important because this is the thickest part of the turkey. If you cook it breast face down, you risk undercooking the bird.

Set your timer for 90 minutes. Once the timer goes off, turn the heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the bird cook for another 60 to 90 minutes to impart the smoke flavor that you want and to ensure that the turkey cooks through.

Using two different temperature settings gives the bird a crisp skin that your dinner guests will love.
Check the internal temperature of the bird with either the temperature probes on your grill or a simple meat thermometer. The bird is done and ready to come off the grill when it reaches a temperature of at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird.

Choosing Your Pellets

You can use any type of wood pellet in your smoker when smoking a turkey. Using a wood like a pecan adds a more savory flavor to the bird. A sweeter fruity wood like cherry gives the bird a slightly sweet taste.

Choosing a sweeter wood can tone down the spices that you add to your brine. This creates an almost sweet and sour taste that works together on your tongue. You can also use a combination of your favorite wood pellets.

Using Other Flavors

Before putting your turkey on the pellet grill, you might consider using some other flavors. You can use a spice rub made of your favorite spices that you rub right on the breast. As the turkey cooks, the flavor gets deep inside the meat.

You may want to use a flavor injection too. Many companies make liquid products that come with an injection kit. This is a great option when smoking a larger turkey because the liquid keeps the bird from drying out as it smokes and helps each bite taste the same.

The most important thing to keep in mind when smoking a turkey is that you should set it and forget it. Opening the door to check on its progress cools down the inside of the grill and will increase your cooking time. Moving the bird around on the grates will also add to your cook time.

To make the perfect smoked turkey on a wood pellet smoker, use a brine to add moisture and choose a temperature in the 300-degree range. You’ll get a bird that everyone will love.