Juicy, tender, crispy skin and packed full of flavor, this Traeger smoked turkey will quickly become the star of the feast. This is the time of year when many of us put on our chef hats to prepare a full holiday feast. This Traeger turkey recipe with smoked turkey gravy will be the most delicious and easiest smoked turkey you have ever made.
There are several reasons to smoke your turkey, but there are two main ones that jump out.
The first reason is that you want a flavorful, crispy-skinned, juicy turkey. Well then, smoke it, it will add all of that and more to your whole turkey.
The second reason and this one pops up a lot around the holidays in my house, is you don't have room in the oven to roast it. That Thanksgiving Turkey takes up a lot of space in the oven.
Between the pies and desserts we make as well as the host of side dishes, if there is any way to free up the oven from having to cook everything, we take it. Your Traeger grill or smoker can achieve this for you.
- Small or Medium Turkey (fresh or fully thawed) - If you go with too large of a turkey, low and slow on the smoker will not work as well and you risk being in the dangerous temperature for bacteria to be created in the food. It is going to take approximately 30 minutes per pound to smoke the turkey at 225°. You don't want a large turkey sitting in the smoke for more than about 6 hours. We aren't using a turkey brine in this recipe, but you could if you have a favorite.
- Melted Butter - You can also use oil. The butter will help to crisp the skin as it cooks. It gives it a nice golden color in the smoker as well.
- Salt and Pepper - I season the inside and outside of the turkey with kosher salt and black pepper. You can be generous with this seasoning. As the turkey cooks, the juices will take the salt and pepper and run down the sides and perfectly coat the skin for that flavorful bite.
- Fresh Herbs - We used sage and rosemary because we have them growing off the deck. You can just put large clippings right into the cavity of the turkey. You could also use thyme or any of your favorites.
- Apples - I wanted to put something sweet and juicy into the turkey's cavity. I halved the apples and they will then steam as they cook releasing the sweet moisture up into the meat of the bird. This helps create a juicy tender turkey. If you want to add a halved onion or some garlic cloves, you could do that as well.
- Wood - I used pecan pellets for this Traeger turkey. But I also enjoy mixing different wood pellets or wood chips if I am not using my pellet smoker. Hickory or oak and cherry blend could be nice as well. Feel free to experiment with some of your favorites.
How to Smoke a Whole Turkey
Step 1 - Remove any giblets and neck from the turkey's cavities. Rinse the turkey well, inside and out. With a paper towel, pat dry the turkey and place it on a large cooking sheet.
Step 2 - Season the inside the cavities well with salt and pepper. Place apple halves and fresh herbs inside the cavities. Next, rub the outside of the bird with melted or softened butter. I rub the melted butter all over the outside of the turkey making sure to get into any of the skin folds around the legs and wings.
Step 3 - Place turkey on the preheated smoker. I use an internal temperature probe that you want to put into the thickest part of the turkey breast to gauge the temperature as it cooks. Let the turkey smoke at 225°F until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. This will take approximately 30 minutes per pound. I had an 11 pound turkey, it took just over 5 hours. If you aren't using a Traeger or a grill that has a steady temperature, I recommend having a thermometer that can give you a constant read on the internal grill temperature.
- Place an aluminum foil pan on the rack under the bird so it can catch the drippings. You will definitely want to serve some smoked turkey gravy with your meal!
- When smoking a turkey on a Traeger or any other smoker low and slow, heavily coating the skin with butter before smoking will give you good crispy skin.
Step 4 - Once the turkey has an internal final temperature of 165°F throughout, remove it from the smoker and let it rest 20 minutes before carving and serving it. I recommend using an instant read thermometer and taking a few different measurements from the smoked turkey to ensure it is evenly cooked all around. If you plan to rest it longer than 20 minutes, you can loosely tent it with foil. Don't wrap it tightly with foil, because the collected moisture will then make the skin less crispy.
Tips when smoking a Turkey
Any time you are smoking something low and slow, constant and consistent temperature is key. You can't keep opening the lid of the smoker to take a look at it. Every time you do, the heat escapes and it takes several minutes to get back to temperature. So keep the lid closed.
Turkeys tend to drip a lot of juice. I always put a pan under the grill grate in the smoker. It does two things, it keeps my smoker from getting covered in turkey juice. It also collects the juice so that I can make a smokey flavor gravy for the meal. Place the pan under your turkey and put about 2 to 3 cups of water in it so that the turkey drippings don't just burn off in the heat of the smoker.
Why smoke a turkey on a Traeger?
Great question. You can follow these instructions to smoke your turkey in whatever smoker you own. The key is time and temperature. If you can hold a low and slow 225 degrees, you'll be fine with your smoker. There is a benefit to smoking a turkey on a pellet grill. That benefit is the set it and forget it with the heat and temperature.
If you are using a stick burner, you have to do some babysitting and turkey dinners are always a bit more elaborate at my house. With a brisket dinner, my attitude is let's smoke that bad boy and dive in, it is all about brisket that day. Turkey dinners, there are usually several other side dishes that we are trying to complete and once I know I prepped the bird and he is smoking away, it gives me a peaceful 4+ hours to work on some of the other items for the meal.
Carving a smoked turkey
For presentation reasons, you can take the turkey off the smoker and place it in your favorite roasting pan for the wow factor pictures. If you are putting a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner spread together, the whole turkey does look impressive.
If you want to carve the turkey and make it easy to serve especially for those people who may be hunting for dark or white meat, I recommend first taking the turkey breasts off and slicing them. I take my carving knife and just follow the backbone down until the breast comes off. I then place it on the cutting board and make nice thick slices so that each piece gets some of the crispy skin. Once the breasts are off, it is easy to remove the wings, legs and get to the dark meat. I usually serve a platter of white meat and another with dark.
Best side dishes to go with smoked turkey recipe
We are working on a whole Thanksgiving feast this year and have some amazing recipes already with more to come!
- Smoked Baked Potatoes - coming soon!
- Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Foil Packet Potatoes
- Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad
- Cranberry Sauce
- Apple Cherry Crumble
- Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake
Best ways to use leftover turkey
- 11 lbs turkey fresh or thawed
- 3 tablespoon salted butter
- 3 tablespoon salt kosher salt
- 2 tablespoon black pepper freshly ground
Smoked Turkey Gravy
- 1.5 cups pan drippings (add chicken or turkey broth if you do not have enough)
- 2 tablespoon white wine
- 1 tablespoon flour or ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Remove the giblets and any other pieces from the two cavities of your fresh or completely thawed whole turkey
- Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel and place dried turkey on large cooking sheet.
- Rub the outside of the turkey with melted butter. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. If you wish to put any fruit or vegetables in the cavity for added flavor you can do that as well.
- Place turkey in preheated smoker, directly on grill grate, and smoke at 225°F until the internal temperature of the turkey, as measured in the thickest part, reaches 165°F. Place a pan on the rack under the turkey to catch the drippings.
- Once the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165°F remove it from the smoker and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Carve, serve and enjoy your Traeger smoked turkey.
Smoked Turkey Gravy
- Add the drippings to a small saucepan. Combine the white wine with flour or xanthan gum. Mix into the drippings and bring to a simmer. It should only take a few minutes for the gravy to thicken. Season with pepper (and salt, if needed).