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Free up the oven and smoked a turkey on the grill! Everything you need to know about smoking a turkey plus a savory smoked turkey rub recipe. You may also love my grandma’s turkey stuffing.
Smoked Turkey Rub
This summer we received a Traeger wood pellet grill and we’ve been LOVING smoking every kind of meat, especially our whole smoked chicken with bbq rub! I knew we had to try turkey…because freeing up the oven on Thanksgiving or Christmas mornings for all of those amazing side dishes is exactly what I need.
Easy Smoked Turkey
Smoking a turkey can be as easy as you need it to be. There are more complex recipes out there, but I started smoking turkeys by using a smoked turkey rub on the outside of the bird and popping it in the smoker. No brining, no prep work…if you’re new to smoking meats, this is one of the easiest ways to do turkey.
How to Prepare a Smoked Turkey
Here are some hints for having a smoked turkey with a crispy skin:
Wash and dry the turkey. Use paper towels to blot the skin of the turkey dry. I’ve even read to store the turkey washed and uncovered in the fridge overnight so it has time to for the skin to fully dry. I don’t worry about it that much, but putting the turkey in the oven with a dry skin helps keep the skin crispy.
Mix up a spiced smoked turkey rub. We share one of our favorite rub recipes below. It’s a little different than your traditionally flavored turkey dinner, but it is so, so good. Savory, little spiced.
Rub the spice mix all over the turkey. The breasts…the legs…anywhere you can see skin, that’s where you want to gently rub the spice in.
And that’s it! That’s all it takes to prep your turkey for smoking.
How to Smoke a Turkey on a Traeger
You can smoke a turkey in an electric smoker, charcoal smoker or whatever type of smoker you happen to have, but we love our Traeger wood pellet grill. See the one we have here.
Open the lid of the grill and set to “Smoke”.
Once the grill fire has been lit (about 5 minutes later), turn the grill to 250 degrees.
Place the turkey either directly on the grill grates or place it in a large pan and then on the grill. We like to use a pan because we use those turkey drippings to make a delicious gravy.
Close the lid and allow the turkey to cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You should insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. Be sure the probe isn’t touching the bone.
Once the turkey is at the correct temperature, remove it from the grill and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before cutting.
**You may baste the turkey with juice drippings or brush the skin with oil if you’d like.
**You can also cover the turkey with foil to help seal in moisture, but the skin won’t get quite as crispy this way.
What flavor wood chips for smoking turkey?
We like to use wood chips with a slightly sweet flavor such as apple, apricot, cherry, peach or maple. Hickory is stronger but is always a classic! Mesquite also goes well with turkey.
How long does it take to smoke a turkey?
It’s good to plan 30 minutes per pound when you smoke a turkey between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Our turkey was 13 pounds and took about 6 ½ hours in the smoker to reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
**We LOVE our Thermoworks ThermaPen to quickly test meat temperatures. This probe thermometer is AMAZING. Get it here.**
Wash the turkey, remove the giblets and neck, then pat the turkey dry.
Mix together all of the dried spices in a small bowl.
Pat the spices all over the skin of the turkey.
Cover the turkey with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30 minutes while the smoker comes to temperature.
**Follow the manufacturer's instructions for preheating your smoker. See the above instructions for a Traeger grill. **
Set the smoker temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the plastic wrap. Place the turkey in a foil pan and place it on the grill.
Close the grill lid and allow the turkey to cook for 30 minutes per pound. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (making sure it is not touching bone) to read the internal temperature. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the turkey from the smoker and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
**If you'd like, you can baste the turkey a few times during cooking with the juices, or brush it with oil.
The calories for this recipe are auto-calculated and include dividing the whole turkey into 12 parts. It's likely that there will be less calories, and you can definitely lower the calories by not eating the skin.
I did an overnight brine, patted dry, rubbed the entire turkey, including gently under the skin and a bit in the cavity, put one chunky cubed ambrosia apple and a peeled and cut up lemon in the cavity then onto the smoker. About 1.5 hrs in, I basted with a lemon, butter and olive oil mixture I heated in the microwave first, then basted every 45 minutes till done. It was a 13 lb. turkey so 5 hrs on about 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit was perfect. Don’t open the smoker often, only for basting. It was finicky keeping the temperature constant… Read more »
do you have guidelines on making it in the oven instead?
Can you add butter to the skin first?
This may be a stupid question but can this recipe be used on a frozen fully cooked smoked turkey (that’s all our grocery store had left)? Any help would be appreciated, this recipe looks wonderful!
Quick, easy, and turned out beautifully!