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A large turkey with a temperature probe sitting on a grill grate of a smoker.

Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

How to brine, prepare and smoke a turkey on a pellet grill. The key is to first brine the bird, cover it in a butter, garlic, and herb spread. Finally, smoke and cook to perfection.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 hrs
Cook Time 5 hrs
Brine 1 d
Total Time 2 d 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

For the Brine

  • 8 Cups Water
  • 1.5 Cups Kosher Salt
  • 4 Garlic Cloves Roughly Chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Black Pepper
  • ¼ Cup Worcestershire
  • ½ Cup Brown Sugar

Butter Compound

  • ½ Cup Butter Softened
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 3-4 Fresh Garlic Cloves
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Thyme
  • ¼ Cup Loosely Packed Sage Leaves

Instructions
 

  • Follow good food handling when preparing a turkey.

Brine

  • First, completely thaw the turkey according to package directions.
  • The day before you want to cook brine the turkey.
  • Add all the brine ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil until the sugar and salt dissolves. Let cool.
  • While your brine is cooling, take your turkey out of the package, drain the juice and remove the neck and other packets that are inside the turkey. 
  • In a food safe bucket add about 1 gallon of cold water and dump in the brine. This will help finish cooling if your brine is still warm.
  • Once brine is cooled down, add to a food safe bucket or bag along with 1 gallon of cold water. The water will help finish cooling the brine. 
  • Carefully lower turkey into the mix, legs up, and if needed continue to fill the bucket with cold water just until it covers the turkey.
  • Secure the lid and put in the fridge for the night.

Prepping the Turkey

  • After about 24 hours, carefully dump the brine out, drain the liquid from the cavity, and place the turkey in a roasting pan or aluminum disposable pan. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Start the butter compound by making a pile of the garlic, herbs and salt and chopping everything up really fine.
  • In a mixing bowl take the softened butter and cream it together with the herb mix. 
  • Next, take the skin of the turkey that is over the breast, and carefully peel it away from the meat. It will create a little pouch. Take a scoop of the butter and pack it in each side.
  • Now take the rest of the butter and spread it all over the entire bird. Make sure to get the legs and wings as well.

Smoking

  • Place turkey in a roasting pan or directly on the grill grate. If you are using a roasting pan, it helps to place a metal rack or some vegetables inside the pan so it is not sitting in the juices. That can cause the bottom of your turkey to get soggy.
  • Place in the smoker, insert a temperature probe in the thickest part of the breast, close the lid, and let it smoke for 2 hours at 180 degrees. 
  • Bring the temp of the smoker to 350 degrees and cook until it reaches the desired internal temp. A large turkey is going to take anywhere form 3-5 hours at 350 depending on size.
  • For an 16 pound turkey, we smoked it for 2 hours at 180 and then 3 hours at 350. A smaller turkey is going to take less time, so be sure to monitor the internal temperature to prevent over cooking it. See Notes for temperature guide.
  • Remove turkey from the smoker and cover with a wet tea towel, kitchen towel or aluminum foil and allow to rest before carving. Covering it will help trap all the moisture in and keep it hot while other dishes are finishing up.
  • Carve, serve and enjoy!

Notes

How to Temp a Turkey. 
According to the Department of Agriculture a turkey is finished cooking when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 
This reading needs to be taken in the thickest part of the bird in multiple locations. 
Use an instant read thermometer to get the most accurate reading. 
Keyword Smoked Turkey, Thanksgiving, Traeger Turkey, Turkey
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