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Traeger Smoked Turkey

Our Traeger smoked turkey is flavored with a dry brine and injected with a savory turkey injection. The result is a juicy, flavorful, and perfectly seasoned bird that is sure to be the star of your holiday feast!

Smoking a turkey on a pellet grill is the perfect way to get juicy, flavorful meat infused with the smoky flavor of wood pellets.

A Traeger turkey on a platter with herbs and citrus fruit.

One of the keys to a great smoked turkey is in the brine. A brine allows the flavors to really penetrate the meat and results in a juicier, more flavorful bird. We used a dry brine which means there is no water involved, just salt, sugar, and spices. 

We took the flavor a step further and used the dry brine spices to make a marinade to inject the turkey and baste it while it cooked on the smoker.

Here is Why This Recipe Works

  • The dry brine saves a lot of space in the fridge and is less messy than a traditional wet brine.
  • The marinade makes enough to use as a turkey injection and baste the turkey during the smoke. 
  • The salt in the dry brine helps break down the muscle fibers and allows them to retain moisture. A further bonus is that the flavors of the spices penetrate the meat. This results in a juicier bird with more flavor.
  • Cooking a turkey on a pellet grill frees up the oven for all the other sides and gives the turkey a delicious smoky flavor. The marinade injects even more flavor into the bird and keeps it moist while it smokes.

Slices of smoked turkey meat.

The Ingredients

Here is a list of the ingredients you will need for this Traeger turkey recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

For the Dry Brine 

  • Brown sugar.
  • Kosher salt.
  • BBQ Seasoning Rub. You can make your own bbq seasoning blend or purchase your favorite brand. 

The Turkey Injection and Basting Sauce

  • Dry rub. If you use a seasoning blend with large particles of herbs, crush them finely with a mortar and pestle, so they don’t get clogged in the syringe. 
  • Vinegar. We used apple cider vinegar. 
  • Butter. You can use salted or unsalted butter. 
  • Olive oil. The olive oil adds additional fat and prevents the buttery injection from solidifying. 
  • Honey. If you don’t have honey, maple syrup will work. 
  • Worcestershire sauce. Adds a bit of umami flavor.
  • Hot sauce. We like the flavor of Tabasco sauce, but any hot sauce will work. 
  • Salt.
Mixing the marinade that will be used as a basting sauce and a turkey injection sauce.

For the Turkey

  • 1 whole turkey. Since this Traeger smoked turkey has salt in the dry brine and injection marinade, start with an unseasoned turkey. If you use a Kosher or self-basting turkey, your turkey will be excessively salty.
  • Aromatics. We used onion, garlic, lemons, and fresh herbs to stuff inside the cavity of the turkey.

Smoking a Turkey on a Pellet Grill

Here is a brief overview to get an idea of what to expect with this Traeger smoked turkey. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details.

A dry brined turkey ready to go on the pellet grill.
  1. Mix the dry brine. Cover the whole bird with the brine mixture and make sure to get under the skin and inside the cavity.

    If you don’t want to take the time (or don’t have the time) to brine the turkey, you can skip this step
Using a turkey injector to inject a turkey.
  1. Inject the turkey. Mix the injection marinade and reserve some of the mixture for basting the turkey while it smokes. Draw the rest of the liquid into a turkey injector and inject the bird into the breast, thighs, and legs. 
A turkey cooking on a Traeger grill with two meat probes.
  1. Smoke the turkey. Place the turkey directly on the grill grates and place a leave-in meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast meat.

    You can place the turkey in a roasting pan if you want to collect the drippings.
Basting a turkey on the pellet grill.
  1. After the turkey smokes for an hour, use the basting sauce to baste the bird every 45 minutes.

Tips for Success

  • Brine the turkey for 72 hours if you have the time. A dry brine takes a little longer than a wet brine, so you need to plan ahead. If you want to do a wet brine for 24 hours, use the brine in our smoked chicken and triple the ingredients. 
  • Before injecting the turkey, save some of the marinade to baste the turkey while it smokes on the pellet grill. 
  • Do not reuse the marinade that you used to inject the turkey. If you forget to set some marinade aside, then boil the injection marinade for 5 minutes before using it as a basting sauce. 
  • The type of salt you use for the dry brine is important. Kosher salt has larger grains than table salt and distributes more evenly over the bird. If you use regular table salt, you should only use half the amount. 
  • Make sure to thaw the turkey completely before you apply the brine and inject it.
  • Cooking time will vary based on the size of the bird and temperature fluctuations on the Traeger. 
  • Use a leave-in meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. Place it in the thickest part of the breast and push down until you hit the bone, then pull it back a tad.
  • You can smoke the turkey directly on the grill grate. If you want to make gravy with the drippings, place it on a rack inside a roasting pan.
  • If you have a large turkey (over 16 pounds), try flipping it over halfway through the smoke time. Larger turkeys don’t cook as evenly, so it helps if you flip them.

A whole smoked turkey on a large platter.

How Much Turkey Per Person

A good rule for buying a turkey is 1.25 to 1.5 pounds per person. However, if you have a small family, go for about 2 pounds per person. It is hard to find turkeys under 10 pounds, so if you need four servings or less, plan to have plenty of leftover smoked turkey. Ideas for leftovers are endless. Try a turkey pot pieturkey soup, or burritos. If you don’t want a lot of leftovers, try our turkey breast recipe.

You are better off purchasing two turkeys if you have a larger crowd. Smaller turkeys cook more evenly and tend to be more tender. Larger birds are usually male turkeys and tend to be tough.

Use the table below as a guide for purchasing your turkey.

ServingsPounds of Turkey
4 people8 to 10-pound turkey
6 people10-pound turkey
8 to 10 people12 to 14-pound turkey
12 to 14 people16-pound turkey
16 to 18 peopleTwo 13-pound turkeys
20 to 24 peopleTwo 16-pound turkeys

Slices of turkey on a plate with mashed potatoes, green onions, and cranberry sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to smoke a turkey on the Traeger pellet grill?

It depends mainly on the temperature of the Traeger smoker. At 250°F most turkeys will finish smoking between 4 to 6 hours. If you increase the temperature to 325°F, it will take 3 to 4 hours. 

Can I smoke a turkey without brining?

Yes. You can skip that step if you don’t have time to brine the turkey. 

How long does it take to smoke a turkey at 225°F?

Lowering the Traeger’s temperature to 225°F can take 8 to 12 hours to cook a turkey. Check the temperature of your turkey after 3½ hours. It is not safe for the internal temperature to stay between 40°F to 140°F for more than four hours. 

Can I use this recipe with an electric smoker?

Yes, you can. However, you will not get crispy skin in an electric smoker. 

How long does leftover turkey last?

You can store leftovers in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 4 to 6 months. Keep it in an airtight container for best results. 

How can I tell if my turkey is finished?

Use a meat thermometer for best results. Breast meat is ready when it reaches 165°F. However, dark meat will be more tender when it cooks to an internal temperature of 175°F.

Our Traeger smoked turkey recipe will have you feeling like a holiday pro and will become one of your favorite ways to prepare turkey! This juicy, flavorful bird is perfect for your feast and sure to be a hit with family and friends. 

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A smoked turkey cooking on grill grates.

Traeger Smoked Turkey

Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours

Our Traeger smoked turkey is flavored with a dry brine and injected with a savory turkey injection. The result is a juicy, flavorful, and perfectly seasoned bird that will surely be the star of your holiday feast!


  • 1 whole turkey (14 to 16 pounds)

For the Dry brine

  • 4 tablespoons BBQ seasoning dry rub
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the Injection and Mop Sauce

  • 7 tablespoons BBQ seasoning dry rub
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)

Optional Aromatics to Stuff the Bird

  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 lemons quarters
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 to 2 bunches of sage


  1. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and loosen the skin over the breast and legs (slide an upside-down spoon under the skin to make this task easier). 
  2. Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet or in a large casserole dish (make sure you use something that will hold in the juices that will seep out). 

Dry Brine the Turkey

  1. Combine 4 tablespoons of BBQ seasoning and the Kosher salt in a small bowl. 
  2. Sprinkle the dry brine into the cavity of the turkey, under the skin of the breast and legs, and all over the outside of the turkey. 
  3. Bend the wings back and tuck them under the breast. Use butcher's twine to tie the legs together (this will help the turkey cook evenly on the pellet grill). 
  4. Place the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator for 48 to 72 hours.

Inject the Turkey

  1. Preheat the pellet grill to 250°F. 
  2. Combine the ingredients for the injection and mop sauce in a medium saucepan. Stir until the butter is melted. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it come to room temperature. Pour about half of the marinade into a separate dish and reserve it to use as a mop sauce. 
  3. Draw up the remaining marinade into a turkey injector and slowly inject it in several places all over the turkey (see the notes if you have never injected a turkey before). 

Smoke the Turkey

  1. Stuff the onion, lemon, and fresh herbs inside the cavity of the turkey. Insert a leave-in thermometer probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast. 
  2. Place the turkey directly on the grill grates or place it in a pan if you want to collect the drippings. Close the lid and smoke the turkey for 1 hour, then start basting the bird with the reserved marinade every 30 to 45 minutes. 
  3. Continue to smoke the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 140°F to 145°F then increase the temperature on the Traeger to 350°F.
  4. When the internal temperature reaches 160°F (4 to 6 hours*), transfer the turkey to a cutting board, cover it with aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature will continue to rise to 165°F or higher while it rests. 


  • Since this smoked turkey gets so much flavor from the dry brine and injection marinade, start with an unseasoned turkey. Do not use a Kosher turkey or a self basting turkey, both of which have been pre-seasoned. Your turkey will be too salty if you use a Kosher or self-basting turkey. 
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before you apply the brine and turkey injection. 
  • The type of salt you use for the dry brine is important. We used Diamond Kosher salt which has larger grains than table salt. If you use regular table salt, you should only use half the amount. 
  • If you have a larger turkey, adjust the amount of salt in the dry brine. Use approximately 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt for every five pounds of turkey. 
  • You can make your own BBQ seasoning rub or use a store-bought brand. Alternatively, instead of using BBQ seasoning, try a different spice rub. Some suggestions are Spiceology Smoke Junkie or Maple Bourbon Seasoning. If you use a seasoning with large chunks of spices or herbs, grind them down with a mortar and pestle so they don’t get stuck inside the turkey injector. 
  • The length of time it takes to smoke a turkey at 250°F will vary based on the size of the bird and temperature fluctuations on the pellet grill. Try not to leave the lid open too long when you baste the turkey. A 15 pound turkey will usually take about 4 hours to smoke but always check the doneness based on the internal temperate and not the time it takes to roast. 

Injecting the turkey:

Some of the marinade will flow back out of the puncture holes that you inject into the turkey. Keep the turkey on a tray to collect the juices.

Push the needle down to the bone and get the injection between the meat and the bone. Next, pull the needle up slightly and slowly inject it directly into the meat.

If you have to re-load the turkey injector, try to use the same injection hole to finish injecting that area before poking a new hole.

Try to use the same injection hole and angle the needle in 5 or 6 different directions and slowly lift the needle out as you inject the marinade.

After you inject the marinade in one area, make another puncture hole several inches from the first and repeat the process. Use the length of the needle as your guide to measure the distance between puncture holes. 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 581Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 327mgSodium: 414mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 86g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Originally published on November 23, 2015.

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