How to Smoke a Turkey on a Pellet Grill?

Smoke a turkey is not as complicated as it looks. You can make a smoked turkey with fabulous flavor on thanksgivings, even using an old-fashioned pellet grill if you have proper guidance. Buying BBQed food from a top-rated restaurant will not bring such amazement and joy as doing it yourself at home before a big dinner. If you are new to smoking turkey on a pellet grill, don’t worry; we are ready to help you grill it first with full fledge instructions.

Here we will provide detailed guidance about smoking a turkey on a pellet grill, tips, temperature required, or how long it will need to smoke it properly. Just free up some time to read this article thoroughly so you can have a unique feel on historic thanksgiving by smoking turkey at home with a pellet grill.

smoke a turkey on a pellet grill

Essentials For Smoking A Turkey On A Pellet Grill

Before thinking turkey smoking is a nightmare, keep these essentials in your right hand, ensuring high-rated smoking.


The first essential thing as a whole process depends on it. Take a well-cleaned turkey of 15 pounds or less for delicious cooking. If it comes brined, keep it to defrost in the freezer and then wash it carefully, otherwise clean it and wash it before brining.

Wood Pellets:

Wood pellets are the second most important thing to be in hand before starting smoking. These pellets are available in different flavors; select according to choice of flavor. For a thanksgiving or other big occasion, prefer applewood, cherry, or hickory pellets as everyone likes these flavors.

Drip Pan:

Turkeys are very juicy. It would be best to have a drip pan in your hands to catch drip loss from turkey; otherwise, it will make things messy. A deep aluminum pan is recommended with sides up to keep the smoking area moist.


How long will it take to smoke a turkey on a wood pellet grill at 225 degrees? The first thing is to check when it has attained the desired temperature. Whether a seasoned or newbie is trying turkey cooking, he needs to have a handy thermometer as a critical factor in thorough cooking.


For having desired flavors of turkey, seasoning addition is necessary. You can use spices, garlic powder, onions, or other packaged seasonings available in the market.

Before thinking turkey smoking is a nightmare

Types Of Wood Pellets For Turkey Smoking

Before moving towards how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill, let me tell you about the kinds of wood pellets to use for smoke a turkey.  Natural hardwoods are not helpful as they are unpredictable. These are more prone to oxidation leading to faster and hotter cooking than done by briquettes. For a slow, controlled, and reliable burning, hickory is the best wood type being used for all BBQ recipes effectively. Other than this, applewood and mesquite or whole chunks of wood will also work depending upon your choice for flavor and taste.

Preheating The Grill:

Preheat the grill to attain an even temperature of 225 degrees; use medium heat for this purpose. In the case of the gas grill, turn the half burners off after achieving the desired temperature while using a charcoal grill to keep the vents to 25% opening for gaining consistent temperature. Keep looking at temperature using a probe thermometer to avoid a sudden heat rise. Remove pellets or switch off the burners if it seems so.

Preparations Of Turkey:


Before starting seasoning and brining, ensure that it is fully defrosted. Please do not remove it from the package in a frozen state, as it will look like pulling something hardly. Keep it in the refrigerator to defrost for 2-3 days or place packaged turkey in hot water for half day. Do not thaw it at room temperature, as it will load turkey with an additional microbial count.

Removing Extra Parts:

Remove neck and giblets carefully. Keep these parts spare for making gravy if you like an additional sausage-like flavor. Remove the wishbones but not necessarily.

Brining The Turkey:

Make a brine solution of your own choice to add delicious flavors to smoked turkey. If you are a newbie, go for simplest, bring solution; prepared by mixing a half cup of salt with a half cup of sugar in one-gallon water. Dip turkey for 12-15 hours in the defrosted state. Sugar will make the surface caramelized and shiny, while salt will taste somehow sour to smoked turkey. Additionally, using a sweet rub, apple spice brine, or homemade veggie shake full of herbs and spices are the best options. You can also try other BBQ flavors readily available in the market.

Here comes a question in mind; how to smoke a turkey without bringing on a pellet grill? Buy a pre-seasoned turkey. Ready-to-smoke pre-brined turkeys are available in the market; bring them, defrost and set grill fire on to place turkey on it. But prefer to get it by yourself as it will make the flavor of choice. A dry brine mixture is preferable to make skin juicy and tender than injecting brine solution into the turkey. If you are not willing to add any flavor, you can smoke a turkey it as it is, but it may look off-putting.

while salt will taste somehow sour to smoked turkey

Setting a 15 lb. Turkeys On A Pellet Grill Set To Smoke:

Smoking turkey on a pellet grill is a game of temperature and time combination to be carried out effectively. The grill must be heated above 2000F before placing the turkey to smoke. If the smoking temperature is 250-255 degrees, give 15 minutes of smoking per pound; if the temperature is less than 250, use 30 minutes per pound. Consequently, a 15-pound turkey will need 7-8 hours at 225 degrees. To ensure thorough cooking, give extra 30 minutes. Another way to check whether it is properly cooked or not is to measure the internal temperature. Check the temperature of the thickest part of the turkey with an instant measuring thermometer. If it is 165°F to 170°F, remove it from the pellet grill.

Placing Turkey On The Grill:

When you have called guests of different tastes on a big occasion, some may find it dry while eating. To help solve this problem, rub olive oil over whole turkey or melted butter along with the small quantity of BBQ rub. Tuck the wing tips beneath the shoulder joint and tie the legs alongside the butcher’s twine. For a pre-brined turkey, do rubbing in a minute amount as it may make it full of spice.

Now preheat the grill to 220 degrees and place turkey on it with breast side up. The breast area is a delicate part of the turkey, so that any high heating may cause dry and dark-colored meat. In case of gas or charcoal grill, keep turning side for even heat distribution.  Smoking a turkey on a wood pellet grill is relatively easy as it does not need you sitting in front of it to keep turning sides time by time.

Tips For Perfect Smoking Turkey On A Pellet Grill:

It seems a difficult task to work without a trial or previous experience. But you need not be worried as we will introduce you to essential tips that will make you enjoy the flavored and juicy turkey you have prepared for the first time.

Perfect smoking turkey on a pellet grill


Try to brine or seasoned turkey by yourself for at least 8 hours. Use dry salt or BBQ rub preferably. Do keep in its fridge to enhance juiciness in cold conditions. At least a 7 hour brining is necessary for effective moisture-retaining and juicy flavor.


Butterfly the bird for even cooking and crispy flavor. It will make dark brownish areas at some points with juicy flavor and a shiny look.

Avoid Overcrowding

If you have mice flavor for veggies, put small pieces of onion, carrot, apples, capsicum, etc., inside the turkey, but the key is not to make it overcrowded. It will restrict air circulation inside the bird, making it undercooked. If you place the ingredients inside, turn it carefully during smoking to avoid any fall away.

Smoke For A Long Time At Indirect Heat

If your guests arrive earlier, do not smoke a turkey it at a high temperature for a short time. Keep calm and give it maximum time for grilling over the required temperature. Simmer it with legs towards the heat source. Rubbing with olive oil makes it look shiny and delicate.

How long to smoke a turkey breast on a pellet grill is as important as the heat range of the grill. The breast piece is very delicate and will get dry if it keeps placing on a grill with an internal temperature above 160 degrees. Breast temperature will remain consistent even at higher heat but will make it dry and leathery. Do not be hurry or too late; check the temperature with a thermometer. If it is between150-155 degrees, remove it immediately and cool for 2-5 minutes.

How long to smoke a turkey breast on a pellet grill

What should do with dripping loss?

Turkey is a very juicy bird that causes drip loss while smoking. Use a drip pan to catch the drippings. We prefer an aluminum pan as it adds moisture to the smoking environment. To avoid drip spread, place this pan beneath the turkey on the grill. Add water is the pan which will evaporate and make this process moist. Keep it refilling again and again.

Temperature For Smoking Turkey On A Pellet Grill:

Time and temperature combination are two friends that walk side by side. Indirect heating over a long period is more demanding than direct heating for a short time. The goal is to maintain an ideal temperature of 220-230 F for the overall process.

Just keep a thing in mind not to allow the temperature to fall from the set value. Keep putting pellets or fuel in the grill as it will heat turkey at a consistent temperature. Set the grill to preheat till it attains this mentioned temperature. Keep checking with an instant-read thermometer to avoid high temperature leading to a dark-colored undercooked bird.

Making Turkey Skin Crispy:

Not only newbies but seasoned chefs do face this problem several times by having skin dry and leathery. There is a legit story behind it which you must understand. The skin of a bird is composed of water, fat, and connective tissues; while cooking the bird, its fat has to get rendered, water evaporates, and connective tissues break down. Collagen is converted into gelatin, turning skin dry by fast evaporation of water. For a healthY, juicy, and crispy skin, must do waterfall timely; otherwise, it will dry.

There are couples of options to help solve this problem. The biggest and simplest is bringing meat with dry salt and other sausages to retain moisture longer during the smoking process. You can also use baking powder to make bubbles on the skin, thus having water and making skin brown by rapid browning reactions. Using a rub solution with spices can turn skin in extra crisp and flavored; mixing olive oil can trigger the crispness process. Finally, a dripping pan full of water can add a cherry on top by restricting the evaporation process and keeping the smoking environment moist.

Making turkey skin crispy

Rub Preparation With A Secret Ingredient:

Use any BBQ rub available in the market or prepare it by following methods:

Mix paprika (1 tbsp.), Black pepper (1 tsp. finally grounded), onion powder (1 tsp.), and garlic powder (1 tsp.), salt (2 tsp.), sugar (2 tbsp.), and a secret ingredient; baking powder (1 tbsp.). Rub it on the whole turkey properly. This rubbing preparation is for a 15-pound turkey.

Smoking Turkey On The Pellet Grill Recipe:

Ingredients and Utensils



·         Salt

·         Sugar


half cup each

       Brine the turkey with a brine solution containing half a cup of salt and sugar in 1-gallon water. You can inject this solution into the brine easily. We prefer to rub dry salting than brining as it is a more flavor enhancer. For a pre-brined turkey, you are ready to grill it; otherwise, wait for 8 hours for the best brining.


Turkey whole bird (maximum of 15 pounds)       Take turkey already cleaned or do it by yourself.


Remove the wishbone (not necessarily) by lifting the skin upside. Cut the Y-shaped bones into halves with a sharp butcher’s knife. Remove neck and giblets.

Crack the breast bone with the palm of your hand until you feel a cracking sound. It will make the breast settling down like a flat surface.


Coldwater 1 gallon or more         Rinse turkey with cold water. Make sure it does not go inside; otherwise, brining will be removed. Pat, it with a dry towel and tie legs down together with wingtips tucking behind the shoulder joint.


Sauté veggies to taste          For veggie lovers, add onions and other pieces of vegies inside the turkey, making it spread in a way that allows heat absorption properly.


Onions to taste(small pieces sauté)
BBQ rub to taste         Seasoned it with BBQ rub
Olive oil 2-3 Tbsp.         Rub olive oil on the exterior of the turkey. If olive oil is not available, don’t be upset, you can use melted butter with a brush to make skin shiny and juicy. If both are not available, skip this and keep it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.


Pellet grill        Set the grill to preheat up to 220 degrees

Place it on preheated pellet grill with legs directly facing the heat. Do your other tasks easily as it will take 8-12 hours to cook a 15-pound turkey properly or cook it until the thickest part achieve a temperature of 150 degrees. You can keep flipping its sides or turn it after one hour as you wish.

Sugar syrup ½ cup         For brownish and caramelized skin, rub a small quantity of sugar syrup on it.


Lemon 2-3         Remove the turkey from the smoking and keep it cooling for 15 minutes. It will add slight crispiness to the turkey. Rub a piece of lemon to add to its taste. Sprinkle spices if you want.



Let us share another preparation technique with somehow different ingredients so you can choose between these two recipes:

Ingredients and apparatus



Whole turkey 1 (15-17 pound)      Bring it from the market one night before serving

Remove neck and giblets, pat with a dry towel

Keep in refrigerator for one night to give a crispy flavor

Pellet grill        Set it to preheat
Salt 1-2 cup        After one night of cooling, remove from refrigerator and rub salt on it.



2 (ringed pieces)

One bunch

2-3 (cut into slices)

      Fill the turkey’s cavity with lemon (sliced), onion rings, fresh herbs, and tie legs tightly with kitchen twine.
Dry herb mixture



(sage, thyme, and rosemary) to taste

Half cup (take unsalted if already brined with enough salt)

        Rub butter on the skin of the turkey along with sprinkling herbs, and if you want, add paprika powder also
Wood pellets         Take of your choice

Start grilling turkey by placing breast side up away from direct heat

Honey 2-3 spoon        Remove it after 5-6 hours if cooked at a high temperature above 250 degrees; otherwise, take it 8 hours.

Rub honey syrup on it and set it to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature

Slicing knife        Cut into small pieces with a sharp knife and serve to guests.


It’s time to enjoy what you are waiting for a long time. Make small slices of turkey lengthwise and enjoy the party with dying heart friends.

Note: if the turkey is done before the arrival of guests or if there is enough time in serving; keep it aside wrapped in a foil at a warm place to preserve the desired temperature. For an even distribution of heat in the gas grill, turn side time by time.

Turkey Per Person:

It is imperative mainly when you are arranging big festivals. Even if one person remains left without turkey, it will let you fall into a stream of shame and guilt. Prepare it in bulk amount by making a precise calculation. For one person, 1-1/2 pounds will be used. Turkey comes with bones, neck, skins, and tips, so all will not be consumed at once. It is the maximum quantity per person and, if you are arranging dinner for large gatherings, makes multiple turkeys of 15-pound weight. Enjoy dinner without any worry about the amount, as we are sure there will be leftovers to use the next day.

Turkey comes with bones, neck, skins, and tips,


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

When the grilling temperature is 220 F, it will take roundabout 30 minutes per pound. If the grilling temperature is 250 F, it will cook for 20 minutes per pound. So for a 15-pound grill, it will take 4-7 hours. Preferably give it an extra half hour smoking time to do it thoroughly.

Is it a must to cover turkey while smoking on a pellet grill?

It is up to you. Covering is not a necessary condition as in baked goods. But covering might close heat and cook it earlier than in the opened environment. The uncovered will allow more evaporation than covered, but this can also be solved with the addition of a dripping pan full of water.

What should be the maximum weight of turkey for smoking on a pellet grill?

The recommended maximum weight for smoking turkey on a pellet grill is 14-15 pounds. A weight higher than this can make you sit in a high-temperature zone for up to 20 hours, making you feel worried and irritated. It might allow bacterial growth as putting it at a high temperature for too long can reactivated thermophiles. Go for multiple turkeys of small size than smoking one of too large to cook correctly.

How to smoke a turkey on a pit boss pellet grill?

It will follow the same recipe as described above, like defrosting, brining, patting, smoking, etc. It will take less time than cooking turkey in the oven. Just follow the recipe and do it quickly.

Should I make turkey breast up or down?

There is no thumb rule for positioning the breast piece; everyone follows his cooking style according to his taste and idea. Some like to flip turkey after every hour to have even cooking. But we recommend placing the breast side up from away direct heating to help keep this delicate part juicy and tender. But you can do it as you want.

Should I buy a new pellet grill or old will work?

Smoking turkey on a pellet grill does not link with the type and age of the pellet grill. It is a concern of time-temperature combination, rubbing ingredients, or drip loss avoidance. Many people have claimed to cook the best turkey with the oldest pellet grills. Just have desired flavored wood pellets in case of wood pellet grill, or use well-fueled gas grills.

Final Thought

Turkey-the thanksgiving bird is delicious but very easy to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill if you have a thorough and deep understanding of the cooking process and tips. Whatever the recipe is used, its main aim should be to make smoked turkey juicy, tender, and fully cooked. We have tried our best to load this article with all the necessary tips and instructions to complete the smoking process, like walking in a park. We have included vital factors and secret ingredients for a newbie that will help them cook like a seasoned chef. All you need is to spare some time from your busy routine; read this article and make thanksgiving a big memorable event.