A smoked holiday turkey is likely to be the best-tasting, easiest-to-cook turkey you’ve ever eaten. It’s also a great way to start a new family tradition. After all, nothing brings families together quite like a holiday feast—especially one where the main feature is cooked to tender, juicy perfection.
Smoking a turkey is simple, and a great way to get a delicious holiday bird. Turkey has enough mass to stay nice and moist, and smokes fast enough that you’ll still have plenty of time to spend with your family and loved ones. Traeger’s Turkey Pellet Blend with Brine Kit makes smoking the perfect holiday turkey as easy as following these six simple steps.
Step 1: Brine
Brining is an important step to keeping your turkey juicy and delicious. The salt and water in the brine mix help lock flavor and moisture into the meat, making it extra plump and tasty. While there are many options available, we’re big fans of the Traeger brine mix, which is specifically developed for turkeys being cooked on a smoker. All you have to do is add a quart of water to the packaged dry mix, and boil for a few minutes to help the liquid absorb the flavor. Remove from heat and refrigerate the brine mixture until completely cooled.
Step 2: Prep
While the brine cools, prep the turkey by rinsing it, removing the giblets, and then blot it dry with paper towels. Place your turkey breast side down in a food-grade 5-gallon bucket or a cooler. Add the cooled brine mixture and cold water as necessary until the entire turkey is completely submerged. Put the brined turkey in the refrigerator and let it soak for at least 12 hours—24 hours is even better. (If you don’t have room in your fridge, you can also add ice to the bucket or cooler to keep the turkey at the proper temperature. Make sure the brine remains at or below 40℉.) Remember not to stuff a turkey you’re planning to cook on a smoker, as it will prevent that delicious smoky flavor from getting all the way through the bird.
Step 3: Rub & Season
After removing the turkey from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Then, coat the outside of the turkey with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. If you want to take your turkey to the next level, make a small opening to separate the skin from the breast and cover the entire breast with a 1 tablespoon of melted butter. (Putting butter beneath the skin will add even more flavor to the meat and keep everything extra juicy and delicious.) Season the outside of the skin with Traeger Turkey Rub, which will enhance the taste of the finished bird and give you a nice, savory crisp on the skin. While the Traeger rub will give you a great taste all on its own, feel free to add other herbs, spices, and flavors to suit your family’s preferences—our favorite is the Traeger Poultry Rub.
Step 4: Smoke
For best results, use Traeger’s Turkey Pellet Blend, which features oak, hickory, and maple hardwoods enhanced with rosemary to give your holiday turkey the right blend of sweet and smoky flavors. Start your pellet grill on the “smoke” setting with the lid open until fire is established—about 4-5 minutes. Close the lid and allow it to preheat for 10-15 minutes. Place your turkey breast-side up directly on the grill grate. Smoke until the temperature reaches 100-110℉, which should take about 2 hours depending on the size of your bird. Crank the temperature up to 350℉, and continue to cook until a thermometer reads 160℉ when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.
Step 5: Rest
After taking the turkey off the smoker, put it on a platter and wrap it in foil. You’ll want to let the meat rest for about 20 to 30 minutes before you carve and serve it. This helps the juices settle back into the meat for maximum moisture and flavor, and gives the bird a chance to finish cooking after removing from the smoker. The internal temperature of the breast should reach 165 degrees as your turkey rests.
Step 6: Carve & Enjoy!
This is the part everybody likes most, and for good reason. Smoked turkey is uniquely juicy and flavorful, and by the time everybody is chowing down, the chances are good you’ll have a unanimous vote to make smoked turkey an annual holiday tradition.
Best of all, you can find just about everything you need to cook your perfect smoked holiday turkey at your local IFA Country Store—from smokers, pellets, and rubs to helpful advice from our resident smoker experts. Happy holidays—and happy smoking!