Level up your Thanksgiving feast with the best easy smoked turkey recipe you have ever tasted! No wet brine needed! It only takes 20 minutes to prep, place the turkey in your smoker, several hours later you have tender and juicy smoked turkey breast ready to serve!
A typical turkey recipe calls for some type of brining whether it’s in a gallon of water or in a dry brine. That can take up 24 hours just to marinate! By using a pellet smoker or Traeger pellet grill you can skip that process and put it directly on the grill in just 20 minutes. If you’d like, you can use our smoked turkey injection recipe to add some extra flavor straight into the center of the turkey, but it’s not necessary. Talk about taking away the holiday stress!
Obviously whole turkeys are mostly consumed on Thanksgiving, which means you will need a few mouthwatering sides to make holiday meals complete! We always go with candied yams with marshmallows, cranberry jello salad, creamy mashed potatoes, and sweet dinner rolls or cornbread muffins. But the feast doesn’t stop there! At least not without a serving of two of pumpkin bread pudding, chess pie, or mini pumpkin cheesecakes!
Why You’ll Love This Easy Smoked Turkey Recipe
- No brining time.
- Delicious, crispy skin.
- You can smoke and forget it until it’s ready!
- Frees up room in the oven during the holidays.
- Flavorful, tender, juicy, and never dry.
What Ingredients do I Need for this Recipe?
- whole turkey
- unsalted butter
- white onion
- Rind from two lemons
- Rind from one orange
- Salt and pepper
Before You Start make sure your frozen turkey is thawed. A larger turkey like the one we are using should be placed in the refrigerator 3-4 days before cooking. This method is the best way to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey safely. You can also place it in a large basin of cold water, turning it and changing the water frequently. This method will be quicker, but much more involved.
How to Smoke a Turkey:
PREP: Let’s get to this easy smoked turkey recipe. Remove the giblets from the fresh turkey, rinse it inside and out, and pat dry with a paper towel. (The melted butter may solidify as you brush it on, which is normal.) Season generously with salt and pepper. You can alternately use any dry rub you wish. Be sure to rub the seasoning into the skin. Add the onions and citrus rinds to the turkey cavity. If you’d like to add some fresh herbs to the cavity, you can! Sage and rosemary are my favorite. Heat your smoker to 250 degrees F.
SMOKE: Place the whole bird on a rack in a roasting pan then onto the grill or directly on the grill grates if you have a drip pan underneath. Add some water to a second pan, away from the turkey (this will help to keep the skin from turning to leather). Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh or the turkey breast. Cover the wings loosely with foil and smoke.
REST: Once the turkey has finished cooking, allow it to rest before carving. Mmmm, yummy! This is the best smoked turkey recipe!
- Only use the rinds of the lemons and orange. If you add the whole fruit, there will be unwanted extra liquid.
- Avoid placing the turkey directly in the roasting pan without a rack. You want it to sit out of the drippings.
- Adding the water pan keeps the bird moist so the skin doesn’t dry out before it has a chance to get crispy.
- We recommend using apple wood, cherry wood, or hickory wood chips/pellets. They have mild smoke flavor that pairs well with poultry.
- Use your leftover turkey in salads, for turkey sandwiches, in soup (that would normally call for chicken), or even make pot pies!
- Use the neck and giblets to make turkey neck gravy to serve alongside your bird.
Almost 50 million turkeys are served on Thanksgiving every year!
Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also bag it up and put it in the freezer where it will stay fresh up to 3 months.
It can, but if you follow this recipe, it will not. The primary cause of dried turkey is cooking it at a higher temperature for longer than you should. Keep the temperature of the smoker lower and aim for consistent temperatures of 250°F for your full cook time. It also helps to keep a pan of water inside the smoker, particularly to keep the skin from drying into a “leather hide.”
Feel free to substitute olive oil for the butter. Drizzle the olive oil over the turkey and then rub it into the nooks and crannies before adding any dry rub or seasoning.
Easy Smoked Turkey Recipe
- 15- pound turkey thawed with giblets removed
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 white onion cut into chunks
- Rind from two lemons
- Rind from one orange
- Salt and pepper
- Rinse the turkey. Be sure to remove any giblets form the neck and/or body cavity. Pat the whole turkey dry with paper towels.
- Melt the butter and brush it over the entire surface of the turkey. The butter may start to solidify as you brush it on and that is just fine. Continue brushing the outside and inside the body cavity with the butter until you have used it all. Sprinkle generously with salt and coarse black pepper and rub it into the skin and inside the turkey.
- Fill the body cavity loosely with onion chunks, lemon, and orange rinds (we don’t use the whole fruit because we don’t want the extra liquid)
- Heat your smoker to 250°F. Use apple wood, cherry wood, or hickory wood chips/pellets. These woods will impart a more mild flavor into the meat, which pairs well with poultry.
- When the smoker and the turkey are prepared, place the turkey on a rack inside of a large roasting pan and set the package into the smoker. You can also set the turkey directly on the grates and place a roasting pan underneath to catch the drippings. It is best not to have the turkey sitting directly in a roasting pan – we want it lifted up and out of the drippings.
- Place a second pan filled with 2-3 inches of water in the smoker, away from the bird. This will keep the environment moist so that the turkey skin doesn’t dry out before it has a chance to crisp up nicely.
- Insert a probe into the thick part of the breast, just above the leg so that you can monitor the internal temperature of the turkey.
- Cover the wings with loose aluminum foil.
- Smoke that bird! Turkey takes about 30 minutes per pound on the smoker – so it should take a 15-pound bird about 7 hours. When the breast meat has reached 165°F, turn off the smoker and let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving (this gives you time to turn the drippings into the most amazing gravy and to gather your other side dishes.)
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.