This is the best Traeger Smoked Turkey recipe using a homemade dry rub and an injectable marinade or feel free to make it with no brine. This can be made with any smoker or pellet grill for Thanksgiving, the holidays, or any occasion!
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How Big a Turkey Do You Need/How to Plan
The general rule of thumb is 1 pound of turkey per guest. Each guest may not eat 1 pound, but you may need to also consider leftovers. If you have a small party you can even consider a turkey breast. This recipe breaks down the ingredient servings based on the size and weight of the turkey.
That will make it easy to scale down or scale up the servings you will need of each ingredient, by taking into account the weight of the turkey you are using.
How to Thaw a Turkey
I recommend thawing in the refrigerator or in cold water.
If using the refrigerator, keep the turkey in it’s original packaging and place a sheet pan underneath to catch any juices that may leak out.
Here is the safety chart for thawing in the fridge according to the USDA:
4-12 pounds: 1 to 3 days
12-16 pounds: 3 to 4 days
16-20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20-24 pounds 5 to 6 days
4-12 pounds: 2 to 6 hours
12-16 pounds: 6 to 8 hours
16-20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20-24 pounds 10 to 12 hours
Once thawed, it can stay in the fridge, safely, up to 2 days.
What is a Spatchcock Turkey?
Do you have to spatchcock your turkey? No. But here’s what it means.
Have you seen all of those photos of beautiful whole chickens and turkeys on social media and in magazines? The breasts are perfectly cooked and the poultry’s legs look perfectly crafted. Spatchcock turkey allows the turkey to cook more evenly on a level surface.
To do this, you will have to remove the backbone from the turkey. This will open it up and allow it to lay flat. I like to use these cooking shears from Amazon. You can also use a knife, be careful!
You will usually save time with the spatchcock method (usually an hour or so), so if you’re in a hurry I recommend it.
The Best Way to Season It
You will need to remove the contents of the inner cavity. Giblets are typically inside. Giblets are the little bundle of parts and usually include the neck, the gizzard, which is a muscle that grinds up food before it enters the digestive system, the heart, and the liver. Some people save these and cook them up or make gravy. You can discard if you wish.
Dry the turkey with paper towels. I like to spritz the turkey with olive oil using this spray bottle from Amazon. This will allows the spices to adhere. You can also drizzle it on and rub it in.
If you are injecting the bird with butter, you don’t need a ton of olive oil, unless you want it! Getting the skin nice and moist with oil will help produce crispy skin on the turkey. You can also use butter.
Then add your spices. I use the following:
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Dried or Ground Thyme
- Dried or Ground Oregano
- Paprika (I prefer Smoked Paprika)
- Salt and Pepper
Once you have your olive oil (or butter) on the skin, combine your spices and rub them in all over the bird front and back.
Next, I inject the turkey because it’s one of the best ways to ensure it’s juicy. You can make your own butter marinade injection or buy a store-bought version like Tony Chachere’s Butter Injection Marinade or Tony Chachere’s Garlic and Herb Injection Marinade.
If using an injection marinade you should inject 1 ounce of the marinade per pound of turkey you have. This turkey was 14 pounds so I used about 14 ounces of marinade.
How to Smoke Turkey on the Traeger
Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Pat turkey dry. Remove all of the contents from the inner cavity.
- (Optional Step) Inject the turkey with the marinade.
- Season the entire turkey and rub the spices into the skin.
- Place the turkey in the smoker. Smoke.
What Type of Wood/Pellets to Use
The best type of wood and flavored pellets to use are cherry, apple, alder, oak, and hickory. The Traeger Signature blend also pairs well with anything.
How Long to Cook it/How to Tell When it’s Done
The total time to cook will vary based on the size of your turkey. This 14-pound bird took about 5 hours. You will need to use a meat thermometer for accuracy. It will need to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
I like to start with the temperature low at 225 degrees for a few hours, that will allow the smoke flavor to penetrate the meat. Then I turn the temperature up to 350 degrees until the turkey reaches 165 degrees internal temperature.
How to Prevent it From Drying Out
A few things can lead to a dry turkey. One cause is constant basting. It sounds like that should help, right? If you’re constantly opening the smoker door to baste the turkey, you are letting out heat. This means you will need to cook it longer, which will dry it out. If you spatchcock the turkey (and inject it) you don’t need to baste it while it cooks.
If you inject the turkey with a marinade prepared with something like butter, this helps add moisture directly to the bird. Some people like to stuff butter directly under the skin of the turkey. If you use an injector, you don’t need to. You can read more about How to Put Butter Under Turkey Skin here.
Sometimes turkeys are dry because they are huge. It’s really difficult to cook a 20+ pound turkey evenly where the entire turkey cooks at the same speed. If you have a huge turkey, some parts may turn out drier than others.
Let the Turkey Rest Before Slicing
Let the turkey stand for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily. You will also wind up with dry turkey if you slice too soon.
How to Store Leftover Turkey
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge tightly covered and sealed for 3-4 days.
You can freeze cooked turkey for up to 4 months. It’s best to slice the turkey before freezing it. Once sliced, you can wrap it in foil, bag it up and then place it into the freezer until you next fancy some turkey.
Reheat on 325 degrees in the oven until warm. You can also place it in broth to keep it juicy while it bakes.
Pair With These Recipes
More Traeger/Smoker Recipes
Traeger Smoked Bacon
Traeger Smoked Turkey Breast
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Traeger Smoked Salmon
Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast
Traeger Smoked Ribs (3-2-1 Method)
Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Smoked Lobster Tail
Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken
Traeger Smoked Brisket
More Turkey Recipes
Smothered Turkey Wings
Air Fryer Turkey Wings
Air Fryer Turkey Legs
Air Fryer Turkey Breast
Instant Pot Turkey Breast
Stuffed Turkey Legs
Baked Turkey Legs
Slow Cooker Turkey Legs
Smoked Turkey Necks
Crockpot Slow Cooker Bone-in Turkey Breast
Traeger Smoked Turkey
- 10-14 pound turkey
- Injectable Butter Marinade Optional. You will need 1 ounce per pound of turkey. See notes for information on what I used.
- 1/4 cup olive oil or butter Or olive oil spray. I use a lot less by using oil I've added to a bottle
- 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar or sweetener
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
- Pat turkey dry. Remove all of the contents from the inner cavity.10-14 pound turkey
- (Optional Step) Inject the turkey with the marinade. Focus on areas throughout the entire turkey, the breasts, legs, etc.Injectable Butter Marinade
- Drizzle the turkey with olive oil or I like to use this oil spray bottle that I load with olive oil. It makes it easier to coat the turkey by spraying it on and you will likely use less oil since it's also injected with butter.1/4 cup olive oil or butter
- Season the entire turkey and rub the spices into the skin.1/2 teaspoon ground oregano, 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon brown sugar or sweetener
- Place the turkey in the smoker. Smoke for 3 hours.
- Adjust the heat on the smoker to 350 degrees and cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This can take 1-3 additional hours depending on turkey size.You will need to use a probe or meat thermometer to test. You always want to test the thickest part of the turkey, which is typically between the thigh and leg or breast. Ensure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. I usually test several areas of the turkey to be sure.
- Allow the turkey to rest for a minimum of 15-20 minutes prior to slicing to allow the juicies to settle. If you slice too soon it will result in dry turkey.
- Keep the turkey drippings if you plan to make gravy. I combine it with a tablespoon of butter and then start with a tablespoon of flour and add more if necessary to thicken.
Spatchcock Instructions (Optional and performed prior to seasoning the turkey)
- Place the turkey breast side down and locate the backbone of the turkey. It runs down the middle of the back and below the neck.
- Glide your sharp cooking shears or knife along the side of the backbone and cut to remove it. Do this for both sides of the backbone to remove it completely.
- Flip the turkey over and flatten the breasts of the turkey you should hear a crack. Turn the drumsticks so that they are positioned properly. I like to tuck the wings back below the breast. This helps keep them from browning quickly and is great for presentation.
- Feel free to season the turkey with any of your favorite rubs.
- Ensure the turkey is fully coated with spices. Add additional spices if necessary.
- You can use any store-bought injectable marinade or make your own. Here are options: Tony Chachere’s Butter Injection Marinade and Garlic and Herb Injection Marinade.
- If using an injection marinade you should inject 1 ounce of the marinade per pound of turkey you have. This turkey was 14 pounds so I used about 14 ounces of marinade.
- Because this turkey is injected with flavor I do not brine it overnight. You can if you wish.
- I like to leave the parchment paper under the turkey while on the smoker for ease of removing it as well as to help catch the drippings for gravy.
- The general rule of thumb is 1 pound of turkey per guest. If you have a small party you can even consider a turkey breast. This recipe breaks down the ingredient servings based on the size and weight of the turkey, 12 pounds in this case.
- That will make it easy to scale down or scale up the servings you will need of each ingredient, by taking into account the weight of the turkey or turkey breast you are using. If you have a 6-pound turkey breast, divide the ingredients in half, etc.