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Plate of a whole smoked turkey carved and sliced.

Ultimate Smoked Turkey Recipe (How to Smoke a Turkey)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 13 reviews
  • Author: Erin Jensen
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 26 servings 1x
  • Category: Thanksgiving
  • Method: Smoker
  • Cuisine: American


Smoked Turkey (so JUICY!) -a delicious smoked turkey recipe that includes a brine, dry rub and gravy instructions! This Traeger smoked turkey is perfect for your Thanksgiving menu! 

Optional brine recipe included – be aware that the brine takes significant more planning ahead –  as it needs to sit for up to 48 hours.




  • 1 fresh or thawed whole turkey (photos show a 13 pound turkey)
  • 46 tablespoons butter (or ghee), softened (more for basting)

Brine (optional):

  • Approx. 3 gallons of water (48 cups)
  • 3 cups of kosher salt (if using table salt at least cut salt amount in half)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 oranges, cut in half and squeeze juice out into brine + add in orange rinds
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 apple sliced
  • 35 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 56 whole peppercorns

Turkey Dry Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoons onion powder


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups turkey drippings
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or turkey broth)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Brine (Optional):

  1. Boil: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan
  2. Add: Add in salt and brown sugar (if using).
  3. Simmer: Let simmer until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
  4. Cool: Remove from heat and add ice cubes to cool.
  5. Bucket: Once the mixture is completely cooled add to your brining vessel (large pot/bucket/brine bag) along with the rest of the water and other remaining ingredients.
  6. Turkey: Add turkey and ensure it is completely submerged (you may need to put a small sauce pot on top of it to keep it submerged.
  7. 48 hours: Let brine for 12- 48 hours while refrigerated
  8. Remove: Remove from brine, pat dry and proceed to the Smoked Turkey Recipe, below. Discard brine.

Smoked Turkey:

  1. Dry Rub: combine dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Preheat: Preheat smoker to 180 degrees F.
  3. Prep Turkey (if haven’t brined):  Ensure turkey is completely thawed. Remove giblets or any gravy packet, if any, from inside the turkey. Pat turkey dry with a clean paper towels.
  4. Butter: Take softened butter and rub all over turkey – be sure to lift up the turkey skin where you can and push some butter underneath being careful not to rip the skin.
  5. Seasoning: Season generously with the Turkey Dry Rub.
  6. 90 Minutes at 180: Place turkey (breast side up) on the smoker grate*, insert temperature probe (if any) and close the lid. Let smoke for 90 minutes and then baste with melted butter.
  7. 2 Hours at 215: After 90 minutes increase temperature to 215 degrees F and let turkey smoke for an additional 2 hours. Then baste with melted butter.
  8. 350 Degrees until 165 Internal Temp: After 2 hours increase the temperature to 350 degrees F. and let the turkey continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  For a 13 pound turkey this took about 40-60 additional minutes.
  9. Remove + Baste: Remove from smoker and baste with additional melted butter.
  10. Rest: Cover with aluminum foil and let the turkey rest for 25-35 minutes.
  11. Carve: Carve and serve.


  1. In a deep skillet or medium saucepan melt butter on medium/medium-high heat.
  2. Once butter is melted, add in flour and whisk to combine. This will create a sort of paste (called a roux) and it should have an almost nutty smell.
  3. Then slowly add in the turkey drippings, whisking constantly.  Continue slowly pouring in the turkey drippings, whisking all the while, until it is all added.  Then do the same thing with the broth.
  4. Assess the consistency of the gravy – if you like it a little thinner add broth a little at a time, whisking to combine, until you have reached your desired consistency.  If you want it a bit thicker let it simmer (a soft boil) for a bit and it will continue to thicken.
  5. Taste and add salt, to taste.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. If gravy ends up having to sit for a bit and you feel it dries up a bit, just add a splash of broth and whisk to revive.


  • *Drippings: if you are wanting to make gravy then we recommend placing an aluminum pan on the smoker, add 2 cups chicken broth, a chopped onion, a chopped stalk of celery and a smashed garlic clove. Place a wire rack across the top of the aluminum pan and place the turkey on top of that – this way the smoke will still circulate and we can catch those drippings. You can also place the turkey directly in the aluminum pan, but there might be a little less smoke flavor.
  • Thaw: Make sure your whole bird is thawed before cooking. Read more about how to thaw turkey here!  Bottom line: trying to smoke a frozen bird will greatly impact how long it will take to cook – the best way to thaw a turkey is keep it in its original packaging and submerge in cold water (while keeping it refrigerated) for a couple days prior to cooking.
  • Brine: Again, the brine is completely optional – I have made the recipe both ways and it turns out amazing even if you don’t take that additional step! Learn more about brining here!
  • Prep Time: I didn’t include the brine in the prep time listed as it is an optional step.
  • Hock: Unlike making a Deep Fried Turkey, you CAN leave the plastic hock on the turkey legs if you want. I chose to remove it here (personal preference) – feel free to use kitchen twine to tie the legs together.
  • Pellets + Wood Chips: I used a combination of mesquite and hickory pellets and it turned out lovely! But feel free to use whatever combo you want.
  • Cook time (step 8): How long you need to cook the turkey at 350 degrees F. (at the end of cooking) will vary depending upon how many pounds your turkey is. For a 13 pound turkey it took 40 minutes cooking at 350 degrees F. for the turkey to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.  If your turkey is not completely thawed that will also effect the cooking time.
  • Seasoning: The recipe includes our Smoked Turkey Dry Rub but feel free to use this Classic Turkey Seasoning or you can simply use salt and pepper. 
  • Dairy-Free: Feel free to sub olive oil for the butter if you are dairy-free!
  • Stuffing: Feel free to stuff the turkey with onion, oranges, garlic and fresh sage leaves (or other fresh herbs)!
  • Carvinghere is a great video on how to properly carve your turkey!
  • Gravy: if you use an aluminum tray and catch those drippings, here is my favorite turkey gravy recipe
  • Nutrition: estimated nutrition provided only includes the turkey – it does not include the optional brine, dry rub or gravy. 


  • Serving Size: Approx. 1/2 pound turkey
  • Calories: 359
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 222.7 mg
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Protein: 44.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 163.5 mg