It is turkey season and I am excited to have an excuse to smoke a bird on the Traeger! This wet brined smoked turkey is so simple to cook on the Traeger and it always yields a juicy and wonderfully smoked turkey. The turkey soaks up the juice and flavors from the brine and the added salt helps trap in those juices so that as the turkey cooks it does not dry out. This turkey will surely be a hit at your next holiday dinner!
What you need to brine a turkey
- A large waterproof container. Get one that is large enough for the liquid to cover the turkey. The produce drawer in your fridge is usually large enough.
- Kosher salt. You can use regular salt.
- Sugar. I’m using brown sugar for a touch of molasses flavor.
- Aromatics like oranges, lemons, and bay leaves. These are optional but nice. The important thing is the salt. You MUST use salt for the brine.
- Water. Start with warm water so the salt dissolves faster, then add cold water or even ice to cool down the water. You don’t want to soak the turkey in warm water.
We used a 20-pound turkey in the video. It was a little too tall to fit in the produce drawer from the fridge so we used a large Tupperware storage container for the brine. It held 8 quarts of water so I had to double the brining solution.
How to brine a turkey
Wet brining a turkey overnight allows the meat to soak up the juices in the brine so that when you are ready to cook the turkey the next day you end up with the juiciest, full flavor turkey ever! Turkey is a relatively lean meat so there is not much fat on the bird so we have to rely on a brine to provide the juicy flavor that makes the holiday dinner a hit. To prepare your brine follow these easy steps:
- Place the turkey in a large container
- Soak the turkey in the brine and add aromatics if desired, ensure the turkey is completely covered in liquid
- Allow the turkey to soak overnight up to 20 hours
- Rinse and pat dry the turkey, allow it to sit in the fridge for several hours to fully dry before cooking
Timetable for a Traeger smoked turkey
Here is a general guideline for how long it will take to finish smoking your turkey. Use this as a guideline to plan your dinner but make sure you cook the turkey to the proper temperature.
This timetable is based on the temperature settings in the recipe card. If you use a different temperature, the timing will change. You will also affect the time if you open the grill frequently.
- 8 to 10 pounds = 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
- 10 to 12 pounds = 3 to 4 hours
- 12 to 14 pounds = 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours
- 14 to 16 pounds = 4-1/4 to 5-1/3 hours
- 16 to 18 pounds = 5 to 6 hours
- 18 to 20 pounds = 5-1/2 to 6-3/4 hours
If you have a different size bird then calculate the smoke/cook time at 18 to 20 minutes per pound. Keep in mind that the cooking time for this Traeger smoked turkey will take longer than an oven-roasted turkey that is generally roasted at 325° to 350°F. This Traeger turkey is spending part of the time smoking at a lower temperature. That extra time is worth the flavor so plan accordingly.
Cook the Traeger smoked turkey based on temperature, not time
Taking the temperature of your turkey is the only way to make sure you don’t over-cook or under-cook the smoked turkey. The timing can vary for every turkey based on the size of the turkey and how often you open the grill.
Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Don’t push the thermometer in too deep or it will hit the bone and mess up the reading.
When the turkey is finished smoking double-check both sides of the turkey to make sure it cooked evenly. If there are any areas that register less than 160°F then cook it longer.
Note: The FDA recommends cooking turkey to 165°F. I cook it to 160°F, remove it from the heat and cover it to let it rest. By the time it finishes resting the temperature is always over 165°F.
It’s grill time! Get out there and cook your turkey and then comment below how it turned out!
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- 1 turkey (18 to 20 pounds)
- ½ cup softened butter
To make the brine:
- 1 cup kosher salt (or 3/4 cup table salt)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 quart hot water
- 3 quarts cold water (or enough to cover the turkey)
- 1 large onion, cut into quarters
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves
- Fresh rosemary and sage (a few sprigs of each)
Optional aromatics for the brine:
- 2-3 tablespoons peppercorns
- sliced lemons, oranges, onions, and garlic
Brine the turkey:
- Remove the giblet and gravy package from inside the cavity of the turkey. Remove or discard any plastic or metal cages or pop-up thermometers.
- Get a container that is large enough to hold the turkey and enough water to cover the turkey. Mix the salt, sugar, and hot water until dissolved. Add cold water or ice to cool the brine down.
- Place the turkey in the container and add the brining liquid. If you want to add additional aromatics like peppercorns, sliced onions, lemons, and bay leaves, do that as well.
- Top the container with the cold water. Make sure the turkey is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the Traeger grill:
- Open the grill lid. Turn the power switch on and set the dial to smoke. Wait 4 to 5 minutes until the fire starts.
- When the fire starts, set the temperature to 225°F and close the lid. Let the Traeger pre-heat for 15 minutes.
Smoke the turkey:
- Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and cover it with the softened butter. Make sure you get some of the butter underneath the skin.
- Stuff the cavity of the bird with onion, lemon, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs. Put the turkey in a roasting pan.
- When the Traeger is hot, place it on the grill and stick a leave-in thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Close the lid.
- Smoke the turkey until it reaches 110°F (this usually takes about 1-1/2 to 3 hours depending on the size of your bird).
- Increase the temperature on the Traeger to 350°F and cook until the temperature reaches 165°F (This usually takes 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours for an 18-20 pound bird) (see notes).
- Remove the turkey from the grill, cover with foil and let rest for 20 minutes.
- The hot water doesn’t need to be boiling hot, it just needs to be hot enough for the salt to dissolve easier.
- If it takes more than 4 quarts of water to cover the turkey then make more brine solution at a ratio of ¼ cup of kosher salt (or 3 tablespoons table salt) to 1 quart of water.
- Remember to wash your sink well after you rinse the brined turkey to avoid cross-contamination.
- The FDA recommends cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. I remove the turkey when it reaches 160°F. The carry-over heat usually brings the temperature up to or over 165°F. I recommend you follow FDA guidelines.
- If you have a larger turkey the cooking times will be longer. Cook the turkey based on temperature. See the post for general timing guidelines for this Traeger smoked turkey.
Nutrition InformationYield 18 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 84Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 15mgSodium 6340mgCarbohydrates 9gFiber 1gSugar 6gProtein 1g
Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.