How To Smoke A Turkey On A Pellet Grill?
Like the title of this article suggests I am going to show you how to smoke a turkey on your pellet grill. You are probably reading this because you want more out of your holiday dinner or because someone told you that smoking a turkey is easy and why aren’t you doing it yet. So if that’s the case then let me first say congratulations on joining the ranks of backyard pitmasters everywhere! And secondly, great choice on picking one of the best ways to infuse some delicious smoke flavors into your bird!
What is a pellet grill?
A pellet grill is a type of smoker that uses compressed wood pellets to smoke your food. Pellets are just cylindrical pieces of compressed sawdust that come from the pine or other hardwood trees. By using pellets you don’t have to chop up any wood, which means less work for you! This also means complete control over what type of flavor you want your food to have because it’s easy enough to switch out the type of wood pellets in use depending on what region or country you are cooking with.
Most pellet grills use an electric motor located either under the lid near the controls or at the bottom near where they store their fuel to drive a fan that forces air into the firepot and then it spreads out across the pellet pile. The firepot is a steel bowl where you load your pellets so they smolder and preferably produce lots of smoke to give your food that awesome flavor we love so much.
Speaking of, if you’re not familiar with wood pellets yet you should know there’s one type I recommend trying first, and that’s applewood. Just like how smoking cigars is different from cigarettes or drinking whiskey vs vodka; each type of wood gives a different type of smoke which will influence what the meat tastes like. Since it’s Thanksgiving we can probably all agree that apples go great with turkey! You may want to try cherrywood too though.
What are the types of pellet grills?
There are a lot of different options out there, but you want to choose between one of the three following types:
First and foremost is the type that uses electricity as its main power source. These can be very convenient because all you need to do is plug it in, turn it on and load your wood pellets into the firepot. They usually have a door right above where you put your pellets so loading them is easy and no hassle. However this also means you don’t get much control over how much heat or smoke they produce, and depending on what temperature setting you pick, chances are high that it won’t even use any at all. And since we’re trying to smoke here rather than grill we want high levels of both! That way we can fill our bird with lots of smoke and cook it nice and slow over the course of several hours.
The second type is either propane or natural gas powered. You can usually pick between these two types because they use one or the other as their main power source. They are more expensive than electric models but still fairly affordable regardless since typically they come with more cooking space inside which means you can fit bigger cuts of meat inside without any issue. Again, depending on what temperature setting you pick your grill’s fan will either run on full blast or not at all, resulting in large swings in heat output too! And again, since we want to produce lots of smoke throughout the entire time our turkey inside, this is something to avoid.
Lastly, we have wood pellet grills that offer the most control and flexibility when smoking your Thanksgiving meat. They may be more expensive than the other two types but they’re worth every penny because it’s just like having a portable outdoor oven with you! They usually come with their own built-in auger system so you can fill them up with pellets and leave them, or use an external feed so you can fill them up and monitor how much smoke is being produced. These types of models also usually give you access to their burn pot so you can add extra pellets whenever you need to without having to disassemble anything or get inside the grill itself.
All three have their own pros and cons but for the purpose of smoking a turkey at Thanksgiving, I would recommend going with wood pellet grills simply because they let you add more pellets when necessary without disturbing your food.
What are the benefits of using a pellet grill?
For most people, a pellet grill is going to be an upgrade from whatever they use right now. And this makes sense because it’s the most convenient type of grill you can have for Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits to using other types too!
Firstly, if your current method of cooking uses propane or natural gas then switching to an electric model will result in more energy efficiency since these grills don’t rely on electricity as much. On the contrary though, if you’re currently using charcoal and some form of smoker box (like I am) then switching over to a pellet grill (preferably wood pellet), and getting rid of the smoker box will make things easier since we’ll only need to use the pellet grill and a drip pan or two.
Secondly, pellet grills can definitely give you more smokey flavors than other types because it’s much easier to make sure your fire burns consistently throughout its entire duration. It doesn’t produce as much heat either which means you need lower cooking temperatures in order to cook your meat properly without burning anything. This also makes it easy for beginners since there’s less risk of screwing something up compared to using charcoal and a smoker box where you can easily burn your meat if you’re not careful enough!
Finally, pellet grills don’t require any startup prep work like propane does so all you’ll need is pellets and maybe fire starter cubes depending on what type of smoker box you’re using.
What are the downsides of pellets grills?
The main downside of using a pellet grill is that you need to shell out a little bit more cash upfront if you want a good model. They also require electricity in order to generate heat which can be an issue for some people who live in areas where the power grid isn’t the most stable.
Also, they’re harder to use compared to propane or natural gas because working with wood pellets requires learning how to properly maintain your grill’s internal temperatures through adjusting its airflow and pellet feed rates. This means there are lots of built-in settings you’ll have to learn about before actually being able to cook real food on it!
Lastly, wooden pellets are relatively expensive compared to other types so make sure you do your research first before buying!
How to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill?
Step 1: Prep the turkey
To cook a turkey with a pellet grill you first need to prep it by loosening up its skin so there’s more space between the meat and the bone. This will cause it to absorb more smoke, resulting in a better flavor. You can do this with your hands but I’d recommend using a pair of kitchen shears instead since they’ll make a cleaner cut and you won’t have to touch the skin directly with your fingers.
Once that’s done grab an onion half, slice it open from root to tip, spray both sides with olive oil then place them inside the bird’s cavity! This step results in flavorful juices dripping down into it; for improved presentation, you also want to make sure the onion halves face upwards when it’s done!
Step 2: Apply rub and add smoke
Get your hands on a high-quality poultry rub, place some inside the cavity along with the onion halves then apply the rest all over its skin. The onion has been soaking in oil so use that to help evenly distribute your favorite spices! They’re very fond of applewood chunks but feel free to experiment with other types such as cherry or hickory too. For best results, let it marinate overnight.
Once that’s done get yourself a chimney starter and fill it up with pellets… Fill it up until they reach half an inch below where its top grate is at, pour any leftovers into your pellet hopper then light the starter up.
Once it’s good and hot place two to three wood chunks inside, close everything up, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes! This will result in a nice mix of smoke with your pellets; you only need the fan running on low because we’re not looking to grill here folks, remember?
After that open everything back up, place the turkey right over the drip pan (it should be placed right under where its cavity is at) along with any extra space you have available around it.
Step 3: Control airflow
Once it’s in position grab some foil and use it to cover any holes or gaps between its drumsticks and body so all airflow can go through its cavity. This will allow the hot air to stay inside and cook your turkey faster!
Step 4: Monitor temperature & smoke levels
Without opening anything up, I’d recommend keeping an eye on both the grill’s built-in thermometer along one of those wireless remote BBQ meat probes you can find anywhere these days. The idea is for you to monitor how much heat is inside the grill, as well as how much smoke its fan is producing without checking too often so they don’t know what you’re up to.
When it comes time to check on progress, do so through the top lid only… use the remote probe first then lift it up carefully with a pair of tongs or something similar. If there are any signs of trouble, just pop the top open and grab a few more of those wood chunks and toss them in.
Last but not least, never go to sleep while your turkey is still cooking! As I’ve already mentioned, pellet grills are extremely simple to use on the surface; however, they do require constant monitoring for maximum results. If you can’t afford to stay awake until it’s done (for whatever reason) then use an oven instead. But if you decide to cook it overnight as many people do, make sure you get yourself one of these remote meat probes with temperature alerts before going to bed.
Step 5: Cook until 165 degrees Fahrenheit
As always, when making any kind of poultry we recommend cooking it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before pulling it off. Because it’s still cooking inside its own juices, the temperature should continue to rise by roughly 10-15 additional degrees after you pull it off so don’t freak out if you see a bit of pink still showing up.
To get started place your thawed bird on top of the drip pan with its breast facing up. Additionally, set your grill’s fan speed to low and keep that lid closed for best results! I’d also recommend getting yourself a meat probe or two since things could get a little messy without them.
Once all that is done leave it alone until the lock shows 160 degrees Fahrenheit then feel free to check one last time in case. Go ahead and make sure it looks moist but not pink, if so your work here is done!
Step 6: Carve & serve
First, take the juices that collected in the drip pan and pour them inside a cup or something similar before you even think about carving this guy. Dispose of the skin then carve up the meat into thin pieces and offer it on some nice sandwich rolls with a twist. After that put your bird back onto your pellet smoker to keep it warm while you go grab yourself some more chips and cookies for dessert. Serve with BBQ sauce and enjoy collecting all those empty platters!
How to choose a good turkey?
A lot of people tend to argue that the best way to judge a good turkey is by its size alone. However, if you take time to understand what really goes into choosing one before it’s even ready to be used then I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this one.
Size notwithstanding, there are actually two fundamental criteria for choosing any type of poultry! Think about it… they both have nearly identical purposes but completely different cooking methods which mean you should never base your decision on these alone. Otherwise, chances are high that at least one of them will lead to an unpleasant surprise during grilling time!
With all that in mind here are my top five tips for picking out a quality turkey before placing your order:
#1 Look for strong legs
The very first thing you should look to inspect is the bird’s legs. They should be firm, not jiggly or flimsy in any way. You can also check for this by knocking on its breast with your knuckles – if it sounds hollow then chances are it’s gone bad.
#2 Look for strong wings
These should be relatively dry and there shouldn’t be any yellow on the skin whatsoever. If they bounce back easily after being pressed then that means they’re fresh, plus it has some flavor which is always good! It might seem obvious but these only appear either before or during grilling time so make sure you check them out beforehand rather than at the last minute.
Note: For an average-sized turkey you should expect to grill for roughly 1-1.5 hours per pound.
#3 Look for a strong breastbone
While not always the case, this is extremely important if your goal is to find a nice juicy bird. If they’ve been processed correctly then it’ll be firm and moist but not completely scrumptious yet. It should also have a deep pink color at the center with an outer layer of white surrounding it before cooking begins.
If however, they’re extremely dry around either edge or lack that deep pink/white contrast altogether then chances are high that it’s actually too old… so proceed with caution! On the plus side, finding one like this means you can spend more time enjoying yourself rather than standing over the grill.
#4 Look for a smooth and firm skin
This is one of the most important things to be looking out for due to its extremely thin flesh which can go bad real quick. This applies regardless of whether it’s white or dark in color but when picking one make sure you give it a quick feel – if there are any bumps or blemishes then steer clear since they’ll only get worse during cooking time! Before use, make sure either side has been cleaned properly by removing any innards plus whatever else was stuffed inside beforehand.
#5 Look for moistness & plumpness
Last but not least, look at how chunky your bird is because that’s an almost guaranteed sign of freshness no matter what the size. If for some reason it’s way too big then just cut it into smaller portions before use. Note: Checking the meat alone isn’t always enough to tell you whether or not your bird is ready for use so be sure to ask about its origins before purchasing.
There are also certain things that might appear at first glance only to turn out to be complete falsehoods once your grill time arrives.
#1 The color of the skin doesn’t matter!
While this may seem like an important step, there have been numerous studies conducted around this topic which show that no matter what their color they’ll all cook in more or less the same amount of time! In fact, when it comes down to it most people have no clue how long a turkey should actually take to grill because it varies depending on which part you’re cooking.
#2 The color of the feathers doesn’t matter!
The only thing that really matters here is that they’re completely dry since wet ones will affect the end product. Think about it… how do you feel after taking a shower? If your answer was, “cold” then imagine what would happen to your turkey if water droplets were transferred onto its skin! This might not be an issue for some but there are also those who like to make sure the barbecue’s prepared ahead of time before turning up so just keep this in mind.
#3 Roasting it whole isn’t always best!
While I’m sure everyone out there knows this already, roasting a whole turkey is such a hassle and it doesn’t produce anything worth the effort! Sure, you get one hell of a bird once everything’s finished cooking but compared to just roasting individual parts it just doesn’t cut it in my book. Unless you really want or need that excess meat then I’d recommend cutting things up into smaller pieces and cooking them individually since the difference is night and day… okay, maybe not exactly but you get what I’m saying right?
Grilling turkey can be a real pain to be honest. There are so many things at play here, so many variables that might affect how your bird turns out in the end… but don’t let that scare you too much since I’ve gone ahead and listed everything down in one convenient location!
What’s the best wood for smoking a turkey?
Stuffing and gravy… does anyone really like this shit? It seems like something that just isn’t worth the effort considering just how long everything takes but I guess if that’s your thing then go right ahead since no one’s stopping you! If not, here are some things you can do instead:
Alton Brown stuffs his turkey with lemons and garlic which produces an almost sour taste when done properly. To make it work though he recommends slowing cooking the bird at a temperature for about four hours before adding in the stuffing so that it cooks for another two.
For extra flavor, mix together some butter, salt, pepper, and garlic before spreading it under the skin and over the breast. If you’re feeling really adventurous then there’s also this one recipe I found which involves an entire stick of butter to be mixed with everything else! As always though, just keep in mind that you need to do your best when trying new things or else making mistakes is inevitable.
How long does it take to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill?
Depends on the size and the temperature of course but in general, you should look at approximately six to eight hours depending on how thick your bird happens to be. Keep in mind that some sources recommend checking up on your turkey more often than usual since pellet grills generate a lot of smoke which might cause the meat to burn if checked too long.
Tips for smoking a turkey on a pellet grill:
Always test your grill’s temperature before placing the turkey in. If it’s too hot then lower the heat immediately or if it’s not producing enough smoke then try upping its pellets until you get that sweet spot.
When trying out new recipes, remember to always measure out every single ingredient carefully so that you don’t have to worry about anything going wrong during cooking! This might seem trivial but believe me when I say that making mistakes with measurements is one of the biggest reasons why people mess up their food!
Allow your bird to rest for at least half an hour before serving it up since this’ll give time for all the excess heat to escape and ensure that everything comes out nice and tender instead of hard as a rock! Just don’t forget to place some aluminum foil on top of it while it’s resting or else you might end up with burnt fingers from picking it up manually… which is never fun.
Make sure your grill can sustain high heats if you plan on taking things slow since there’s nothing worse than having overcooked meat after going through all that trouble, yup. If you have a smoker then just follow whatever instructions said maker gives but if not then feel free to adjust things to your own preference!
If you want to play it safe, just cook everything at a lower temperature for a longer period of time and then baste whatever needs more love during the last fifteen minutes or so. This way, the food will have that nice crispness to it when done without any worry over how dry things might get halfway through cooking if you take too much time.
In general, make sure your meat doesn’t go above 165 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken or 160 degrees Fahrenheit for turkey since both of these will make them unsafe for consumption. I know some people like their poultry well done but in my opinion, going any further is just barbaric! Might as well eat a shoe if that’s what you aiming for.
If you plan on adding some more smoke, do so sparingly because too much can really mess things up. A good rule of thumb is to add more once the turkey has already taken on a nice color or else it’ll get bitter and just taste bad.
The best advice that I can give this holiday season is to experiment around with whatever new recipes you find during your adventures in cooking! It’s always fun to try new things and while some may not come out exactly how they were intended, others might be great successes! Keep an open mind at all times and make sure you share anything tasty that comes out of your kitchen with everyone else!!!
Safety precautions when cooking with a pellet grill:
Make sure that your grill can reach a high enough temperature before you start cooking. If the lid is cold then the pellets won’t have anywhere to burn and might just spill out all over, which will cause a lot of headache in itself.
Also, keep in mind that most pellet grills don’t have any kind of insulation so there’s a very real chance of getting burned or starting a fire if you’re not careful! Make sure to place it on an even surface and never touch any hot parts after you’ve been cooking for at least half an hour because things could get a little too steamy.
If something starts smoking excessively then immediately turn off the grill since this means that either it’s overheating or that some of your pellets have clogged up the auger and need to be thrown out. I know you might want to save some money by using them again but trust me on this one, it’s just a bad idea!
Remember not to put anything flammable near any hot parts and keep children away from your grill if they don’t understand basic safety rules! Letting kids play too close can result in severe accidents especially if they bump into it and make it fall over. This is why I recommend always using a grill cover when not in use, yup!
What tools do I need to smoke a turkey?
A smoker or a grill, aluminum foil, cooking twine to keep that bad boy together, and a meat thermometer. Other than that nothing else is really required, although having a spray bottle filled with apple juice nearby can help out a lot when it comes to keeping the turkey moist.
Should I brine my turkey before smoking it?
No, not really. Brining can be helpful in making the meat juicier but if you’re pressed for time then it’s not that important or else things could end up tasting too salty.
Should I wrap my turkey in foil while smoking?
No! Only do this if you want your bird to end up with extremely salty skin. Let it cook completely on its own since it has enough fat in its cavity to keep things moist for the entire duration of smoking. Wrapping anything tightly while cooking is generally not a good idea unless you simply can’t bear looking at raw meat for too long, yup!
Do I have to baste my turkey while cooking?
You don’t have to but this will make sure that everything gets some nice color and won’t get too dry in the process of grilling. Basting just means pouring some butter or oil over the food every once in a while so it’s more than worth doing if you enjoy having some crispy bits on your meat.
What can you use to stuff the turkey with?
Pretty much anything you can think of and that has a low water content is the best choice in order to avoid any problems in the future. If there’s too much moisture then it could lead to an overcooked bird which we really want to avoid, right? Some good examples would be vegetables like onions, celery, and carrots; various types of cheese such as emmental or mozzarella; dried fruits such as cranberries or figs; cooked rice; different kinds of bread… I’ve used almost everything at some point so whatever floats your boat!
How do you prevent the turkey from getting dry?
The easiest way would be to brine it in advance in some saltwater so it soaks in all kinds of flavors before roasting… But if you don’t have time for this then just place it in a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil so the heat gets trapped inside and will keep your turkey nice and moist until it’s done.
What can I do to make my turkey brown faster?
Try putting some butter under the skin so that it melts while cooking and let the fatty juices drip down onto the meat which should result in a nice golden color. If this sounds bad then don’t worry because you won’t actually be eating any of it since just about all of that will get burned off! 😉 You could also try adding spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage… just keep in mind that too much can leave a bitter aftertaste.
How long do you need to thaw a turkey?
If you plan on cooking it from frozen then at least a day in advance should be fine but if it’s still partially thawed then I’d recommend cooking it immediately instead.
How do you make sure that your turkey is cooked all the way through?
There are three different ways to go about this one:
The best option is to use a meat thermometer that can measure internal temperatures, insert it into the thickest part of the thigh (make sure not to touch any bones!), and wait until it reaches 165°F which should take between 1h30min to 2h depending on how big your turkey is! If you don’t have one then cut into the deepest part of the thigh with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, if the juices that come out are completely clear then it’s done.
Another way is to check whether your stuffing is cooked by poking a metal skewer into the center of it and checking whether it feels hot when you touch it against your lower lip. If so then this means that everything should be ready so go ahead and take the turkey away from the grill!
If you don’t want to bother with any of this then just let it cook for another half hour before taking a peek at its internal temperature again to make sure that it will be getting done soon enough. Keep doing this until it reaches 165°F which should end up taking about two hours in total depending on how big your turkey is.
What rubs do you recommend for turkey?
I’m not a huge fan of using spices in general since they just burn and turn bitter so I’d recommend trying different kinds of brine instead. You could also try adding things such as paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage… just keep in mind that too much can leave a bitter aftertaste. And finally… DO NOT forget to save some rub for the outside in order to get that nice golden color and crisp skin!
What is the best way to carve a turkey?
The safest way would be to remove all of its legs and wings before placing it breast side down on your cutting surface; then you should press down firmly on top of it with your hands in order to flatten it out and make sure that it’s lying down flat before you start cutting through the skin. The next step is to make a horizontal cut in front of its hip bone all the way through, if the turkey has an oyster inside then this should be fairly easy since it will just pop out once you get close enough! After that just cut around the leg socket until you get back to where your original cut started, at which point you can pull both legs away from either side of its body…
Then comes removing the wings by cutting straight through both joints while making sure to avoid any sharp bones so they won’t tear up your hands. As for removing the drumsticks, simply slice them off by cutting horizontally right underneath them and pulling them away from either side of the turkey’s body.
Next, you should flip it over and start carving off slices while cutting vertically; make sure that each slice is held together by the skin at both ends so they don’t fall apart! But do keep in mind to only remove the breast meat and discard anything else such as all of its bones, oysters, even its wishbone since it doesn’t taste very good…
And finally, if you want to get rid of its excess fat then just place your hand underneath where the wings were and locate a small sack which should be fairly easy to find because it will look like a yellowish blob. Just cut through this and everything above it with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors before discarding it, you can also save it by re-freezing it in order to use for cooking later on.
Do you have to clean a pellet grill after every use?
No, not really… but I’d recommend doing it every once in a while since the dust and ashes that get stuck inside of its firepot can turn into a huge mess that is hard to clean. All you need is to remove the cooking grate and take out your pellet hopper followed by dumping its contents into a metal dustpan; then grab either an old toothbrush or kitchen brush in order to scrub away all of the ash and gunk until everything becomes nice and clean again.
What happens if you run out of pellets while cooking?
It’s an easy fix, just set your grill to its lowest setting that uses the least amount of pellets and waits until you have enough again in order to continue cooking. If it happens during smoking then you should try adding a few more chunks of wood instead since they are large enough to still burn for hours even if you don’t plan on using any heat at all!
It might take a little bit of practice before you can slow-cook one without having to worry about it over or under cooking, but as long as you use the right kind of pellets and adjust its heat according to what you’re trying to do then this is definitely an effective way of doing it! As always I hope you’ve enjoyed my article on smoking a turkey using a pellet grill.