Smoked Turkey

The key to making turkey, no matter how you plan on cooking it, is to brine it. This post covers the brining and smoking of the Turkey.

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Smoked Turkey Recipe

Ever since we got our Traeger Smoker, we’ve been smoking everything (who doenst love some smoke flavor). Our absolute favorite thing to smoke is beef brisket. We get a 10-15lb brisket and eat it for over a week. But something about smoked brisket for Thanksgiving just didn’t sound right, and I love smoked turkey, so rather than buying a smoked turkey from the local BBQ place, I decided to make it myself with a few ingredients.

Smoked Turkey

Brine the Turkey

The key to making turkey, no matter how you plan on cooking it, is to brine it. This year, rather than making my own brine, I found a clean-ingredient brine at Costco from Pressery, a local-to-me company. It made the prep so much easier. And although making your own brine isn’t really that much more difficult, it definitely removes one step of the process. If you do find a premade brine, just be sure to carefully check the ingredient list for anything weird or gross.

Smoked Turkey
Smoked Turkey

The other key to an excellent smoky flavor turkey is butter or ghee. Since we have made the transition into a ketogenic lifestyle, butter is more of a staple around here. Spreading butter under the skin on the breast of the turkey results in a much more flavorful and tender meat, not to mention extra-crispy skin.

Smoked Turkey

And being that we don’t eat bread (not even grain-free substitutes in most cases), we don’t stuff the bird with traditional stuffing. Instead, we use other ingredients. I like to use salt & pepper, herbs, onions & garlic, and of course more butter. Not only does this add to the flavor of the turkey itself, but I recycle all of that when I make my post-Thanksgiving turkey broth. Waste not want not.

Smoked Turkey

Traeger Smoked Turkey

This recipe is written specifically with the Traeger smoker in mind, but if you have a different brand or type of smoker, it should be easily adaptable to achieve the smoky flavor. If you don’t have a Traeger and have been wanting a smoker, I’d highly recommend you put it on your Christmas wish list. Having it has taken our food to a whole new level of deliciousness. We can convert almost the same recipe into something completely different just by adding the smoke flavor. 

Smoked Turkey

Plus, just look at this golden, crispy, perfectly cooked turkey. THIS is what you want to serve up as the centerpiece of your holiday dinner. Talk about impressing your in-laws/grandma/always-acts-better-than-you-{family-member}. Just be sure you keep one of the turkey legs or thighs for yourself because everyone knows those are the best parts.

Keto Thanksgiving Feast
Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Prep Time: 9 hours
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 13 hours


  • 12-15 lb Turkey
  • 1 batch Turkey Brine (recipe below or store-bought), see notes
  • 1/2 cup Grass-Fed Butter or Ghee, room temperature
  • Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 large Yellow Onion, quartered
  • 3-4 stems Fresh Rosemary
  • 3-4 stems Fresh Sage
  • 6 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 3 Tbsp Grass-Fed Butter or Ghee, cold, cubed


  • 1 gallon Water
  • 2-3 cups Apple Juice, no added sugar
  • 4 stems Fresh Rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp Orange Zest
  • 3/4 cup Salt, yes, CUP
  • 3 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Honey, leave out for Whole30
  • 2 Tbsp Whole Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay Leaves


  1. Combine all brine ingredients in a large stockpot (if it's large enough to fit your turkey) or turkey brine bag. Place the turkey in the pot or bag and make sure it's completely covered.
  2. If using a stockpot, place the lid on the pot. If using the bag, seal up (by knotting the bag or clipping with a locking clip) and set it in a roasting pan to prevent any accidental leaks. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. The morning of, remove the turkey from the brine (over the sink to minimize any mess) and rinse it off completely, including inside the cavity. Pat it dry (a wet turkey is a soggy cooked turkey).
  4. Very gently separate the breast skin from the meat, being careful not to rip it. If you're wearing rings, take them off so they don't rip the skin either. Stuff the softened 1/2 cup of butter under the skin and press it over the entire breast (pressing from the outside of the skin is the easiest method).
  5. Salt and pepper the inside of the cavity and place the onions, rosemary, sage, and 3 Tbsp cubed butter/ghee.
  6. Wrap the prepare turkey in plastic wrap and place in the roasting pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the butter to firm up. Remove from fridge and discard the plastic wrap and coat the turkey in more salt and pepper, patting dry again beforehand in case condensation has collected under the plastic wrap.
  7. Turn the smoker on and allow the fire to get started. Turn the heat up to 180°F and place the turkey (still in the roasting pan) directly on the smoker grates for 2 hours. Turn up the heat to 225°F for another hour. Finally, increase the heat to 325°F for approximately 1 more hour, or until a quick-read thermometer reads 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh (test in the thickest parts).
  8. Remove from the smoker and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  9. Once you've gotten all the meat off the turkey, make a broth out of the carcass (get the recipe here).
Smoked Turkey

Please share:

  1. We grilled our turkey last year and it was amazing! I’ll be using your recipe this Thanksgiving. Some small differences from my usual, that I feel will add extra flavor. Couple suggestions….wear plastic, food-safe gloves when handling uncooked turkey. After carefully separating skin from breast meat, I place sage leaves on small pats of cold butter and place on top of breast meat, under the skin, keeping close together – about 10-12 butter pats/leaves per side. This adds another level of flavor and the finished bird is really pretty. Or if rosemary is your thing, add sprigs of that, or both. YUM!

  2. I read your recipe I’m trying it today but I have one question. you say to place the bird directly on the smoking rack is it supposed to be in the pan or directly on the rack or did you mean to say in the pan directly on the rack?

    1. Hi Ron. The turkey should be in the pan when it goes in the smoker (see step 7). I hope that helps and happy Thanksgiving!

  3. I’ve used this brine to smoke by turkey in my traeger since 2014 when you originally posted it for oven roasting. Turns out great every time!! I use the butter under the skin but cook it just a little differently. I smoke it for 3-4hrs until the skin is brown then stick it in the roasting pan and cover with foil to finish. Takes about 6hrs total depending on how cold it is outside. FYI this brine works for a bigger bird too. I’ve done 19lbs and it turned out great.

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