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How long do you smoke a turkey tenderloin on a pellet grill?

Smoking a turkey tenderloin on a pellet grill is a great way to add delicious smoky flavor to this healthy and lean cut of meat. The tenderloin comes from the breast of the turkey and is very tender and easy to cook. When using a pellet grill, you’ll want to monitor the internal temperature and cooking times closely to ensure the tenderloin comes out juicy and fully cooked.

Recommended Internal Temperature

The USDA recommends cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill any harmful bacteria and ensure it is safe to eat. For turkey tenderloins, it’s best to cook them just until they reach an internal temp of 160°F. Cooking beyond 165°F can cause the tenderloin to dry out quickly. Use a good digital meat thermometer to check the internal temp in the thickest part of the tenderloin.

Approximate Cooking Times

The cooking time can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the tenderloins, temperature of the grill, and thickness of the meat. Here are some general guidelines for approximate cooking times:

  • 1 lb turkey tenderloin – 60 to 90 minutes
  • 2 lb turkey tenderloin – 90 minutes to 2 hours
  • 3 lb turkey tenderloin – 2 to 2.5 hours

These times are for tenderloins cooked between 225°F to 275°F on a pellet grill. The higher temperature range will cook faster. Cook times also depend on how much smoke flavor you want. Longer cook times will result in more smokey flavor.

Cooking Steps

Follow these steps for smoking turkey tenderloin on a pellet grill:

  1. Pat the tenderloin dry and coat lightly with olive oil. Season generously with salt, pepper, and any additional desired seasonings.
  2. Preheat pellet grill to 225°F to 250°F using a milder flavored wood pellet like apple, cherry, or maple.
  3. Place tenderloin directly on grill grates. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of meat if your grill doesn’t have a built in thermometer.
  4. Smoke for 30 minutes then start checking internal temp periodically. Remove from grill when internal temp reaches at least 160°F.
  5. Tent tenderloin loosely with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Pellet Grill Tips

Here are some tips for best results when cooking turkey tenderloin on your pellet grill:

  • Always pat the tenderloin dry before cooking. Excess moisture on the surface can cause grill flare ups.
  • Use milder fruit wood pellets rather than heavy smoke flavored pellets like hickory or mesquite.
  • Cook at a lower temperature, between 225°F to 275°F to allow time for smoke absorption.
  • Place tenderloin on upper rack if possible, away from the direct heat source.
  • Let the tenderloin rest 5-10 minutes before slicing for juicier meat.

Wood Pellet Recommendations

The following wood pellets work well for smoking turkey:

Wood Pellet Flavor Description
Apple Mild, sweet, fruity smoke flavor
Cherry Slightly sweet smoke flavor
Maple Mild, smoky, slightly sweet flavor
Pecan Rich and nutty smoke flavor

Avoid very strong smoke flavors like hickory or mesquite on more delicate meats like turkey tenderloin. The milder fruit wood flavors complement turkey best.

Rub and Marinade Ideas

In addition to basic salt and pepper seasonings, consider using a spice rub or marinade to add more flavor to the turkey tenderloin before smoking. Here are some ideas:

Spice Rubs

  • Brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
  • Paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil
  • Cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper

Wet Marinades

  • Orange juice, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, olive oil
  • Soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic
  • Yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, curry powder

Let the tenderloin marinate for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator before smoking for best flavor penetration. Pat dry before placing on the pellet grill.

Serving Suggestions

Smoked turkey tenderloin is delicious served several ways:

  • Sliced and served as entrees with roasted vegetables and rice pilaf
  • Chopped or diced for salads and grain bowls
  • Sliced thin for sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads
  • Diced and added to soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles

The smoked turkey adds great flavor and nutrition to many recipes. Slice leftovers thinly for quick sandwiches and snacks. Store properly refrigerated for 3-4 days.


Smoking a savory turkey tenderloin on a pellet grill takes some time, but infuses amazing flavor into this lean and healthy cut of meat. Cook times can range from 1 hour up to 2.5 hours depending on size. Use milder fruit wood pellets and cook at 225°F to 275°F until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Let the tenderloin rest before slicing and serve smoked turkey in your favorite entrees, salads, and sandwiches. With the right techniques, you’ll enjoy juicy and delicious smoked turkey off your pellet grill.