Learn how to make smoked turkey tenderloins on ANY grill or smoker, whether its a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill, a Masterbuilt propane smoker, or just a simple Weber kettle!
Smoked turkey tenderloins are just about the easiest way to make some smoked turkey that everyone will enjoy!
(Yes, you need to smoke some caveman-style turkey wings if you've never made them before!)
But the hands down EASIEST and FASTEST way to make a simple smoked turkey meal is with some smoked turkey tenderloins!
What are Turkey Tenderloins you ask?
What they really are is the best part of the turkey breast meat.
So if you know how to cook chicken breasts, you can make these super simple smoked turkey tenderloins just as easily.
Buying Turkey Tenderloins to Smoke
A typical package of turkey tenderloins will be 1.5 lbs in total weight and contain two large turkey tenderloins.
A good rule of thumb is to serve a ½ pound of meat per person, so one package of two tenderloins will serve about three people, or two if they are very hungry.
Make sure to consider how many side dishes you are serving as well.
If you have leftovers, smoked turkey tenderloin works great on a smoked turkey sandwich the next day or even in some homemade smoked turkey soup!
Our Favorite Seasonings
We are going to smoke the turkey tenderloins with medium INDIRECT heat.
So no need to worry about burning the sugar in your chosen rub like we have to think about when crisping up the skin on chicken wings with high DIRECT heat for example.
That said, think about what flavor profile you are going for with your smoked turkey tenderloins.
Do you want classic thanksgiving flavors to accompany some mashed potatoes and gravy?
We typically like ours barbecue style when making smoked turkey tenderloins and especially like one of our favorite BBQ seasonings, Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship BBQ Rub when making chicken or turkey in the smoker.
It's got a little sweetness and a good hit of garlic, onion, and some heat to really perk up the otherwise bland turkey meat.
If you want to make your own Turkey Rub we've got a simple recipe for that down below as well!
Since turkey tenderloins have no skin, make sure to spray or brush little cooking oil such as olive oil on before applying the rub.
This will not only help the rub stick better but keep the meat from drying out as easily in the smoker.
Choosing Wood Pellets
For turkey we generally go for a milder smoke flavor by choosing oak or fruitwood pellets.
Pecan, apple, beech and cherry all give great results.
On our pellet grill we used these apple pellets and got a nice mild smoke flavor on our smoked turkey tenderloins.
Because turkey tenderloins have no skin to worry about crisping up like with turkey legs or turkey wings, we can smoke them at a little lower temperature and keep them nice and moist while giving them time to absorb a lot of good smoky flavor.
But because turkey tenderloins are also about 99% lean, we can't smoke them TOO low or we risk drying them out before they ever finish cooking.
So that's why we decided to split the difference between 225°F where we sometime cook pork butt and beef brisket, and 325°F where we like to smoke "skin-on" turkey, and smoked our tukey tenderloin at about 275°F.
Our smoked turkey tenderloins took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to fully cook at about 275°F on our pellet grill.
Make sure check with an instant read thermometer to see if certain tenderloins are cooking faster than others and may need to be rotated around depending on how even the heating is of your grill or smoker.
We made sure to flip the smoked tenderloins after about 40 minutes too because the heat coming from the bottom of the Pit Boss pellet grill was cooking the underside of our turkey tenderloins faster than the tops.
Target Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked turkey tenderloins.
If you don't yet own an instant read thermometer, ThermoPro makes a good one.
Bring the internal temperature of your smoked turkey tenderloins up to at least 165°F.
Slice and Serve
Let the smoked turkey tenderloins rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes before slicing them.
Using a good meat slicing knife, like our go-to favorite from Mairico, cut the turkey tenderloin right before serving into about 1 inch thick slices.
The thinner you slice the more surface area is exposed to air and the faster the smoked turkey tenderloins will dry out.
You have a lot of great options when it comes to serving smoked turkey tenderloins!
The leftovers also work great on a smoked turkey sandwich or in a batch of smoked turkey soup!
Smoked Turkey Tenderloins
- Gas Grill, Pellet Grill, or Smoker
- Wood pellets, chunks, or a pellet tube smoker with pellets or a smoker box with wood chips preferably a fruitwood like apple
- Paper Towels
- Cutting Board
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Instant Read and/or Leave in Probe Thermometer
- Grilling Tongs
- Heat Resistant Grilling Gloves
- Slicing Knife
- 3 lbs Raw Turkey Tenderloins (4) ¾ lb tenderloins, usually there are 2 to a package.
- Olive Oil
- A Favorite BBQ rub like Three Little Pigs Kansas City Rub -OR - our BBQ Turkey Rub Below. sugar free so that the rub will not burn
BBQ Turkey Rub
- 1 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Kosher Salt use more or less to taste
- ¼ teaspoon Onion Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper optional for heat
- Light or turn on your smoker, grill or pellet grill and set up the temperature to 275°F. If using a grill, only light a small amount of charcoal or light one or two burners on one side for indirect cooking
- Remove the turkey tenderloins form their packaging and rinse with cold running water.3 lbs Raw Turkey Tenderloins
- Place them on a cutting board and pat dry with paper towels.
- Gather your favorite BBQ rub or chicken and turkey or mix together the ingredients to the BBQ Turkey Rub above in a small mixing bowl.A Favorite BBQ rub like Three Little Pigs Kansas City Rub -OR - our BBQ Turkey Rub Below., 1 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, 1 tablespoon Chili Powder, ½ tablespoon Kosher Salt, ¼ teaspoon Onion Powder, ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder, ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper, ⅛ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, 1 tablespoon Paprika
- Brush or spray on a thin layer of regular olive oil on each side to help the rub stick.Olive Oil
- Sprinkle the BBQ rub all over the turkey tenderloins on each side.
Finish Setting up your Grill or Smoker
- Add your wood chunks directly to the firebox of a smoker, or use chips in a smoker box, or pellets in a tube smoker or pellet grill.
- Oil the grates well with some more olive oil using a paper towel
- Once smoke is being produced and the grill or smoker is at 275°F, put your turkey tenderloins on the indirect side and close the lid.
Smoking the Turkey Tenderloins
- Rotate and flip the turkey tenderloins as needed, maybe every 30 minutes, for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the tenderloins has reached 165°F.
- Remove the smoked turkey tenderloins from the smoker and place on a cutting board to cool.
Slicing and Serving
- Let the smoked turkey tenderloins rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Slice the tenderloins one at a time into 1 inch thick slices and serve immediately while hot.