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How to Make Smoked Turkey Tenderloins

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!

smoked turkey tenderloin sliced on a plate

So you want to make some smoked turkey but don’t necessarily want to mess with smoking a bone-in turkey breast much less a whole turkey.

You’ve got other options such as a boneless turkey breast or even turkey thighs and turkey wings.

(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?

Well they aren’t exactly true tenderloins like you might find with a pork tenderloin or beef tenderloin, because, well, turkey’s just aren’t designed that way.

What they really are is the best part of the turkey breast meat.

Lean and tender, and shaped almost just like large chicken breasts or chicken tenders to be more precise.

So if you know how to cook chicken breasts, you can make these super simple smoked turkey tenderloins just as easily.

Let’s Go!

 

Buying Turkey Tenderloins to Smoke

two packages of butterball raw turkey tenderloins

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 1/2 pound of meat per person, so one package of two tenderloins will serve about three people, or two if they are very hungry.

raw turkey tenderloins on a cutting board

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!

 

How to Make Smoked Pig Shots
How to Make Smoked Pig Shots

Our Favorite Seasonings for Smoked Turkey Tenderloin

a bottle of three little pigs kansas city championship bbq rub

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.

Thats 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?

Or do you want a more barbecue style smoked turkey to serve in the middle of summer when everyone’s sick of hamburgers and hot dogs?

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.

seasoned turkey tenderloins

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.

 

The Best Woods for Smoking Turkey Tenderloins

pouring apple pellets in a pit boss hopper

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.

 

Best Times and Temperatures for 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.

a pit boss pellet grill set from 270 to 275 degrees F

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.

 

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Turkey Tenderloins?

raw turkey tenderloins placed in a smoker to smoke

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.

flipped over smoked turkey tenderloins

 

Target Internal Temperature for Smoked Turkey Tenderloin

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.

an instant thermometer showing 165 degree internal temperature of a smoked turkey tenderloin

Bring the internal temperature of your smoked turkey tenderloins up to at least 165°F.

Turkey tenderloins are WHITE meat, so we target the same internal temperature as we would for other turkey white meat such as breasts and wings.

 

Setting up your Grill or Smoker for Smoked Turkey Tenderloins

smoking turkey tenderloins on a pit boss

You’ll need to set up your grill or smoker a little different depending on whether you are using a gas grill, an electric smoker, or a pellet grill like a Traeger or Pit Boss.

Here are the best instructions for setting up different types of grills and smokers to make delicious smoked turkey tenderloins so go ahead and skip down to the type you are using!

 

Smoked Turkey Tenderloin in a Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker

Weber 22-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker

Weber Smokey Mountain on Amazon

Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with about a chimney’s worth of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.

If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, go ahead and fill it too.

Light a charcoal chimney with just a couple handful of briquets and wait about 15 minutes for them to fully ignite.

Oil the racks of the smoker with a paper towel to keep the turkey tenderloins from sticking later.

Once lit, add the briquets to the center depression you created.

Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the temperature is in the 250°F range.

Add 1 chunk of smoking wood once the smoker is up to temperature, put the seasoned turkey tenderloins on the oiled racks.

Then slowly close down the top and bottom dampers to about 1/3-1/4 open until you are maintaining a temperature of about 275°F.

You will likely need to rotate and flip through out the cook for even heating to the smoked turkey tenderloins.

Continue cooking the smoked turkey tenderloins as described above until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F, usually after about 1 hour and 20 minutes depending on their size.

Want to see a list of our FAVORITE Vertical Smokers for 2022?  Check it out here!

 

Smoked Turkey Tenderloin in Propane and Electric Smokers

a masterbuilt electric smoker with the door closed full of smoke and a pork butt

Masterbuilt Electric Smoker on Amazon

Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.

Debating whether to buy a propane or electric smoker?  Check out our COMPLETE Comparison Guide HERE.

 

For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 275° F.

Oil up the racks with a paper towel to keep the turkey tenderloins from sticking.

Add wood chips to your smoking wood tray and once the smoker is up to temperature, put the seasoned turkey tenderloins in.

Adjust the propane valve to continue maintaining a temperature of about 275°F.

Rotate and flip as needed throughout the cook, it will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes in total.

When the internal temperature of the smoked turkey tenderloins is 165°F, remove them from the smoker.

Need a refresher? Check our our Complete Guide to How to Use a Propane Smoker HERE.

 

For Electric:  Plug your electric smoker in, open the vents, and turn the temperature to 275° F.

While it comes up to temperature, add smoking wood chips, not pellets, to the smoking wood tray.

Oil the grates of the electric smoker with a paper towel.

a masterbuilt electric smoker set to 275 degrees

Place your seasoned turkey tenderloins in the electric smoker and close the door.

You will need to refill the wood chips every 30 minutes or so as they smolder out in the chip loader.

We would recommend using no more than 2 loads of wood chips in total, otherwise you may end up oversmoking the turkey tenderloins.

Smoke the turkey tenderloins until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

Refilling wood chips is one of the major drawbacks, besides cooking area and temperature range, of electric smokers compared to pellet grills like Traegers and Pit Bosses.

However, we recently found a great solution.

If you are tired of having to reload fresh wood chips into your electric smoker, especially on longer cooks like pork butt and brisket, then check out this Masterbuilt Automatic Slow Smoker Attachment.

It basically burns new fresh wood chips at a constant rate, much like how a pellet grill works, freeing you up to do other things while getting your food nice and smoky!

 

Smoked Turkey Tenderloins on a Pellet Grill

a pit boss pellet grill making white smoke preheating

Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.

Plug in the pellet grill, let it run through its start up process, and then turn the temperature to 270°F.

(Many pellet grill brands only allow you to make adjustments in increments of 10°F in this range.  This is fine, it will not change the cooking time noticeably.)

Make sure you have the flame broiler CLOSED so that the pellet grill is set up for INDIRECT cooking.

For instance, on Pit Boss and Camp Chef pellet grills there is a special lever to pull to switch from DIRECT to INDIRECT heat.

the flame broiler adjustment handle for direct or indirect heat

You want the flame broiler CLOSED for INDIRECT heat.

Go ahead and oil the grates so the smoked turkey tenderloins do not stick later.

When the pellet grill has come up to temperature, place your seasoned turkey tenderloins in the cooking chamber and close the lid.

Rotate and flip the smoked turkey tenderloins as needed for even cooking minutes every 30 minutes or so as described above for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 165°F.

Never used a pellet grill before?  Read our Ultimate Guide to Pellet Grills to learn why they are so easy and how to set one up for success every time.

Here is also a list of our Favorite Pellet Grills Priced UNDER $500

 

Smoked Turkey Tenderloins on a Gas Grill

Weber 45010001 Spirit II E-310 3-Burner Liquid Propane Grill, Black

Check out this Weber Grill on Amazon

On a gas grill you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets.

Think you need a fancy smoker to smoke food at home? 

Think again.

Great smoked food can be made right on your current gas grill.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Smoking on a Gas Grill HERE.

If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!

Read Everything You Need to Know about how to use Smoker Boxes here, and see a selection of our Favorite Pellet Tube Smokers here.

Or check out this handy comparison between smoker boxes and pellet tube smokers if you can’t decide which is right for you.

In the case of smoked turkey tenderloins, we would opt for the pellet smoker tube since we need longer than the 30 minutes one batch of wood chips in a smoker box will last us.

This will save you the hassle of having to refill the smoker box multiple times while smoking the turkey.

Light up the end of your pellet smoker tube filled with pellets with a good butane torch (you can’t use a regular lighter for pellets) and place it in the grill as well to add smoky flavor while the turkey tenderloins cook.

lighting a pellet smoker tube with a butane torch

Let the pellets ignite for about 5 minutes then blow out the flame and lay the pellet tube smoker down on the grates next to the turkey tenderloins and close the lid.

a pellet tube smoker making smoke

Set up your gas grill for INDIRECT cooking with a single burner lit on one side and plan for your turkey tenderloins to be on the other side.

Light just one or two burners so the temperature stays low in 275°F range.

Remember, we are smoking the turkey tenderloins INDIRECTLY, like an oven, not DIRECTLY over the lit burners.

Once the temperature is of the gas grill up to 275°F, smoke your turkey tenderloins as described above for about one hour and 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 165°F.

Make sure to flip and rotate as necessary for even cooking.

 

Smoked Turkey Tenderloins on a Charcoal Grill

Set up your charcoal grill for indirect cooking with a large mound of unlit briquets on one side and plan for your smoked turkey tenderloins to be on the other side.

Make a small depression in the mound of unlit briquets where you will dump the lit ones along with the smoking wood.

a charcoal grill set up for indirect smoking

Remember, we are smoking the turkey tenderloins INDIRECTLY, like an oven, not DIRECTLY over the coals.

Light a charcoal chimney with just a couple handfuls of briquets and wait about 15 minutes for them to fully ignite.

Once lit, add the briquets to the center depression you created, replace the grill grates and oil them up with a paper towel..

Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the temperature is in the 250°F range.

Add 1 chunk of smoking wood once the grill is up to temperature, put the turkey tenderloins on the grill grates opposite of the charcoal.

Then slowly close down the top and bottom dampers to about 1/3-1/4 open until you are maintaining a temperature of 275°F.

Rotate and flip the smoked turkey tenderloins as necessary with tongs for even cooking.

After about an hour and 20 minutes, or when the internal temperature of the smoked turkey tenderloins has reached 165°F, go ahead and carefully remove them from the grill.

 

Serving Smoked Turkey Tenderloins

smoked turkey tenderloins on a cutting board

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.

slicing a smoked turkey tenderloin

So just like we do with our smoked pork loin and beef tenderloins, always slice in nice thick increments, right before serving.

If you are going for summer BBQ flavors, you can serve the smoked turkey along with some smoked baked beans and smoked mac and cheese!

If you want a more traditional Thanksgiving vibe, go for the smoked sweet potatoes or smoked mashed potatoes with some smoked brussel sprouts or green beans on the side for a little delicious color!

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!

 

What Other Foods Can I Smoke?

sweet potatoes smoking in a smoker
Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes go GREAT with Smoked Turkey!

Looking for some more inspiration for things to smoke?

You’ve come to right place!

Check out some of our favorite Turkey and Side Dish recipes below that can easily be modified to be done on any grill or smoker.

More Turkey

Sides and Desserts

smoked turkey tenderloin sliced on a plate

Smoked Turkey Tenderloins

Learn how to make smoked turkey tenderloins on ANY grill or smoker, whether its a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill, a Masterbuilt propane or electric smoker, or just a simple Weber kettle!
Smoked turkey tenderloins are just about the simplest way to make some delicious turkey for a smaller crowd or on weeknight without the fuss of smoking a whole turkey!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Australian, barbecue, BBQ, Holiday, Smoked, Thanksgiving
Servings 6 servings
Calories 500 kcal

Equipment

  • 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

Ingredients
  

  • 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 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • ½ Tbsp Kosher Salt use more or less to taste
  • ¼ tsp Onion Powder
  • ¼ tsp Garlic Powder
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper
  • tsp Cayenne Pepper optional for heat

Instructions
 

  • 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
    a pit boss pellet grill set from 270 to 275 degrees F

Season the Turkey Tenderloins

  • Remove the turkey tenderloins form their packaging and rinse with cold running water.
    3 lbs Raw Turkey Tenderloins
    two packages of butterball raw turkey tenderloins
  • Place them on a cutting board and pat dry with paper towels.
    raw turkey tenderloins on a cutting board
  • 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 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar, 1 Tbsp Chili Powder, ½ Tbsp Kosher Salt, ¼ tsp Onion Powder, ¼ tsp Garlic Powder, ¼ tsp Black Pepper, ⅛ tsp Cayenne Pepper, 1 Tbsp 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.
    seasoned turkey tenderloins

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.
    a pit boss pellet grill making white smoke preheating
  • 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.
    raw turkey tenderloins placed in a smoker to smoke

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.
    an instant thermometer showing 165 degree internal temperature of a smoked turkey tenderloin
  • Remove the smoked turkey tenderloins from the smoker and place on a cutting board to cool.
    smoked turkey tenderloins on a cutting board

Slicing and Serving the Smoked Turkey Tenderloins

  • 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.
    smoked turkey tenderloin sliced on a plate

Nutrition

Calories: 500kcal
Keyword barbecue turkey tenderloins, BBQ turkey tenderloins, Camp Chef, camp chef turkey tenderloins, electric smoker turkey tenderloins, grilled turkey tenderloins, Masterbuilt, masterbuilt turkey tenderloins, Pit Boss, pit boss smoked turkey tenderloins, Pit Boss Turkey Tenderloins, poultry, smoked turkey, smoked turkey tenderloins, thanksgiving, traeger, traeger smoked turkey tenderloins, traeger turkey tenderloins, turkey tenderloins in a smoker, turkey tenderloins on a grill, Weber
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