I’ve been smoking turkeys for years. This recipe for smoked turkey breast turns out moist, tender and delicious every time I make it.
Whether you have a smoker like Weber’s Smokey Mountain or a regular grill you can get amazing results by following these simple steps.
Why a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey?
With smaller gatherings this year a turkey breast makes more sense than smoking a whole bird and having tons of leftovers.
Some folks don’t like the white meat. White meat is leaner and a large bird needs to cook longer. In the past a lot of people have been left with white meat that is dry. Friends don’t let friends eat dry turkey breast! 😉
With this recipe, it’s time to change their mind and their palate.
In our article “5 Rules for Cooking the Best Thanksgiving Turkey“ we give you the must do tips for a perfect turkey and we explain why a small bird is better.
Those same rules apply here which makes a turkey breast perfect for this Thanksgiving.
We cooked a 7 pound Honeysuckle White frozen young turkey breast.
This one was frozen, but if you prefer, you can use a fresh turkey breast instead.
Having trouble choosing between fresh or frozen turkey? Need tips on thawing?
No brine needed
Brine recipes abound, Alton Brown and other celebrity chefs brine their turkeys for hours using honey, kosher salt, apple or lemon juice and a variety of other things. For a fresh turkey these are wonderful and will add flavor as well as moisture.
However, frozen turkeys don’t need a brine. They are already marinated/brined.
To protect the bird during the flash freezing process, companies like Butterball and Honeysuckle White inject their turkeys with broth, salt, sugar and other natural flavorings.
Prepare the turkey
Once you have your turkey thawed you can begin the process.
Say it out loud, I promise you won’t have to add a dollar to the swear jar!
I chose to spatchcock my turkey. This is a fancy word for butterflying or splitting.
To do this you cut the backbone on either side, flip the bird and press it flat with the palm of your hand. You’ll hear or feel a pop as bones break and your bird is spread out.
To cut the backbone you can use poultry shears or a heavy, sharp chef’s knife.
A spatchcocked turkey will:
- Cook evenly
- Cook faster
In the bottom of this picture you’ll see the backbone I cut from this turkey.
Tip: Save the backbone for making stock/broth or gravy.
Amazon’s recommendation for poultry shears is the OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears.
I seasoned this turkey breast with ground pepper, salt and Everglades Seasoning which is a seasoning blend with salt, garlic, onion and other spices.
I’m watching calories so I omitted the butter and kept it simple by rubbing the seasoning under the skin.
After I applied the rub under the skin, I sprayed the outside of the skin with canola oil and then sprinkled the salt pepper and Everglades on top of the skin. This helps to crisp the skin and enhance flavor.
Tip: You can also add the rub mix to butter or olive oil and rub it under the skin and on the skin. Use some fresh or dried rosemary and thyme to elevate the flavor even more.
Smoke – grill
I have tried various types of charcoal and wood chunks. After experimenting, I always find myself back to using Kingsford. There is a reason they are the “king” of charcoal. Consistency, reliability and long lasting heat.
If you don’t have one, get one. You’ll thank me later.
- No lighter fluid needed.
- No lighter fluid taste.
- Easy to light.
- Ready faster.
Word to the wise: The chimney in the picture is a cheap knockoff, which works but doesn’t last.In the past I’ve used the Weber Rapidfire which is more durable, works better and lasts much much longer. You can bet I’ll be ditching this one and getting another Weber!
I definitely recommend the Weber Rapidfire brand charcoal chimney.
Smoker or Grill
I have the Weber Smokey Mountain 18″ and I love it. I have been cooking with the Weber for a few years now but for many years prior I smoked turkey on a classic charcoal grill.
Tip: If you are using a classic grill, place all of the hot coals on one side and the turkey breast on the other side. This will provide an indirect heat that allows for even cooking and will still allow for that great smoke flavor.
Wood Chips / Chunks
Fruit woods like apple or cherry produce a great mild smoke flavor.
Mesquite, hickory and other wood chips/chunks have a stronger smoke flavor and are great for briskets, pork butts and other meats that have stronger seasonings or sauces.
These Western Premium BBQ brand cherry chips produce a great smoke flavor. Amazon has a great variety pack from Western BBQ Products which features Apple, Cherry and Pecan Smoking Chips.
Water Bowl – Pan
If your smoker comes with a water bowl or pan, you won’t need it for this recipe.
Poultry can be cooked at a higher temperature than other traditional smoked meats like brisket and besides, you want the skin crisp.
I placed foil over the bowl to prevent it from filling with drippings which can burn, adding a flavor you don’t want.
Cooking Your Turkey
If you remember nothing else about my long winded rant here, remember this:
TEMPERATURE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TIME!
Traditionally Mom or Grandma would put the turkey in the oven and set a timer. This is where dry turkey comes from. No insult meant, this was standard and all the recipes had the oven temperature and time listed.
I don’t care if my turkey takes an hour or two hours, I am watching for it to reach the perfect temperature before I pull it from the smoker or grill. There, I said it, and i’m not taking it back. lol
A wireless digital thermometer is an amazing tool. The Enzoo Wireless Digital Thermometer was Amazon’s recommendation and came with a case and 4 probes. It works flawlessly and has an alarm when you reach the appropriate smoker temperature and meat temperature.
Place your probe in the thickest part of the turkey breast (not touching bone.)
You want your smoker to be between 325° to 350°
You’ll see in the picture: P1 is the smoker probe and P3 is the turkey breast.
Tip: Once your smoker or grill reaches temperature, add your turkey and then your wood chips. A good size handful is my wood chip measuring method.
This is still considered smoking, but low and slow should be reserved for beef and pork, where you want to break down the collagens and connective tissues in the meat.
At these temperatures you will need about 15 to 20 minutes per pound.
Smoking section: If you aren’t concerned with crispy skin and prefer a stronger smoke taste you can smoke your bird low and slow. Shoot for 275° to 300°.
For lower temperatures you will need 30 to 40 minutes per pound
The time is just a guideline, the goal here is to cook to temperature.
Pull your bird off at 155. Carryover will take you to 165.
Disclaimer: USDA recommends that all poultry be cooked to 165° internally. Use a food thermometer to ensure that carryover has reached this temperature prior to serving.
What is carryover? The denser the meat the more the internal temp will continue to rise after you remove it. This is also referred to as resting, it allows the moisture to redistribute throughout the turkey.
Rest your turkey for 15 minutes breast side down. Juices love gravity. 😉
We loved this turkey!
The tender, juicy taste combined with a smoky flavor was gobbled up in no time. Leftovers were perfect for turkey sandwiches the next day!
If you like this recipe, check out our blog for other great posts and recipes and subscribe below for updates.
Smoked Turkey Breast
- Weber Smokey Mountain or other Smoker or Grill
- Kingsford Charcoal
- Weber Charcoal Chimney
- Enzoo Wireless Digital Thermometer
- Oxo Poultry Shears
- Western BBQ Cherry Wood Chips
- 1 7lb Turkey Breast
- Everglades Seasoning
- Canola oil spray or Olive oil
- Optional: Dried Rosemary and Thyme, Butter or Olive Oil
- Prepare the grill and light the charcoal:
- Spatchcock the turkey by cutting the backbone on either side with poultry shears (or a sharp heavy chef knife.) Flip the turkey and push down with your palm until it is spread/flattened.
- Rub the spices under the skin. If you want to add more flavor, mix your spices with either olive oil or softened butter.
- Dry the skin with a paper towel, spray the skin with canola oil or rub with olive oil and sprinkle the outside of the skin with the spices.
- Once the charcoal is gray and hot add it to the grill or smoker. Open the vents and close the lid.
- When the smoker is between 325° and 350° add your turkey breast, insert the temperature probe and add a liberal handful of cherry smoking chips. Close the lid, leave the vents open.
- Monitor the temperature of the smoker / grill with a wireless digital thermometer. Adjust vents to stay below 350° by closing them gradually by small margins over time. Never close the vents by more than 3/4.
- Cooking will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes per pound. No matter how much time has passed, when the internal temperature of the Turkey Breast reaches 155° remove it to your kitchen, tent with foil and allow it to rest (breast side down) for 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches 165°
- Carve, serve and enjoy!
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