With the spring-summer season upon us and with most of us stuck at home due to the current global pandemic, there’s never been a better time to up your grilling game!
Turkey breast is easier to grill and carve than a whole turkey, and goes well with just about any side from mashed potatoes to couscous salad. The leftovers make for incredible meals too – make leftover salad with walnuts, cranberries, diced celery, and mayo, or serve in anything from sandwiches and tacos to lasagna and white chili.
Just make sure you don’t overcook your turkey breasts — white meat tends to dry out incredibly quickly during cooking. You’ll want to look over a guide with the best pellet smokers and make the best selection for you.
Why Grill Your Turkey Breasts?
Smoked turkey breasts are an excellent alternative to roasted turkey, particularly in the warmer months; it’s easy to do, doesn’t take as long as roasted turkey, and imparts a beautiful smoky flavor from the fire and the wood pellets. Be sure to use some flavored wood chips for extra flavor.
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1¾ hours.
- 1 4-5 lb. bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, thawed
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks) grass-fed butter, softened
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup garlic powder or garlic salt
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, fine sea salt, Celtic sea salt, or Himalayan pink salt
- 1/3 cup Demerara or brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. onion powder
- 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp. dry ground mustard
- 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp. rubbed sage
- 1 tsp. rosemary (optional)
- Aluminum foil
- 2 cups wood pellets of choice
- When making smoked turkey breast or roasted turkey, if your turkey was refrigerated beforehand, remove from the fridge 1 – 2 hours before cooking to bring it up to room temperature.
- Rinse the turkey breast thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen paper. At this juncture you can place some softened butter under the skin to help the turkey retain its moisture as it smokes.
- Mix all the spices for the dry rub in a small mixing bowl and generously sprinkle the spices over the turkey breast, making sure to rub the seasoning into the chest cavity and on all sides. Store any leftover spice rub in a covered container for use later.
- Sprinkle the dried thyme and rubbed sage all over the turkey, and set aside.
Cooking the Turkey Breast
- Set your smoker to the “SMOKE” setting with the lid open.
- After approximately 4-5 minutes, the wood pellets will have ignited, and you should see lots of smoke coming out from your grill.
- Up the grill’s temperature to 300°F – 325°F and close the grill cover; preheat for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Once the grill is hot, place the seasoned turkey breast directly onto the grill grate.
- Close the cover and cook for approximately 1¾ hours. Remember, the grilling times will vary depending on the weight of your turkey breast.
- Continually check the turkey breast’s internal temperature using a meat probe inserted into the thickest part to ensure that you don’t undercook or overcook the turkey. Also, keep basting the turkey with melted butter to keep the skin crisp and flavorful. The melted butter also stops the breast meat from drying out.
- When the meat probe registers an internal temperature of 165°F when inserted at the thickest of the breast, pull your turkey off the grill, transfer it to a cutting board, and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
- “Rest,” the smoked turkey breast for approximately 15 – 20 minutes before, carving up and serving. Make sure that you do not skip this step as the “resting time” helps the meat juices to redistribute, resulting in tender and juicy turkey.
- Season with more salt and pepper if required, carve up your turkey breast, and enjoy!
- Prep the turkey with the dry spice rub and dried herbs while your grill is preheating to save on time.
- Why cook one smoked turkey breast when you can cook two?! Freeze the second grilled turkey breast for another time to save you cooking from scratch.
- Leftover meat from this turkey breast is flavorful, tender, and oh, so juicy. Use this turkey to make excellent tasting sandwiches, salad, lasagna, burritos, tacos, white chili, and more!
- Use apple, pecan, oak, hickory, or pecan wood pellets to yield delicious mellow flavors that won’t overpower your meat’s natural flavor.
Your Questions Answered By the Grilling Experts at CookoutPal
How long does it take to grill a turkey breast at 225°F?
Smoking turkey at a temperature of between 225°F and 250°F in a smoker should take 3.5 – 4 hours. By then, a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should register 165°F -170°F.
At this point, the turkey is safe to serve and eat; remove the turkey from the rack of the grill cover loosely with foil, and rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
How many minutes per pound do you grill a turkey breast?
We estimate for the most tender and juiciest turkey, about 35 minutes per pound. Baste the breast with plain or flavored butter once every hour or so to keep the skin crisp, and refresh your wood chips after approximately 2 hours of cooking.
For safe eating, you’ll want your turkey breast to reach at least 165-170°F in the thickest part before carving and serving.
Do you smoke a turkey breast side up or down?
The best way to smoke a turkey is breast side up.
Place the turkey on the cooking rack with the breast facing up on the side that’s away from the direct heat. This way, your turkey breast will cook up nice and juicy without the danger of drying it out.
If your breast won’t stay upright on the grill rack, take 2-3 feet of aluminum foil, wad the foil up, and partially stuff the wadded up foil into the turkey’s chest cavity to create a “stand” that will keep your breast steady.
Should you first brine your turkey breast before grilling?
While it’s not entirely necessary, if you have the time to brine your turkey breast before grilling, we recommend you do so for 24 hours before cooking.
Brining adds flavor and helps the turkey to retain moistness as it cooks. A simple brine of 4 quarts cold water, 1 cup kosher salt, 1 cup packed Demerara or brown sugar, and 2 tablespoon. whole black peppercorns, should do nicely for a turkey breast weighing 4-5 lbs.
Wrapping It Up
We hope that you enjoyed this post on how to grill a turkey breast on a pellet grill and hopefully gained some valuable tips to use on your next grilling session. This smoked turkey breast recipe is perfect for entertaining guests at Thanksgiving and other times, as well as for pot lucks and social gatherings.
What we love about this recipe is that you’ll have plenty of leftovers for great tasting meals to last you throughout the week!
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If you are interested in more grilling recipes, do check these out for inspiration. Also, don’t forget to read our guide to the best pellet smokers on the market today.