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Smoked Whole Turkey Breast

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Our recipe for smoked whole turkey breast is juicy and succulent and makes the perfect main course for small holiday and Thanksgiving gatherings and dinner parties.

sliced turkey breast
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In this step-by-step recipe guide, we will walk you through all the ins and outs of smoking a whole turkey breast. This recipe is a great for those who prefer turkey white meat, and it can be cooked alongside a whole turkey if needed.

We love smoked turkey, but there are those years when our group is a mere 4-6 people rather than a larger 12-16 person group. Smoked turkey breast comes in handy for smaller gatherings, and let’s face it, it’s a great option for guests who prefer breast meat. If this resonated with you, then you’ve come to the right place. Our recipe guide will walk you through all the steps to make a delicious smoked whole turkey breast. And the best part is that you can use this recipe year-round! 

Raw whole turkey breast section
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What is a whole turkey breast?

Typically, turkey breast is sold as single, boneless, skinless breasts. However, you can purchase the entire breast, including the skin and breast bone. A whole turkey breast is what remains after the legs, wings, thighs, and backbone are removed. This section weighs roughly 6 1/2-8 pounds and is sold all-natural or packed in a light salt solution. We recommend using an all-natural, un-brined turkey breast for this recipe.

How much turkey breast can feed six people?

Plan on 1/4-1/2 pounds of cooked turkey breast per person, depending on appetite and how many side dishes accompany the meal. Keep in mind that while most turkey breasts weigh up to 8 pounds, some of that weight can be attributed to the breast bone. 

Smoked Whole Turkey Breast on pellet grill
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Smoked turkey breast success

  • Time: For this smoked turkey breast recipe, plan on 25 minutes per pound of meat at 275 degrees F, or roughly 4 hours of cooking time. Ensure that you have enough fuel (gas, pellets, charcoal, etc.) before starting.
  • Wood: This recipe works best with apple wood pellets, chunks, or chips. You can also use cherry wood for a more moderate smoke flavor. Since the breast section is smaller than a whole 16-18 pound turkey, robust woods like mesquite can produce a bitter flavor to the finished product.
  • A reliable meat thermometer or temperature probe. Always have a reliable thermometer handy so you can check for proper doneness!

Flavoring

  • Dry brine: We recommend applying a dry brine made of salt, spices and dried herbs, to the turkey breast 12-16 hours before cooking. Doing this will result in a tender, juicy turkey breast. Remember that you DO NOT need to rinse the turkey after dry brining. If there is liquid present, lightly blot it away with paper towels.
  • Injection marinade: This step is crucial to flavoring breast meat. The outer layer and skin taste great, but the meat can be dense and flavorless after cooking. An injection marinade is applied directly into the meat and helps flavor it from the inside out.
  • Pellicle: This process takes place after brining and before cooking. A pellicle is a coating of proteins on the skin’s surface that helps attract smoke flavor. See recipe instructions for more details.
  • Spritz: Add a little moisture after the first 2 hours of cooking time by using a spritz. Fill a clean food-safe spray bottle with chicken broth or poultry baste, and lightly mist the turkey breast a few times during the cooking process.  
  • Rest the meat: After cooking, the smoked turkey breast will need a little time to rest. Tent it with foil, and let it stand for 15 minutes before carving. Doing this will also give you time to make the gravy and gather your delicious side dishes.

Recipe ingredients

sliced turkey on cutting board
derrickriches.com

How to Smoke a whole turkey breast

  • Remove turkey breast from the packaging and trim away any excess bits of loose skin or fat. 
  • Next, inject the turkey with marinade according to instructions. Blot away any spillage, and keep the surface as dry as possible.
dry brine on turkey breast
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  • Combine dry brine ingredients and carefully apply the mixture to the bone-in turkey breast, including under the skin. Transfer the turkey to a large plastic baking bag, tie or seal the bag, set it breast side up into a large bowl, and place it into the refrigerator for 12-16 hours.
  • A few hours before cooking, remove the turkey breast from the bag and gently blot away any excess moisture. Do not rinse the turkey with water. Set the uncovered breast onto a large plate or pan, and place it back into the fridge, uncovered for 1 1/2-2 hours. This process will form a shiny pellicle on the skin’s surface. 

Set up and cooking time

turkey breast on pellet grill
derrickriches.com
  • Preheat your pellet grill (Traeger, Camp Chef, Yoder, etc.) to 275 degrees F. If using a smoker or charcoal unit (kamado), set it up for indirect cooking according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then add wood a few minutes before cooking.
  • Place turkey breast, skin side up, on the pellet grill, insert a temperature probe, close the lid, and cook for 2 hours uninterrupted. For 2-zone cooking, place the turkey breast on the indirect (cooler) part of your grill.
Spritzing a turkey
  • After two hours, you will notice that the turkey skin has developed a nice orange-brown color. You might also notice that the skin appears taught. That’s normal. However, this is also a good indication that it needs a little moisture.
  • Fill a clean spray bottle with chicken broth or poultry baste, and lightly mist the turkey breast. Close the lid, cook for another hour, then mist it again.
Cooked turkey breast
  • Once the turkey breast reaches a consistent internal temperature of 165-170 degrees, it is done. Check the thickest part of the breast for the most accurate reading.
  • Remove smoked turkey breast from the grill. Place it on a clean cutting board, and tent it with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes before carving.
  • To carve, cut away the individual breast sections from the breast bone. Save the bones to make a delicious soup! Next, slice the breast meat into 1/2″ thick medallions and serve it with turkey gravy and your favorite side dishes.

Storing leftovers

Store leftover turkey breast in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days, or store in vacuum-sealed bags and freeze for up to 2 months.

Smoked Whole Turkey Breast

Smoked Whole Turkey Breast

Hosting a small gathering? This smoked turkey breast is the perfect addition. Tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American BBQ
Keyword: smoked turkey, Smoked Whole Turkey Breast, turkey breast
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours
Servings: 6
Calories: 200kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 whole natural turkey breast bone-in skin on (6 1/2-8 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup garlic butter turkey injection marinade
  • 3/4 cup poultry baste or chicken broth for spritzing
  • Dry brine:
  • 3-4 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon per pound of meat
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Instructions

  • Remove turkey breast from the packaging and trim away any excess bits of loose skin or fat.
  • Next, inject the turkey with marinade according to instructions. Blot away any spillage, and keep the surface as dry as possible.
  • Combine dry brine ingredients and carefully apply the mixture to the whole turkey breast, including under the skin. Transfer the turkey to a large plastic baking bag, tie or seal the bag, place it into a large bowl, and place it into the refrigerator for 12-16 hours.
  • A few hours before cooking, remove the turkey breast from the bag and gently blot away any excess moisture. Do not rinse the turkey with water. Set the uncovered breast onto a large plate or pan, and place it back into the fridge, uncovered for 1 1/2-2 hours. This process will form a shiny pellicle on the skin’s surface.
  • Preheat your pellet grill to 275 degrees F. If using a smoker or charcoal unit (kamado), set it up for indirect cooking according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add wood 5 minutes before cooking.
  • Place turkey breast, skin side up, on the pellet grill, insert a temperature probe, close the lid, and cook for 2 hours uninterrupted. For 2-zone cooking, place the turkey breast on the indirect (cooler) part of your grill.
  • After two hours, you will notice that the turkey skin has developed a nice orange-brown color. You might also notice that the skin looks taught. That’s normal. However, this is also a good indication that you need to add a light misting of moisture. Fill a clean spray bottle with chicken broth or poultry baste, and slightly spritz the turkey breast. Close the lid, cook for another hour, then spritz it again.
  • Once the turkey breast reaches a consistent internal temperature of 170 degrees, it is done.
  • Remove smoked turkey breast from the grill. Place it onto a clean cutting board, and tent it with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
  • To carve, cut away the individual breast sections from the breast bone. Save the bones to make a delicious soup! Next, slice the breast meat into 1/2″ thick medallions and serve.
  • Store leftover smoked turkey breast in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days, or store in vacuum-sealed bags and freeze for up to 2 months. Use meat in soups and stews, or make our delicious smoked turkey calzones!

Nutrition

Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 978mg | Potassium: 6mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 0.2mg

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