If you plan on smoking a turkey breast on a pellet grill this year (or any grill for that matter), use this full tutorial to help guide you though your big holiday cook with ease like any other confident pitmaster.
If you’re planning for the holidays or just looking to cook and smoke up a delicious turkey breast, here is a full break down from the preparation all the way to the final slice. I’ll walk you through all the different variables that have been expertly tested, so you can just focus on cooking up a killer bird!
This method is for cooking a turkey breast specifically on your grill. I did use my Yoder 640 smoker for this (this is a pellet smoker), but it also works well on any kamado style ceramic or charcoal grill.
One thing that I think really makes this recipe stand out is that while it is a “smoked” turkey recipe, I cook it fairly hot and fast. I find that most recipes out there are low and slow (which is delicious, don’t get me wrong) and the skin is golden brown.
However, the skin doesn’t get truly crispy (but tends to be more rubbery). This method allows you to add smoke flavor and cooks in way less time, so you can spend more time with friends and family instead.
Grab the full guide to learn the best methods for brining, injecting, seasoning, and smoking this delicious turkey breast from start to finish. Let’s dive in!
- Foil Pan or Roasting Pan
- Roasting Rack
- Meat Injector
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Kitchen Scissors
- Meat Thermometer
This is a well tested recipe and designed to help take a lot of the guess work out of an important cook (especially if it’s for a holiday meal). Below I will walk you through the best version of how to prep and cook this smoked turkey breast, but feel free to choose some of the other methods outlined to fit your preference.
When should I defrost my turkey breast?
These days, it’s hard to find a whole turkey or turkey breast that is fresh. It’s important to note that a turkey can take several days to safely thaw in your fridge, so the process for prep can begin well in advance before the day of cooking. Here are some general rules to go by for defrosting:
- 4-5 lb. Turkey Breast: 24 hours
- 6-10 lb. Turkey Breast: 48 Hours
- 10+ lb. Turkey breast: 72 + Hours
In general, a turkey breast is going to weigh less than a whole turkey. The good rule to live by according to the USDA is about 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs. I had a a turkey breast just under 8 pounds and I felt like three solid days definitely did the trick.
Make sure you plan in advance to thaw and extra time to prep the bird via injection (outlined below) or to marinade/ brine as well. I usually give myself around 4-5 days in advance to prep before the actual day of smoking.
Turkey Injection Recipe:
I’ve cooked, grilled, and smoked several turkey’s over the last 5 years. I’ve marinated, wet brined, and dry brined too. My favorite method for getting the best flavor and texture is to actually inject the turkey.
Injecting does require you to use a meat injector kit. You can find these very easily online or at most stores that carry kitchen appliances. I highly suggest using this recipe to inject your turkey for the best flavor outcome!
- BBQ Cajun Dry Rub Seasoning
- Chicken Stock/ Broth
- Lemon Juice
The combination of seasoning, stock flavor, butter (adds fat and fat means flavor), and the acidic citrus from the lemon make a killer, juicy, smoked turkey when you’re done.
Add your injection ingredients to a pot and melt the butter. Add everything else in and mix until combine. Let it cooled until it’s just warm.
Tips for injecting your turkey:
- Place it in a foil pan or tray that can easily be stored in your fridge.
- Pat your turkey dry with paper towels and lay it flat. Remove the back bone if desired and any of the innards. You can use these for making a stock/gravy or just discard.
- Fill your meat injector with the marinade mix.
- I try and make few holes in the skin of the turkey as possible. Insert the inject into the thickest part of the breast meat and inject for a few seconds. Pull up and slightly reangle from the same entry point and repeat this process.
- You may notice some of the marinade will come out from under the skin. This is ok, but the fewer places for the marinade to exit the better.
- Let the bird sit with the marinade overnight (minimum) and up to two days before cooking in the fridge.
- Season the outside of the bird with more seasoning. Leave it uncovered in the fridge to also encourage the skin to dry and get crispy on the smoker!
How to set up your smoker:
Whatever grill or smoker you’re using for your turkey breast, just be sure to set it for indirect heat. Fully preheat your grill to 425 F. (like I mentioned this is more of a hot and fast approach than a traditional low and slow BBQ method for smoking).
Add your wood chunks or wood pellets (I like hickory or pecan). You can use whatever flavor wood you prefer here however. I find that a slightly stronger wood works better since it’s a faster cook.
Tips for smoking your turkey breast:
- Smoke your turkey breast in a roasting rack and pan over indirect heat on your grill grates.
- You want the thickest part of the turkey breast to reach 165 degrees for the final internal temperature.
- Your turkey will take around 10-12 minutes per pound to cook. This will vary on the cooking time. My 8 lb. bird too under 2 hours (close to an hour and half).
- The skin should get nice and golden brown and crispy during this time.
How to serve and slice a turkey breast:
Once your turkey is fully cooked, turn off your grill and remove it from the heat. Let your turkey rest in the roasting rack for about 15 minutes before slicing.
To slice a turkey breast, find the breast bone down the middle. Use a carving knife to slice down along this breast bone and under it to remove each breast.
From there, place the breast meat (skin on) onto a cutting board and slice with a carving knife into 1/2 inch pieces on an angle. Place on a serving tray with your fixings and serve it up!
Smoked Turkey Breast
- 1, 6-8 lb. Turkey Breast
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- 2 tbsp. Butter melted
- 1 Lemon juiced
- [1 tbsp. Cajun BBQ Dry Rub plus extra for seasoning the skin ]
- Be sure to read through the full post above for more in-depth notes as well as the full recipe below. On average you will start the prep for your turkey 3-5 days prior to actually smoking!
- Start with a fully defrosted turkey breast around 6-8lbs.
- Remove any internal organs and the neck. Trim any excess skin if desired (sometimes I also remove the backbone to crack and lay the breast flat and use the spine for stock). Pat it dry with paper towels,
- Take the injection ingredients and heat it on low heat until the butter is melted and the seasoning is mixed in. Let it cool so it's warm but not hot.
- Fill your meat injector and then place it into the thickest part on one side of your turkey breast. Insert and release the liquid for a few seconds. Move the needle up (without removing it from the hole) and repeat the process.
- Using the same hole you pierced, you can move the needle to different areas of the turkey breast . Continue this same process on the other side of the other breast as well. Your goal is to inject with liquid without making a lot of different holes within the skin of the turkey breast. Some liquid may come out, that's ok.
- Once the turkey is fully injected, season it with the BBQ seasoning all over the top and bottom of the skin. Place it in your fridge for at least 12 hours uncovered. NOTE- Uncovered skin helps dry it out a bit and encourages it to get even crispier.
- You can leave it in your fridge for 24-48 hours like this if desired.
- When it is time to smoke your turkey breast, plan on getting your grill fully preheat to 425 F. and set the grill grates for indirect heat. Use a stronger wood pellet or wood chunk like hickory or pecan because this is a hot and fast cook (not traditional slow smoking).
- Place your turkey breast into a roasting rack on a foil pan. Then place the turkey breast onto your smoker.
- Let it cook until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast meat reaches 165 F. The turkey takes around 10-12 minutes per pound to cook.
- Remove it from the smoker or grill and let it rest 15 minutes before slicing. Slice on either side of the turkey breast bone to remove the breast meat. Then slice into ½ inch thick slices. Fan out and serve with gravy, cranberry sauce, or just some extra Cajun butter and enjoy.