Looking for a new twist on classic deli meat? Look no further than smoked turkey pastrami! This savory and delicious turkey is expertly smoked to perfection and seasoned with the traditional spices of pastrami for a bold and flavorful taste.
If you love smoked corned beef (aka pastrami) as much as I do but don’t want to spend hours brining (no prague powder needed here) and smoking beef brisket, try your hand at this variation of turkey pastrami instead.
With a two-step process that includes a simple brine and then a few hours of smoking on your charcoal grill
Why This Recipe Works:
I love turkey pastrami because it combines the best of two worlds – the smokiness of traditional smoked turkey and the bold flavors of pastrami seasoning.
Smoked turkey is already a popular deli meat that’s beloved for its juicy texture and savory flavor. It’s also a healthier alternative to traditional pastrami, as it’s lower in fat and calories (and also more affordable than brisket).
The pastrami seasoning is a classic blend of spices such as juniper berries, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and black pepper that adds a uniquely bold flavor profile that when applied to smoked turkey, the result is flavor packed and delicious.
- Large Pot
- Large Container or Large Resealable Plastic Bag
- Wire Rack
- Small Baking Sheet
- Paper Towels
- Spice Mill or Coffee Grinder
- Butcher’s Twine
- Poultry Shears
- Instant-Read Thermometer
- Small Bowl
- Cutting Board
- Sharp Knife (for making thin slices)
- Homemade Pastrami Rub
- 2-3 lb. Boneless Turkey Breast
- Olive Oil or Mayo (binder)
- Chicken Broth
- Melted Butter
Turkey Pastrami Brine:
Wet brining is a process of soaking the poultry in a solution of water, salt, sugar, and various spices, for several hours before cooking. The goal of wet brining is to enhance the flavor, juiciness, and tenderness of the meat.
Traditional beef pastrami is cured in a wet brine mixture over a 5-10 day period. This is a much simpler brine and is done in 4-12 hours before smoking the turkey.
- Kosher Sea Salt
- Brown Sugar
- Bay Leaves
- Juniper Berries
- Garlic Cloves (do not sub with garlic powder)
- Black Peppercorns
- Dried Thyme
- Pre-made Pastrami Dry Rub
- In a large pot, add 6 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add all the spices, the sugar, and the salt and whisk to dissolve. Once dissolved, remove it from the heat and let it cool for about an hour or until it reaches room temperature.
- Remove the turkey breast from the packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. Once the brine is cool enough, pour it into a large container or plastic bag for brining.
- Add an additional 6 cups of cold water to the brine and then place the turkey breast into the brine.
- Seal the bag or container and place it in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, but I recommend leaving it overnight.
How To Smoke Turkey Pastrami:
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. and set it for indirect grilling. This can be done on any style of electric, charcoal, or even gas grill. No grill? You can also place this in an oven using a prepared roasting pan as well. See notes at the bottom of the recipe card.
- Remove the turkey breast from the brine and discard the brine mixture. Pat turkey dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible from the breast meat.
- Lightly coat the entire turkey breast in a thin layer of mayo or olive oil to act as a binder. Then sprinkle an even coating of the homemade pastrami rub (read more about that recipe via the link) on all sides, top and bottom.
- Depending on the size of the breast meat, I recommend creating a butterflied turkey breast with butcher’s twine to encourage even smoking. The end of the breast meat is much thinner; this process allows for even smoking and is often done with various cuts of meat. Tuck the tail end of the turkey breast under the thickest part of the breast meat to create a rolled shape.
- Use butcher’s twine to keep the tail end in place and tie it off at the bottom of the breast. Place seam-side down on a small wire rack for easy transferring on and off the grill if desired.
- Place the turkey breast skin-side up onto the grill grates and smoke for an hour.
- After the first hour, lightly spray the outside of the turkey skin with chicken stock to help build the bark and encourage more smoke to adhere to the meat.
- Continue smoking and spraying the meat. Once the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 F. increase heat to 425 F. to help encourage the outside skin to crisp slightly and turn a nice golden brown. Brush the outside now with some melted butter to baste the skin until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
- Transfer turkey from the heat and allow the turkey breast to rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board skin-side up before slicing it into thick slices if serving hot. Brush the remaining butter over the top if desired.
- If serving cold turkey sandwiches, this is actually best served the next day after the meat has fully cooled down in the fridge. See tips below for how to slice and serve this deli style.
Tips For Slicing Turkey Pastrami:
- Start with a sharp knife: A sharp knife will make it easier to slice the meat evenly and will result in a smoother cut.
- Chill the turkey breast: It’s easier to slice meat thinly if it’s chilled first. Place the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing.
- Slice against the grain: Look for the direction of the grain on the turkey and slice against it. This will result in a more tender and easier-to-chew slice of meat.
- Cut in batches: Don’t try to slice the entire piece of meat at once. Cut it into manageable pieces and slice each piece individually as desired so it doesn’t dry out after several days in the fridge.
- Use consistent pressure: Apply consistent pressure as you slice to ensure even thickness and avoid tearing.
Turkey pastrami makes an amazing sandwich. Make a turkey Reuben with slices of rye bread, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut piled high over toasted bread.
I also love this serve cold over a pumpernickel bagel with mayo and spicy mustard, tomato, lettuce, and pickled red onion for the perfect sandwich.
Pair with your favorite sandwich sides like this dill pickle coleslaw, classic potato salad, potato chips, and a pickle spear!
Turkey Pastrami Recipe
- 1 2-3 lb Boneless Turkey Breast
- 6 tbsp. Homemade Pastrami Rub
- 4 tbsp. Mayo sub with 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup Chicken Stock
- 3 tbsp. Melted Butter
Turkey Pastrami Brine
- 12 cups Water divided
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup Kosher Salt
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 3 cloves Garlic Smashed or Sliced
- 2 tbsp. Juniper Berries
- 1 tbsp. Black Peppercorns
- 1 tbsp. Dried Thyme
- 1 tbsp. Homemade Pastrami Rub
Turkey Pastrami Brine Recipe
- In a large pot, add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add in the sugar, salt, garlic and all the spices. Stir to dissolve then remove from the heat to cool to room temperature, about an hour.
- Pour the cooled brine to a large container or large plastic bag. Add 6 additional cups of cold water.
- Place the turkey breast into the brine to fully submerge. Place the brine into the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Smoked Turkey Pastrami
- Preheat the smoker to 225 F. and set it for indirect heat
- Prepare the homemade pastrami rub and set aside.
- Remove the turkey breast from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the brine mixture.
- Lightly coat the turkey breast on all sides in a light coating of mayo. Then coat in a even layer of the pastrami rub as well.
- Butterfly the turkey breast by tucking the tapered end or tail end under the thickest part of the breast to create a rolled shape. This encourages even cooking.
- Use butchers twine to keep the tail in place and knot the twin under the turkey, seam side down.
- Place the turkey breast onto the grill grates and smoke for an hour.
- After an hour, lightly spray the outside of the skin with chicken stock to encourage the bark to form and for the turkey to take on more smoke flavor.
- Continue to smoke and spray the turkey every 30-40 minutes until the internal temperature reaches about 145-150 F. then increase the grill temperature to 425 F.
- Smoke the turkey until golden brown on the outside and the final internal temperature reaches 165 F. in thickest part of the breast meat. Baste with some melted butter.
- Remove the turkey breast from the grill and place skin side up on a cutting board to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing if serving hot. Slice pieces against the grain in 1/4 inch thick portions and serve
- Cool the entire turkey breast overnight to completely chill the meat to slice thin.
- Use a sharp knife to thinly slice and shave pieces of turkey into thin slices like you would get at a deli. Slice against the grain for best results.
- Make a turkey Rueben or cold turkey sandwich and enjoy!