When most people think of Texas Barbecue, brisket immediately comes to mind. Texas is the home of beef, but man cannot live on beef alone.
Another hugely popular barbecue staple in the Lone Star State is Smoked Turkey Breast.
Like most things in Texas barbecue, we keep it pretty simple and let the smoke provide the flavor. A simple blend of salt, pepper, and garlic combined with robust Mesquite-smoked flavor, and you end up with some of the best turkey you will ever have.
Texas smoked turkey breast
Turkey is not just served around Thanksgiving here in Texas. You will find smoked turkey breast on the menu of just about every barbecue restaurant across the state year-round.
The prevalence of wild turkey throughout Texas makes it a popular staple in Texas cuisine, especially in the world of barbecue. There are an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Rio Grande turkeys that support an annual harvest of about 100,000.
Texas is the home to 3 subspecies of wild turkey:
- The Eastern Turkey (M.g. Silvestris) – is found in the humid areas of East Texas with dark-colored tail tips.
- The Rio Grande Turkey (M.g. Intermedia) – is found throughout Central Texas from Oklahoma to Mexico with buff-colored tail tips.
- The Merriam’s Turkey (M.g. Merriami) – is found in the ponderosa pine habitat in the mountainous regions of the Trans-Pecos with white tail tips.
It’s also fairly inexpensive compared to other popular barbecue meats (e.g. brisket) and pairs well with a lot of different side dishes.
You might also like: Smoked Turkey Wings
How to tell when smoked turkey breast is cooked?
Turkey breast is done when it measures an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part.
The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the breast you are smoking, and the heat of your smoker. The four-pound breast I smoked for this recipe took an hour and fifteen minutes.
How to make smoked turkey breast
You can buy turkey breasts in a number of ways. I opt for boneless breast, and I like my turkey breast roasts with the skin on. I find that the skin adds an extra layer of texture and flavor to the smoked turkey.
1. Season your turkey
As I mentioned before, Texas keeps it pretty simple when it comes to seasoning. We love the natural flavor of wood smoke and we shy away from overpowering that smoky flavor with an abundance of rubs and sauces.
A typical Texas turkey seasoning consists of three parts: Coarse ground black pepper, Kosher salt, and a bit of granulated garlic.
The amounts of each will vary based on the pitmaster’s preference, but I always aim for a 2-2-1 combination – 2 parts coarse ground black pepper, 2 parts Kosher salt, and 1 part granulated garlic.
If you want more classic barbecue flavors we have a bbq turkey rub recipe you could try out.
When seasoning your turkey breast, it’s important to peel the skin back and season the meat that is underneath. This will ensure maximum flavor.
Once you have thoroughly seasoned the meat under the skin, you want to wrap the skin, pulling it taut, over the entire breast.
Season the breast all over with the remaining rub.
Smoking your turkey breast
Fire up your smoker to 250°F.
Many Central Texas pitmasters will swear by using Post Oak for any and everything, but I find mesquite to be preferable for this recipe.
Place your turkey breast directly on the grates of the smoker, making sure the seam side is facing down.
Let it smoke for about 1 to 1½ hours.
This particular turkey breast took 1¼ hours, but it is very dependent on the size of your breast.
When your turkey reaches an internal temp of 165°F, you can pull it off.
I like to use my ThermoWorks ThermoPop for checking the temperature. It is an instant-read thermometer that takes temperature very quickly and accurately, thus preventing me from overcooking and also keeping my smoker open too long.
You could also use a leave-in thermometer.
Serving-wise, I like to carve the turkey breast into slices that are about ¼” to ½” thick and plate it up on a nice wooden board with a bit of greenery on the side.
What should I serve with my smoked turkey breast?
Smoked turkey breast is extremely versatile and pairs wonderfully with many different side dishes. It also tastes great paired with barbecue sauce, so don’t be afraid to sauce it up!
Here are some great sides we like to serve with smoked turkey breast:
- The best macaroni salad for BBQ
- Smoked baked beans
- The best pasta salad for BBQ
- Smoked beer mustard potatoes
- Smoked mac & cheese
Easy Smoked Turkey Breast: Texas Style
- 4 lb turkey breast boneless, skin-on
- 1 tbsp black pepper course ground
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt
- ½ tbsp granulated garlic
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F.
- Remove the netting (if applicable) from your turkey breast.
- In a small bowl combine the black pepper, kosher salt, and granulated garlic.
- Pull the skin back off of your turkey breast and season the meat on the inside.
- Replace the skin and pull until taut.
- Season the outside of the breast with the remaining rub mixture.
- Place directly on the grates of the smoker and let smoke for 1 to 1½ hours, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then slice and serve.