Smoked turkey breast is an amazing Thanksgiving dinner option if you are cooking for a small group.
Or maybe you want another dish to be the star, but someone insists on eating turkey.
If you’ve ever struggled to keep turkey moist and flavorful this is a sure-fire way to wow everyone at the dinner table.
I’ll also show you how to make an easy rub to complement the succulent and flavor-packed turkey breast, and a beautiful glaze to finish it off with.
We’ll also make two side dishes of smoked squash puree and BBQ steamed garlic buttery green beans to go with your meal.
What you will need to make smoked turkey breast
When selecting a turkey breast to smoke, ask your butcher for the largest boneless turkey breast you can get, around 6 to 7lbs.
Once you cook smoked turkey breast like this, there are never any leftovers, so always cook more than you need, as it will be eaten. Plus the cook always gets to sample before you plate up.
You don’t have to use a boneless turkey breast, if you can find bone-in simply remove it before applying the rub.
I suggest getting to know your local butcher, they are only too happy to help you. Where I live, turkey is not always readily available and sometimes I can only get smaller ones. I’d suggest getting two if that is the case.
If you are struggling to find turkey breast you can always order it online.
You won’t be needing the skin, so ask for skinless when ordering.
Items that you’ll need to help make the cook easy are:
- Weber Smokey Mountain or similar smoker
- Charcoal – lump or briquettes will both work
- Some smoking wood (fruit or nut variety, I’m using peach)
- A good quality meat thermometer
- A boning or trimming knife
- A butcher block or cutting board with juice crevices.
- A food processor (not 100% necessary, just makes things easier)
- Boneless turkey breast
- And all the assorted ingredients to make rub, glaze, and side dishes are listed below.
Do you need to brine turkey breast?
Turkey breast has a reputation for being dry, so brining it can give you a moist, delicious smoked turkey breast at the end.
If you follow this recipe closely you shouldn’t need to brine your turkey breast, but it definitely won’t hurt.
Use a brine bag or large sealable container. For a simple brine add 1 cup of salt to 2 cups of water in a saucepan.
Then add 1/2 cup of sugar and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
Remove from the heat, add cold water (some ice cubes will help) or leave until room temperature.
Then transfer enough liquid to cover the turkey breast.
How to tell when smoked turkey breast is cooked?
The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the breast you are smoking, and the heat of your smoker.
I would estimate two and half hours, but the only way to really know when the breast is cooked is by using a good instant-read or leave-in thermometer.
Your breast is done when it measures an internal temperature of 163°F (it will continue cooking while resting to hit 165°F).
How to smoke turkey breast
We’ll go through all the steps required to smoke a turkey breast. I’m using a charcoal smokey but you can follow most of these steps using a pellet grill, propane, or electric smoker.
1. Prepping the turkey breast
Place turkey breast on a chopping board and using a sharp trimming knife, trim off any excess skin that may still be on the breast.
Also remove the tender if it is still attached, being a smaller piece, it will dry out during the cook.
I like to trim off the pointy part of the breast as again this tends to be a thinner part that can dry out.
Place the trimmed meat into a zip lock bag and freeze for use in the future, I love making turkey burgers with mine (best not to waste any food).
Place the breast on a baking tray, ready to apply the rub.
Mix the smoked turkey rub ingredients together and apply a good coating of rub to all sides of the turkey breast, making sure to get a nice even coating.
Turkey lends well to savory flavors, so if not using this rub, you can try a store-bought rub as well, just don’t use anything too sweet for the rub.
2. Smoking your turkey breast
I like to set my
I add a few chunks of wood for the smokey flavor and then put in an ambient temperature probe.
I like to use peach wood or similar for turkey as I think the milder flavors work best. Most fruit or nut smoke wood varieties will work well.
Now get your smoker up to 275°F. The turkey breast will take between two to three hours to get until cooked.
The internal temperature we are aiming for is 155°F, so using an internal temperature probe makes this part super easy. Before you get upset, I know the safe internal temp for turkey is 165°F. I’ll explain why we take it off soon.
For this cook I used my new Smoke X4 from ThermoWorks.
3. Wrapping and resting
Once you have reached this target temperature, you will need to wrap the breast in a double layer of foil with plenty of butter.
Then you will put the breast into a prewarmed cooler. I tend to put hot/boiling water in the cooler first to warm it up for about 20 minutes before I need it.
Then drain the water out, place an old towel in the bottom, wrap the foil-covered smoked turkey breast in another old towel, then place another old towel on top and put the lid back on.
This will keep the turkey hot and safe to eat for hours. You can learn more about this method in our guide to using a faux cambro.
I like to rest turkey longer than other poultry, so I will usually allow for a two-hour rest. The internal temp of the turkey breast will keep climbing to the 165°F temperature we want it to get to.
This long rest time allows plenty of time to make our sides. If you want to eat sooner, you can give it a shorter rest just make sure you hit 165°F internal.
Sides and turkey glaze (optional)
You can just make the smoked turkey breast and it will taste delicious on its own so feel free to skip ahead to the next section.
But I think these two sides go together perfectly and make this a full meal.
Making the smoked squash puree
I like to use butternut squash, as the flavor is slightly sweet and compliments poultry.
Cut it lengthwise and remove the seeds then apply a liberal amount of olive oil, cracked black pepper and two whole cloves of garlic in each piece.
I generally use the same wood for the sides as I do for the mains, so place another couple of chunks of peach wood (or whatever type of wood you were using on the smoker, allowing the smoke to settle to a thin blueish color before placing the squash in.
Place the squash halves in the smoker at 275°F and smoke for about an hour to an hour and a half. The size of the squash will determine the time required.
You can test if they are done by sticking a knife into the flesh and if it slides in and out easily, it is ready to come off.
Once the squash is ready, scoop all of the flesh and the garlic into a food processor and give a quick burst.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a fork or a potato masher, it will just take longer. Use crushed garlic instead of garlic cloves if you aren’t using a food processor.
Then add the butter and give another burst until all mixed. Now season to taste with salt. You can add a little hot water if the puree is too thick.
You can keep this warm until needed by placing the puree into a bowl and covering with foil, then placing the bowl on a pot that has boiling water in it.
Making the green beans
Now onto our green beans, you will need to top and tail the beans, meaning to trim off the pointy hard pieces at either end with a sharp knife.
Place the beans into a foil tray and add butter, oil and salt and pepper, and crushed garlic and mix well.
Also, add a couple of tablespoons of hot water and then cover with aluminum foil.
Place into the smoker at 275°F and leave for 20 minutes. No need to add any wood for smoke as the beans are fully covered and the smoke won’t penetrate.
Making the port turkey glaze
While the beans are on, we shall get the sauce made up by putting all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat for two to three minutes and stirring constantly.
We are just wanting the sugars to dissolve. Once dissolved, raise the temperature to a medium to high heat and simmer for around eight minutes, making sure not to boil.
Once the glaze has thickened, remove it from heat.
Serving your smoked turkey breast
Time to carve up the smoked turkey breast.
Make sure to place it onto a cutting board that has a juice crevice as this will have a lot of moisture in it.
As with any protein, cut across the grain (the grain runs from the thickest part, down to the smaller tip that was trimmed)
Now it’s time to plate up, placing some turkey breast on the plate.
Now get the squash puree and add a large dollop, with the back of the spoon you can push it along the plate. Making a reservoir for the beans to sit in.
Place the beans into the squash reservoir.
Now adding the glaze around the turkey and squash.
Sit back and watch the happy faces and enjoy the silence of people eating.
Looking for more smoked turkey recipes?
- Smoked Turkey Recipe: The Best Method for Juicy BBQ Turkey
- 10 Tips for Smoking a Whole Turkey
- Best Turkey Rub Recipes: Easy and Delicious
- Spatchcock Smoked Turkey With Pan Stuffing
Smoked Turkey Breast with Cranberry and Port Glaze
- 6lb boneless turkey breast or two smaller ones
- 4 tbsp smoked paprika
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp kosher flakes
- 2 tbsp black pepper finely ground
- 1 tbsp mustard power
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
Cranberry and port glaze
- 1/2 cup port
- 1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup castor sugar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 butternut squash halved
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic use crushed if you don't use a food processor
- ½ tsp black pepper finely ground
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- salt to taste
- 1 lb green beans
- 1 tbsp butter melted
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic crushed
- ¼ tsp black pepper finely ground
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp hot water
For the turkey breast
- Set up your smoker to 275°F. If using a charcoal smoker, fill up the charcoal ring with unlit charcoal, leaving a well in the center. Light 3/4 a charcoal chimney of good quality charcoal and place it in the middle of the unlit charcoal. Place three chunks of peach wood around lit charcoal.
- Set up a dual probe thermometer to track both the smoker temperature and the internal temperature of the meat.
- Trim any leftover skin on the turkey breast and remove the tender then apply the rub.
- Place the turkey in the smoker and insert an internal temperature probe.
- Once the turkey reaches 155°F, take it out of the smoker and wrap in foil with butter. This will take around two to three hours, depending on the size of the turkey breast. Rest in a prewarmed cooler with some old towels for around two hours
For the smoked squash puree
- Cutting squash in half lengthways and deseeding, then apply olive oil to the flesh side, adding the garlic cloves to the cavity and applying pepper.
- Add some more wood chunks and allow the smoke to settle to a thin blue color.
- Add the squash halves and smoke at 275°F for around an hour to an hour and a half, time will depend on size.
- Squash is ready when you can easily slide a knife in and out of the flesh. Remove from the smoker and scoop out flesh and mix with garlic into a food processor, mix and add butter and mix again. Add salt to taste.
- Keep the puree warm by putting it in a bowl, covering with foil and placing over a saucepan with hot water.
For the beans
- Trim the beans by removing the pointy hard part of both ends.
- Place beans in a foil tray with oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly.
- Add two tablespoons of hot water and cover with aluminium foil and place on the smoker at 275*F° for around 20 minutes.
For the port and cranburry glaze
- Place all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until all the sugars dissolve.
- Turn the heat up to a medium to high heat and simmer for around eight minutes, making sure to stir regularly and not to allow the glaze to boil.
- Remove the turkey from the cooler and unwrap on a chopping board with a juice crevice. Carve across the grain into thin slices, around ¼” thick. Place slices on a plate, scattered out like a fan.
- Using a large spoon, put a dollop of squash puree on the opposite side of the plate, using the back of the spoon, push it across the plate making a crevice for the beans to rest. Place some beans into the crevice.
- Now drizzle some of the glaze around the turkey and squash.