Smoked Turkey Breast is the best way to kick off holiday entertaining. Brined turkey breast comes out juicy, tender, and smoky for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner or Sunday meal. Serve with your favorite side dishes!
about this smoked turkey breast
I recently shared my favorite turkey brine recipe, so it is only natural that I share a recipe for how to use that brine next, right?
Thanksgiving is one of the holidays I love the most. It’s an opportunity for me to cook foods that I love, for the people that I love. It tends to be the time of year that I see a lot of family that I don’t normally spend time with, so I love to make it as special as possible.
For most of my life, I only had roasted turkey. It wasn’t until I had my first Traeger that I discovered the art of smoking a whole turkey. From then on, I was hooked.
I still remember how determined I was one year to have a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving that I smoked one in a blizzard. The snow was coming down hard and I started the turkey as early as I could in the morning. My husband thought I was crazy for trying, but I couldn’t be stopped. The flavor of smoked turkey is just too good and I wasn’t going to let a little bit of snow ruin the experience. It just so happened to take a few more hours than normal as the smoker fought against the cold, but it was well worth it! We had a gorgeous smoked turkey that everyone loved on the table for Thanksgiving that year.
To me, a smoked turkey is the only way to make a turkey. The juicy and tender bird you end up with is infinitely better than anything I’ve ever had before.
Of course, there are some years when our holiday gathering isn’t the full 20+ people it can be and I don’t want to make an entire turkey. That’s when I turn to the bone-in turkey breast.
It’s a much smaller version to serve to a smaller gathering, plus it makes for a fantastic Sunday supper any night of the year.
Plus, by smoking the bird instead of using your oven, you free up your oven for other dishes like side dishes and desserts!
why you will love this recipe
Smoked turkey breast turns out perfectly moist, tender, and flavorful time and time again. It’s the most reliable way to cook a turkey breast, in my opinion. Since the turkey breast is the one part of the turkey that can dry out the fastest, it’s best to smoke it to ensure it doesn’t get too dry. The low and slow method allows the turkey to lock in the moisture!
Of course, I always recommend brining your turkey before smoking it to really lock in the moisture and those yummy flavorful juices. Technically, you can smoke a turkey breast without brining, but I always get the absolute best results when I brine the turkey breast first.
The key is to always use a whole, bone-in turkey breast. You can get these year-round at the local grocery store, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting your hands on one! They usually come out to about 7 pounds total weight, which is ideal for serving 4 to 6 people. Of course there are larger and smaller weights, and all sizes will work for this recipe!
turkey. You will need one bone-in turkey breast. These usually range in size between 7 lbs to 9 lbs. You can also use boneless, and I’ve added instructions for smoking a boneless turkey breast in the FAQs below.
oil. Use olive oil to rub the outside of the bird.
seasoning. I usually just use salt and pepper, but you can use any spice rub you prefer!
this recipe’s must haves
To cook the turkey breast, you will need a smoker or a Traeger grill (or similar pellet grill). I like to use hickory pellets or Traeger grill signature pellets, but you can also experiment with flavors of wood chips or wood pellets like cherry or apple!
A roasting pan with roasting rack is great, but if you don’t have one (like me!), simply place a wire rack in a rimmed half sheet baking pan.
You will need a good meat thermometer, or just use the probe that is attached to the grill/smoker if it has one.
here’s how to smoke a turkey breast
While this is not a necessary step, I highly recommend brining the breast with a turkey brine before you smoke it. This extra step infuses the meat with extra flavor and keeps it moist throughout the smoking process.
A brine is a simple mixture of liquid, aromatics, and seasonings. I like to use a combination of water, apple cider, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, cloves, allspice berries, onion, salt, sugar, and orange peel. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and cool completely before submerging the turkey breast in the brine.
It will take at least 12 hours to brine a turkey breast. You can leave it in the brine for up to 16 hours though!
Remove the turkey from the brine or packaging. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub the entire outside of the breast with olive oil. Season well with kosher salt and pepper, or use your favorite spice rub to flavor your turkey how you like!
Place turkey breast on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and smoke. You can also use a roasting pan with a rack. Place the pan on the grate or directly in your smoker. Insert a probe into the thickest part of the breast, if you have one, to keep a close eye on the internal temperature.
Cook until the internal temperature reached about 100˚F to 110˚F. This will take about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your turkey.
Increase the temperature to 350˚F. Continue to cook until the meat thermometer or probe registers 162˚F to 165˚F. I recommend pulling it a few degrees below 165˚F as the meat will continue to cook as it rests. This will take about 1/2 hour to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the breast.
Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. This is a great time to make the turkey gravy if you are using the drippings in the pan! Do not skip the step of resting the meat before slicing. This is how to retain the juiciness of the meat.
tips and tricks
fully thaw the turkey breast. Ensure that you leave plenty of time to thaw the turkey breast in the refrigerator before smoking it. You will need 3 to 4 days to thaw it, so be sure to take this time into account. Depending on the size, it can take up to 6 days! This will help avoid undercooked or unevenly cooked portions in the final result.
keep an eye on the smoker. Depending on your smoker, smoking times can vary. There are a lot of factors, including weather, that can impact the cook time. Therefore, instead of relying on cook times, you should be relying on the internal temperature of the turkey to know when it is done. Make sure that the internal temperature reaches 165˚F before slicing into it.
rest before slicing. Do not slice into the turkey breast immediately after taking it off the smoker. It will need at least 15 to 20 minutes to rest so that the juices have time to redistribute in the meat. This is what keeps the turkey nice and moist.
use different spices and seasoning. Instead of only using salt and pepper, you can use your favorite rub or seasoning to coat the outside of the turkey breast. I will use a bbq rub, but you can also use a garlic butter rub or whatever seasoning mix or spice rub you love to use.
do I have to brine the turkey first?
Technically, no you do not have to brine the turkey first. While the turkey will still turn out moist and juicy, I prefer to brine my turkey breast as it gives the best flavor and texture possible. In my opinion, it yields the best turkey breast possible since the turkey breast meat is the part of the turkey that will dry out easiest. If you are not using a brine, be sure to keep an eye on the internal temperature so you remove it at the right time. This will ensure that the white meat doesn’t dry out due to overcooking.
I have a simple turkey brine recipe that you can use! You will need to brine the turkey breast for about 12 to 16 hours before cooking.
how long does it take to smoke turkey breast?
The total time it takes to smoke a turkey depends on the size of the turkey breast. For a 7-lb turkey, it took about 3 1/2 to 4 hours to cook it all the way through.
is it better to smoke a turkey breast at 225˚F or 250˚F?
I approach smoking turkey a little differently than some. While many will simply smoke the meat at 225˚F the whole time, I do the majority of smoking at that temperature and then increase the heat. I prefer cooking it at 225˚F, but you could also smoke it at 250˚F or 275˚F.
In the last half hour or so of cooking, I like to increase the temperature to 350˚F. This ensures that the skin gets brown and crispy!
do I need to maintain the temperature while smoking?
The most important thing is to make sure that you maintain the temperature throughout the cooking process. Monitor the temperature throughout the smoking process and adjust the controls as needed. This is where a reliable thermometer comes in handy!
can smoked turkey be a little pink?
Yes, a smoked turkey breast can look a little pink even when it is cooked through completely. That is why I always recommend using a high-quality meat thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature as it cooks. This way you can ensure it reaches 165˚F before slicing it.
do you wrap a turkey breast when smoking?
No, you do not need to wrap the turkey breast as it cooks. You want to leave it unwrapped so the skin can crisp up and develop that gorgeous golden brown color.
how do you not dry out a turkey in the smoker?
There are two ways to ensure you get the juiciest turkey breast possible. First, use a turkey brine. Brining the turkey breast for at least 12 hours will improve the texture and the flavor in the end result. Though you do not have to brine it, I highly recommend doing so.
Second, pull it at the right time. Do not overcook the meat! This is the number one error in cooking that I see with smoked turkey. The turkey breast should be removed from the grill as soon as it reaches between 162˚F and 165˚F. If it is under, it will come up to temperature in the 10 to 15 minutes you let it rest before slicing.
what if I have a charcoal grill?
If you have a charcoal grill, there are ways to make the charcoal grill a smoker. You will need to use wood chips or chunks along with your favorite brand of charcoal. Soak the wood chips or chunks in water for 30 minutes.
Once your charcoal grill has preheated and the coals are ashed over, add your turkey to the grates over indirect heat. As the turkey cooks, add soaked wood chips or chunks to the coals to get that smoky flavor. Be sure to keep an eye on the internal temperature so you pull it once it hits 165˚F.
can I make this smoked turkey breast with a boneless turkey breast?
Yes, you can use a boneless turkey breast with this recipe! If you are using boneless, follow the instructions noted below:
Remove turkey breast from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with oil and season on all sides with salt and pepper. You can also use your favorite spice rub, if you prefer.
Smoke at 225˚F on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet, covered. It should take about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165˚F, depending on the side of the turkey breast.
Remove from smoker, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
Need more inspiration for Thanksgiving? Check out my Thanksgiving recipes page!
what to serve with smoked turkey breast
Typically I serve smoked turkey breast for the holidays. Therefore, you will see the typical sides for Thanksgiving on the menu when I’m creating a menu surrounding this main dish.
Need a cocktail? A cranberry margarita is a festive drink that pairs well with your favorite Thanksgiving dishes!
For side dishes, I love a classic sausage stuffing with a twist of caramelized onions and crunchy apples. If you want to go with a more standard stuffing, this sage and onion stuffing is a winner and can be made vegetarian. No can resist these creamy instant pot mashed potatoes! Finally, for something green, crispy brussels sprouts are a personal favorites. Green beans with garlic and almonds, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato souffle are other tasty sides to consider. Don’t forget to add a salad as a side dish and some rolls as well.
how to store
Store. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. There are so many fun ways to use the leftovers!
Reheat. Reheat the turkey on a microwave-safe plate in the microwave until warmed through.
Freeze. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat as instructed above.
if you have leftovers…
If you have any leftovers, there are a ton of tasty leftovers recipes to try out. I absolutely love using leftover smoked turkey breast in all sorts of dishes, from soups to enchiladas, sandwiches to salads.
Of course my favorite kind of leftovers are the combination of leftover turkey with other Thanksgiving side dishes. From Thanksgiving leftovers poutine to the best leftover turkey sandwich, you will be glad you have leftovers to use in these recipes.
more thanksgiving side dish recipes
Seasonal butternut squash risotto is a comforting side dish that pairs perfectly with turkey or ham. If you want a different flavor profile, just check out how to make risotto and create your own masterpiece!
If you prefer roasted vegetables, garlic butter oven roasted carrots and potatoes are easy to make and go with any main dish.
A crisp and refreshing shaved brussels sprouts salad with bacon and cranberries is a lighter side to break up all the traditional heavy options on the table.
Finally, if you make this smoked turkey breast recipe, please be sure to give this recipe a rating and/or leave a comment! I love to hear when you all make recipes, and I do take the time to respond to every single comment.
Feel free to drop questions below too, if you have them!
Oh and be sure to tag me on Instagram if you make the recipe! I love being able to see these recipes come to life in your homes – it’s my favorite thing to look through those photos. It really means the world to me!
Smoked Turkey Breast
- 1 bone-in turkey breast 7 to 9 lbs
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Preheat smoker to 225˚F. Once it reaches this temperature, preheat with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove turkey breast from brine (if using) or from packaging. If using straight from the packaging, rinse with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Rub the outside with oil and season well with salt and pepper (or your favorite spice rub).
- Place turkey breast on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan. You can also set it on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.
- Place the pan directly on the grill grate or in your smoker. Insert probe, if using. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 100˚F to 110˚F. This took me about 3 hours for a 7 lb turkey breast.
- Increase temperature to 350˚F. This will take another 1/2 hour to 1 hour, depending on turkey breast size. Continue to cook until a meat thermometer registers 162˚F to 164˚F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.
- Remove the roasting pan from the grill and let rest 15 to 20 minutes until the turkey is 165˚F before carving.