Smoked Turkey Breasts

How To Achieve Great Flavor With Smoked Turkey Breasts

Smoked Turkey Breasts
Smoked Turkey Breasts

We all love the flavor of smoked turkey breasts if done correctly. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to have the savory, flavorful turkey breasts your family is sure to enjoy. You will find many recipes and methods on how to smoke a turkey breast. As always, smoking a turkey breast or turkey always comes down to the basics.

Finding the right way to smoke a turkey breast is often a time-consuming task. The more knowledge you have, the better your grilling experience will be.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

What should you season your turkey with?

Salt and pepper are some of the preferred seasonings to use on a turkey. Using different aromatics such as rosemary, thyme, and sage will enhance the flavor of your turkey helping you achieve that flavorful masterpiece.

How do you keep turkey breast moist?

One of my favorite ways to keep turkey breast moist while smoking is to use a rack designed to put a turkey in. I put this rack in a shallow aluminum pan and add apple juice, and white wine, or use my creation of butter, garlic, apple juice, along with aromatic herbs. The steam that rises from the pan helps keep the turkey breast moist while infusing more flavor into the meat.

Why do you season the inside of the turkey(breast)?

Seasoning the inside of the turkey(breast with bone-in) allows your seasoning to have a deeper penetration into the meat of the turkey. Applying the seasonings on the outside and under the skin of the turkey does indeed give you a flavorful bird, you add to that when seasoning the inside as well.

Back To The Basics

When choosing a turkey breast for smoking or grilling, you must know how many people you will be serving. This will help you determine the size of turkey or turkey breast to select.

You don’t want to select a turkey breast that large enough to feed 10 when you will be serving 4. None of us like to waste food or money. Choosing the right size breast also affects how long to smoke it.

As a rule, I have found that when smoking a turkey breast that is still on the bone, it takes about 45 minutes per pound at 250F. Different recipes may call for a different time and a different temperature, we will be focusing on a basic recipe.

To Brine Or Marinade For Best Smoked Turkey Breasts

Choosing to brine or marinade can make a difference in the flavor you achieve. Either way, it is best not to do either for more than 6 hours. The most important reason for this is how quickly fowl (turkey, chicken, goose, and other forms of fowl) connective tissue begins to break down.

Smoked Turkey Breasts
Smoked Turkey Breasts

The meat from fowl is not as dense as other forms of protein, such as beef, pork, elk, sheep, and goat as examples. Since turkey breasts are denser than the rest of the bird, it is dealt with differently. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how we can achieve success when smoking our turkey breast.

If you choose to brine your turkey breast, you will need to make a basic brine for the task. Before we look at creating our brine, a word of caution, most turkey breasts or turkeys already have up to a 30% solution in them. Adding the normal amount of salt to your brine will cause you to run the risk of your bird being too salty. Your basic brine is as follows:

  • 1-gallon water
  • 1 cup sea salt

The above recipe for a brine is all you need to get started. You will be adding your seasonings in the form of a dry rub after the brining process. Let’s discuss what common seasonings are used as a dry rub on a turkey breast. The seasonings listed below will also work with the results of your brining process.

Simple Marinade For Flavorful Turkey Breasts

To make a simple marinade, you can use apple juice with aromatics to create the flavors you desire most. Finding that marinade that calls to your taste buds is crucial in the spices and herbs you use.

A Simple Marinade For Smoked Turkey Breasts

Smoked Turkey Breast
Smoked Turkey Breast
  • 1/2 gallon apple juice
  • 2 Teaspoons Sage
  • 1 Tablespoon Basil
  • 1 Teaspoon Turmeric
  • 2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup Salt if desired.

Using an immersion blender or fork to mix your dry ingredients for your marinade to help reduce clumps and an unbalanced distribution of your spices. Once you have them mixed add them to your apple juice. Place your bone-in turkey breast in a container and cover it with your marinade solution. Note: Be sure your turkey breast is fully covered, if not completely covered add more apple juice or water to finish the process.

Cover your turkey breast with marinade and place it in the refrigerator for no more than 6 hours. Your turkey breast will begin absorbing your marinade adding flavor to your turkey breast when smoked.

After you have marinated your turkey breast, remove it from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. You will want to allow as much of the solution to drain off before you begin to dry it. After drying your turkey breast off, you can either put it on the grill or add a dry rub.

To add even more flavor when I add my dry rub I also add 2 ounces of butter to my dry rub turning it into a paste. Put as much paste as possible under the skin of the turkey breast before adding it to the skin.

What Temperature Do You Prefer For Smoked Turkey Breasts

I normally use a 250F setting for smoking my turkey breast. The normal cooking time I use is based on the best cook time for a turkey breast which is 45 minutes per pound. Some people use the 30-minute rule, I have found when using this rule my turkey breast is not thoroughly smoked.

As my turkey breast is being smoked, I cheat a little bit. I will spritz my turkey breast about every 30 minutes to help keep the moisture in my turkey. I do this quickly so I do not lose very much heat. You could do this once per hour and still have a great-looking turkey breast.

Smoked Turkey Breasts Are Better When Smoked Low And Slow

When smoking your turkey breast at 45 minutes per pound on the 250F setting, you will be adding great smoke to your turkey. You are also allowing your turkey(breast) to cook slowly retaining all the moisture and savory flavors. You find your guests talking about how well your efforts to have a succulent, flavorful turkey have paid off. Their praise for your efforts will be shared among their friends and family.

Smoking For Flavor

Smoked Turkey Breast Injected For Flavor

We each have our ways of achieving that perfect smoke. Some of us will use injectors to add flavor, while others may choose a more traditional way of adding flavor.


22 responses to “How To Achieve Great Flavor With Smoked Turkey Breasts”

  1. Oh man, Jerry, That looks so good! It seems so easy to do that even I can follow your directions and smoke a turkey breast. With just the 2 of us here for Thanksgiving, this is perfect.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Keeping my temperature constant at 250F after marinating for 6 hours gave us a great turkey breast that was moist, full of flavor. We were wanting more but decided to send some of it to another family where there were only 2 of them. They rarely have a treat like this so we always send them some of what I smoke or grill.

  2. Lorenz Valdez Avatar
    Lorenz Valdez

    It’s almost that time of the year again… I am super excited to get the family together.

    Thank you for sharing How To Achieve Great Flavor With Smoked Turkey Breasts!

    I never get it right, that’s why im not the one who cooks the turkey.

    Im the one who does the stuffing and mashed potatoes. lol.

    Maybe this year, I can try this out and try your marinade. Looks amazing!

    Do you have a tutorial video?

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy

      Unfortunately, I did not make a video for this turkey breast. If you have a pellet grill or charcoal grill it will be very simple for you. Follow the instructions on how to make the marinade, leave in the marinade for 6 hours. Pour off the liquid, pat your turkey(breast) dry. You will then apply your rub being sure to get your rub under the skin. 

      Make sure your grill is at the right temperature(250F), place your turkey on the grill with a drip pan underneath if it is a charcoal grill. If it is a charcoal grill, place aluminum foil over it for the first 2 hours, then remove for the browning of the skin. If you have a pellet grill set your temperature at 250F and spritz every 30 – 45 minutes to maintain the moisture. You should have a great smoking experience by following these instructions.


  3. Corey M. O'Neill Avatar
    Corey M. O’Neill

    I appreciate your word of caution about the turkey already having solution. These are the kinds of things people like me would easily overlook. My wife and I have never made a turkey ourselves, since we always go to family’s houses for Thanksgiving. But when the day comes that we host the holiday, I know I’ll be coming back to this post.

    Thank you,


    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      I find most people forget there is a solution already added to most fowl. This solution is used primarily as a preservative. However, if you are having to watch your sodium intake this could put you in a dangerous position. I have a heart condition and found this out the hard way. I will always let people know to be on the lookout for added sodium.

      The methods I used in smoking my turkey breast are very simple and easy to use. I believe there are enough directions for you to be able to have a great smoking experience. If not you can always contact me for further information.


  4. Parameter Avatar

    I love smoked turkey. I do it once in a while at home, but I do not take down details the way you do. From the required temperature of 250F, the time to smoke the breast to the recipes. You made it look easy to follow and achieve. For me, I use garlic powder without onions. I will include onions powder and apple juice to get a more desirable flavour

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      Thanks for reading and commenting. The recipe and temperature I used to smoke this turkey is one that I have used for years. It is as simple as what the directions were. By keeping your temperature constant, your turkey will cook more evenly, giving you a better flavor with the tenderness you desire.


      PS If you have problems you can always PM me for solutions.

  5. LineCowley Avatar

    This is such a helpful post on getting great flavor with turkey breasts. Turkey breast, and chicken breast, can be quite bland and without definite flavor, that it is great to find this helpful post. 

    I am very surprised to see that you say that when it comes to brining, most turkey breasts or turkeys already have up to a 30% solution in them. Is this something that is more unique to the USA? As I have not come across it in the UK or South Africa before. 

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy

      I have found that unless you look at the labels, you may not be aware a solution has been added to the turkey or chicken, especially if they are frozen. You will want to watch the sodium content when brining it, otherwise, you may be adding too much sodium. This is especially true for those who have to watch their sodium content. You know the flavors your family enjoys so be sure to use them unless you want a change in the flavor. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  6. Jannette Avatar

    With Thanksgiving approaching by the day, I was looking for new ways to cook our dinner turkey this year when I came across your smoked turkey. I have baked and air fried turkeys but never smoked them. I think this year I will be following your advice and smoking the turkey, as I do like moist, not dried out turkey. I have booked marked your recipe tips so I can access again without having to search and find again. 

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      This turkey was so full of flavor and moisture, even the tenderness was outstanding. It was so tender that I had to be careful when cutting it. It just sliced so evenly and easily. The moisture content in the breast meat was some of the best I have ever had. Following the directions when cooking your turkey should give you a phenomenal meal. Use the seasonings that work best for you.


  7. angelce903 Avatar

    Your article is very interesting as we cook turkey for Christmas in my family – we live in France. As for me, I always prepare a marinade with several herbs and spices because turkey tends to remain unflavored. And my palate loves seasoning very much. I can’t eat food that is not seasoned. Do you have another way to keep good taste in turkey apart from the steam?

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      You are already using a marinade that gives great flavor to your meals, continue to do so if it works well with turkey. The only steam that is generated is either from spritzing your turkey or from a shallow pan with liquid in it such as white wine. Your turkey will be cooked on the grill with the heat you have it set at(250F or about 120C). Cook at this temperature until your turkey is done. Check with a thermometer to see if the temperature is at 165F or 75C. Your turkey is done at this point. Allow it to rest at least 15 minutes before cutting.


  8. Kevin and Son Avatar
    Kevin and Son

    This looks delicious, I am especially excited I came across this because the wife was just asking about smoking a turkey. I also have a Pit Boss and we love it. I might come back to your recipe for this weekend, and I will definitely let you know if I had the luck that I hope I should with this well written article and instructions.

    Kevin and Son

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy

      Kevin and son,

      You will find this recipe and technique to be outstanding. I have used this same recipe and technique for years with great success. This recipe will be great on your Pit Boss, mine was on a Z Grills pellet. You should have no problems at all. The photos I used were of my  latest smoked turkey.


  9. Michel Maling Avatar
    Michel Maling

    Who doesn’t love smoked turkey? In fact it is better than done in the oven in my opinion. This is just the right time of the year to get this article. I agree with you that nothing beats rosemary, thyme and sage on turkeys or chicken. 

    Thanks for the tip about the brine. I didn’t realize turkeys already have salt when you buy them so I would have added more salt. 

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      You will need to check the label to find out how much of a solution has been added. There may not be that much solution added, if not then you can season your turkey the way you want. Using the spices and herbs you are familiar with is enhanced when you smoke your turkey. Smoking your turkey at the right temperature and the right length makes for an outstanding meal any time of the year.


  10. Brian Hudon Avatar
    Brian Hudon

    Great job.  I love the set up, It’s amazing . Great choice of colors.  “We each have our ways of achieving that perfect smoke. Some of us will use injectors to add flavor, while others may choose a more traditional way of adding flavor.” This so true. It makes me want to buy immediately .

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      Thanks for the comments. There is nothing wrong with using injectors to add flavor. To me, the most important part of grilling is to have the flavors be bold enough to get your attention but subtle enough to ask questions about the herbs and spices used. When you achieve that wonderful goal, you are on the verge of becoming a grill master.


  11. Carol Barnes Avatar
    Carol Barnes

    What a nice looking turkey! I enjoyed reading your article on smoking the turkey. I think we might just smoke our turkey for Thanksgiving this year. I also think I will try your Simple Marinade For a Smoked Turkey Breast. It sounds scrumptious! I also like the idea of adding even more flavor with the dry rub that you turn into a paste. I may just try that too.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Jerry McCoy Avatar
      Jerry McCoy


      I have used this recipe for years and each time it gets even better. I was gifted a pellet grill a couple of months ago. The turkey in my pictures was done on a pellet grill. When you add the butter to your dry rub, it turns it into a paste and as the butter melts when you are smoking your turkey, the herbs and spices penetrate even deeper giving you a more robust flavor. Happy Grilling.


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