This Smoked Turkey Breast uses a simple Apple Cider Brine is juicy, flavorful and will be one of your family’s favorites!
I planned on smoking on the grill and prepared a few recipes for the day. This is a fantastic recipe for a festive dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday or occasion.
Fresh apple cider was at the farmer’s market and that was my cue to prepare this recipe as I love cider brines. Cue up How to a Smoke Turkey Breast!
Why This Recipe Works
Quick and Simple Brine: Brining makes such a difference with the outcome of white meat, which is usually very lean. This brine is fast to do so you can get on with your life.
Incredibly Juicy Turkey Breast: This Smoked Turkey Breast Recipe will have you reaching for poultry at the grocery store all year long. They are tender and juicy every single time so it will become a regular on your smoker.
Fast: Compared to smoking a whole turkey, using turkey breast requires a much shorter smoking time.
Flexible: This is a great stand-alone recipe but it works great as a meal prep base. Simply after cooking, shred them like we did the Pulled Chicken, freeze them in individual packs, and use them for future meals like pulled turkey sandwiches, cranberry turkey sliders, smoked turkey nachos, or smoked turkey and wild rice soup.
Turkey Breast – I chose to smoke a bone-in turkey breast, mostly because it is the most common option at grocery stores. Turkey breasts are notorious for drying out. That is one of my chief complaints when you grill the whole bird. It is much easier to control that when you cook it separately, and when you use a brine. Of course, you can use a boneless turkey breast, if that’s what’s available.
Brine – I used a fairly traditional brine. Kosher salt is the agent that penetrates the skin and the meat. The brown sugar tempers the salt, and the other ingredients provide some fantastic flavors. In this case, fresh apples, apple cider, cinnamon, and citrus fruits provide a fresh autumn flavor throughout the meat. You can use this brine for the Smoked Spatchcock Turkey as well.
Dry Rub – Both the turkey and the brine provide a fairly mild taste that you want to highlight. So, a strongly flavored rub might overpower the other flavors. I used a simple five-ingredient homemade rub that complemented the meat perfectly.
Apple Wood Smoking Chips – Smoke is the final flavor that binds this all together. A strongly flavored wood like Hickory or Mesquite risks overpowering the dish. I stayed on the mild smoke flavor end of the spectrum by using a mild fruit wood like apple. If you aren’t sure which intensity of smoke you want, reference the Best Wood for Smoking Turkey and Smoking Wood Cheat Sheet.
This recipe requires a little bit of prep work, but the results are well worth it.
⏲️ Preparing the Brine
Step One: Cut the apples and your citrus fruits into sections and place them in a bowl. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon, brown sugar, and kosher salt.
Step Two: Add the apple cider and water in a 1:1 ratio. I used two cups of each, which was enough to cover the breast. Stir the mixture well to dissolve the salt and the brown sugar.
Step Three: Add the turkey breast and make sure that it is fully submerged to allow the brine to do its job.
Step Four: Cover the bowl with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 8-10 hours.
Note: I prepared the brine before I went to bed and it was ready to go the next morning. Just make sure you plan accordingly.
🥣 Prepare the Dry Rub
This is extremely easy and you probably already have these seasonings in your house.
Step One: Combine all of the ingredients into a small glass bowl. If you make any substitutions, now is the time to make them.
Step Two: Mix well with a fork.
That’s it! You can’t get much easier!
🍗 Prepare the Turkey Breast
Step One: Remove the breast from the brine and place it in a fresh bowl of water for 15 minutes. I agitated the water to loosen any salts that might have stuck to the skin. This step is critical. I skipped it once and found the skin was much saltier than I liked.
Step Two: Remove it from the fresh water and pat it dry with a paper towel. Lightly brush the breasts with some olive oil or melted butter. This will help the seasoning better stick to the breast and crisp up the skin.
Step Three: Coat the turkey with the dry rub. Make sure you get all the cracks and crevices.
🍎 Smoke the Turkey
Step One: Set your grill to indirect heat. For Kamado grills, like the Big Green Egg, install the plate setter. For gas grills, turn off the burners in the middle.
Step Two: Bring the smoker temperature to 275 degrees.
Step Three: Add the wood chips to the grill (or wood chunks if using a regular smoker, or pellets, if you’re using a pellet grill). For Kamado grills, place them on the lump charcoal. For gas grills, add them to a smoking box.
Note: I say this in all my smoking recipes – a little goes a long way! A small trickle of smoke is much better than a huge billowing cloud of smoke. It is too easy to ruin a recipe with too much smoke. Your food might turn out tasting like ash instead of having that complex hint of smoke.
Step Four: Place directly on the grill grates (a roasting pan is not needed). Smoke until the turkey breasts internal temp reaches 165 degrees. That typically takes about 30 minutes per pound cooking time. Because this is brined, it is a little more forgiving with the temperature, but definitely monitor it with a wireless meat thermometer.
How Long to Smoke Turkey Breast ?
Smoke the breast for 30 minutes per pound at 275 degrees f. Always cook to temperature, not time. The internal temperature needs to be 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, per the USDA.
The brine is easily customizable. Have fun with substituting the ingredients for what your taste buds like, and with ingredients you already have in the house.
Try these other classic autumn flavors
- Allspice Berries
- Cracked Peppercorns
- Star Anise
- Fresh Herbs
When you want to create your own, keep these ingredients in mind. They’re staples for dry rubs!
- Salt & black pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder or flakes
💡 Expert Tips
Never start with a frozen turkey breast. Let the meat fully thaw before smoking.
If your grill starts producing too much smoke, move the wood chips to the side. I used my ash tool to get under the plate setter, and it worked great.
The brine adds a lot of juicy flavor to the breast. That gives a bit of leeway when smoking. Typically, an overcooked turkey breast will be too dry, but the brine minimizes that risk. Still, you should monitor the temperature but know that you have a little bit of a buffer here.
After you remove it from the grill, let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Allowing it to rest will keep the juices inside the bird, just like you want!
You can loosely tent the breasts with aluminum foil but keep in mind if they had skin on, it will likely become less crispy.
No need to worry if the breasts are done a little early. They can rest at room temperature for up to 1 hour before slicing. I wouldn’t keep them out longer for safety reasons.
If you’re not serving them any time soon, it’s better to refrigerate the turkey breasts and reheat them when needed.
As if the exceptional flavor wasn’t enough, smoked turkey breast goes well with so many side dishes!
Fresh salads like this grilled peach and arugula salad perfectly complement a juicy turkey breast. Make it a satisfying meal with this amazing smoked potato salad, or keep it light with grilled corn and black bean salsa.
Looking for more options? This comprehensive selection of BBQ chicken sides also goes well with turkey and other poultry.
New and exciting sides will always make any barbecue party better!
🍱Meal Prep & Storage
Refrigerated in an airtight container, smoked turkey breast lasts 3-4 days. In the freezer, it will stay safe indefinitely but will retain the best texture and flavor for 2-3 months.
If freezing, I like to split the meat into 1-cup portions. This way, if a recipe calls for x cups of meat, I can thaw exactly what I need without having to measure it again.
Also, I wrap the leftover turkey in plastic wrap before placing it in a freezer bag. This way, it’s better protected against freezer burn.
🍲Ways To Use Leftover Smoked Turkey Breast
I always smoke at least one extra turkey breast. This amazing smoky meat can be used for an endless number of dishes. Try it in a grilled cheese sandwich, or in a beer queso dip and you won’t regret it!
You can also shred the meat like you would when making pulled smoked chicken. It makes some fantastic sliders the whole family will enjoy. Of course, the smoky meat will also elevate any soup or casserole.
Tip: Turkey breast and all cooked poultry meat is easier to shred when it’s warm. For slicing, cold meat is the best option.
🦃More Smoked Turkey Recipes
Be it white or dark meat, smoked turkey is always a treat and budget-friendly too. A whole smoked turkey is not the fastest recipe but totally worth making.
Alternatively, you can smoke a spatchcocked turkey and it will be ready faster. Flattening the bird will help it cook more evenly and in less time.
The breast may be a quick recipe for the smoker, but the turkey has other parts that are ready in just a few hours. Try some smoked turkey legs, smoked turkey thighs, or smoked turkey wings next time you want some excellent BBQ food!
Looking to perfect your smoking skills? Read our top turkey smoking tips so all your smoked turkey recipes turn out perfect!
While it’s not entirely required, if you want the turkey to turn out good, I HIGHLY recommend brining it. It’s going to be so much more flavorful and moist if you do.
You can serve it with any of your favorite sides. Salads, mashed potatoes, veggies, or anything else you love will go well. You could even serve the turkey sliced and as sandwiches. There aren’t any wrong answers for this turkey! Don’t forget to end the meal with a great dessert like the Smoked Sea Salt Caramel Cheesecake, Grilled Apple Cinnamon Roll Cups or Grilled Mini Pumpkin Pies.
At 225 degrees, it will take 35-45 minutes per pound or 3 1/2 hours for a 6 lb breast or 4 ½ hours for an 8 lb breast.
If smoking at 225 degrees, it will take 35-45 minutes per pound.
If smoking at 250 degrees, it will take 30-40 minutes per pound.
At 275 degrees, it will take 30 minutes per pound.
If smoking at 225 degrees, it will take 100-125 minutes or 35-45 minutes per pound.
If smoking at 250 degrees, it will take 90-120 minutes or 30-40 minutes per pound.
At 275 degrees, it will take about 90 minutes or 30 minutes per pound.
Always cook to temperature, and check early. Unless you have an electric smoker, the heat can go up or down so you don’t want to overcook it.
Related Turkey Recipes
Smoked Turkey Breast
- Apple Wood
- 1 Turkey Breast bone in
Apple Cider Brine
- 2 Apples quartered
- 1 Lemon quartered
- 1 Orange quartered
- ¼ cup Kosher Salt
- ¼ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 cups Apple Cider
- 2 cups Water
- 1 tbsp Paprika
- 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- ½ tsp Onion Powder
Prepare the Brine
- Cut the orange, lemon, and apples into quarters and place in a large bowl. Add the Bay Leaf, Cinnamon Stick, Brown Sugar and Kosher Salt.
- Add the apple cider and water in a one to one ratio. Two cups of each was enough to cover the Turkey Breast for me. Stir well to dissolve the salt.
- Add in the Turkey Breast, making sure it is completely covered by the wet brine.
- Cover the bowl with saran and let sit in the refrigerator for 8 – 10 hours.
Prepare the Rub
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix it thoroughly with a fork. That's it!
Prepare the Turkey Breast
- Remove the Turkey Breast from the brine and add it to a bowl of water for 15 minutes. This will allow any excess brine to gently dissipate in the water.
- Remove the breast and pat it dry with a paper towel. Lightly brush the breasts with some olive oil or melted butter. This will help the seasoning better stick to the breast and crisp up the skin.
- Pour some of the dry rub in your hand and rub it into the turkey. Make sure to turn it over and cover all of the meat.
- Set up your grill for indirect heat. For a Kamado grill, add a plate setter. For a gas grill, turn off the center burners.
- Bring the grill to 275 degrees. Add the wood chips to the grill (or pellets, if you're using a pellet grill). For Kamado grills, place them on the lump charcoal. For gas grills, add them to a smoking box.
- Add the breast to the grill and let it smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. This typically takes about 30 minutes per pound.