This Smoked Apple Cider Brined Turkey Breast 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. 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 the Smoked Turkey Breast!
Why This Recipe Works
Quick and Simple Brine: Brining makes such a difference with the outcome of meat, especially when it can be dry cut of meat. This brine is fast to do so you can get on with your life.
Incredibly Juicy Turkey Breast: This recipe will have you reaching for turkey breasts at the grocery store all year long. They are tender and juicy every single time so it will become a regular on your smoker.
Flexible: This is a great stand alone recipe but it works great as a meal prep base. Simply smoke the breasts and shred them like we did the Pulled Chicken, freeze in individual packs and use for future meals like pulled turkey sandwiches, cranberry turkey sliders, smoked turkey nachos, smoked turkey and wild rice soup.
Turkey Breast – I opted for the bone-in version, mostly because it is the most common option at the 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.
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 the fantastic flavors. In this case, fresh apples, apple cider, cinnamon, and citrus fruits provide a fresh autumn flavor throughout the meat.
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.
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.
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 grill’s temperature to 275 degrees.
Step Three: Add the wood chips to the 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: Smoke the breasts until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. That typically takes about 30 minutes per pound. Because this is brined, it is a little more forgiving with the temperature, but definitely monitor it with a wireless meat thermometer.
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
💡 Expert Tips
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 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!
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.
Related Turkey Recipes
Apple Cider Brined 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.
- 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 and add the smoking chips.
- 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.