Now’s the Perfect Time for Grilled or Smoked Turkey Breast
Like everyone in these unprecedented times, I’ve learned to be flexible when I shop the meat counter at my local supermarket. Tired of pork, put off by beef prices, and craving a simple smoke-roasted chicken one Sunday, I was disappointed to discover the store was out of whole birds.
Then I remembered the frozen food aisle where you can usually buy whole turkeys and turkey breasts year round. (Fresh turkeys are generally available only during the holiday season.) I didn’t need or want a whole bird. But a whole bone-in breast weighs between 5 and 7 pounds, and is perfect for feeding 4 to 6 people. Half breasts (bone-in or boneless) are also an option.
Ideas for Smoking and Grilling Turkey Breast
There is so much you can do with a turkey breast besides smoking it or grilling it indirectly. Here are some options:
1. Vinaigrette-Marinated Turkey Breast
Slice a boneless skinless turkey breast crosswise into paillards, then pound to an even thickness between sheets of plastic wrap with a meat tenderizer. Marinate in your favorite vinaigrette (3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice plus salt and pepper to taste) for at least 30 minutes. Grill over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges and a green salad.
2. Ground Turkey Breast for Meatballs, Meatloaf, or Burgers
Ask your butcher to grind the turkey breast, or do it yourself if you have the equipment. Use the ground meat for meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers.
Buffalo burgers are one of many options. I like to mix 1 pound of meat with 2 tablespoons of Frank’s RedHot, minced garlic, celery salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Shape into 3 burgers with oiled hands. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked to an internal temperature of 165, about 4 minutes per side. Serve on toasted buns with blue cheese dressing.
3. Grilled Turkey Breast Skewers
Cut a skinless turkey breast into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Marinate, refrigerated, in your favorite balsamic vinaigrette for 2 to 4 hours. Thread on flat skewers. Thread vegetables on separate skewers, such as onion wedges, red bell peppers (or mini peppers), mushrooms, zucchini rounds, etc. Grill over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Serve with rice or rice pilaf.
4. Smoke-Roast Turkey Breast
Of course, you can smoke-roast a bone-in turkey breast just as you would a whole turkey. I like prefer to brine the turkey breast (assuming it hasn’t been injected by the processor) using one of the many brines on this website. Alternatively, combine 1 cup of coarse salt (such as Morton’s kosher salt) with 1 gallon of water. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add the turkey breast, then submerge the turkey. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Pat dry. Rub the skin with softened butter; you can even work some of the butter under the skin. Season with a low-salt rub. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat to 325 degrees. Enhance the fire with hardwood chunks or soaked wood chips. Replenish the fuel and wood as needed until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast is 165 degrees, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the weight of the breast.
5. Grilled Stuffed Turkey Breasts
Buy two breast halves and pound lightly between two sheets of plastic wrap. Top each with your favorite stuffing (sausage is especially good), then tie the two breasts together with butcher’s string to enclose the stuffing. Rub the outside with softened butter and season with your favorite rub or herbs. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Grill until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Let rest, then remove the strings and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Shingle on a platter or plates.
6. Smoked Whole Turkey
Do you or someone in your family love smoked turkey? Season the turkey with a rub or your preferred seasonings, then set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s directions and heat to 250 degrees. Smoke for 2 hours. In the meantime, preheat a grill or your oven to 325 degrees. Move the bird to a roasting pan or aluminum foil pan and indirect grill or place in the oven until the skin is nicely browned, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Poultry skin that has been smoked from start to finish will be nearly inedible—rubbery and flaccid. Finishing at a higher heat will render the fat in the skin, making it crisp and delectable.
3 Grilled or Smoked Turkey Breast Recipes
Below are links to three of Steven’s most popular turkey breast recipes, including turkey pastrami.
Here’s a turkey breast bright with citrus (lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit, pureed rind and all), with fennel pollen (or fennel seeds) for a licoricy sweetness—inspired by the Pig & Pickle in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Heart-healthy Turkey Pastrami smoked and served on fresh rye bread with sauerkraut and homemade Russian dressing.