Grill Smoked Turkey Breast
Success!! If you saw my previous post titled Watch this Space, then you know I was planning to put our Thanksgiving turkey breast on the grill. I was not just successful, I was very successful. Best smoked turkey I have ever eaten!
I started this the night before, putting a 4.85 pound whole turkey breast in a brine. A whole turkey breast is the bird without the legs, wings and thighs attached. It still has a cavity. Basically, a headless, legless, wingless bird. It can be bought frozen or fresh, with or without giblets, neck, heart and liver. I bought a fresh breast and purchased a couple of legs and livers, giblets and a heart for my stuffing (stuffing is what I eat, not filling or dressing). For the brine recipe, see Beer Can Turkey. I added ice to the brine after it had cooled slightly to bring the temp down quicker. By the time I had gotten to the brine, I had already baked three pies, had the stuffing ready to go and made cranberry sauce. I wasn’t in the mood to wait for the brine to cool so I could add the turkey. I don’t know why I didn’t add ice before. More water is added later anyway.
I cleaned out the grill the night before Thanksgiving (almost sounds like a Clement C. Moore poem). Maximum airflow is a must. I dumped a huge pile of coals on one side of the grill with a smaller pile next to it. I also had a small stash of oak pieces available. I did not have the wood soaking in water. I just threw those right on the coals at the beginning and as needed later on in the cooking process. When all of the coals in the big pile were nearly gray, I moved the smaller pile over to get those going. Then I moved those on top of the big pile right before I put the turkey on. I had plenty of heat for most of the cooking time doing this.
As you see in the lower left hand corner of the second picture, there is a foil pan. I filled this with orange juice and water for my steaming liquid. It caught the drippings from the turkey as well as the juices from the citrus fruits I added to the cavity of the turkey. I stuffed the cavity with a quartered lemon, lime, half a small orange, 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and a one inch piece of ginger, quartered.
Once everything was ready, the foil pan was filled, the rack placed on the grill and the turkey breast placed on the rack with one of the legs to support it (a turkey torso will not stay upright on its own. It needs support-the leg worked well). Then the lemons, etc. were stuffed in through the neck and a probe thermometer was inserted through the lower part of one side of the breast (if you do this, make sure it is not touching a bone and the end is still in the meat). I added a couple of pieces of wood and closed the lid.
Target temperature for poultry is a minimum of 165 degrees F. 170 is a better temp to shoot for. It took about 3 hours and 40 minutes to achieve 168 degrees F on Thanksgiving Day where I am. Outside temperature was in the upper 40’s to the low 50’s the entire time I was smoking the turkey. It may have gone quicker with higher outdoor temps. I added more wood twice and 8 briquets once. The first time I added wood and briquets, I also covered the breast with heavy-duty foil to prevent further browning. See below to understand what I mean. If you have never had or seen smoked poultry, you might be surprised at the appearance. But don’t be put off, wait until you see how it looks underneath!
Let the turkey rest 15-20 minutes before carving. Resting allows the juices to be reabsorbed back into the bird. Carving too soon results in crumbly, mushy slices.
The only thing I will do differently next time: I will take the legs off much sooner. The smaller one was quite crispy! The turkey breast was perfection! Excellent smoked flavor, very juicy. Definitely will do this again. It helped make my Thanksgiving Dinner plate look like a work of art!
Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!