Thinking about cooking turkey breast on your pellet grill? There’s nothing a quality pellet grill can’t do, and so if you’re ready to experiment with cooking and smoking turkey breast, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll guide you through all the steps, tips and tricks to perfectly cook and smoke turkey breast on a pellet grill.
- Choose the Right Turkey Breasts
- How to Prepare Turkey Breast for a Pellet Grill
- How to Cook Turkey Breast on a Pellet Grill
- Why cook it at 325F when most other meats are smoked at around 225F?
- What are the best pellets for smoking turkey breast?
Choose the Right Turkey Breasts
If you’ve had your pellet grill for any length of time, you’ll already know how important the cut of meat you choose is, and that’s no different for turkey breast. Most of the time, you’re looking for a good ratio of fat to meat, but as you likely know, turkey is a very lean meat.
The fact that it is a lean meat means that you want to choose smaller turkey breasts. While we often choose large cuts with plenty of meat and fat when grilling cuts like brisket, turkey doesn't have the same fat content to keep it moist. That means that if you choose a big turkey breast, you'll likely end up over-cooking the outside before the inside reaches a safe temperature. The best thing to do is choose a normal size breast.
Don’t worry – there are a ton of tips and tricks you can do to keep your turkey moist throughout the cooking or smoking process, which we’ll cover below, but try to choose breasts that are a similar size to the rest in the store.
Should I cook turkey breast with the bone in?
If you want to cook big turkey breasts, but don’t want to cook an entire bird, then try to find turkey breast with the “bone-in.” This means they have a piece of the breast bone still in the breast, and you can even find double breasts with the entire breast bone. When you cook turkey breast this way, the bone will help the meat retain its moisture, but be aware that it will take longer to cook.
Should I get raw turkey breast or “moisture enhanced” turkey breast?
If you live here in the US, you may find turkey breast in your local store that is “moisture enhanced.” This essentially means it has been injected with a broth, sugar, and salt solution. Not only is this not great for your body, since you don’t know what’s in the turkey, but it’s not great for cooking for the same reason. You may find that the cooking time of this kind of turkey varies significantly, depending on how much of the solution your particular breasts have. Instead, buy raw turkey breast so you can season it yourself and know for sure what’s in it.
How to Prepare Turkey Breast for a Pellet Grill
Ideally, you need to start the day before (or about 12 hours) before you want to cook it. Remove the turkey breast from the packaging, give it a rinse and pat it dry, then remove any excess skin or fat. Next, we need to brine the turkey. I know – we just told you not to buy the brined version from the supermarket, but that’s because you don’t know what’s in it. Instead, the best and fastest thing to do is to dry brine it.
To dry brine your turkey breast, simply coat the turkey breast with kosher salt and pepper and store it on a cooling rack set over a tray or baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.
When you’re ready to cook, brush off the excess salt and pepper and season with any herbs and spices you want to use. Don’t add any oil if you love crispy skin.
This process will help the turkey retain its natural moisture while it cooks.
Options for Preparation if You Don’t Want to Wait
There are two other ways you can choose to prepare your turkey breast to ensure it stays moist. One, is to put softened butter under the skin – you essentially add the fat the turkey doesn’t naturally have. This is a good method if you want to prepare and cook your turkey all at once.
Another method is to add a pan of liquid, such as water or cider, to your grill to help keep the moisture content within the grill high while your turkey cooks.
How to Cook Turkey Breast on a Pellet Grill
To grill turkey breast on your grill, follow these steps:
- Do your prep, and allow your turkey to sit out to get up to room temperature. This helps the breast cook evenly.
- Fill the hopper with your preferred pellet, and allow the grill to get up to 300-325F.
- Open the lid and add your turkey breast
- Close the lid and allow the turkey to cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes – though don’t forget that smaller breasts will take less time, and double breasts on the bone will likely take more, so use this as a guide.
- When it reaches an internal temperature in the center of 165F, it’s cooked through.
- Remove it from the grill, transfer it to a wooden cutting board, and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes. If it’s cold or if there are flies around, cover it loosely with aluminum foil. This allows the juices to settle so the meat retains its flavor.
- Carve it and serve it and serve.
Why cook it at 325F when most other meats are smoked at around 225F?
Turkey is super lean, so if you’re using skin and you like your skin crispy, 325F is the best way to do so. However, you don’t have to follow this method. If you want to cook long and low, drop the temperature to 225F and allow the turkey breast to cook for 3.5 to 4 hours, checking that the internal temperature has reached 165F. This won’t result in crispy skin, but is another option if you don’t like the results you get cooking for a shorter time. Just make sure you take precautions to keep the turkey moist.
What are the best pellets for smoking turkey breast?
If you’re fairly new to using a pellet grill and aren’t yet familiar with the tastes of the different types of wood pellet, then it’s best to start with your standard wood pellet. You’ll be able to get a baseline and see how smokey you like your turkey to taste. If you want to try a deeper smokey flavor, then you can try hickory . Sweeter flavors like apple , cherry , and fruitwood also work well for turkey breast. Just give your favorites a try and experiment!
Turkey breast is a great choice for smoking if you love your pellet grill but want the health benefits of lean meat. Make sure you grab our Pellets Set so you can give a huge range of different flavors a try!