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Turkey Breast – Boneless & Skinless

Summary

  • Use boneless, skinless turkey breasts.
  • Pat meat dry and apply a favorite dry rub to all sides.
  • Cook at 225-250°F to an internal temperature of 160°F.
  • Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Boneless, skinless turkey breast tastes great when barbecued and appeals to those watching their diet because it is a healthy, low-fat meat. It’s also a good alternative when you don’t want to cook a whole turkey.

Here are some pictures I took on October 4, 2007 when I cooked boneless, skinless turkey breast on the Weber Bullet.

Prepare The Meat

Netted turkey breasts before smoking

Fresh turkey breast is commonly sold skin-on and bone-in. Ask your butcher to de-bone the breast, remove the skin, and net the meat. The elastic netting will keep the meat in a neat, rounded roast shape during cooking. But don’t worry if your butcher can’t net the meat…it will be fine without it.

The four turkey breasts shown here weighed more than 4 pounds each. Smaller ones weighing 2-3 pounds work well, too, and will cook in less time.

Apply The Rub

Turkey breasts rubbed with cinnamon/cumin rub

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and apply your favorite barbecue rub to all sides of the meat.

Let the rubbed meat sit at room temperature while you fire up the cooker.

If you don’t have a favorite poultry rub, try this one from my friends Brian DeHamer and Duncan Engel.

Cinnamon/Cumin Rub For Poultry

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup celery salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.

Select The Smoke Wood

Two chunks of cherry smoke wood

Use 2 chunks of cherry smoke wood. Each chunk should be about the size of your fist. Apple, oak, or another mild fruit wood can be used if cherry is not available.

There is no need to soak the wood or remove the bark before use.

Fire The Cooker

Fire-up the cooker using the Minion Method. Fill the charcoal chamber 1/2 full with unlit Kingsford Charcoal Briquets. Use a Weber chimney starter to light 20-40 briquettes and place them on top of the unlit ones.

Put the water pan in the cooker and fill it with cold tap water to help with temperature control.

Smoke The Turkey

Turkey breasts go into the WSM

Assemble the cooker and put the turkey breasts on the cooking grates.

Set the 3 bottom vents to 100% open. Open the top vent fully and leave it that way throughout the entire cook.

When the cooker reaches about 225°F, set the 3 bottom vents to 25% open so the cooker settles in at 225-250°F measured at the lid. Adjust the 3 bottom vents as necessary to maintain this temperature range throughout the cooking session.

Cook for 2 hours, then start checking the internal meat temperature using an instant-read thermometer. If you notice that the breasts are cooking unevenly, rotate them by turning the grate 180°. The turkey is done when it registers 160°F.

When cooking 4 breasts as shown here, plan on 2-4 hours for breasts weighing 2-3 pounds, or 5-6 hours for breasts weighing 3-4 pounds or more.

Remember, the overall cooking time depends on a variety of factors, including the total amount of meat cooked, the weight and shape of each breast, how cold the meat was before going into the cooker, weather conditions, cooker temperature, etc.

There should be no need to add water to the pan during the cooking session.

Here’s how the cooker temperatures and vent settings went during my cook:

Time Lid Temp Meat Temp Vent 1 % Vent 2 % Vent 3 %
2:05 pm 100 100 100
2:25 pm 195 100 100 100
2:50 pm 230 25 25 25
3:13 pm 232 25 25 25
3:52 pm 244 10 10 10
4:26 pm 233 10 10 10
5:13 pm 230 150 10 10 10
5:37 pm 226 25 25 25
6:05 pm 235 153 25 25 25
6:40 pm 235 153 25 25 25
7:20 pm 232 25 25 25
7:35 pm 232 157 25 25 25
8:05 pm 240 25 25 25
8:35 pm 234 160 25 25 25

 

Note that the vent percentages represent the way I set the vents at the time indicated.

The Finished Product

Smoked boneless, skinless turkey breasts

When the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, remove it from the cooker, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20 minutes before serving. I like to slice across the grain using an electric carving knife.

All these turkey breasts turned out moist, tender, and with good smoke flavor. Unlike beef or pork, turkey breast does not develop a dark smoke ring, but you’ll notice a light-colored one about 3/4″ wide in this photo.

Interior view of smoked turkey breast

I like to slice the turkey about 1/4″ thick, pile it high on a good quality bun or soft French roll, and top with warm barbecue sauce. You can also eat it on a plate with gravy and traditional side dishes.

Any way you slice it, smoked boneless skinless turkey breast tastes good…and it’s good for you. Enjoy!

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