Kick up the flavor of your Thanksgiving turkey by firing up the grill to make a smoked turkey breast, or even a smoked turkey or smoked turkey wings! This smoker recipe will quickly become one of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
Juicy turkey breast is coated with a delicious herb and garlic compound butter and smoked low and slow to create a perfectly seasoned crust and tender interior. It’s as easy to make as our Instant Pot Turkey recipe!
Smoked Turkey On The Grill
We’re always looking for quick and easy turkey recipes to make for Thanksgiving. It allows us to spend more time with family and friends. This smoked turkey recipe fits the bill. It requires minimal ingredients and 2.5 – 3 hours of cook time.
Turkey Rub For Smoking
This is the best turkey rub for smoking turkey breasts because it compliments the meat and lets the natural flavors shine. Plus it will compliment almost any holiday side dish.
Turkey Rub Ingredients: softened butter, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, fresh flat parsley, garlic, kosher salt and black pepper.
Compound Butter For Turkey
When smoking poultry, at a low temp, there is no need to bring the bird to room temperature. We do recommend, however, bringing it out about 30 minutes in advance to help bring down the temperature of the skin so the compound butter spreads easier.
When mixing the herb and garlic compound butter, the butter needs to be as soft as it can get. In fact, we throw it in the microwave for a few seconds. Not to melt it, but bring the temp down as low as it can go without melting. This way it won’t harden from the chill of the turkey.
Make sure to completely dry with paper towels the skin before coating with butter. The butter won’t stick if it’s wet. Using a spatula to spread the compound butter is also highly recommended.
How To Smoke A Turkey Breast
Smoking a bone in turkey breast is easy when using the best smoked turkey breast recipe! This smoked turkey breast recipe can be made using any grill: Charcoal Grill, Gas Grill, or Electric smoker. We provide instructions for all methods in the recipe card below. Just make sure you have the supplies called out in this post..
- Pellet Smoker (Smoking A Turkey Traeger Style) – Smoking a turkey in an electric smoker is easy to maintain over long periods. Any brand will work. Pellet smokers are awesome for painting smoke and temperature without much effort, which is very helpful come turkey day!
- Gas Grill – The upside of a gas grill is consistent temp. The downside? Make sure you have enough propane to last upwards of 3 hours.
- Charcoal Grill – Quite a bit more “manual” labor going on when you use a charcoal grill. You’ll have to keep your eyes on the temp and add more charcoal or wood as needed. Make sure you have enough charcoal and wood to last upwards of 3.5 hours.
Turkey Smoking Times
A great guideline is to smoke the turkey for 35 minutes per pound at 225 degrees F. If you’re looking to speed up the process, here’s how long to smoke a turkey breast at other temperatures:
- 225°F – 35 minutes per pound
- 250°F – 25 minutes per pound
- 275°F – 14 minutes per pound
To keep the interior moist and juicy, we do not recommend smoking a turkey over 275°F, but it’s your call!
Smoke the turkey breast until the internal temperature of the thickest part registers 165°F on a digital thermometer. Take the temp on both sides and use the lowest reading as the temperature.
We typically start measuring the temp about an hour before it’s suppose to be done, to avoid overcooking. Each turkey breast has a unique shape and size so this helps overcome these oddities.
- Turkey Breast – The turkey should be 100% defrosted.
- Energy Source – The turkey breast will be on the grill for upwards of 3 hours so make sure you stock up on your selected energy source: charcoal, pellets, propane, gas, etc.
- Smoking Wood – Wood Chunks, chips or pellets.
- Disposable Drip Pan – Use a drip pan to catch the juices to make gravy or au jus.
- Thermometer – Always use a thermometer. Always. Our go-to digital thermometer is the Thermaworks Dot. It never fails.
- Smoker Box – You’ll need one to impart the smoke flavor if using a gas grill. We’ve used this one with success.
What’s the Best Wood To Smoke Turkey? Here’s our favorite:
- Mild Smoke Level –Cherry wood and apple wood
- Medium Smoke Level – Pecan or Maple
- Strong Smoke Level – Hickory
Brine For Smoked Turkey
Feel free to brine the turkey if that’s your thing. Since this particular turkey breast recipe requires it to be cooked low and slow we don’t brine as it’s ridiculously juicy and flavorful without it. If you do want a turkey brine, here is the brine recipe we use.
Baste For Turkey Recipe
This recipe is basically self basting as the compound butter coats the exterior. Instead, add a small grill-proof bowl of water to the grill to help keep it moist if you’re worried about it.
Collect those dripping to make turkey gravy or au jus. Just fill the drip pan with a few cups of water at the beginning of the cook cycle. the charcoal and wood will be placed to the left and right of the pan. Keep your eye on it as you’ll need to re-fill it if it gets low.
Smoked Boneless Turkey Breast
You can absolutely use this smoked turkey breast recipe on a boneless turkey breast. The cook time will be drastically lower. Plan for about 2 hours for a 6 pound boneless turkey breast.
Turkey Dry Rub
Use any dry rub recipe or compound butter recipe you like when making a smoke turkey breast. The timing and temperature will stay the same. Just keep an eye on it if you’re using a recipe with tons of sugar. Sugar = burn.
Smoked Turkey Slices
This is a great recipe to use to make deli style turkey slices for sandwiches and charcuterie boards. Slice thinly with a knife or an electric meat slicer.
- How many pounds of turkey per person? Our 6 pound turkey breast would feed 4 mouths, when served with side dishes. Plan on serving 1 person per pound and a half of turkey.
- Once you remove the turkey from the grill, allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing.
- If you’re not serving the white meat turkey after the 20 minute resting period, cover it with aluminum foil until you’re ready to slice the turkey.
- Use any leftover bones and/or meat and make Turkey Broth or Instant Pot Bone Broth.
- Leftover turkey will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
- Always use a meat thermometer when making grilled meat. You want to cook based on temperature not time. Our go-to digital thermometer is the Thermaworks Dot.
Side Dish Ideas
Here are a few ideas for Turkey Sides:
Smoked Turkey Breast
- 5-6 Lb Turkey Breast (*Note 1)
Prep The Turkey:
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to seasoning. Pat dry with paper towels. If you brined the bird, rinse off the turkey with cold water prior to patting dry.
- Mix all of the compound butter ingredients together and use a spatula to evenly distribute over the turkey breast.
Prep The Smoker (Pellet or Electric):
- Pre-heat the smoker to 225°F and set up for indirect heat. Load the smoker with the pellet of your choice.
Prep The Grill (Gas or Charcoal):
- Pre-heat the grill to 225°F and set up for indirect heat. Aim to keep the temperature between 225 - 250°F. Gas Grill- turn half the burners (on the same side of the grill) to medium-low while the other burners are off. Play around with the burner settings to get it as close to 225°F as possible. Use a smoker box to add chips/chunks of wood for smoking.Charcoal - Pre-heat the coals until just ashed over. Dump them on the far side (either left or right) of your grill and open the vents to 25%. Play around with the vent opening to get it as close to 225°F as possible. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals.
Smoke The Turkey: Directly on The Grill/Smoker
- Transfer the turkey to a pre-heated grill.
- Cook for 35 minutes per pound at 225°F. Replenish the wood chips/pellets/charcoal, as needed, to maintain the temperature.
- Smoke until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F. Check the temperature on both sides and use the lower of the two temperature readings.
- Remove the turkey to a large cutting board and let rest for 15-20 minutes. If not serving right away, cover with foil and wrap with towels to keep in the heat until you're ready to serve.