For many people, the big turkey absolutely must be on the table in all of it's glory for Thanksgiving but if you really want to make it simple and tasty without the fuss, smoked boneless turkey breast is the best way to go.
They are easy to prepare, devilishly delicious, can be cooked in the smoker in under 4 hours, and are easy to slice into individual servings. It's a win-win for everyone!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Brine Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 4 hours
Smoker Temp: 240°F
Meat Finish Temp: 165°F
Recommended Wood: Apple
What You’ll Need
Boneless turkey breasts (each one weighs about 3 lbs and feeds 5 to 6 people)
I almost always brine poultry and especially the cuts that contain mostly white meat like the turkey breast. Brining turns out birds that are a lot more awesome than they are without brining.
Brining in a nutshell is simply soaking meat, such as turkey, in a 6% salty solution for several hours. The salty solution is drawn deep into the meat fibers making it more flavorful and more moist. If you add flavors such as herbs, spices, juice, etc. to the brine, those flavors also end up inside the meat. It's easy to see how potentially beneficial and exciting this can be.
Below you will find the turkey brine recipe that I created for this Thanksgiving and I am using it on all of the turkey that I prepare this month.
Make the Brine
Get the brine made up a day or two early so it can cool down in the fridge before you need to use it. You can always add ice but that dilutes it some.
3 quarts of water (approx.)
1 to 1.5 quarts of ice
A couple of 4-inch sprigs of thyme
A couple of 4-inch sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon of course ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
8-10 garlic cloves smashed with the side of a knife to release lots of flavor.
1 cup of kosher salt
Add 1 quart of the water, the rosemary and thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic into a medium sized pot. Cover the pot and bring it just to boiling and then turn off the heat. Let the ingredients steep in the water for 20-30 minutes before removing the cover. Put the “tea” in the fridge to cool down. I recommend giving it several hours at least but overnight is best.
If you procrastinated, don't worry.. I have your back. Simply pour the hot brine through a sieve into a gallon sized pitcher. Add about a quart of ice and stir the ice and brine mixture to cool it down.
Add more ice if you need to to cool it on down.
Finally, to the pre-cooled brine mixture, add enough cold water to bring it up to a gallon.. you should have a total of 1 gallon of liquid in the pitcher.
Add 1 cup of kosher salt to this liquid and stir gently for a minute or two until the salt is completely dissolved.
This, my friends, is your brine.
Note: if you want to make a simple brine with nothing extra, add 1 cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of cold water and stir until the salt is dissolved. This will also do wonders for the juiciness of the turkey.. it just won't add anything other than a little bit of saltiness to the meat.
There's not a lot to do to these boneless wonders. Remove the outside packaging but leave them in the net they come in as this holds them in that football shape while they cook.
Brining the Turkey Breast(s)
Place the netted turkey breasts into a large zip top bag and pour brine over them to cover.
Seal the bag and place it down in a larger bowl in case of leakage.
Brine the turkey in the fridge for about 4 hours.
When the brining is complete, rinse the turkey breasts under cold water and discard the brining liquid.
Season the Turkey with Jeff's Original Rub
Once again, leave the nets in place around the turkey breasts.
The main part of the unit stays outside by the smoker..
The receiver part of the unit goes around your neck, in your pocket or on the table next to where you are.
This is the best product that's come out in a long time for us smokers.. range is about 300 feet, big, easy to read numbers, batteries last 1800 hours, it lights up, it's splash proof and it's super easy to set the high and low alarms.
The best part is that it comes paired together from the factory so when you turn it on, it's immediately ready to go.
Smoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.
It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.
For many people, the big bird absolutely must be on the table in all of it's glory for Thanksgiving but if you really want to make it simple and tasty without the fuss, smoked boneless turkey breast is the best way to go.
Boneless turkey breasts((each one weighs about 3 lbs and feeds 5 to 6 people))
Turkey brine recipe((below))
Jeff's original rub
Remove the turkey breast from the packaging but leave the net intact as this is what holds it's shape while it cooks.
To a medium pot add 1 quart of water, 1 TBS of course ground black pepper, 1 TBS of red pepper flakes, 2 long sprigs of thyme, 2 long sprigs of rosemary and 8-10 garlic cloves smashed with the side of a knife.
Bring to a boil then remove it from the heat and let it steep covered for 20-30 minutes.
Place the mixture in the fridge for several hours to cool.
To make the brine, add 3 quarts of cold water to a gallon sized pitcher and 1 cup of kosher salt.
Stir the mixture until the salt is dissolved.
Add the cooled mixture from the fridge into the brine and stir to combine.
Place the turkey breasts into a brining container and pour the brine over the turkey to cover and then into the fridge for 4 hours.
After brining is complete, rinse the turkey breasts under cold water.
With the net still intact, brush on a little cooking oil and season the outside of the turkey breasts liberally with Jeff's original rub.
Set the seasoned turkey onto Weber grill pans, Bradley racks or regular cooling racks and they are ready to go into the smoker
Setup your smoker for cooking at 225-240 °F with indirect heat.
When the smoker is preheated, place the pan with the turkey breasts into the smoker.
Let the turkey cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 162°F.
Remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest under loose foil for about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the net from the turkey breasts being careful to not disturb the crust more than necessary.