Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Anne-Marie
A brine for smoked turkey breast that’s easy to make and delicious. Make this easy brined and smoked turkey breast recipe for holidays and parties.
Why this recipe works
I brine and smoke a turkey breast on Thanksgiving because my kids hate turkey!
Since my husband and I like turkey, I found that brining and smoking a turkey breast gives us just the perfect amount, with plenty of white meat for leftovers.
(Remember, it’s 1 to 1½ pounds of turkey per person or 2 pounds of turkey if you want plenty of breast meat for leftovers.)
We don’t miss the dark meat at all. And I usually make an Easy Crock-Pot Spiral Ham for the kids.
I’ve created a special brine for making the best juicy turkey breast meat for smoking that will work if you’re cooking or smoking a turkey breast or making an extra turkey breast with a full-sized turkey.
(See my post, Brining and smoking your Thanksgiving turkey, on how to brine and cook a larger bird.)
This recipe works for smoking turkey breast in an electric smoker, on a gas grill, charcoal grill, or in a ceramic smoker.
It’s also a gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, keto, and paleo-friendly recipe.
When you’re done, here are some suggestions on what to serve with smoked turkey breast.
Why you should brine and smoke a turkey breast
Brining helps make turkey meat incredibly juicy, moist, and tender. Plus, it gives the breast meat an exquisite smokey flavor.
With a larger smoker, you’ll have plenty of room for a regular turkey and making a turkey breast – or two!
(Not sure what’s the best smoker grill to cook your turkey on? Check out my Best Smoker Grill Combo Guide!)
- apple cider
- cooking wine or cooking sake
- rice vinegar
- sorghum syrup
- kosher salt
- fresh sage
- sprigs fresh rosemary
- fresh chives
- sprigs fresh lemon thyme
- fresh ginger
- ice cubes
- bone-in turkey breast
What kind of equipment do you need to make turkey brine?
What I love about this smoked turkey brine recipe is that you only need a 12-quart covered stockpot to make the brine and brine the turkey in. It’s truly a one-pot recipe.
You don’t need to mess with brining bags, bags of ice, and coolers.
Just make enough room in the refrigerator for the brining pot. So easy!
How to brine the turkey breast
1. Place the cider, cooking wine, rice vinegar, sorghum syrup, salt, sage leaves, rosemary, chives, thyme, and ginger in a large stockpot.
2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat and let the liquid simmer until the salt and syrup dissolve.
3. Remove the stockpot from the stove and stir in the ice.
(You could also add 2 to 3 cups of ice-cold water.)
Cover the pot and place it in the refrigerator for an hour to let the turkey brine cool down.
4. (Do I have to remind you to thaw your frozen turkey?) Prepare the turkey by removing the wrapping and the turkey gravy packet.
Don’t wash your turkey before cooking.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, you shouldn’t wash raw turkey before cooking.
Bacteria in raw poultry can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.
Washing splashes the bacteria around your sink and countertops. And you! YUCK.
Place the turkey in the brine so it’s covered in liquid. (If it’s not covered, place the turkey breast and brine in a smaller pot.)
5. Place the lid on the pot and chill in the refrigerator for 5 to 12 hours.
Tips for making the brine
Cooking wine and vinegar: I initially used Holland House Sake Cooking Wine, which has been discontinued, and Nakano All Natural Rice Vinegar. In this brine recipe, you can use any brand of cooking wine (or cooking sake) and rice vinegar.
Sorghum: If you can’t find sorghum syrup online, you can use honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup instead. Brown sugar would also do in a pinch.
Turkey: Finally, don’t forget to buy a few extra turkey breasts while they’re on sale. This turkey breast brine isn’t just for the holidays.
You can brine and smoke a turkey for summer barbecues and use this brining and smoked turkey recipe to make hot turkey sandwiches for a football-watching party during the Big Game!
Finally, you can use boneless turkey breasts, though bone-in is cheaper. You can also use the leftover bone to make slow cooker turkey stock. (See my Leftover Turkey Soup Recipe for easy directions.)
How to smoke the turkey breast
1. Prepare your pellet smoker bringing the internal temperature to 225 degrees F using your favorite wood chips.
2. Remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels.
3. Place the turkey on the smoker grill grate low in the smoker. Smoke for a total cook time of 2 1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer placed near the thickest part of the breast registers 165 to 170 degrees F.
4. Remove the roast turkey from the smoker. Place the smoked breast on a cutting board. Then cover it loosely with aluminum foil, and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. This way, the juice, and flavor stay in the sliced smoked turkey breast.
5. Store leftover turkey in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
What type of wood to use for smoking turkey?
Here are the best wood chip or wood pellets for smoking any poultry:
Serve the smoked turkey with these side dishes
- Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
- Crockpot Mashed Potatoes Recipe
- Easy Gluten-Free Skillet Cornbread Recipe
- Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing Recipe with Chorizo, Squash & Apples
- Brussel Sprouts Salad with Cranberries Recipe
- Marinated Asparagus Recipe
- Sweetened Collard Greens Recipe
- Crock-Pot Vegan Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Parsnips Recipe
- Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Don’t forget to make a batch of Sara Moulton’s Best Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Recipe (Gluten-Free), too!
Use brined turkey breast in these delicious leftover recipes
Make an additional smoked turkey breast brine to a larger bird, so you have plenty of meat leftover for sliced turkey sandwiches and leftover dishes like:
You can never have too much leftover smoked turkey meat!
More smoked turkey recipes
Check out the Best Gluten Free Thanksgiving Desserts Recipes and the Best Keto Thanksgiving Recipes for more delicious recipes for your holiday table.
What's your favorite dish to serve on Thanksgiving?
- 8 cups apple cider
- 3/4 cup cooking wine
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup sorghum syrup
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 bunch fresh chives
- 3 fresh lemon thyme sprigs
- 2 1-inch pieces of ginger, peeled
- 4 cups ice cubes
- 1 6-pound bone-in turkey breast
Brining the turkey breast
- Bring cider, cooking wine, and the following 8 ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until salt and sorghum are dissolved. Remove the pot from heat, and stir in ice. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Prepare the turkey by removing the wrapping and gravy packet. Place turkey in the brine. (Brine should mostly cover turkey. If it doesn’t, find a smaller pot. If the turkey isn’t fully covered, you’ll need to turn it over in the brine about halfway through the process.) Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 5 to 12 hours. (Do not over-brine your turkey, or you’ll end up with salty meat!)
- Remove the turkey breast from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Prepare your smoker according to the manufacturer’s directions, bringing the internal temperature to 225 degrees F using your favorite wood chips.
- Place turkey low in the smoker and cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 165 to 170 degrees F.
- Remove cooked turkey breast, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
Smoking the turkey breast
- Prepare your pellet smoker bringing the internal temperature to 225 degrees F using your favorite wood chips.
- Remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the turkey low in the smoker. Smoke for a total cook time of 2 1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer placed near the thickest part of the breast registers 165 to 170 degrees F.
- Remove the turkey from the smoker. Place the smoked breast on a cutting board. Then cover it loosely with aluminum foil, and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
As an Amazon Associate Affiliate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 500Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 272mgSodium: 337mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 103g
Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.