The reason I brine and smoke a turkey breast on Thanksgiving is that my kids hate turkey! Can you believe that?
However, since my husband and I like turkey, I found that brining and smoking a turkey breast is just the perfect about of turkey for the two of us, including leftovers. (I usually make a ham for the kids.)
So I’ve created a special brine for turkey breast for smoking that will work if you’re just cooking or smoking a turkey breast or making an extra turkey breast along with a full-sized turkey.
(See my post, Brining and smoking your Thanksgiving turkey, on how to brine and cook a full-sized bird.)
This recipe works for smoking turkey breast in an electric smoker, on a grill, or in a ceramic smoker.
It’s also a gluten free, dairy free, low carb, keto, and paleo-friendly recipe.
(All the ingredients are dairy and gluten free. Plus, the turkey breast doesn’t absorb enough of brine to make the turkey breast meat high in carbs.)
You'll be surprised that it's so easy to learn how to brine and smoke a turkey breast!
Why you should brine and smoke a turkey breast
The first time I used this brined turkey breast recipe, it turned out so well that my daughter, Lucie, decided that she did like turkey and had some.
The turkey meat was incredibly juicy, moist and tender, and unbelievably flavorful. My husband and I liked it so much that I may forget about making Smoked Beer Can Chicken ever again.
Made me wonder why not make brined turkey for smoking year-round instead of just for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas?
(I’ve had some large turkeys that barely fit in my smoker, and I was lucky just to be able to get the smoker door shut!)
If you have a larger smoker, then 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!)
Use brined turkey breast in your turkey leftover recipes
If you’re cooking a full-sized smoked turkey, you may want to also cook up this recipe for smoked turkey so you have plenty of meat leftover for sandwiches and leftover dishes like:
In my opinion, you can never have too much leftover smoked turkey meat!
How to brine a turkey for smoking
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. Cover the pot and place in the refrigerator for an hour to let the turkey brine cool down.
4. 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.
How to smoke the turkey breast
1. Prepare your smoker bringing the internal temperature to 225 degrees F using your favorite type of wood chips. I like using cherry or apple when cooking poultry.
2. Remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels.
3. Place turkey low in the smoker and cook for a total time of 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the breast registers 165 to 170 degrees F.
4. Remove turkey from the smoker. Place the smoked breast on a cutting board. Then cover it cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. This way the juice and flavor stays in the sliced smoked turkey breast.
Serve the smoked turkey with your favorite side dishes like
- 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!
Tips for making the turkey breast brine
When making the brine, you should consider the following:
Cooking wine and vinegar: To give my recipe for smoked turkey brine an Asian flare, I used Holland House Sake Cooking Wine, Nakano All Natural Rice Vinegar, and ginger in the brine.
If you can’t find Holland House Sake Cooking Wine, you could use another brand of cooking sake in this turkey breast recipe.
Sorghum: I fell in love with sorghum when I lived in the South. It’s sort of like a cross between rice syrup and maple syrup. Some gluten free beers are made with sorghum, too.
You can find sorghum syrup online and at craft beer and winemaking stores. (If you live in the South, you can usually find sorghum at the grocery store.)
If you can’t find sorghum, 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 or bone in turkey. Either one is fine to use.
I like the bone in kind of turkey, because you can then use the carcass to make stock in your slow cooker.
If you don't know how, see my Leftover Turkey Soup Recipe for easy directions. (This recipe is also a terrific way to use up leftover turkey slices.)
What kind of equipment do you need to make turkey brine?
What I love about this smoked turkey brine recipe is that all you need is 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.
Plus there's no need to drag the brining cooler into the garage or out to the porch to keep the turkey cool.
You just need to make enough room in the refrigerator for the brining pot. Easy peasy!
More turkey recipes for your smoker
- 8 cups apple cider
- 3/4 cup Holland House Sake Cooking Wine
- 1/4 cup Nakano All Natural 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
- Bring cider, cooking wine, and next 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 pot from heat, stir in ice. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Place turkey in the brine. (Brine should mostly cover turkey. If it doesn’t, find a smaller pot. If the turkey still 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!)
- Prepare your smoker according to the manufacturer's directions, bringing the internal temperature to 225 degrees F using your favorite type of wood chips.
- Remove the turkey breast from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels. 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 let stand 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 736Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 272mgSodium: 10962mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 1gSugar: 40gProtein: 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.
Originally posted on November 21, 2013. Updated with new pictures and information.