Make the best Smoked Turkey Breast recipe this year! Perfect for smaller holiday gatherings; It’s slathered in a flavorful spice rub, basted in melted butter, bourbon, and honey, and smoked until melt-in-your-mouth tender for the perfect holiday turkey.
Sometimes I think back to when I thought poultry was boring. Given my options, pork, beef, or seafood would win every time. I thought chicken and turkey were bland and dry.
But then I got myself a smoker, and the heavens opened up and angels sang, and my life changed for the better. Now you’ll be hard-pressed to find a time that I’m not excited to whip up smoked chicken thighs or Traeger smoked turkey for dinner. You basically can’t tear me away from the poultry section at the grocery store.
Trust me, this smoked turkey breast recipe will change your life the same way it did mine! Not only will it transform how you feel about turkey, but it makes a great alternative to whole smoked Thanksgiving turkey for the holidays when you have fewer people to serve!
No smoker? Check out my quick pressure cooker turkey breast recipe instead!
Why you’ll love this recipe!
- This easy recipe is perfect for a smaller Thanksgiving dinner, whether it’s just friends or a small family! Where you don’t have to wait hours for a whole bird to cook.
- The tender breast meat is loaded with flavorful meat! Even if you aren’t making this for Thanksgiving, it’s a perfect recipe just cuz you want leftovers.
- Because of the simple ingredients, it’s the best turkey breast you have ever tasted, perfect for slicing and serving immediately or for thick slices for amazing leftover turkey sandwiches!.
- This recipe is perfect for a Traeger grill / pellet smoker, ceramic big green egg, or traditional charcoal / offset smoker! See our notes in the recipe card for each!
What you need to make this smoked turkey breast recipe
- Turkey Breast – I use four to five-pound bone-in whole breast for this recipe which will most likely serve anywhere from 4-5 people tender, juicy white meat depending on the size of the breast (overall weight). We use bone-in for this recipe and do not recommend a boneless turkey breast, only because it will cook quicker, usually is just half the whole turkey breast (one) in size and would only feed half the people. Be sure to save the leftover bones for homemade turkey stock.
- Mustard and Olive Oil – the acidity in mustard helps break down the meat for a more tender texture. I love using garlic dijon mustard/aioli for this as a bonus flavor!
- Brown Sugar and Seasonings: you’ll use a simple blend of brown sugar mixed with kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper. It’s the perfect blend of sweet, smoky, and spicy.
- Butter, Bourbon, and Honey – this makes up a deliciously sweet basting liquid to give the turkey more flavor and keep it moist during the smoking process.
How to smoke turkey breast
You just need 15 minutes of prep to make the perfect smoked turkey breast! It’s important to check your bird 2 to 3 days before to make sure it’s thawing properly.
The day before smoking:
Make sure to thoroughly pat dry your turkey breast with paper towels and check the cavity to remove gizzards, turkey neck, or any remaining ice. It’s important to dry the cavity too!
Combine mustard and olive oil and rub the mixture all over the turkey breast. In another small bowl, combine all of the spices, then rub them all over the turkey. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
The day of smoking:
Prep the smoker for 225ºF. Prep a drip pan and water tray if needed, then place the turkey in the smoker and add wood chips. Smoke for 1½ hours, refresh chips if needed, then smoke for another hour. Or if you are using a Traeger pellet grill, set the grill to smoke and then prep it for 225 degrees F according to manufacturers directions.
If you have a Traeger smoker or any pellet grill, Follow the exact steps, and use a smoker box filled with wood chips for added smoke flavor. Simply place the box right on the grill grates in the hottest corner. We love hickory, maple, and pecan chips for this turkey breast.
In a saucepan, combine butter, bourbon, and honey until the butter is melted. Use that mixture to baste the turkey, then continue to cook. After 15 minutes, baste again and cook until the internal temperature of the turkey breast is 165 to 170ºF with an instant read thermometer.
Remove from the smoker, cover with foil, and let the turkey breast rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
This depends on the size of the breasts, but I usually plan on about 30 minutes per pound to smoke the turkey. The five-pound turkey breast I used in this recipe took about 2½ hours to cook all the way through.
As always, the best way to tell if meat is done cooking is to use a meat thermometer. The minimum internal temperature of the turkey should be 165-170ºF, according to the USDA.
Yes, but not in the traditional way. For this recipe, we’re skipping the wet brine and using a dry brine of mustard, oil, sugar, and seasonings.
Just pat the turkey dry and coat the turkey breast in that mixture the night before and let it sit in the fridge and soak in all that flavor! The key is to make sure to get under the skin to really coat the meat!
I recommend it. Basting the turkey in honey, bourbon, and butter not only adds flavor but also ensures that the meat remains moist as it cooks. Since turkey is a lean meat, it’s more prone to drying out. Basting reduces the risk of that happening!
It also gives a beautiful golden brown color to the juicy turkey breast and helps to make crispy skin with tons of flavor!
This smoked turkey breast recipe is perfect next to all of the classic holiday sides. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Slow Cooker Loaded Creamed Corn
- Smoked Baked Potatoes
- Home-Style Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Green Beans
- Slow Cooker Rum Soaked Fig Cranberry Sauce
- Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
How to store
Leftover turkey breast will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then microwave in small portions or warm in the oven at 300ºF with a splash of broth to moisten.
Looking for ways to use up your leftovers? Check out my classic hot brown or my leftover smoked turkey sandwich recipe.
More delicious smoked turkey recipes
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Smoked Turkey Breast
For the Smoked Turkey Breast
- 4-5 lb turkey breast
- 2 tsp mustard
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne or dark chili powder
For the Bourbon Glaze
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp Bourbon
- 1 tbsp hot honey
- The day before smoking, combine the mustard and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the turkey breast all over with the mixture.
- In another small bowl combine the spices. Rub the turkey breast heavily with rub. Wrap in plastic wrap and let the flavors mingle in the fridge over night.
- Prep smoker according to manufacturers directions for a heat of 225 degrees F.
- Prep your drip pan and water tray if needed. Place turkey in smoker and add wood chips.
- Smoke for 1 1/2 hours and refresh chips as needed. Smoke for another hour.
Make the glaze
- Make the basting liquid. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, bourbon, and honey over low heat until butter is just melted. Stir to combine.
- Baste the turkey with the maple mixture. Close smoker and in 15 minutes baste again.
- Once the turkey temps at 165F, remove from smoker, cover with foil, and rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
- Slice and serve.