HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Turkey Breasts... I'm thinking of smoking. Any suggestions?

Rather than cooking a whole bird, some friends have encouraged me to cook something in the smoker. That's fine. Some stores have some breast choices. How does one decide what is best?

For the smoker types - how would you cook it and for how long? Do you brine? Create a last-minute sauce to make the skin tremble?

Thanks, Jon

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. john, your smoker should come with a chart of things to smoke, w/ their smoking times and temps. turkey breast is lean, so if you do smoke it, make sure and brine it first, so it will not get too dry.

    1. How to smoke a bone-in turkey breast, courtesy of The Virtual Weber Bullet. Couldn't be easier.

      Their home page:

      1. Definitely brine it. My husband brined and smoked a turkey breast last year, and it was incredible. Juicy, flavorful——much better than the backup turkey I'd roasted in the oven. We're both dark-meat lovers, so this was a revelation. Sorry I don't remember more of the preparation details.

        1. (1)Brine it. (2)MOST PEOPLE DON'T HAVE A PROBE THERMOMETER AND THAT AMAZES ME! I would very strongly suggest you buy one. We're not talking about a "instant" read thermometer, we're talking about a leave-in-the-bird-the-whole-time-while-it's-cooking thermometer. White poultry meat is done at 160 - any more than that is unnecessary and will dry out the meat. Take it out of the smoker when your NEW probe thermometer reads 150ish degrees. Remember, depending on the cooking temperature you will get about 10 degrees of carry over cooking. The higher the cooking temp, the more carry over. With a smoking temperature of about 200-220, you may only get 5 degrees of carry over.


          1. I smoked a couple of turkey breasts and wings (cut off of the breasts before smoking) just last week on a Cookshack Smokette (an electric smoker oven). I followed the directions in their recipe booklet, except that I used kosher turkey parts instead of brining. I seasoned the turkey with a dry rub, put the parts into the smoker, along with about 1 ounce of hickory wood, and let them go at 225F for 5 hours (until 170F internal).

            They were a little on the dry side, but not too much so (maybe the brining would have helped), and very flavourful. I enjoyed the cold leftovers more than the hot-out-of-the-oven turkey.

            I'm pretty new to smoking, but loving it.

            For a great forum on smoking, as well as recipes go to www.cookshack.com

            7 Replies
            1. re: FlavoursGal

              FlavoursGal - try taking the turkey off at an internal temp of around 150F or so. The latest USDA recommendation as of 2006 is that all poultry is safe at 160. There is an article in the current New York Times which also says that heritage turkeys are done at 150F and that the internal temperature makes the biggest difference in roasting turkeys.

              1. re: cheryl_h

                Thanks for the tip, cheryl_h! And I thought I was being a risk-taker taking it off at 170 (the directions said to go to 180).

                It's funny - I never use a thermometer when cooking poultry in a conventional oven - I go by appearance, smell, and sound. But this smoker oven's got me relying on thermometers, which I'm not used to.

                1. re: FlavoursGal

                  You can read my post above, but there is ALWAYS carry over over cooking in anything you cook. Use a probe thermometer and you can watch it happen right in front of you! The item, whatever it is, will continue to cook and will actually rise in temperature after you take it out of the cooking vessel. You can usually count on 10 degrees of temperature rise AFTER you take it out of the oven/grill/smoker, etc. This is why watching for the pop-up "timer" on turkeys is a *very* bad idea. The pop-up will pop at about 180 degrees - when the meat reaches a safe temperature. Many people see that and say "oh, my turkey is done, great." And it is done... but the carry over cooking will take the meat to about 190 or even more. The result? Dry turkey. Lots of "low class" recipes like those that come in the box with a smoker or something similar, will tell you to cook it to 180, so they don't get sued by Sally McMoneysucker when they under cook tainted poultry. Like Cheryl said, take it out at 150.

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    Thanks. I know all about carry-over cooking time. I just wasn't sure (since I'd thought that poultry should go to 180) at what temperature I should remove the turkey to hit the 180, because I assume that cooking something at 225F rather than, say, 350-375F, would result in a product with a less intense residual internal heat and would, therefore, not increase in temperature as much during the carry-over time.

                    1. re: FlavoursGal

                      Correct. My experience has been that while smoking at a lower cooking temperature, it will result in a lower/slower carry over. I'm a little confused, are you still asking a question? :-) Either way, remember that white and dark meat are done at different temperatures. If you're simply cooking a breast (white meat) it's done at 160, not 180. I'd take it out at 152ish. Count on maybe 7 or 8 degrees versus 10 degrees. If it only hits 159 after carry over, I'm positive you'll be ok. You'll have the best turkey ever!

                      1. re: FlavoursGal

                        It's 160 for white meat and 170 for dark. Anything past that and you're over cooking.

              2. I've smoked a few turkeys over the past several years. They've been excellent. Whole turkeys, on the smaller side, to fit in a medium sized Webber kettle. As above, try it at 150 and let it sit. I think we even removed ours prior to 150 but its difficult to tell sometimes with my crappy thermometer exactly what the temp is throughout the bird.

                I recall that while the white meat had good flavor, the dark was unreal. If at all possible, see if you can smoke a whole small turkey. It's up to you on a rub but I feel no need to go too crazy as you'll want to appreciate the smoke flavor.

                4 Replies
                1. re: adams_jo

                  For $20 you can save your food and your reputation. PEOPLE, BUY A PROBE THERMOMETER!

                    1. re: tallullah

                      Because people are always asking about temperatures and timing and talking about "crappy thermometer(s)" so I'm trying to tell folks that it's really quite easy to avoid any and all question when cooking meats and especially at this time of year, turkey. Your guests and families will thank you ;-) Lots and lots and lots of people don't use probe thermometers. They more often use the "instant read" which requires people to open the oven/smoker, stick in the thermometer and wait to see what the temperature says. If it's over done at that point you've defeated the purpose of using the thermometer, in my opinion.

                  1. re: adams_jo

                    We smoke our TG turkey every year and will never go back to roasting again. It's the only way white meat is palatable. We take the turkey out at 150F or sometimes few degrees lower and this is based on the temperature in the thigh. I absolutely loathe overcooked foods. I never tell anyone what internal temperature I cook the turkey to because so many are phobic about this. They're happy to wolf down as much turkey as they can load onto a plate so we're all satisfied.

                  2. Definitely brine the turkey breast. A lot of sites list their own receipes - I prefer to 'clean out the refrigerator' as long as you put in plenty of salt and something sweet (I like apple juice).

                    Also...get some good wood chucks (apple or pecan are my favorite) and a good meat thermometer. As long as you are careful with the temperature, you cant screw this up. Smoke until you hit the magic 170 number and wrap in foil until you are ready to carve.

                    The cool thing is, everyone personalizes what seems to work best for their rig, appetite and guests. Have fun and find something that seems to make the most sense and run with it.
                    Happy Thanksgiving.

                    1. Smoke it until it is done. That's what I aways say. 160 degrees and let it rest. Carry over cooking should handle the rest. Use good quality wood chips, anything but mesquite and hickory. too heavy for turkey. Don't worry about the sauce. That's called BBQ anyway. You want to smoke. Oh and you don't have to brine the meat, but it's a nice tasty addition.