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brine & temp for smoked turkey breast

Hey all!

With Passover just around the bend, I'm looking to do something a little lighter this year- a full turkey breast is the first thing that comes to mind.

Now I've smoked turkey breast before. Typically, I brine a full double-breast (i.e.: 10+ lbs) using Ruhlman's ratios, at oh, 325F for however long it takes to get to 160F internal, usually with a fruit wood. Call it 2 hrs, 2 hrs and change.

The results I get are usually pretty good- some of the end pieces are a little dry, but the real problem is the salt level- it's always too salty, almost unpalatably so.

I'm going to go a little lower and slower this time around- say 275F, but what I'm really interested in is the brine. I'm looking for a brine recipe that'll get my big hunk of meat beautifully moist, but not ridiculously salty. If you've got a suggestion, I'm all ears- and if it makes a difference, I'll be smoking on a Big Green Egg.


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  1. Have you considered reducing the amount of salt in your brine?

    5 Replies
    1. re: JayL

      Yesss, I've considered it, but rather than just pluck a saline percentage out of the air, I'm looking for first-hand experience from someone who's done what I'm looking to do so I have a better idea on my end.

      Now that I think of it, I should probably ask my butcher if the breast isn't pre-brined. Dammit.

      1. re: biggreenmatt

        I don't brine poultry with an ingredient statement that lists added salt. Look for a "natural" turkey with no added salt either introduced during the chilling process or injected, like a Butterball. Some raw turkey nutrition labels state over 400 mg sodium for a four ounce portion.

        1. re: biggreenmatt

          Good call. Another possibility would be to cut the brine time. If it's nearly inedible, I'd start with cutting the time in half.

          1. re: biggreenmatt

            Yeah, I understand.

            You also have to understand that I'm the type of person who WOULD pluck a recipe change out of the air & just go for it. But that's me...

          2. I like to brine turkey breast with soy sauce, chopped fresh sage, and honey in the brine.

            Also, smoke with the lightest wood you can find, e.g. fruit wood over hickory or oak. Sugar maple is the absolute best, if you can find it.

            1. Are you using the 5% he usually recommends, or the 10% quick brine? Also, are you weighing your salt and what salt are you using?

              1. ruhlman - clown

                I've followed Alton Brown's brine technique with repeated success

                  1. John Ash's brine recipe is our go to standard for whole turkeys and turkey breasts. Best results are to assemble the brine at least 24 hours in advance and brine for a full 12 hours for a whole breast or 24 hours for a whole turkey. Salt ratio is lower than Ruhlman's which allows you to go longer without salt overkill. Before smoking I rub the bird with a cut lemon and very light coat of olive oil

                    We smoke the whole breast on a large BGE at 275 to 300 using just a couple apple or cherry wood chunks, bird is inserted with a wired thermometer and target its removal at 155 degrees followed by a 20+ minutes rest while partially tented.

                    1. Try John Ash's turkey brine.....old standby allows for longer brine period due to lower salt concentration. Readily accessed on line. Smoking at 275 and pulling off at 155 followed by a 20 minute rest results in a memorable TB.

                      1. Hi, all. I ended up using a variation of the Alton Brown brine- it worked magnificently. Super-moist and super tasty.

                        Only issue was one of my own making- I misjudged the time it would take to get up to 160F, and I was three hours early. Fortunately, I remember an old cowboy trick that saved the day. Took the whole breasts, wrapped them in foil, wrapped those in side towels and threw them both in a cooler. 3 hours later, they were still nice and hot and ready to be sliced. Can't remember where I picked the trick up from, but to whoever was the brilliant soul who first figured it out: thanks!

                        1. Talk about turkey...here's mine ready to come off the smoker for Sunday dinner: