Tonight I made smoked turkey breast for dinner. I know, we are past the holidays. (Yes, we did smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving this year 🙂 ) I don’t often think about cooking turkey outside of the holidays, but it really is a great option any time of year! And usually pretty economical too. We are trying to eat more lean meats, and I also wanted to cook something that would leave some nice left-overs. So I got a bone-in skin-on half turkey breast at the grocery this weekend.
I debated on the cooking method – traditional roasting in the oven? Try the clay-pot roaster? (I have yet to master this method and wasn’t feeling that adventurous tonight.) Smoked?
SMOKED. I think one of my favorite ways to cook meat these days is on our Traeger.
What is a Traeger?
But basically, a Traeger is a wood pellet BBQ/oven where you can control the cooking temperature.
If you set the temperature really low, you can smoke things long and slow, and they usually stay really moist. Our most recent adventure with this loooonnngggg method was smoking a 10 pound pork shoulder (read more about that smoked pork shoulder here).
You can really do so much more than smoke meat on a Traeger, too! You can bake in it, roast in it, grill in it, make pizza, you name it! I’ve baked bread, roasted vegetables, cooked stuffed peppers, grilled hamburgers, and more!
We picked ours up from a local Costco road show this past spring, and we have already put a lot of hours on it! Find out more about this grill on Traeger’s website. And be sure to download their app if you are looking to expand your recipe selection.
Smoked Turkey Breast How-To
Tonight’s turkey breast was about 5 pounds. I pulled it out of the fridge around 3pm, and made a quick herb butter with salt, pepper, herbs de provence, and lemon juice. Read all the details about making your own herb butter here:
After mixing the butter together, I rubbed it underneath the skin of the turkey breast, directly on top of the meat. Then seasoned with salt and pepper all over, and transferred it into the Traeger! There are a lot of fancier things I could have done, like brining, for example. But this was a weeknight for goodness sake! I just wanted to cook a yummy dinner without too much effort 🙂
For more details on different prep methods, click over to my lengthier post on smoking a whole turkey.
Smoked Turkey Breast Temperature and Time
I set the temperature on the Traeger to 225F. Based on some reading I had done, I expected the turkey breast to take about 30 minutes per pound, so 2.5 hours. But by 6pm, it was still reading at ~130F, so I cranked the temperature up to 425F to finish it off for about another hour, until it hit 165F in the middle, close to the bone.
One of the fun things about the Traeger is that you can use different types of wood to get different flavor profiles. Traeger gives recommendations of what type of wood will pair well with what type of meat, but there is a lot of flexibility with your options. Tonight’s turkey was “mesquite smoked.” I really love mesquite chicken, so I decided to give it a try with this smoked turkey breast. It turned out yummy!
Oh, and there were some veggies featured on the dinner plate tonight too 😉 I did a quick swiss chard saute with a few microgreens tossed in for extra flavor, then topped with lemon juice. I have discovered that swiss chard turns out best if you braise it first. Just add some liquid to the pan and set a lid on top for ~ 5 minutes, then finish off the sauteing. It has a nice tender texture, without being totally wilted and dried out like a full-on saute can seem to do.
- ~5 pound turkey breast (bone-in, skin-on)
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1-2 tbsp herbs de provence
- Juice of one lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Mesquite wood pellets (others can be substituted)
Start the Traeger
- Start the Traeger smoking according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Once smoking, set the Traeger's temperature to 225°F and let come to temperature while you prep the turkey.
Make the Herb Butter
- Soften the butter until it is easy to mix but not melty.
- Mix in the herbs de provence a few pinches at a time, adding until the butter seems fairly well saturated.
- Add freshly ground pepper until it also evenly saturates the butter.
- Add a few generous pinches of salt. (I always use course Kosher salt, but any will do.)
- Finish off by adding the lemon juice, adding slowly so as to not make the mixture too runny. (You want the butter to be thick enough to spread it under the skin, so it should still be a soft solid after you mix everything together.)
Prep the Turkey
- Pull the turkey breast out of the fridge 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to start smoking.
- When you are ready to start, remove from packaging, pat dry, and trim any excess skin or fat from around the edges.
- Use your hand to gently separate the skin from the meat.
- Spread the herb butter under the skin, so that it sits directly on the meat. Transfer it with your hands, and then you can press on the outside of the skin to move it around and get full coverage.
- Salt and pepper the outside of the turkey breast as well.
Smoke the Turkey
- Place the prepped turkey breast directly on the grill of the preheated Traeger.
- If you want to, you can insert a thermometer now in order to track the temperature as the breast cooks. You can also just check it a few hours later and then monitor as needed.
- The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted near (but not touching) the bone registers 165F°. In theory, a turkey breast should take ~ 30 minutes / pound, so 2.5 hours for this 5 pound breast. However, I ended up smoking at 225°F for 2 hours, and then cranking the heat up to 425°F for another hour to get from an internal temp of 130°F to 165°F in time for dinner.
- Let the breast rest for at least 20 minutes, and up to 1 hour, to maintain maximum moisture.