Smoked turkey is a perfect family feast. Perfect for a weeknight meal or a Thanksgiving dinner. Smoking your turkey can help add a layer of smoky flavor that you may fail to achieve if you go the roasting route.
However, you may find your turkey breasts dry out while smoking. Below are my techniques that will ensure you keep moisture locked in so that you can serve your family juicy turkey.
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Spatchcocking Your Turkey
Spatchcocking your turkey up will allow you to cook the bird evenly which will prevent the breast from drying out. This method helps the meat absorb more smoke, and the rub or dry brine can cover the bird completely.
Let Your Turkey Brine Overnight
Brining is a process where you let a turkey sit in a saltwater mixture overnight. You may also add sugar, fruits, and other spices to help flavor the turkey.
Many pitmasters say this is the key to getting a moist turkey as the meat is slowly allowed to absorb the moisture of the brine overnight. Not only does this keep the turkey from drying out during the smoking process but also helps to add flavor.
You may also use a dry brine which involves rubbing salt and spices on the turkey skin and letting it rest. This will help to crisp up the turkey skin.
Place The Turkey Breast Side Down
To ensure your turkey doesn’t dry out you should place it breast-side up. The breast is the leanest meat therefore you want it away from the heat source.
Try To Use the Skin-On, Bone-In Piece
Skin and bone is the greatest tool you can use to protect the delicate turkey breast meat from drying out. Although this may act as an added layer of protection, skinless and boneless turkey breasts will also do just fine.
Injecting your turkey with butter or spices can create juiciness while adding flavor to the meat. You can add moisture and unique flavors to the meat by adding marinade under the skin into the tissue. This is the method I used in my recipe for Pit Boss smoked turkey and it worked out perfectly, juicy tender meat and crispy skin.
You can simply melt butter in a bowl and add your desired spices if you like. Next, take an injection and suck up the melted butter. You can then insert the tip of the injector at different locations around the turkey to inject the butter.
Make Sure You Don’t Overcook It
Aim for an internal temperature of just over 165° in the breast for best results. This means you should pull it out of the smoker once the internal temp reaches 155°- 160° as the meat will continue cooking while it rests.
This method will give you a juicy turkey that is right on the edge of doneness. A cooking time that allows your turkey to reach above this temperature will start to cook off any moisture that you are looking for.
Keep It Hot And Fast
Tough pieces of meat are generally cooked low and slow in a smoker to help break down the fat and collagen in them. However, smoking turkey breast at a low temperature does more harm than good as it is a lean piece of meat.
The longer you leave it on the smoker, the more time you are giving it to dry out. The low temperature may also cause the skin of the breast meat to become rubbery and unappetizing.
A good temperature to cook the meat at would be 325°-400°. This will allow the turkey to cook fast and develop a beautiful golden crispy skin without drying out.
Keep The Surface Dry
You must dry the meat’s surface before putting it on the smoker. This is because smoke does not adhere to wet surfaces, so it will not penetrate the meat if it is wet.
You can do this by using paper towels and letting them sit for half an hour while starting your smoker.
Make Sure To Baste
Be sure to baste your turkey breast with buttery juices once the meat has absorbed enough smoke.
You may also put butter on the sides of the tray, which will later melt and get mixed with the broth and meat juices. This will make the turkey meat stay hydrated and not dry out quickly.
Use Butter Beneath The Skin
Gently pull the outer layer of skin away from the turkey meat, creating a pocket. Then, add your favorite butter mixture to this pocket.
Using a butter mixture underneath the skin will not only ensure the turkey breast stays moist, but also give the meat a rich flavor and juicy punch.
Use A Water Pan
Another technique to keep your turkey breast from drying out is by using a water pan in your smoker. Over time, the water from the water pan will evaporate into the smoker, creating a humid environment. This helps to increase moisture in your smoking chamber, preventing your smoked turkey breast from drying out quickly.
Skip The Stuffing
Stuffing a turkey may cause the breast meat to dry out as it will take longer for the heat to travel to the center of the bird.
Instead, it is recommended to make pan stuffing which can be served warm and fresh compared to soggy stuffing from inside the bird.
Although turkey breast can be a healthy and protein-packed addition to most of your recipes, it is essential to make sure moisture stays locked into the breast meat during the cooking process.
Be sure to follow the techniques mentioned above to achieve the perfect smoked turkey breast the next time you find yourself cooking up a feast for your family dinner!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).
I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!
You can read more about me on our About Us page.
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