~ This applewood smoked turkey breast is rubbed with a blend of warm spices and smoked over a bed of coals and applewood. It is moist, tender and delicious. ~
Growing up, turkey was just meat you ate once a year at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I would have some processed slices to go on a sandwich, but other than that, that was the only turkey I ate. Don’t get me wrong, it was always good, but it was always about the same, just roasted turkey.
Through the years, I have done some recipes using turkey, but I had never had home cooked smoked turkey before. In fact, the closest I had ever come to it was out of a deli case in a grocery store. David had smoked one many years ago and told me all the time how good it was.
If you recall, David got a new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker at the end of last summer and all he has smoked on it has been pork. I am not a huge pork fan, I have been after David to smoke me a turkey for some time. He had agreed to smoke me a turkey breast when we were home and the weather was more cooperative.
A few weeks ago, the weather broke and it was nice on the mountain, with hints of spring in the air. We decided to fire up that smoker and smoke that turkey I had been after him about.
We purchased a refrigerated 6-pound turkey breast from the grocery store. A whole turkey would have been way too much for us and it made it really nice not to have to worry about the bones. It was a beauty of a bird and had one of those cute built-in pop-up timers to let us know when he was ready for consumption.
Technically, the water smoker would provide enough moisture itself, so we eliminated brining the turkey. David told me to decide on a rub for the turkey and mix one up. When I started looking at rubs, I was leaning more towards traditional savory versions of poultry rubs, but then I started thinking about it didn’t want this bird to taste like Thanksgiving, I wanted it to taste different. A good kind of different. I wanted flavorful sandwiches with moist succulent smoky meat with a nice spice to it. I found a really good rub that specifically called out turkey on Food.com that sounded like what I was looking for. I also chose applewood for the wood chips. I was really torn between applewood and mesquite.
This applewood smoked turkey breast is rubbed with a blend of warm spices and smoked over a bed of coals and applewood. It came out moist, tender and is the best turkey I think I have ever eaten. Here’s how we did it:
Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast | Servings: 4-6 | Time: 4-5 Hours
- 6 pound boneless turkey breast (adjust cooking time depending on weight)
- Water Smoker or Charcoal Grill – Sorry folks, gas grills simply cannot produce a properly smoked turkey breast.
- A bag of Apple Wood Chips, soaked in water
- Charcoal (Royal Oak is our brand of choice)
- Meat Thermometer (Our breast came with a built-in pop-up timer.)
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 3 teaspoons mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
#1 Prep the turkey
We recommend that you rub the turkey prior to it going on the smoker. You could even do it 24-hours prior. I rubbed the turkey the morning before the turkey went on the smoker, then placed it back into the refrigerator until it was needed. To do this, simply wash the turkey well and pat dry. Mix rub ingredients together, making sure to breakdown in clumps of brown sugar. I used a mortar and pestle. It really wakes up the spices and breaks up any clumps.
Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl (make sure to work out any clumps from the brown sugar for even distribution) and stir to mix. Rub onto the meat on all sides. If you have time, wrap the picnic shoulder in plastic wrap and let it cure in the refrigerator for at least 4-hours or as long as overnight. Smoking the meat right away is ok, but sitting in the refrigerator for several hours allows the rub to penetrate the meat.
#2 Prep the Smoker or Grill
Smoking is a form of indirect cooking and usually takes place over a period of hours over low temperatures. Set up your smoker for what is called the burn-down method. To do this, fill the charcoal bed with unlit coals and add only a few lit coals to the very top. The coals on top slowly light the ones underneath and burn down slowly over time. If using a charcoal grill, set it up for an indirect heat technique with a drip pan filled with water directly underneath the meat to stabilize the temperature.
Soak a few handfuls applewood chips for about 30 minutes in warm water before placing atop the coals.
Preheat the grill to 250 degrees F. To maintain this low temperature, use only half as much charcoal as usual. (A half chimney-full.)
#3 Smoking the turkey
When the smoker or grill is the ideal temperature range, you are ready to smoke, place the turkey breast on the hot grate over the drip pan, toss a hand full of the soaked wood chips and some dry wood chips onto the coals and cover the grill.
David likes to use a combination of dry and wet wood chips, alternating between the two. The dry gives a quick intense smoke and brings the heat up. The wet wood chunks provide a lower, slower smoke and brings the heat down. Heat adjustments can be made using this technique.
Bring the temperature up to 250 degrees F, using the vents to regulate the temperature. Knowing the temp in your grill is crucial, so if your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge, purchase a digital BBQ thermometer.
#4 Low and slow
Check the temperature of the grill every hour, staying as close to 250 degrees F as possible. Resist the temptation to open the lid. Only open the charcoal door or the lid if you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chips to maintain temperature and smoke. After at least 4-hours, check the temperature of the meat to see where it is and get an idea of how much more time it will need to smoke.
#5 Test for doneness
Smoke the turkey breast until a dark “bark” (outside crust) forms and the internal temperature of the meat is about 170 to 180 degrees F, about 5 hours; use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. Like I said, our turkey had a nice pop-up timer!
#6 Resting the turkey
After the turkey is completely done, remove it from the smoker or grill and allow it to rest as you would with grilled or roasted meats. Allowing the turkey to rest before slicing or serving it lets the meat fibers relax, moisture that was driven out is redistributed and reabsorbed by some of the dissolved proteins. Rested meat holds on to more of its natural juices. A good 15-20 minute rest should do under loosely tented foil.
#7 Slicing and Serving the turkey
To carve the turkey, remove the pop-up indicator (if applicable). Slice the breast against the grain into ½” slices. Perfectly cooked meat should be moist and juicy.
You can serve it simply sliced on a plate or you could serve as a sandwich. We found that it was better cold out of the refrigerator. The smoke flavor is intensified by the cold, but no matter how it is served the meat is always tender and juicy.
The sandwiches we made with this turkey breast, were some of the best I had ever eaten. I cannot wait to smoke another turkey breast. David Spivey better get ready!