Turkey is one of the most iconic features of a Christmas dinner. For some families, it isn’t Christmas dinner without it. Most families will cook a whole turkey. But there are some people who want to learn how to cook a turkey breast on a Pit Boss because maybe they don’t want to cook a whole turkey? Or maybe they’re not expecting a lot of guests?
Cooking A Turkey Breast On A Pit Boss Pellet Grill
If you’re looking to cook a small turkey breast on your Pit Boss, before venturing into a whole turkey, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through the process I used to cook some flavorful smoky turkey breast that will melt in your mouth.
To cook the perfect turkey breast, you’ll need the following:
- Pellet grill (I use and own the Pit Boss Pro 820)
- Turkey breast
- The proper cooking method
- Your favorite spices or rubs
- A good handheld thermometer (check out my recommended thermometers)
- Some sides to go along with it
This may sound complicated, especially, if all you’ve ever cooked is chicken, burgers, and hot dogs.
However, I’ll break down each step to ensure the turkey comes out moist with just enough smokey flavor that will leave your guests wanting more.
Choose Your Turkey Breast
Make sure you shop early because frozen turkey is going to take a long time to thaw out. We cooked 5-pound turkey breast and it took about a day and a half to thaw out.
Expect it to take one day for every five pounds to thaw out. You’ll want to make sure it’s completely thawed out before cooking it.
While it is possible to cook a frozen turkey, expect it to take about 50% longer than cooking one that has been thawed.
Turkey Breasts Can Be Purchased As:
Turkey breasts can be purchased at supermarkets, big box stores (Costco, Sam’s), Walmart, or butcher shops.
It can be purchased in skinless or skin-on, split or whole breasts, bone-in or boneless. Avoid products containing preservatives, additives, or injections that can adversely affect both texture and flavor.
Many mass-market producers will pre-inject their birds with a sodium solution that retains moisture when someone overcooks it.
It’s best to brine your own turkey (if you choose to) so you know exactly which ingredients are going into the bird and your body.
You’ll know a turkey breast has been brined because it will say “Contains up to x% of a solution of water, salt, and spices for tenderness and juiciness.”
Pro Tip: Avoid using Butterball turkey breasts as they are known to have brine solutions in them. Instead, opt for a natural, un-brined whole turkey breast.
Like other meats, turkey breasts are sold by the pound. The whole bone-in breast will weigh between four and 12 pounds each.
Turkey is considered seasonal meat, so it’s best to shop early to make sure are able to get enough to feed your family and guests.
If you’re serving a lot of sides, figure about one pound per person.
Prep the Turkey
Even though a turkey breast doesn’t have a neck and giblets like a whole turkey. It still has juices that can contaminate the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods, and utensils.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re handling both the turkey and its packaging properly to avoid spreading harmful bacteria.
The USDA recommends not washing the turkey, especially, if you brine it.
However, I’m old school and always wash the meat before cooking it. That said, I make sure I scrub the sink, counters, and anything that comes into contact with raw turkey or its juices with bleach.
Should I Brine the Turkey Breast?
This comes down to a personal choice, but brining the breast will ensure it comes out juicy and moist.
There are several recipes online you can follow, but here’s a great brining solution I’ve used in the past:
What You’ll Need:
- Course salt (sea or kosher)
- Light brown sugar
- Pink curing salt
- Allspice berries (lightly crushed)
- Bay leaves (broken into pieces)
- Cinnamon sticks
- Garlic cloves
- Whole black peppercorns
- Turkey breast
I didn’t put the amounts down, because I don’t want people to feel restricted by how to flavor their foods. Plus, whenever I season my food, I just season it without knowing how much seasoning adds.
If you’re the type of person who needs the exact measurements, here’s a great turkey brine solution recipe you can follow.
How Long Do I Brine A Turkey Breast?
Brine the turkey breast for 12-24 hours, but no more than 24 hours. Otherwise, the meat will become mushy when cooked.
How to Cook A Turkey Breast On A Pit Boss Pellet Grill
The Pit Boss is one of the easiest and best ways to prepare your holiday turkey. Below are the steps to follow, and they are the same regardless of which brand pellet grill you own.
Preheat The Grill
Pull the pellet grill away from all combustible items and preheat to 225°F. We’ll be cooking the turkey at a lower temperature to start with, then increase the temperature to 350°F for the last hour.
Leave the P-Setting at the default P-4 setting, unless you’re cooking in the snow or colder temperature. Here’s an article that will help you set the proper P-setting for cold temperatures.
Prep the Turkey Breast
The turkey will cook more evenly and faster if you start it out at room temperature. Remove it from the refrigerator one hour before placing it on the grill.
Seasoning the Turkey Breast
Turkey can be seasoned the night before, or as far as two days in advance. We seasoned our turkey, using the Traeger Pork & Poultry rub the day we cooked it.
We coated the turkey breast with the rub for about 30 minutes before putting it on the grill and letting it sit.
Place the Turkey on the Cooking Rack
Place the turkey directly on the grates. Ensure the sear plate is completely closed, as you’ll be cooking it over indirect heat.
As soon as we put it on the grill, we sprinkled it with some more seasoning. Some people are scared to season their meat on the pellet grill, because they’re afraid it will get the grill dirty.
Don’t worry about that, throw some more seasoning on the meat before closing the lid.
Since the turkey sweated while sitting on the counter, and we wanted to make sure it had plenty of seasoning so every bite would come out flavorful.
Now close the lid and let the grill do its work.
Monitor the Internal Temperature
We used the Pit Boss probes along with the SMOKE IT app to help us monitor the temperature without opening the lid.
We also used a handheld thermometer to check the turkey breast to ensure it reached a safe internal temperature of 157°F.
The USDA recommends cooking a turkey breast to an internal temperature of 165°F. However, the last time we did that it came out too dry.
It’s important to cook the turkey completely, to avoid any foodborne illnesses. But overcooking the turkey will cause it to become dry and inedible.
The secret to cooking the perfect turkey is proper temperature control.
How Long Does It Take to Cook A Turkey Breast on a Pit Boss?
A five-pound turkey breast will take about 2.5 hours of cooking time. That said, cooking time will vary depending on the number of breasts you’re cooking, weather, and cooking temperature.
Below is a cooking chart of cooking time and temperatures for cooking a turkey breast at 225°F and 325°F.
|225°F||4-6 lbs||2 – 3 ½|
|225°F||6-8 lbs||3 ½ – 4|
|225°F||8-12 lbs||4 – 6|
|325°F||4-6 lbs||1 ½ – 2 ¼|
|325°F||6-8 lbs||2 ¼ – 3 ¼|
|325°F||8-12 lbs||2 ¾ – 3|
Expect it takes about 30 minutes per pound being cooked.
Regardless of how long it takes, make sure you’re using a good thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.
How Do You Know When Smoked Turkey Breast Is Cooked?
Even if the turkey breast has golden brown-colored skin, doesn’t mean it’s done. Once the thermometer reads 162°F – 163°F, it’s ready to be taken off the grill.
This is why it’s so important to make sure you have a great thermometer on hand.
I just invested in the ThermoWorks Thermapen on Black Friday, because I had heard so many good things about it. I’ll let you know what I think about it after I’ve used it for a few cooks.
What Temperature Do I Cook The Turkey Breast?
Start the turkey out low and slow. We started ours out at 225°F/107°C but you can also set the temperature to smoke if you want to infuse it with more smoke.
Regardless, the turkey will still be infused with smoke at 225°F, as you’re cooking with pellets. When it reaches an internal temperature of around 115°F or the last hour of cook time, increase the temperature to 350°F / 176°C.
Finishing the turkey off on higher heat will prevent the skin from being too tough and chewy.
Best Pellets to Use for Cooking a Turkey Breast?
When cooking turkey, I prefer to use Apple flavored pellets. They are mild and sweet pellets, which will pair great for smoking a turkey.
Anything too strong (like hickory or mesquite) will overpower the flavor of the bird. Whenever cooking poultry, opt for subtle sweet woods such as apple, maple, cherry, pecan, and peach.
How Long Do I Let The Turkey Breast Rest?
Let the turkey breast rest 15-20 minutes, to allow it to reabsorb the juices and firm up. Otherwise, the juices will escape the meat when you carve into it, causing it to become dry.
While it’s resting you can load up your plate with some of the sides you’ve prepared.
What Sides to Serve With Turkey?
There are no shortages of sides that go with turkey, even if it’s not Thanksgiving. Some of my favorites are mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, couscous salad, etc.
Hopefully, I’ve shown you how easy it is to cook a smoked turkey on the Pit Boss pellet grill. The most challenging part is getting the internal temperature correct.
If you cook it too low, you increase the chances of food poisoning. Overcook it and it will be too dry and you’ll need a lot of water to wash it down.
It takes practice to get it right, but the Pit Boss pellet grill makes it just as easy as cooking it in the oven.