Grilled Turkey Breast is perfect light summer fare when you’re lazing in the backyard or don’t want to heat up your kitchen with the oven.
You’re essentially using your BBQ as an oven for this recipe. You can, however, add wood smoke if you choose and you can also get some char on the skin for a nice presentation – both of which you can’t do in an oven.
Since turkey is very bland, I suggest brining it to add flavor and serving it with some type of sauce or relish. See a few suggestions below.
I tried cooking the turkey at a higher temperature of 450-500F. While it cooked much faster, I found the meat dried out. The medium temperature of 350-375F worked way better. The turkey was moist and tender. Be sure to check the temperature on your instant thermometer though.
The grilled turkey breast is meant as a light main dish served hot or cold. I love that you can grill vegetables on the other half of the grill while cooking the turkey. Here are some examples of great sides for the turkey: Charred Onions, Grilled Hasselback Sweet Potatoes, Grilled Spiced Cauliflower, Grilled Coleslaw and Party Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Quinoa.
Tips for Grilled Turkey Breast
- Brine the turkey: To me, brining is worth it if you have the time. If you don’t, one option is to find a kosher turkey breast which is already brined (but more expensive).
- Cooking temperature for grill: As mentioned above, I find a medium grill temperature (350-375F) works best.
- Using a whole turkey breast: If you’re looking to feed more people, you can buy a whole breast. Cooking is the same except that it may take a bit longer and you will have to double the seasoning mixture. Depending on the size and the number of sides you have, you should be able to feed 6 people with one whole 5 pound breast.
- Temperature of turkey breast to ensure moist meat: The temperature on the instant thermometer should read 160F in a few spots. If you see slightly lower temps in other spots, that’s fine. The temperature will rise to 165F during the resting step which is very important to keep the juices in the turkey.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Seasoning mixture: Use your fave if you have one. The mayonnaise in the recipe helps to keep the turkey moist, but you can substitute it for olive oil if you prefer.
- To add wood smoked flavor: Place 1 1/2 – 2 cups of wood chips (apple or cherry is best for turkey) in tin foil. Roll the foil over the wood chips to make a cylinder. Poke lots of holes in the foil to let the smoke through. Place the wood chips on the hot side of the grill for 5-8 minutes or until it begins to smoke. Then put the turkey on the grill. Leave the wood chips in the BBQ while cooking the turkey.
- Sauce/relish/topping ideas for serving with the turkey:
- The entire recipe can be made ahead. Don’t slice turkey. Cool and refrigerate it for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, slice and serve cold or at room temperature on a buffet table, in sandwiches or in a salad.
Grilled Turkey Breast Recipe
- 1 half turkey breast, bone in with skin. about 2 1/4-2 1/2 lbs
Brine (optional - Note 1)
- 3 cups water
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- Optional: 1 tbsp sugar, fresh or dried herbs, 1 clove garlic cut in half
- 1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon) or 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
- 1/4 tsp each, salt and pepper
- BRINE TURKEY BREAST (OPTIONAL): Place [not too cold] water, salt (and herbs, sugar, garlic if using) in a large ziploc bag. Massage bag to help dissolve salt. Add turkey breast. Seal bag and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. If in a rush, let sit on counter for an hour.
- HEAT BBQ GRILL to medium high (about 450F). Note 2 - adding wood smoke.
- MAKE SEASONING MIXTURE: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
- SEASON TURKEY AND GRILL: Smear seasoning mixture all over turkey including under the skin (gently separate skin from flesh). Place turkey breast on one side of grill and turn off the heat/burner under the turkey. Grill with lid closed. Adjust temperature of BBQ to achieve 350-375F. After 30 minutes, turn breast 180 degrees to allow other side of turkey to be closer to the heat (for even cooking). Grill for a total of 45-60 minutes (depending on size of turkey). An instant thermometer should read 160F in thickest part. In the last 2-3 minutes, turn turkey breast skin side down on heated part of grill to further brown skin if desired.
- REST, SLICE AND SERVE: Transfer turkey breast to cutting board to rest for 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil. Very important for juicy turkey! The temperature will rise to 165F which is the temp you want. Slice all the turkey meat away from bone. Then slice horizontally into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Serve with Savory Peach Sauce, Mango Sauce, Herb Sauce or Cranberry Relish.
- Brining turkey breast: Although this is an optional step, I do recommend it for greater flavor and juiciness. Or, to save yourself time, buy a kosher turkey breast which is already brined.
- To add wood smoked flavor: Place 1 1/2 - 2 cups of wood chips (apple or cherry is best for turkey) in tin foil. Roll the foil over the wood chips to make a cylinder. Poke lots of holes in the foil to let the smoke through. Place the wood chips on the hot side of the grill for 5-8 minutes before you add the turkey or until it begins to smoke. Leave it there while cooking the turkey.
- Make Ahead: The entire recipe can be made ahead (not sliced), cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, slice and serve cold or at room temperature on a buffet table, in sandwiches or chopped in a salad.
Other turkey recipes you might like: