How to Grill a Turkey Breast

When you grill a turkey breast is a lot like grilling a large chicken breast. You can use the same grilling techniques for either. For this how to article we will grill a turkey breast barbecue style, like you would get a turkey leg at a street fair. It comes out moist and delicious and will serve up to 4 people. We use half of a split breast for this but you can use a whole turkey breast and grill it beer can style as well.

Since a turkey breast is so large it is hard to mess it up and it looks impressive when it is finished. The prep is messy and will take some time to clean up but that is the most difficult part of this whole thing.

An average sized split turkey breast will be about 2.5 pounds and costs around $4 to $5 per pound. This can feed a family and the leftovers can be used for sandwiches.

We begin by injecting the breast with barbecue sauce. For this we are using Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet and Spicy. This will keep your turkey breast from drying out. A tall shot glass is great for filling and refilling your injector without a lot of waste and no contamination of your sauce bottle.  Start by injecting at the outer edges of the meat, these are the parts that will dry out first. Then inject the middle and try to get it spread out equally throughout the meat.

Next we add our dry rub, in this case we are using a combination of McCormicks rotisserie chicken and Corky’s dry rub. Sprinkle liberally, remember this is a large piece of meat so don’t be afraid to go heavy. Get under the skin when possible. The total prep time takes less than 10 minutes. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one to one and a half hours. This will allow the spices to break down and penetrate the turkey.

To grill a turkey breast we will Heat the grill and set it up for indirect grilling. Ideally you will want it to hold a temp between 350 and 400 degrees. If using gas to add some authentic barbecue flavor use a smoker box and some apple wood chips.

Place the turkey breast skin side up off of the heat with the thickest part of the breast facing the heat source. This will help it to cook more evenly. Close the grills lid and let it cook for about 45 minutes before checking on it.

When you grill a turkey breast always keep the thick side towards the heat.

At this time you should see the skin beginning to brown. Check the temp of the bird at the thickest point and it should be over 120 degrees. If it’s not quite there yet slide it over the heat for the next 10 minutes or so but be on the lookout for flare ups.

turkey breast and thighs on the grill

Once it has eclipsed the 100 degree mark the temperature will rise quickly and steadily. After it reaches 120 degrees expect another 15 to 30 minutes of cooking time for it to hit the 160 mark. Turn up the heat or move the breast over the heat source to brown the skin.

At 135 degrees we can begin apply the outer coating of our barbecue sauce and finish off over the heat. This is step is optional if you want a crispy skin do not sauce it. So you are faced with a choice here crispy skin or a beautiful looking piece of meat. We will always opt for the sauce because we slice it up.

When your turkey breast has reached 160 degrees remove from the heat. Then tent with tinfoil, let rest for about 5 to 10 minutes, carve and serve.

how to grill a turkey breast

If you can keep the whole breast intact and carve at the table it also makes for an impressive presentation.

We also have a post about grilling a whole turkey breast beer can style here.


aka Sultan of Sizzle

I have been blogging about and selling grilling tool for over 12 years. A Certified Food Safety Professional, KCBS member, award winning writer and have over 10 years experience in the food service industry.

“I have experienced some of the best food this country has to offer and nothing is better than the food that comes off my own grill!”

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How to grill a turkey breast
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How to grill a turkey breast
When you grill a turkey breast is a lot like grilling a large chicken breast. You can use the same grilling techniques for either. For this how to article we will grill a turkey breast barbecue style.
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