Sunday, August 23, 2009

Apple wood Smoked Turkey Breast

For the past 4 or 5 years, we have had "Thanksgiving in August". I don't know how that started but we've just kept it going.

First, we had the traditional "Thanksgiving" football game. We went to see Trevor's 10 y/o team play their season opening bowl game.They lost 20-7 but I was proud to see Trevor play in his first game and even make a tackle on his first play.Then we made the Thanksgiving feast, a full spread of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, garlic green beans, and rolls. Sorry for the lack pictures. Things got chaotic as dinner neared so I didn't get any of the full meal, just the bird.

Apple wood Smoked Turkey Breast

  • 1 Turkey breast fresh, bone in
  • 1/2 cup Salt
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • 1 cup Maple syrup
  • 1/2 ea Onion halved (i.e. 2 quarters)
  • 1 ea Carrot halved
  • 1 ea Lemon pierced w/ fork 4-6 times
  • 3 sprigs Thyme fresh
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Poultry seasoning
  • Apple wood chips

Place turkey breast in a stock pot (Note: This should be a full, bone in turkey breast). Add enough water to cover, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and maple syrup to make the brine. Cover and place under refrigeration for 12 hours.
Take the breast out and rinse it under cold water very thoroughly. Pat dry. Spritz the outside of the breast with a light coating of olive oil. Season with Poultry Perfect Rub (From the book Smoke and Spice by Cheryl & Bill Jamison) for best results or you can just make a simple rub of salt, pepper, and commercially available poultry seasoning. Stuff the cavity of the breast with the onion, thyme, lemon, and carrot. This time I was out of carrot so I used a quartered Granny Smith apple and that worked great too. TIP: If you get a bone in breast that has had the back bone removed, you can use a kaboob to hold the veggies/fruits in place.
The purpose of using apple wood is that poultry is very susceptible to smoke, so you want to use a mild wood. If you use hickory or oak, you could easily overpower the bird with too much smoke flavor which is just as bad as using too much salt or too much of anything in a recipe. I buy my apple wood chips from the grocery store, more and more chains are carrying a variety of wood chips in their charcoal section these days.
Soak my wood chips or not? This is up to you. I've heard arguments for and against soaking your wood chips before smoking. I have done it both ways and can't really tell a difference. So my preference is not to bother with it.
Smoke the bird at 225f (grate level temperature) until it hits 160 degrees internal (about 1 hour a pound at this temp). On a large Big Green Egg, this was a dome temp of 250f and I had about a cup of apple wood chips mixed in with the lump coal. I took care to make sure the wood was evenly distributed throughout the coal. If you just toss it on top, it will all burn off at the beginning instead of a long, even smoke.
If you don't have a smoker, you could probably do this on a grill if you keep a close eye on it. Set your grill up for indirect heat so the turkey is not over the flame. Put the wood chips in a smoker box or a home made foil pouch with holes poked in it. Place that directly over the flame. Try to get a light smoke, you don't want a thick white smoke billowing out of your grill.
With the Egg, I find I don't have to baste the turkey except one time near the end and that is more for presentation purposes. When I use my offset smoker, I brush it with a mix of olive oil, melted butter and some fresh thyme several times during the smoking.turkey breast, BGE turkey breast, grilled turkey breast
Remove from smoker when the internal temperature hits 160F. This takes about 1 hour per pound at this cooking temperature, but go by the internal temperature. Wrap with foil and place in an empty cooler (no ice) to let it rest for 30 minutes.
Slice and serve.
It came out juicy, not even a hint dry. I've made it this way a half dozen times now and every time has been consistently the best turkey I've ever had anywhere.
And finally, the giving of thanks.
  1. I am thankful for my wife, my best friend and lover. (I'll let you wonder if that's all the same person ;) )
  2. I am thankful for my family.
  3. I am thankful for my friends (ya'll included!)
  4. I am thankful more than ever that I have a job. It used to be so easy to take that for granted and even whine about it.
  5. I am thankful that I live in a country that allows me the freedom to have my own opinions and express them without fear of reprisal, or being caned for not following someone else's religious beliefs, or having my fingers cut off for voting in an election.
  6. I am thankful for all of the military personnel, police, and fire & rescue crews that stand in harm's way for my family.
  7. I am thankful for my kitchen equipment but especially my Big Green Egg!
  8. I am thankful for my health. I appreciate it more and more the older I get!
  9. I am thankful for the beautiful local nature of East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains.
  10. I am thankful for food! Particularly the availability and variety that we are truly blessed with. I was putting a 5 lb bag of rice up yesterday after shopping and actually felt a bit guilty as I stuffed it in our full pantry, thinking of how that bag is more than some families get in a month in some countries.
So what are you thankful for today? (Besides the fact that this long winded post is over?)


  1. Congrats Trevor on the tackle! I know how proud you must be to watch him play. Chase's first game was last Thursday. I'm so happy it's football time again!

    That turkey sounds absolutely delicious!

  2. Oh yummy! I loved your list of things to be thankful for. It's a beautiful list! Many of those I can relate to. It's funny how you mentioned that you're thankful for your job. I was just thinking the other day how I should be more grateful for my job and quit constantly moaning about it! I think the moaning stopped for all of five minutes. Even though I do actually like my job! I guess I'm just a perpetual moaner... Happy thanksgiving ;D

  3. I'm thankful for this recipe, thank you very much.

  4. Great post...I am jealous of your big green egg...Someday.

    I always grill my turkey breasts (I will smoke a whole bird though). But, I inject, so less chance of drying it out.

    BTW, at least 7 of your thankfulness were for home, health and hearth...nice perspective on life.

  5. Nice post, beautiful bird! You sound like a great guy to know, and ditto on all the thankful...

  6. This is a fantastic idea Chris! i bet it makes Trevor feel so special and what a tackle!

    Your smoked turkey looks so moist!

  7. I'm thankful you are promoting the use of apple wood when smoking poultry. I'm fortunate enough to have a couple of apple trees on my property that provide smoke wood from prunings, and can attest to the flavor that apple smoke lends to fowl of any sort.

    Sounds like a great meal; too bad there weren't pictures...

  8. I may have a Trader Joe's but you have a
    Green Egg...the turkey looks moist and delicious.

    I am very thankful for my life - I am a lucky gal.

  9. Great minds think alike! I was pondering when to smoke my bone-in turkey breast in the freezer! Saw a marinade that has cider and orange juice in it....

  10. Thanksgiving in August is a sweet tradition! Because from reading this blog I know you have a lot to be Thankful for right in your own family! And as usual I leave here thinking is there anything that green egg can't handle? GREG

  11. ooooh, I can almost smell that bird! so, will you be having christmas in september? did you miss halloween last month? hahaha

  12. I am glad you put the big green egg in your list of things to be thankful for. Not that it should surpass your family and friends, but it is definitely worth noting. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. *tongue lolling out of the side of my mouth*
    Ahhhhhhrrrrgggg, Now I remember why I haven't been visiting here lately... Good god NOW I'm hungry!

  14. I am thankful for finding a true honest to goodness master bbq chef in you Chris. You give to us great inspirational recipes and mentor us in cooking. I love to read your site when the outside world gets me down. Thank you.

  15. You lost all credibility when I saw wood chips. Don't use these, they give off smoke in too short of a period. Use wood chunks. Additionally (and I can tell this from your pics) any temp less than about 325 will result in rubbery skin. I'm not a fan and I think this turns a lot of people off from smoked poultry. Ill run a spatchcock chicken around 400 and Turkey around 350 (have you heard of anyone cooking a turkey I the oven at 225)? Wood chunks and higher temp=better bird. You're not melting down connective tissue as you would in a brisket or pork butt, so you'll get fall apart poultry at these higher temps.

    1. Wood chunks - This post is 8 years old when I was first starting to get serious about BBQ and now I tend to use chunks or even small splits. However, chips can been perfectly functional and I have gotten top 10 at BBQ contests when I had to use chips because it was all I had.

      Temps - I tend to cook poultry now at 290 to 325f but 250f is still done well by plenty of renowned pitmasters. I started off lower because I was following processes set in Smoke and Spice, a book with over 1 million copies sold. World Champion, Mike Mills, recommends 250f in his new cookbook. It's a perfectly valid temperature that some people prefer.


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