Saturday, October 7, 2017

Smoked Turkey Breast with Bourbon Orange Glaze on a Grilla Pellet Cooker

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  This is not a compensated post; however, I did receive my Grilla pellet grill as thank you for competing on Grilla's Pro Team at Memphis In May.

Alexis was craving good turkey for lunch meat so we smoked a turkey breast last weekend just for slicing.  It is also good to get some practice in before Thanksgiving, right? 

I opted to use my Grilla pellet cooker for a couple of reasons.  First, I like the color that it builds up on food.  Second and probably more importantly, I was juggling tasks and wanted the ease and reliability of using a pellet cooker.  

If I was doing this on a kamado grill like an Egg, Kamado Joe, or Kong, I would go about it the same way for times and temps.  I would do it with lump coal and wood, making sure that the wood chunks are near the ignition points for the coal.  You only will cook it for 2 1/2 to 3 hours so you need to have wood burning from the start. 

Speaking of wood:
  • For this cook I used Grilla's Competition Blend pellets, it has become my favorite general purpose pellet "flavor".  
  • If I was using kamados, my default wood preference is hickory, which is odd, since poultry takes smoke on quite easily and hickory is a bold flavored wood smoke. But I find that as long as the fire is clean burning, it delivers just the right amount of smoke for my tastes.
  • Other good choices for smoking turkey or turkey breasts are apple, pecan, or alder. 
There are plenty of mouth watering turkey seasoning ideas out there, but Texas pitmasters know that simple salt and pepper rock turkey as long as it's cooked right. For this bird breast, I kept it mostly simple with black pepper, dried red bell pepper, and lemon honey bourbon salt  that we made at home.  

Smoked Turkey Breast with Orange Bourbon Glaze


  • 6-8 lb turkey breast, bone in
  • Lemon Honey Bourbon Salt
  • Black pepper, 16 mesh, dustless
  • Ground dried red bell pepper

For the injection

  • 1/4 cup local honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup turkey stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the glaze

  • 1/2 cup local honey
  • 1/2 cup turkey stock
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • salt and white pepper to taste


  1. Make the injection.  Place the injection ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat until the butter has melted and the mix is combined.  Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.
  2. Prep the turkey breast.  Use a meat syringe (available at most grocery and kitchen stores) to inject the injection solution across the breast in a 1" grid to get even distribution.  I do about 15 to 20 ml per spot.  Rinse the turkey, pat dry, and place uncovered in a refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat your smoker to 325f.  
  4. Season the turkey breast.  Lightly coat the skin with a high temp cooking oil like peanut or avocado oil.  Season the breast all over with salt, pepper, and the (optional) dried red bell pepper.
  5. Smoke the turkey breast.  Place the breast on the main cooking rack, skin side up, shut the lid, and allow to cook until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 150f, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, make the glaze.  Mix the glaze ingredients together in a small sauce pan and allow to simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
  7. Glaze the turkey breast.  When the breast reaches an internal temp of 150f, use a brush to apply the glaze all over the turkey breast a couple of times until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 157-160f, about another 15-30 minutes.
  8. Serve the turkey breast.  Allow the turkey breast to rest for 10-15 minutes.  Slice down alongside the breast bone and from the sides to remove the two lobes.  Slice them across the grain (sideways) and drizzle any remaining glaze over the slices.
  • Dried Roasted Red Bell Pepper - Substitute a mild paprika
  • Lemon Honey Bourbon Salt - I realize most people aren't going to a) have custom finishing salts in their pantry or b) take the 12 hours to make one.  So feel free to experiment with any flavored salts you might have or just plain Kosher salt works fine.

I thawed this Butterball turkey and turkey breast in my Yeti 75 filled with water.
It's not turkey season in stores just yet so we only had frozen options. If you are using a pretreated turkey or breast (most frozen ones are) cut the salt in your injection by half.

Injected, seasoned and ready to go onto the Grilla.

Orange Bourbon Glazed Turkey Breast smoked on a Grilla pellet grill
If doing a turkey on the Grilla or a kamado grill, make sure the wings and legs don't stick out past the heat deflector or they will overcook.  Try to either truss them in or wrap them in foil to protect them.  In this case there was no such issue.

It was looking a lot better before I dropped the glazing pot onto the breast when I was glazing it the second time.  Try not to do that....

My slicer is a Beswood 250.  It's a good compromise between a home slicer and a commercial one.
Since this breast was for lunch meat, instead of slicing it right away, we let it cool off for about 45 minutes and then refrigerated it overnight before slicing.  

As you can see, I had it set barely above 0 to get thin slices.  

We netted almost 5 pounds of turkey from an 8lb breast.  We vacuum sealed it and froze what we won't use in a week.
For the remaining breast carcass, I simmered it in a pot for an hour and then used that broth to make a black and white turkey chili that was exceptionally good.

Our friend and the pitmaster of the Grilla Pro Team, Shane Draper, has been busy coming up with turkey recipes.  Here is a video of his general tips for smoking turkey and then three specific turkey recipes for the Grilla line of grills.

Shane's turkey recipe videos: