Posted by: timscooking | May 25, 2010

Brining and Grilling Turkey Breast

Grilling season is upon us once again and we’ll be out grilling everything from hot dogs to whole sides of hogs. If you’re like me, learning to grill something right has taken years of practice and unfortunately lots of dry, overcooked food in order to do it properly. Today, I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned in order to make a turkey breast worthy of any occasion.

First, always brine your bird, or in this case, whole bone on turkey breast. What is brining? Nothing more that a long soak in a salt water solution. Brining can take as little as 6 hours or as long as 24, depending on what you’re working with. I usually brine turkey breasts in the 6 – 8 hour range, but have also done it overnight with little noticable difference in flavor or texture of the finished product. My brine recipe usually consists of 1 gallon of water, one cup of kosher or pickling salt, and whatever spices or flavors I wish to impart to the bird. It could be brown sugar, some type of citrus juice, herbs (dried work best for this process), I’ve even used Old Bay Seasoning. Whatever you use in addition to the salt and water, remember that it is going into a gallon of water so a quarter to a half cup would not be too much in most cases.

Heat the water on medium in a large stock pot and add the salt and other seasonings. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and let cool for approximately 1/2 hour. Add 4-6 cups of ice cubes to cool the water completely (you don’t want to poach the bird) and place the turkey breast in the pot. Put a plate on top of the turkey breast to keep it submerged. Cover the pot and store in the refrigerator for 6 – 8 hours or place in an ice chest and fill in around the pot with ice.

When you are ready to grill the turkey breast, prepare your grill for indirect cooking. A charcoal grill needs enough coals to maintain temperature for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Once the coals are white-hot, push them to one side of the grill and place a pan under your cooking grate. For a gas grill, get temp up and turn one burn to low, place a pan over the low burner. Take the turkey out of the brine, making sure that you drain all excess water from the turkey cavity, pat the skin dry with paper towel, brush the skin with olive oil. which will promote browning and season with salt and pepper.

In addition to brining, I’ve found that cooking by temperature rather than time produces a juicier bird. The recommended times on the label don’t always correlate with the size of the bird or the temperature of your grill. All grills, whether charcoal or gas, have famously inaccurate temperature gauges, so to rely on them is asking for disastrous results. My solution, a digital thermometer. These use a probe inserted into the thickest part of the breast to record the internal temperature of the bird while it is roasting. Many have a portable monitor, like the one shown, so that you don’t even have to return to the grill until the preselected temperature has been reached. In the case of a turkey breast that should be between 160 and 165 degrees F. If you are using a handheld probe or meat thermometer, begin checking temps after about 90 minutes and every 15 – 20 minutes thereafter.

Place the turkey breast on the cool side of the grill over the pan and close the lid. When the meat thermometer indicates the target temp, remove from the grill and cover with foil. The internal temp will continue to rise 5 – 10 degrees F. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute before carving. 

Perfect turkey every time.



  1. Mmmm turkey! Not just for Thanksgiving anymore! Looks great!

  2. It does look great. I’m ready to cook one of these bad boys up! Love your blog Tim 🙂 Buon Appetito

  3. I am now not positive the place you’re getting your info, but good topic. I must spend some time finding out more or understanding more. Thanks for great info I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.

    • Info comes from various sources and from my own trial and error. Most of what I’ve learned about cooking is just a matter of doing it and adjusting recipes for the next time until I get to a point that I’m satisfied with the outcome.

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