Smoked Thanksgiving Day Turkey Breast

Sliced turkey breast

Finally, the smoker is used for smoking, instead of grilling! I thought getting a pellet smoker would mean I’d put things on there for hours and hours, and today is the day that finally happens! It just happens to also be Thanksgiving Day. So, pull the cover off that smoker, get out your chef hat, and get ready to savor your smoked Thanksgiving Day Turkey Breast.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all the good things in your life, express gratitude for them, and be thankful for everything we have. It’s also a day where Americans carry on one of our oldest traditions, eating way too much food and watching football. My Thanksgivings have changed throughout the years, from gathering with the whole extended family (sometimes 50 or more people) when I was a child, to this year’s Thanksgiving which includes me, my girlfriend, our dog, and whoever we connect with over Zoom. One tradition will remain the same, and that is the annual enjoyment of Turkey.

How to make smoked Thanksgiving Day Turkey Breast

Few things are as daunting as a Thanksgiving Day turkey. Be sure you give yourself lots of time to fully defrost your bird, brine it, and cook it. Turkey isn’t something you want to rush, for when you take the appropriate amount of time you get a moist and delicious treat.

First things first, you want to give yourself at least 4 days (more, depending on the size of your bird) to fully defrost in the fridge. You also want to give yourself at least 24 hours before cooking to brine the turkey. Brining is a combination of a water, sugar, and salt bath and helps to keep your turkey nice and juicy and tender. I happened to use a Jennie-O pre-brined turkey breast for this recipe, so I’m not going to comment on the ratio of water to sugar to salt, just be sure to allow yourself at least 24 hours to brine.

Prepping the bird

On Thanksgiving morning set your alarm, because you want to give yourself plenty of time for cooking. Take the turkey out of the fridge and remove from the brine. Take some time to carefully rinse the brine off, otherwise you’ll get an overly salty turkey. Take some paper towels and dry off the turkey and season with all of the dry ingredients. Once it’s rinsed, dried, and seasoned fire up your smoker to 225 degrees and allow 15 minutes to come to temperature.

Place the turkey in a deep roasting pan, I used a single use foil roasting pan. Pour in four cups of chicken stock (you can also use turkey stock if you have it). Take a stick of butter, cut it into four equal size pieces, and put each piece in the corner of the roasting pan liquid. The steam generated from this liquid will help keep your turkey moist while it’s cooking. It will also be your basting liquid for use later, and can also serve as the stock used for your turkey gravy. Place the roasting pan with turkey, butter, and liquid onto your smoker and close the lid.

The Basting

After 2 hours (my turkey was roughly 110 degrees at this point) baste your turkey with the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Be as quick as you can in this step, you don’t want the lid of your smoker to be open for too long and lose too much heat. Mine happened to be open too long, photo ops and all.

In this step, don’t worry if some of the seasoning on the turkey falls off into the liquid, it’s just going to add additional flavor to your gravy later. Be sure, however, to see if there are any burned or black chunks of seasoning, this is not the flavor we want to baste the bird with or to make gravy with so if you see some remove it from the pan and discard. Continue cooking, basting every 30 to 60 minutes.

The Home Stretch

Check the temperature every time you baste, and when it reaches 160 to 165 degrees remove from the roasting pan and cover with foil. Your turkey will continue to cook, so be sure and not to let it get above 165 otherwise you might run the risk of drying out Thanksgiving dinner! Let it rest for at least 10 minutes, however if you need to leave it longer while you put the finishing touches on your green bean casserole, that’s fine too just leave it covered until you’re ready to carve.

Take the contents of your basting liquid and pour into a mixing bowl, being sure to remove any blackened burned chunks. Take a little spoonful to taste, if it taste burned or over seasoned (from seasoning falling off the turkey as it’s basted) you might not want to use it for your gravy. If it’s just a little salty, that’s all right because you’re going to dilute it with water anyways. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the roasting pan to get all of the flavor! You can use this liquid as the base for a roux-based turkey gravy, I followed this recipe.


  • As always, avoid the temptation to open the lid of your smoker for a peek. If you lookin, you ain’t cookin.
  • At this temperature estimate a minimum of 45-60 minutes of cook time per pound, be sure to give yourself enough time.
  • One of the worst things that can happen as a pellet based smoker is to run out of pellets, be sure to keep enough supply on hand to get through a multiple hours long cook time.
  • When seasoning, find the spots where the skin is loosely covering the meat and be sure to get lots of seasoning in there. I call these little pockets of flavor!
  • If you are following the recipe I linked to make gravy, feel free to use just water instead of chicken/turkey stock if you’re basting liquid is too salty.
  • If something goes wrong, don’t get frustrated, Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey!
Sliced turkey breast

Smoked Thanksgiving Day Turkey Breast

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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Barbeque
Keyword: brine, seasoning, Smoked, thanksgiving, turkey
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 10 servings


  • 1 turkey breast 7-9 lbs
  • 4 cups broth chicken, turkey, or vegetable
  • 1 stick butter cut into 4 equal size cubes


  • 2 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 Cup paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoon ground cumin


  • Combine all dry rub ingredients and set aside (in an airtight container if making night before)
  • Once your turkey is fully defrosted and ready to smoke, remove from the fridge and rinse the brine off thoroughly, then completely dry by toweling off and placing on the kitchen counter for at least 30 minutes
  • Start your smoker and set to 225 degrees, allowing at least 15 minutes to come to temperature
  • Place the turkey into a deep roasting dish and generously season all surfaces, including underneath any loose areas of skin. If any seasoning falls off in the process, it's alright because it will add flavor to the basting liquid
  • Place the roasting pan with the seasoned turkey onto your preheated smoker, then pour in 4 cups of broth and place 1/4 stick of butter into each corner of the roasting pan. Cook for 2 hours
  • After 2 hours (roughly when the turkey is 110 degrees internal temperature), begin basting all surfaces of the turkey every 30-60 minutes
  • Once your turkey reaches 140 degrees, you can cover with foil and increase the temperature of the smoker to 350 degrees until the turkey reaches 160 degrees
  • If you choose no to cover with foil, continue cooking uncovered until the turkey reaches 160 degrees (continuing to baste every 30-60 minutes)
  • Once the turkey reaches 160 degrees, remove it from the smoker and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes, covered with foil. This is a great time to use the remaining basting liquid to make gravy if you choose
  • Once your turkey has rested, slice and enjoy

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