Mastering the Art of Grilling a Turkey Breast on a Charcoal Grill

Are you seeking to elevate your Thanksgiving feast or simply craving a juicy, smoky turkey without the hassle of cooking a whole bird? Look no further than grilling a turkey breast on a charcoal grill. This method not only frees up valuable oven space but also infuses the meat with a delectable smoky flavor that will have your guests clamoring for seconds. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the art of grilling a turkey breast on a charcoal grill, ensuring a mouthwatering result that will become a staple in your culinary repertoire.

Why Grill a Turkey Breast?

Grilling a turkey breast on a charcoal grill offers several advantages over traditional oven-roasting methods:

  • Smoky Flavor: The charcoal and wood chips used in grilling impart a delicious smoky flavor that enhances the natural taste of the turkey.
  • Juicy and Tender: The indirect heat and controlled temperature of the grill allow for even cooking, resulting in a juicy and tender turkey breast.
  • Frees Up Oven Space: With the turkey on the grill, you can dedicate your oven to baking side dishes, pies, and other Thanksgiving treats.
  • Versatility: Grilling a turkey breast is a great option for smaller gatherings or for those who prefer white meat over dark meat.

Preparing the Turkey Breast

Before firing up the grill, there are a few essential steps to ensure a flavorful and juicy turkey breast:

  1. Choose the Right Turkey Breast: Look for a bone-in, skin-on turkey breast weighing between 5 and 8 pounds. The bone and skin help to keep the meat moist and flavorful during the grilling process.

  2. Dry Brine: Dry brining is a simple and effective way to season the turkey breast and ensure a juicy interior. Combine kosher salt, dried herbs (such as thyme, sage, and rosemary), and brown sugar, and rub the mixture all over the turkey breast, including under the skin. Refrigerate the brined turkey breast, uncovered, for 2-3 days before grilling.

  3. Prepare the Grill: Set up your charcoal grill for indirect heat by arranging the hot coals on one side of the grill, leaving the other side without any coals. This creates a cooler zone where the turkey will cook gently without direct exposure to the heat source.

  4. Add Smoky Flavor: Soak wood chunks or chips (such as apple, cherry, or hickory) in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. This will help them smolder and create aromatic smoke that infuses the turkey with delicious flavors.

Grilling the Turkey Breast

Now that you’ve prepared the turkey breast and set up the grill, it’s time to start cooking:

  1. Preheat the Grill: Preheat your charcoal grill to a medium-low temperature, around 325°F to 350°F (163°C to 177°C). Use a grill thermometer to monitor the temperature accurately.

  2. Add Wood Chunks or Chips: Once the grill is preheated, add the drained wood chunks or chips to the hot coals, allowing them to start smoking.

  3. Position the Turkey Breast: Place the turkey breast, skin-side up, on the cooler side of the grill, away from the direct heat source.

  4. Baste and Monitor: Keep the grill lid closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature and smoke. Baste the turkey breast with melted butter, turkey or chicken stock, or a flavored basting sauce every 30 minutes to keep the skin crispy and the meat moist.

  5. Check for Doneness: Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey breast. The safe minimum internal temperature for poultry is 165°F (74°C). Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to touch the bone.

  6. Rest and Serve: Once the turkey breast reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring maximum moisture and flavor.

Tips and Tricks

To ensure a successful and delicious grilled turkey breast, keep these tips and tricks in mind:

  • Use a Rib Roaster or Vertical Roaster: These handy gadgets allow you to cook the turkey breast upright, ensuring even browning and cooking.
  • Add a Smoker Box: If your grill doesn’t have a built-in smoker box, you can use a disposable aluminum pan to hold the wood chips or chunks, creating a smoky environment.
  • Baste Frequently: Basting the turkey breast with a flavorful liquid helps to keep the meat moist and adds an extra layer of flavor.
  • Monitor the Temperature: Use a reliable grill thermometer and an instant-read meat thermometer to maintain the ideal temperature range and check for doneness.
  • Let it Rest: Resist the temptation to slice into the turkey breast immediately after removing it from the grill. Allowing it to rest for 15-20 minutes ensures juicy and flavorful slices.

Serving Suggestions

A grilled turkey breast pairs beautifully with a variety of classic Thanksgiving side dishes, such as:

  • Mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole
  • Roasted vegetables (Brussels sprouts, carrots, or green beans)
  • Stuffing or dressing
  • Cranberry sauce or relish
  • Gravy or pan drippings

Additionally, leftover grilled turkey breast makes for delicious sandwiches, salads, or soups in the days following your feast.

By following this guide, you’ll be able to master the art of grilling a turkey breast on a charcoal grill, impressing your guests with a smoky, juicy, and flavorful centerpiece for your Thanksgiving or any other special occasion. Embrace the versatility and convenience of this cooking method, and enjoy the delicious rewards of your hard work. Happy grilling!

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How long does it take to cook a turkey breast on a charcoal grill?

Place turkey breast onto grill over drip pan. Cover; grill, turning and basting occasionally with marinade, 2-2 1/2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 165°F and turkey is no longer pink.

How to smoke a boneless turkey breast on a charcoal grill?

Toss a large handful of applewood chips onto the coals, place the grate on the grill, then put the roasting pan with the turkey breast on top of the grate on the side that’s not directly over the coals. Place the lid on the grill. Every 20 – 30 minutes, remove the turkey and add some more wood chips.

Do you grill a turkey breast up or down?

The United States Department of Agriculture advises to cook a whole turkey breast side up during the entire cooking time. Turning over a large, hot bird can be dangerous and it’s very easy to tear the skin, making the finished product less attractive.

How long to smoke a turkey breast on a Weber charcoal grill?

Leave vents wide open. We want to cook our turkey breast in a 250 F internal temperature of the weber. After 3 hours check your turkey. Make sure the internal temperature of the turkey breast is at least 150F.

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