This Grilled Turkey Breast recipe is juicy, bursting with flavor AND has crispy skin. Plus, it’s ready so much faster than a whole turkey! Whether you’re hosting a small holiday gathering and don’t want to make the whole bird or just like white meat, this Grilled Turkey Breast recipe is for you. Keep on reading to learn how to grill a turkey breast packed full of flavor, plus all my secrets for how to make a homemade turkey breast brine.
Why I love this recipe
Learning how to grill turkey breast is an excellent life skill because if you have a small family like I do, dealing with a big ‘ol turkey isn’t really a thing I’m willing to hassle with, ya know?
Not to mention all that real estate a whole turkey takes in a fridge! Where are we supposed to rest the pudim Brazilian flan and cool the salada de batata Brazilian potato salad or the macarronese pasta salad? Listen… these are real life challenges during the holidays, and if you ask me, I pick my battles.
My holiday cooking strategy is: turkey breast and no oven! The end.
And speaking of strategy, this is a great recipe for white meat only households. Why bother with a whole bird, if you know your peeps are only going to go for the breasts?
This grilled turkey recipe is pretty hands-off. Just make a brine/marinade, which is packed full of flavor and keeps the turkey juicy as it cooks. The turkey hangs out overnight in the brine/marinade before we grill it the next day.
You don’t even need to wait for the holidays to make this recipe, either. Turkey breast is available in grocery stores year-round, and it makes for an excellent Sunday dinner that leaves you leftovers for sandwiches, soups and more (like Turkey Pot Pie) to enjoy all week long.
This grilling recipe can be made on a charcoal grill or a gas grill—the process if pretty much the same, so get on grilling and bom apetite!! xx
What you need to make this turkey recipe:
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- A large bowl or container to brine the turkey breast in
- Plastic wrap
- A sharp knife
- Meat thermometer
In addition to those tools, you’re also going to need the following ingredients.
Turkey Marinade Ingredients
- Bone-in turkey breast—This recipe calls for 7 lb. skin on, bone-in breasts.
- Olive oil
- White wine—preferably dry, like a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio.
- Kosher salt—I use this medium-grain kosher salt. If your salt is finer, consider adding a little less so it won’t become too salty.
- Bay leaves
- Paprika—I use a classic sweet paprika. You could also use a hot paprika if you’ve got it on hand.
- Ground achiote pepper—this is a popular spice in Latin America. In Brazil, we call it colorau, and we primarily use it to add color to dishes. It’s sometimes referred to as annatto in English.
- Brazilian sofrito—or garlic cloves, if you don’t keep the sofrito in your fridge.
- Soy sauce—low-sodium works OK for this recipe since we’re also adding salt to the brine.
- Dried Onion flakes
- Red pepper flakes
- Fresh thyme
- Brown sugar—light or dark brown sugar both work in this turkey breast brine recipe
- Chicken stock
How to prepare the turkey breast before brining:
Remove the turkey breast from its packaging. There shouldn’t be any giblets or neck, but if there are, you can set that aside or toss them because we don’t need them.
Pat the turkey dry. No need to wash it, just place the turkey breast on a plate and pat it dry with paper towels to remove excess juices in the front and in the back.
Separate the skin. Gently, y’all! You can use your hands or the back of a spoon to pull the skin away from the breast without totally removing it. This will help your marinade penetrate the breast, as opposed to just the skin soaking up that flavor.
Stab it! I mean, cut slits through the breasts with a sharp knife in the front and on the back, as shown in these photos. (Don’t have too much fun here, or do… I don’t know, but watch your hands!! You’ve been warned!) Anyway, this will also help your marinade penetrate the breast meat even more deeply. This step will help the meat absorb the marinade with all its flavors, and will keep your turkey breast nice and juicy as it grills.
But, Aline!!! Will stabbing the skin like this make my turkey look ugly and full of holes? No, amigos, I promise—just make sure you use a long and narrow knife, like a boning knife for this process. Scroll down and look at the image of the whole grilled breast before it’s sliced and you’ll see that it’s still pretty!
Regardless, know that the more slits you cut, the more opportunities you’re creating for your turkey to absorb more flavor. If you get carried away, and it does end up looking funny after, it most certainly won’t after you slice it.
Make the turkey breast marinade
Pick the right size bowl. Make sure you grab a bowl large enough for all the liquid and the turkey to fit. Might I also remind you to make room for said bowl in your fridge right about now, too? Go ahead—I’m not going anywhere.
Measure the ingredients directly into the bowl. Start with the dry, then plop in the sofrito, then start pouring in the liquid ingredients, whisking it gently to combine and to dissolve the sugar and the salt.
Brine the turkey
Add the turkey to the bowl. Do so gently so you don’t get marinade all over yourself and your counter.
Massage, massage, massage. Yes! Massage the marinade over the turkey, ensuring that it’s soaking onto every surface of the meat—gently, like you’re bathing a sweet lovely baby.
Marinade breast side down. Flip the turkey breast side down in the marinade, and make sure it’s completely or mostly submerged in the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight.
Flip every 4-6 hours. Or whenever you remember. The goal is to flip it a few times so that when we remove it from the brine, the marinade has penetrated as evenly as possible.
How to grill turkey breast
This step can be done on a gas grill or a charcoal grill, although timing may vary if you’re working with charcoal. Just work with whichever you’re most comfortable with, and keep an eye on your temperatures. You’ll do great!
In the morning. Remove the turkey bowl from the fridge and let it sit somewhere on the counter or a table out of sight. We want to leave the turkey in the marinade, continuing to flip as needed, but we want to “get the cold out of” the liquid, and slowly bring it to room temperature. We never want to take something cold from the fridge, then place it on the grill as this will affect how it cooks, especially a big piece of meat like this.
An hour or two before grilling, carefully lift the turkey breast out of the marinade, place it on a plate, and pat it dry with paper towels—this will help the skin start to dry up, which means it will help us avoid flare ups, as well as help the skin crisp up.
Prepare the grill. Scrape the grates clean if they’ve got food stuck to them and check your drip pan to ensure that it’s empty. (If it’s not, clean it out.)
Once the grill is clean, preheat to 350°F with all the burners on and the lid closed. This will take 10-15 minutes, depending on your grill.
When the grill has preheated, turn off the middle burner. If using charcoal, make sure you create a trench or a hole in the middle—the goal is to cook the turkey breast in indirect heat.
Grill the turkey breast side-up. It will take about an hour and a half to be cooked through. Please note that the cooking time will vary depending on how your grill holds its heat and how often you open the lid.
When the turkey reaches 165°F internal temperature, remove it from the grill, and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
What temperature to cook turkey breast to?
Your turkey breast needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
To confirm this, use an instant read meat thermometer. Stick it into the thickest part of the turkey breast, being careful so as not to poke it all the way through or touch the bone, and let the temperature register.
How to carve a turkey breast
To carve a bone in turkey breast, use a sharp knife, preferably a boning knife, and follow the line of the breast bone, which will be in the center.
Remove the sides from the bone and then slice into pieces.
Frequently Asked Questions
This marinated turkey breast recipe spends about an hour and a half on the grill until it reaches its ideal temperature.
We always grill our turkey breast side up.
If it’s a little less than 7 lbs., there’s not not much to do, as the amount of liquid will be plenty to submerge it. If it’s more than 7 lbs., it depends on how much larger the turkey is. The goal is to ensure the bird is submerged in the marinating liquid, so recipe and a quarter, recipe and a half, or double will work, depending on the size of your bird.
What to serve alongside this recipe for a Brazilian-Style Holiday:
- Farofa | Toasted Cassava Flour
- Brazilian Collard Greens with Bacon Recipe
- Brazilian Christmas Rice
- Macarronese – Brazilian Pasta Salad Recipe
- Salada de Batata – Brazilian Potato Salad
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Grilled Turkey Breast
- 7 lb Bone in, Turkey Breast
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 cups white wine
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground achiote pepper optional
- 3 tablespoons Brazilian sofrito
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup onion flakes
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 quart chicken stock
Turkey Breast Marinade:
- Remove the turkey breast from its packaging. Place it on a plate and pat it with paper towels to remove excess juices. Remove the giblets and neck, if in one of the cavities, and throw away. (We don't need them.)
- Using your hands or the back of a spoon, gently separate the skin from the breast.
- Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the breasts in the front and on the back.
- Next, prepare the marinade by adding all the ingredients to a bowl large enough to fit the turkey breast and all the liquid.
- Whisk to combine and dissolve the sugar and salt, then add the turkey. Massage the marinade into the turkey. Make sure it is completely or mostly submerged in the marinade.
- Flip the turkey breast side down in the marinade, cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight, flipping it every 4 or so hours, or as often as you remember.
Grilling the Turkey Breast:
- Remove the breast with the marinade from the fridge in the morning, and let it and the marinade warm to room temperature.
- Remove the turkey from the marinade an hour or two prior to grilling it and pat it dry with a paper towel. This helps the skin start to dry up and will avoid flare ups, as well as help the skin crisp up.
- Preheat the grill 350F. When the grill has come to temperature, turn off the middle burners so that the turkey can grill at the center on indirect heat.
- Grill the turkey breast side up, in between burners or on indirect heat, for about an hour and a half.
- Take the turkey's temperature. When it reaches 165F at the thickest part of the breast, the turkey is done.
- Remove from the grill, and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and enjoying.