fire roasted turkey breast

Dry Brined and Fire Roasted Turkey Breast with Maple Honey Bourbon Glaze

Sometimes you don’t need a whole turkey for Thanksgiving. Try this dry brined fire roasted turkey breast with a honey bourbon glaze.

This recipe was made and written for SABER Grills by Chris Grove of Nibble Me This.

Would you like a little grilling insurance policy for your turkey this year?  Two words – dry brine.

Dry brining seems to be the hot trend this Thanksgiving.  You are probably familiar with wet brining.  That is where you stick your bird in a big bucket or pot full of salty seasoned water (the brine).  Often, you have to weight the food down so it doesn’t float.  Then you have to find a way to keep it refrigerated for 24-48 hours.

With dry brine, you season the turkey with salt and other ingredients if desired and let it rest uncovered in the fridge for 6-24 hours.  At first, it draws moisture out of the turkey meat, which sounds bad. But then, that moisture mixes with the seasoning and then gets pulled back into the bird.  There the salt flavors the meat and alters the protein in such a way that it keeps the cooked turkey much juicier.

Dry brining has several advantages over a traditional wet brine, in my opinion.

  • Dry brining is easier.
  • Dry brining requires less space in your refrigerator.
  • Dry brining won’t over saturate your meat, which can happen with wet brines.
  • Dry brining gives a crispier crust because the turkey skin air dries in the refrigerator instead of soaking and getting rubbery in a wet brine.

I dry brined this fire roasted turkey breast using a modified version of my poultry rub with traditional turkey seasonings like sage, thyme, and rosemary.  Next, I fire roasted it on my SABER® 1500 Elite SSE, adding just a kiss of maple wood smoke.  Finally, I glazed the turkey breast with a glaze made with maple syrup, local Tennessee honey, and a touch of bourbon.  The result was a sweet, fragrant, and juicy bite of turkey.

How to cook a turkey breast on a gas grill

Fire Roasted Turkey Breast with Maple Honey Bourbon Glaze

Ingredients

  • 7 to 8 pound turkey breast, bone in, thawed
  • For the Dry Brine

  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup local honey
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper or finely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • zest from one lemon (optional)

Directions

  • Make the dry brine

    Mix the dry brine ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • Dry brine the turkey breast

    Work a finger or two under the skin on the sides and lift up the skin as shown in the pictures below. Spread some of the dry brine mix evenly under the skin. Also season the top of the skin and the rear cavity of the breast. Then place on a resting rack above a small sheet pan. Finally place this in the refrigerator for at least 6 and up to 24 hours.
  • Set up the grill for indirect heat and preheat to 325°f

    Remove the grill grates except the center grate. Turn the left and right burners on low, leave the center one off. Place a wood chunk on one of the infrared emitters. Close the lid and get the grill stable at 325°f. See Notes about using an oven thermometer.
  • Roast the turkey

    Place the turkey, rack, and sheet pan on the center grill grate. Then insert a remote probe thermometer into the thickest portion of the breast. Close the grill lid and allow to cook to an internal temperature of 150°f (about 2-2.5 hours)
  • Meanwhile, make the glaze

    Mix the glaze ingredients in a small pan on the side burner over low heat. Allow it to come to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the glaze thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Glaze the turkey breast

    When the turkey breast reaches 150°, brush the glaze onto the breasts. Close the grill lid and continue cooking until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 158-160°f, about another 15-30 minutes.
  • Rest the turkey breast

    Take the breast off of the grill when it hits 158-160°f and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  • Slice the turkey breast

    Use a long, sharp slicing knife to remove each half of the breast and then slice each half across the grain.

Notes/Substitutions

  • Turbinado sugar can be substituted with brown sugar but brown sugar burns easier.  So keep an eye on your cooking temps and keep them at 300-325°f.
  • Bourbon is optional but it is an integral part of this flavor combination so I strongly recommend using it in the glaze.

You can dry brine with just salt.  For turkey I like to use a modified version of our general poultry rub.  I increase the salt and add parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme – typical poultry herbs.  Dried herbs work better than fresh in this case.

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Lift the skin by lifting at the bottom edges and separating with your fingers.  This gap on each side will let you access most of the breast for applying the dry brine mix.

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Don’t forget to season the inside of the cavity.  It won’t penetrate the meat as much as the seasoning under the skin but it will help some.

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Now just stick the turkey breast, uncovered, into the refrigerator right above that prime beef brisket that you are wet aging.  You have one of those, right?

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A few thoughts about wood for turkey.

  • Poultry is mild in flavor and can be overwhelmed by too much or to strong of wood smoke.
  • Apple, cherry, pecan, and sugar maple are woods that are good for poultry.  I get brave and like to use a light amount of hickory.
  • You can use wood chunks, wood chips, wood pellets, or compressed smoking wood products.  Note:  That is NOT a piece of MDF.  It is a compressed smoking wood product that only contains a wood and lignin, safe for smoking.  For the SABER, I prefer solid wood chunks for more even burn times.
  • I chose to use a block of sugar maple wood for this cook because it compliments the glaze.

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This is an indirect heat cook, so I put an oven thermometer at the back of the grill.  This let’s me know what the air temperature is in the cooking chamber.  The installed thermometers measure the direct heat under each grate, which is great for grilling.  But for indirect cooking the installed thermometers will read artificially high.

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Cooking a turkey by time/temperature instead of knowing the internal temperature is a good way to end up with turkey that is still raw in places or dry as sawdust.

For cooking turkeys and roasts, I highly recommend that you buy a quality remote probe thermometer.  These are thermometers that have a probe that is left in the meat as it cooks.  The probe attaches to a unit outside of the grill so you know what the internal temperature is.  These help you cook your turkey to the exact temperature that you wanted, helping to ensure a juicy bird.  Here are several models ranging from basic to professional.  You can get a good basic one for about $40.

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Run the wire for your remote probe thermometer through the hole for the rotisserie.  This will keep from crimping your wire lead.

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So here was my whole set up for cooking this turkey breast. The outer 2 burners are on low, the middle one is off.  A single block of maple wood is on the left infrared emitter. The turkey breast remains on the rack and sheet pan.  Of course, the lid was shut for cooking.

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Make your glaze sooner than later.  You want to give it time to cool so it will thicken and cling to the turkey when you brush it on.  One thing that I love about the SABER side burner is the dual coil burners because I like to use smaller pots like this one.  The smaller coil fits it perfectly.

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This turkey breast is almost done so it’s time to start making my sides.  Notice the wood has turned to ash on the left side.  I only used the one block and that was it, no need to replace it with more wood.  If I was cooking beef or pork, I would keep replenishing the wood for more smoke.

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I cooked some green beans with bacon and mushrooms for a quick side dish.  With the side burner and zonal cooking, it’s easy to cook a whole meal on my grill.

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The turkey breast took right at 3 hours to hit an internal temperature of 158°f.  Why not 165°f?  Because the carry over heat will rise the internal temperature by 5-7 degrees after the turkey comes off the grill.

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Some people like to carve slices off of the side of the breast.  I prefer to cut each half of the breast off and then slice them sideways like this.  This way cuts the muscle fibers into shorter lengths and that makes your turkey more tender.

Another tip.  Turkey is like brisket in that it dries very quickly once sliced.  Take your leftover glaze and mix it half and half with some chicken stock.  Glaze the exposed sides right after slicing and they will stay juicier for when you come back later for seconds.

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Speaking of stock, don’t dare throw out that carcass.  Put it in a pot or Dutch oven, add some veggies, and season it with some more poultry seasoning (about 1-2 tablespoons).

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Add a quart of two of boiling water and then simmer for an hour or two.  Keep it from boiling, just a simmer.  Strain it out and you have the best turkey stock ever!

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Side note:  I was so excited to find out that a Lodge #12 camp style Dutch oven fits the SABER side burner with the grate removed PERFECTLY.  Reason 101 to love my SABER.  I’ll be making a lot of comfort food dishes this way this winter.

 

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