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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
A few thoughts about wood for turkey.
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.
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.
Run the wire for your remote probe thermometer through the hole for the rotisserie. This will keep from crimping your wire lead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.