This grilled turkey breast is soaked in flavorful brine, then coated in garlic and herbs and grilled to tender perfection. A great holiday main course offering that doesn’t take up any precious oven space!
When Thanksgiving rolls around each year, I skip the oven roasted bird and instead use other cooking techniques for my Thanksgiving recipes such as Instant Pot ham, crock pot sweet potato casserole, deep fried turkey, Instant Pot turkey breast and this juicy and flavorful grilled turkey breast.
Every year when I’m planning my holiday menu I have to choose my recipes carefully to make sure I have enough oven space available to get everything on the table in a timely manner. I often to other cooking appliances such as the slow cooker, Instant Pot and grill to make life easier. This grilled turkey breast comes out perfectly every time, and also happens to be quite simple to make.
Table of Contents
Ingredients For Grilled Turkey Breast
- Turkey Brine: I use a homemade brine to infuse plenty of flavor into the meat. The brine also helps to ensure that the turkey will not dry out on the grill. Making turkey brine is actually quite simple, you’ll just want to make sure you give the turkey breast 8-12 hours to soak in the brine before it goes on the grill. Never brined a turkey before? Check out my guide on how to brine a turkey.
- Turkey Breast: This recipe is written for a full bone-in turkey breast, which is typically about 5-6 pounds. You can also make the recipe with a half breast, but you will want to cut the ingredients in half and it will take less time to cook.
- Butter: Adding a little bit of butter under and on the skin will add flavor and also keep everything juicy!
- Seasonings: Season your turkey when it comes out of the brine with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried Italian seasoning.
- Chicken Broth: Use chicken broth (or turkey broth!) in the bottom of the pan to help keep the turkey moist as it cooks.
- Aromatics: Stuff your BBQ turkey breast with onion, lemon and fresh herbs such as fresh rosemary for even more flavor.
How To Make Grilled Turkey Breast
Start by preparing the brine, which is a blend of kosher salt, brown sugar, apple cider and seasonings. Place the turkey in the brine and refrigerate it over night. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry. Transfer the turkey to a disposable aluminum pan. Stuff the cavity of the bird with onions, lemon and herbs. Place softened butter and seasonings in a bowl, then stir to combine. Rub the butter mixture under the skin and on top of the turkey. Pour the chicken broth into the pan.
Heat a gas or charcoal grill to 375 degrees F. Place the pan on the grill, and close the grill lid. Cook for about 1 1/2-2 hours, basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Let the cooked turkey rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve.
Tips For The Perfect Grilled Turkey Breast
- It is absolutely critical to have a thermometer to use when making this recipe. You will need to check the temperature of the grill, as well as the temperature of the turkey to make sure it is cooked through.
- If you are using a charcoal grill, you will want to check periodically to make sure the charcoal is still burning nicely throughout the entire cooking process. It is possible that you may need to add more briquettes during the cooking process.
- You can use any drippings from the drip pan to make gravy. Check out my recipe for the perfect turkey gravy. If you don’t have enough drippings, simply use additional broth.
- This grilling technique will also work with a whole turkey, but it will require a longer cook time.
- Got leftovers? Save some turkey to make turkey noodle soup, turkey casserole, or check out my comprehensive list of leftover turkey recipes.
- Serve your turkey with some amazing side dishes such as sour cream mashed potatoes, delicata squash, roasted pumpkin, sweet potato casserole with pecans, cornbread casserole or cranberry orange sauce.
Leftover turkey will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
It takes approximately 90 -120 minutes to grill a standard size full turkey breast. If you’re using an entire turkey or a half breast, the time will change. It’s important to use a thermometer rather than a set amount of time to make sure the turkey is properly cooked. Plan on it taking about 15 minutes per pound of turkey.
I find that the best way to keep turkey from drying out is to brine it. During the brining process, the turkey actually absorbs some of the liquid, which helps to keep it from getting dry later on. Placing a layer of butter between the skin and the meat also helps to keep the meat juicy. The basting adds a final layer of protection to make sure the turkey comes out perfectly.
There is no need to flip a turkey breast when it’s on the grill, as it will cook evenly in the pan so long as the grill is covered and the temperature remains at 350 degrees or greater.
It’s important to keep the temperature in the 350-375 degrees F range. If the temperature is too low, it will take longer to cook. There is also a potential food safety issue if the turkey does not come to a safe temperature in a certain amount of time. If the temperature is too high, the turkey will be much more likely to dry out or burn.
- Seasonings: Feel free to add other seasonings to the brine or butter mixture. Some good options include sage, lemon or fresh thyme leaves.
- Smoked Turkey: If you’d like to infuse a smoky flavor into your turkey, soak 2 cups of apple, cherry or hickory wood chips in water for 30 minutes. Drain the water from the chips, then place 1 cup of chips onto each of two sheets of foil. Fold the foil around the chips, then use a fork to poke multiple holes in the packets. Place the packets of wood chips in the coals of the grill.
- Marinated Turkey: If you are unable to brine your turkey or simply prefer not to, try using my delicious turkey marinade recipe instead.
Once you see how delicious grilled turkey breast is, you’ll find yourself adding it to your holiday meal each and every year!
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Grilled Turkey Breast
For the brine
- 1 cup apple cider or apple juice, do NOT use apple cider vinegar
- 1 gallon cold water
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 orange thinly sliced
- 3 rosemary sprigs
For the turkey
- 6 pound bone in turkey breast
- 3 rosemary sprigs
- 1 lemon quartered
- 1/2 onion cut into wedges
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter softened
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- fresh herbs for garnish optional
For the brine
- Place all the brine ingredients in a large pot over medium heat, then bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until salt and sugar have dissolved.
- Turn off the heat. Let the brine mixture cool to room temperature.
- Place the turkey breast in the brine solution to fully submerge it, then cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
- When you're ready to cook your turkey breast, remove it from the brine and rinse with cool water; pat dry with paper towels.
For the turkey
- Place the turkey breast in a deep disposable aluminum pan. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, onion and rosemary.
- Place the butter, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder in a bowl. Stir to combine. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey breast, including under the skin.
- Pour the chicken broth into the pan.
- Heat a charcoal or gas grill to 375 degrees F. It's ok for the temperature to be within the 350-375 degrees F range, just monitor to make sure it doesn't drop below 350.
- Place the pan with the turkey in it on the grill.
- Cook for 90-120 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers at least 165 degrees F. Baste with the pan juices every 30 minutes.
- If the turkey skin starts to get too dark before the breast is cooked through, cover it with foil.
- Let the turkey rest for 5-10 minutes then transfer to a serving plate. Slice and serve, garnished with fresh herbs if desired.
- If you’re using a half breast instead of a full breast, cut the ingredients in half and reduce the cook time to about 40-45 minutes.