Grilled turkey breast isn’t just for holiday celebrations. It’s easy enough to make as a weekend dinner or a make-ahead recipe for homemade turkey sandwiches. We love using boneless skinless turkey breasts because they’re a breeze to carve. Without the bone, you can simply cut the meat against the grain.
While it’s true that bone-in turkey stays juicier as it cooks, we solve that problem with an easy turkey brine. The brine protects the meat, ensuring that this grilled turkey breast turns out juicy and tender. Finish it off with a robust basting sauce that infuses each bite with incredible flavor, and this recipe is a real winner.
Grilled Turkey Breast Ingredients
- Turkey breast: We use a boneless skinless turkey breast half. It only weighs two to three pounds, making it perfect for creating six servings.
- Turkey brine: Our simple turkey brine combines salt, brown sugar, and whole peppercorns. Salt helps the turkey retain moisture as it cooks, and brown sugar adds richness. It also helps the skin caramelize to a gorgeous golden brown. For more details on how brine works, check out our guide on how to brine a turkey.
- Basting sauce: This sauce really makes the grilled turkey breast shine. Soy sauce adds a deep umami flavor while sesame oil provides a nutty taste. Add lemon juice, honey, garlic, dried thyme, crushed red pepper flakes and canola oil to bring it all together.
Step 1: Prepare the brine
In a large saucepan, combine 1 quart water with the salt, brown sugar and whole peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour the brine into a large heatproof bowl. Add the remaining 1 quart cold water to bring the brine to room temperature.
Editor’s Tip: Can you make the brine ahead of time? Sure! Store it in the refrigerator in a covered stockpot or a large container for up to five days.
Step 2: Brine the turkey
Add the turkey breast. Cover and refrigerate for four to six hours, turning occasionally. When finished, drain and discard the brine. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
Editor’s Tip: If the turkey breast is completely submerged in the brine, there’s no need to turn it. You can brine turkey breast in advance, but don’t let it sit in the brine for longer than six hours. Remove the turkey from the brine at the end of the brining period to make the turkey ahead. Pat it dry, and transfer it to a covered container. It can sit in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before grilling.
Step 3: Prepare the basting sauce
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect medium heat. Place a drip pan underneath the grill grate on the indirect heat side of the grill. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, minced garlic, dried thyme and crushed red pepper flakes.
Step 4: Grill the turkey
Place the turkey on the grates over the drip pan. Grill, covered, until a thermometer reads 170°F, 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting occasionally with the sauce.
Editor’s Tip: We like to use a disposable aluminum foil pan as the drip pan. It collects the drippings, which can then be used to make turkey gravy. Even if you’ve made a make-ahead turkey gravy, you should put the pan in place. It will help you keep your grill clean.
Step 5: Rest and slice
Transfer the cooked turkey to a cutting board. Cover it loosely with a piece of foil, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
- Include herbs: Add fresh herbs to make an herb-brined turkey. Sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley are all great choices.
- Use bone-in turkey: If you’re serving a larger crowd or you want extra leftovers, use a bone-in turkey breast. The turkey will take longer to cook, so use the cooking times in our herbed roast turkey breast recipe as a reference for how long to cook a turkey breast on the grill.
- Add smoke: Infuse the turkey with smoke flavor by adding soaked apple chips. Yup, it’s that easy to turn your grill into a smoker!
How to Store Grilled Turkey Breast
Cooked turkey breast is good for three to four days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. To freeze Thanksgiving leftovers like turkey, transfer the sliced turkey to a freezer-safe bag. Store it in the freezer for up to three months.
To reheat turkey without drying it out, add a little water, broth or gravy to the meat. Warm it in an aluminum foil pouch in the oven, or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave.
Can you make grilled turkey breast ahead of time?
Yes, grilled turkey breast is a great make-ahead meal. You can reheat it using the instructions above to make a warm open-faced turkey sandwich. It also tastes great cold as a deli meat substitute.
Grilled Turkey Breast Tips
How do you keep turkey breast moist on the grill?
You can keep your turkey moist on the grill by cooking it to the proper internal temperature. Meat loses moisture as it cooks, so overcooked meat will have a tough texture and a dry consistency. Brining turkey is another way to keep the meat moist on the grill.
How long does it take to grill turkey breast?
How long to grill turkey breast depends on the turkey breast’s size and whether it’s bone-in or boneless. In this recipe, our boneless skinless turkey breast takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes when cooked over indirect medium heat. We recommend using a meat thermometer and pulling the turkey from the grill when it reaches an internal temperature of 170°.
What to serve with grilled turkey breast?
When we serve grilled turkey breast hot off the grill, we typically serve it with our favorite Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes and gravy. We also love to use it to make leftover turkey dishes like turkey enchiladas or serve it cold as a deli meat for sandwiches.