There’s a tension inherent in hosting for the holidays this year. On one hand, it’s not exactly responsible to hold a big multi-generational family gathering. On the other hand, normalcy and cheer are especially welcome.
Well, we’ve got a happy medium—a simple recipe for smoked turkey breast that offers a big payoff for the least possible effort. I call it Halftime Turkey because, with a little planning, you can count on it to be ready at halftime of a Thanksgiving football game.
Smoking a turkey is simpler than you might think. By coating the turkey breast in a thick butter bath and smoking it at a relatively high temperature, you end up with a bird that’s moist, lightly smoky and done in a jiffy.
One large turkey breast—look for a frozen breast that’s seven to eight pounds and start thawing it in the fridge two days before the holiday. Put the turkey into the brine one day before cooking.
Herbed Butter Bath
• Two sticks of butter
• Two cloves of garlic, minced
• Sage, rosemary and thyme, all de-stemmed. (If your grocer has a poultry blend, this is the easiest and cheapest way to get the herbs.)
• Salt and pepper
Slowly melt the butter on your stove’s lowest setting. Once melted, add the herbs, salt and pepper and heat until fragrant. Allow to cool and solidify before bathing the bird.
1. Brine the breast overnight in the fridge while submerged in a water bath with one part sugar to two parts salt. When you’re ready to start the fire, take the breast out of the bath and pat dry. Allow to warm a bit on the counter.
2. Set your smoker to 350 degrees. Add large chunks of wood—I prefer cherry, though applewood is more traditional.
3. Cover the turkey in the butter bath, peeling back the skin to get the butter underneath when possible.
4. Smoke at 350 degrees for about three hours. Basting with apple cider every hour or so will give it a nice color and make sure it doesn’t dry out. After the first two hours, the bird has absorbed most of the smoke it can, so if you want to finish it in an oven set to 350 degrees, you won’t lose any flavor.
5. The bird will be done after about three hours, or when the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees.