Return to Previous Page
Cajun-Brined Smoked Turkey Breast

Cajun-Brined Smoked Turkey Breast

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 65 minutes
Servings: 8
It is easier to grill turkey breast halves than the whole breast, which sits awkwardly on the grill rack. Turkey, by its nature, has dry meat, and the breast meat is particularly lean. This makes soaking the turkey in a brine especially important. Then, for added protection against dry meat, put some water in a pan to create extra moisture. An accurate thermometer is also a good tool for guarding against overcooking. Echo the Louisiana roots of this dish by serving it with red beans and rice.


For the Cajun rub:

  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried garlic flakes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

For the Cajun brine:

  • 1/4 cup coarse sea or kosher salt
  • 4 cups water

  • 1 skin-on, bone-in turkey breast, 4 to 5 lb., halved
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 handfuls wood chips, such as hickory or mesquite, soaked if using


To make the Cajun rub, in a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, paprika, thyme, oregano, onion flakes, garlic flakes, sugar and cayenne. The rub can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored, tightly covered, at cool room temperature.

To make the Cajun brine, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 3 Tbs. of the Cajun rub, the salt and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and let cool completely, then transfer to a large, deep, nonreactive container that will hold the turkey breast. Rinse the turkey breast halves and add them to the brine, then add enough water to cover the turkey breast halves completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat. Oil the grill rack.

Remove the turkey breast halves from the brine and pat them dry. Discard the brine. Rub the turkey breast halves with the remaining Cajun rub, then brush them with the oil.

For a charcoal grill: Place a drip pan half filled with water in the center of the fire bed. Sprinkle half of the wood chips on the coals. Place the turkey breast halves on the grill rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook the turkey breast halves until they are a rich golden brown and cooked through, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add the remaining wood chips halfway through the grilling process, and add more water to the pan and hot coals as needed.

For a gas grill: Place a shallow pan half full of water at the edge of the grill rack away from the heat elements. Add the wood chips to the grill in asmoker box or a perforated foil packet. Place the turkey breast halves on the grill rack away from the heat elements. Cover the grill and cook the turkey breast halves, adding more water to the pan as needed, until they are a rich golden brown and cooked through, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast halves, away from the bone; it should register 165°F. The temperature will rise another 5° to 10°F while the turkey is resting.

Transfer the turkey breast halves to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Grilling, by Denis Kelly, Melanie Barnard, Barbara Grunes & Michael McLaughlin (Oxmoor House, 2003).