It’s a lot simpler to smoke a turkey breast than a whole turkey. They’re smaller and easier to handle, for one thing, and their lighter weight means they’ll take less time to cook.
What is the average turkey breast weight, and how long can you expect the meat to take on the smoker? Our ultimate guide to turkey breast size has the answers.
Turkey Breast Weight
Turkey breast weight varies depending on the size of the bird and whether the breasts are sold bone-in or boneless. You can expect to find turkey breasts weighing between 4 and 8 pounds when you buy them at the supermarket, although there may also be larger specimens available.
Average Turkey Breast Size
On average, the breast portion of a turkey will weigh in between 4 and 8 pounds. You might be able to procure larger ones, but they’re unlikely to come much smaller. After all, whole turkeys typically weigh between 17 and 30 pounds.
How Much Turkey Breast Should You Serve Per Person?
Your estimated serving sizes should depend on whether you buy bone-in or boneless poultry. Other factors include the ages and eating habits of your guests, the time and nature of the gathering, and whether you hope to have leftovers.
Plan on buying 1-1/4 pounds of bone-in turkey breast for each guest. The bone takes up some of this weight, and the meat will shrink down as it cooks. That should leave you with around 1/2 pound of cooked turkey for each guest, perhaps a bit more.
With boneless turkey breast, you can round down to 3/4 pound per person. Since there’s less waste when the meat is taken off the bone, you’ll wind up with roughly the same amount of cooked turkey for each person.
Round up to 1-1/2 pounds per person for bone-in breast and 1 pound per person if you’re hoping to have plenty of meat left over. It’s better to have too much than to have guests go hungry.
Therefore, if you’re expecting 4 people, you should buy 5 pounds of bone-in turkey breast or 3 pounds of boneless meat. To help you decide which type to buy, see the separate section below.
Bear in mind that if there are a number of young children included—ages 10 and under—you can scale back on this estimate. It’s rare for children this age to consume more than 1/3 pound or so of cooked meat in one sitting.
Boneless vs Bone-In Turkey Breast
Are you having trouble deciding whether to buy boneless or bone-in turkey breast for your gathering? If you’re lucky enough to find both options available, consider what you’re hoping to get out of the meal.
There’s no question that boneless cuts are easier to deal with than their bone-in counterparts. The meat also cooks more quickly, so you can have dinner on the table sooner.
On the other hand, bones contribute both flavor and moisture to the finished product. Bone-in turkey breast makes for an impressive presentation, too. These typically include both sides of the breast, so they’re a better option when serving large groups.
About Turkey Breast
In addition to being easy to prepare, turkey breast has plenty of eye appeal. If you’re looking for a lovely centerpiece for a festive gathering, you can’t go wrong with a simple turkey breast.
The breast consists of white meat, which is an excellent source of lean protein. It also contains high levels of vitamin B6, which contributes to the health of red blood cells. The meat is a reliable source of phosphorus and selenium as well.
Turkey breast has one other side benefit: it yields a great deal of meat. When you buy the whole turkey, a lot of the carcass ends up going to waste. You don’t have to worry about that with the breast alone, especially if you buy the boneless variety.
Best Temperature For Turkey Breasts
When you’re cooking turkey breast, what’s the ideal temperature to use? Since the white meat of the breast can dry out quickly, it’s better to aim for a low target temp.
We suggest smoking turkey breast at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the meat should cook at a rate of 20 to 25 minutes per pound. This means a 5-pound turkey breast should be on the smoker for roughly 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
You can speed things along by setting the temperature a bit higher. At 325 degrees, expect the meat to cook at a rate of 15 minutes per pound. Bear in mind, though, that the turkey won’t be able to absorb as much smoke flavor due to the shorter cooking time.
Safe Internal Temperature For Turkey Breast
In order to eradicate the bacteria that cause food poisoning, turkey breast should be cooked to 165 degrees.
At this temperature, the dangerous bacteria are destroyed within just a few seconds. They can be killed off at lower temperatures, but the process takes longer. It’s safer for you and your guests to cook the meat to 165.
Feel free to remove the turkey breast from the heat when it achieves an internal temperature of 160. The meat will continue to cook during the resting period, giving you a serving temp of 165.
Try not to cook the turkey past this point. When white meat cooks too long, it turns chalky and dry. The dark meat of the legs and thighs can handle higher temperatures, but it’s important not to overcook the breasts.
To gauge the temperature, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Be sure not to touch the bone, or your readout will be inaccurate.
Should I Stuff Turkey Breast Before Smoking?
We don’t recommend stuffing turkey when putting it on the smoker. There are several reasons for this.
For one thing, the stuffing increases the cooking time, meaning it will be that much longer before it’s time to eat. This is more of an issue when you’re smoking a whole bird rather than just the breast, but it’s still something to be aware of.
You also need to ensure that the stuffing has cooked to 165 degrees all the way to the center. Since the mixture has come into contact with raw poultry, it needs to play by the same set of rules. A low smoking temp makes it hard for the stuffing to cook thoroughly.
In fact, most experts recommend cooking the stuffing separately for this very reason. While a stuffed bird looks impressive, and the fat from the meat makes it taste amazing, it’s healthier to prepare the stuffing in a separate dish.
Finally, the intensity of the smoke flavor can make the stuffing taste weird. We love the taste of succulent smoked turkey, but the same flavors don’t really work with bread crumbs.
If you do opt to stuff the turkey breast, increase the estimated cooking time by about 5 minutes per pound.
How To Make Smoked Turkey Breast
- 1 bone-in turkey breast (5 to 6 pounds)
- 1/2 gallon apple cider
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs fresh sage
- 8 gloves raw garlic
1. Make the brine. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, bring cider and vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat. Add salt, sugar, herbs, and garlic, then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
2. Remove the brine from the heat and let cool uncovered in the refrigerator. If you’d like to speed the process along, add a few handfuls of ice cubes. Don’t use too many, though, or you’ll dilute the brine.
3. When the brine has cooled to 32-39 degrees Fahrenheit, place the turkey breast in the mixture so that it’s fully submerged. Chill in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours.
4. When you’re ready to start cooking, remove the turkey from the brine mixture. Dry the skin thoroughly with paper towels.
5. Preheat the smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, using whatever wood you prefer. Apple is a mild, fruity choice for smoked turkey, especially with this recipe.
6. Add the prepared turkey breast to the smoker and close the lid. Cook undisturbed for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours, depending on weight. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees.
7. Remove the turkey breast from the heat. Tent loosely with aluminum foil. Don’t wrap it too tightly, or the skin will lose its delightful crisp texture.
8. Let the meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t want to deal with a whole turkey or you’re only planning on serving a few people, smoked turkey breast is a fine alternative. For larger gatherings where the guests would prefer all white meat, you can always buy more than one.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!