If you appreciate the rich, savory flavor of smoked turkey, it might well be one of the first things you try on your shiny new Big Green Egg smoker. A turkey breast is the ideal starting point for a novice, because -- unlike a big pork shoulder -- it cooks in just a few hours, like an ordinary roasted bird. The heavy ceramic of the Big Green Egg retains heat beautifully, providing even cooking, and it holds in moisture well enough to prevent your turkey breast from drying out.
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Preparing the Egg
Load your Egg with enough lump charcoal for a cooking time of 4 to 5 hours. That's nearly the capacity of a small Egg, but half-full or less in a large or extra-large. Nestle several pieces of hardwood into the coals to provide flavorful smoke.
Open the draft at the bottom front of the Egg. Light your coals with an electric starter or use a barbecue lighter to ignite a few cubes of fume-free starter. Gently set the earthenware plate setter on the lip of the Egg's liner, to redirect hot air around your turkey breast. Position a small pan atop the plate setter to catch drips, if you wish, then place the grate over your plate setter.
Close the lid and open the vent at the top of the Egg's dome. When you see a thin plume of blue-white smoke rising from the vent, and the temperature reading on the dome's built-in thermometer begins to rise, tap the upper vent and lower draft until they're almost completely closed.
Manipulate the lower draft, leaving the upper vent open just slightly, until the Egg maintains your desired temperature.
Low and Slow
Brine, marinade or dry-brine your turkey breast, if you wish, up to a day ahead. Otherwise, simply season it generously with salt and pepper or your preferred spice mixture.
Bring your Egg to a temperature of 250 to 275 Fahrenheit. Place the breast on the middle of your grill, over the plate setter and drip pan. Close the lid and adjust the draft if necessary to help the Egg's temperature drop back to the desired level.
Smoke the breast for 2 to 4 hours, or as necessary, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F when tested with a good instant-read or probe thermometer. A boneless half-breast will fall at the shorter end of this time frame, while a bone-in double breast will take longer.
Remove the breast from your grill. Slice and serve it immediately as a hot entree, or cool it completely and refrigerate it for use in sandwiches.
Brine, dry-brine or marinade the breast ahead of time if you wish, or simply season it with salt and pepper, garlic and herbs, or a spice mixture of your choosing.
Stabilize your Egg's temperature at 325 F, adjusting the draft as needed. Place the turkey breast in the center of your grill, over the grill pan, and close the lid.
Roast the breast for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 or 3 hours, depending on the size of the breast, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove your turkey breast from the Egg. Slice and serve it hot or cold, as desired, with your choice of side dishes.
If you're new to using your Big Green Egg, higher temperatures are easier to achieve than lower temperatures. Several third-party manufacturers offer microprocessor-controlled fans that insert into the Egg's draft, monitoring temperatures within the Egg's dome and restricting or permitting airflow as needed. These devices are optional but can make it much easier to manage the Egg at low temperatures.
If you purchased your Egg without a plate setter, you can still achieve indirect-heat cooking by mounding your coals on one side of the kettle and cooking over the other side.
The low-temperature method will leave the breast's skin rubbery and unappealing, so it should be removed before serving. The smoke-roasting technique creates a crisp and tasty skin, just as conventional roasting does. On the other hand, the low-temperature technique results in a moister turkey breast. Which method you choose will depend on which factor is more important to you.
Although brining and dry-brining can help keep your turkey juicier, not everyone is a fan of the slightly compressed, "ham-like" texture that can result. It's equally important to note that commercial turkeys are often already brined, so brining them at home can make them unpleasantly salty.
If you wish, you can brush the turkey with a glaze or sauce during the last hour to add flavor.
The same techniques work for whole turkeys but require significantly longer cooking time.
The Big Green Egg's draft and vent control the heat by creating a low-oxygen environment, so the coals will smolder rather than burning freely. When you open the lid of the cooker, the sudden increase in oxygen can create an alarming and potentially dangerous tongue of flame, or "flashback," to leap from the Egg.
To counter this risk, follow a technique known to the Egg community as "burping." With your hand protected by a heatproof glove, lift the lid an inch or two, once or twice, to allow a limited quantity of oxygen to enter. After this, it will be safe to lift the lid completely.
Big Green Eggs are very heavy, especially in the larger sizes. Exercise great care when moving one and ensure that your deck is sturdy enough to support your chosen model before you install it.
- Amazing Ribs: The Ultimate Turkey -- Smoked on the Barbecue or the Grill
- Smoking-Meat.com: Smoked Turkey Breast for Thanksgiving
- Big Green Egg: Temperature Control
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Turkey From Farm to Table
- Big Green Egg: First-Timer Tips
- Big Green Egg: Burping the Egg