What Are the Best Tips for Grilling Turkey Breast?

Lee Johnson

The best tips for grilling turkey breast are to start cooking on a high heat and then turn it down, to season the meat well, to brine or marinate the breasts before cooking, and to check the internal temperature of the meat. Chefs are also advised to not pierce the meat during cooking, because this allows the juices to escape. Most turkey breasts can be grilled in around 20–30 minutes, depending on the size, but checking the internal temperature is the best way to be sure. The prime concerns when grilling turkey breast are to not let the meat dry out and to add flavor.

A turkey.
A turkey.

Most meats can be cooked well by starting with a high heat and then dropping down to a lower heat to warm it through. The process of grilling turkey breast is also improved by this cooking method. Once the grill has heated, the breasts should be added for one minute on each side to sear the meat and lock in the juices. After this initial searing, chefs should turn the grill down to medium heat and leave the breasts on until they are cooked through.

Use a meat thermometer to determine whether the meat has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Use a meat thermometer to determine whether the meat has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Another important tip when grilling turkey breast is to apply seasoning before putting the meat onto the grill. Unseasoned meat can often taste bland, and chicken and turkey are particularly prone to this. Using basic seasoning such as salt and pepper can increase the flavor of the breasts. Chefs should ensure the seasoning is spread evenly across the breast. Adding herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano can also increase the flavor of turkey breasts.

Brining or marinating meat prior to cooking can infuse more flavors into the meat than seasoning alone. Immersing the breasts in a marinade overnight enables whichever flavors a chef likes to infuse into the meat. At least one acidic ingredient should be included in a marinade to help loosen the muscle fibers and make the meat tenderer. Other flavors such as garlic and soy sauce can also be added to marinades. Brine works like a marinade but it is just a mixture of water, salt, and sugar, which helps the meat’s texture but doesn’t add as much flavor.

Checking the internal temperature of the meat is an important tip when grilling turkey breast. Turkey, like chicken, can appear cooked after very little time on the grill but will still be raw inside. Chefs should use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of the meat. Breasts should be taken off the grill when their internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 Celsius). Allowing the meat to go too far over that temperature could result in dried out breasts. No chef should serve a turkey breast that hasn’t reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 Celsius), because it may put the health of his or her guests at risk.

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