Rotisserie Turkey Breast, Dry Brined


Rotisserie turkey breast is the easiest rotisserie recipe I have.  Yes, I know that cooking on the rotisserie is a bit of a hassle.  You have to hook up the motor, truss your meat, skewer it, and find someplace to put the searingly hot spit when you're done.  Why do I go through all that?  Results.  Rotisserie cooking just works better than roasting.
*Look at the skin in the picture!  Rotisserie cooking gives you perfect browning, and browning is the maillard reaction giving you flavor.  Also, the meat just seems juicier after I've cooked it on the rotisserie.

I love cooking a whole turkey, but it's a lot of meat.  If I'm just feeding my wife and the kids, then a turkey breast is a more reasonable amount to cook.  Even so, it's still a lot of food.  I plan a few extra meals around the leftovers.
*If you're like me, then the leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving.  With this recipe, you can have those leftovers whenever you want!

Turkey breast can be pretty bland, so we're going to use a dry brine, inspired by Judy Rodgers of San Francisco's Zuni Cafe.  The dry brine seasons the breast and deepens the turkey flavor.  It's impressive how such an easy technique improves the results.  All you need is time - you have to salt the breast at least a day ahead.
*Dry brining has been the secret to a couple of my other recipes, and I've started to prefer it to the wet brine I used to use all the time.  Just don't use it with pork; it doesn't work as well as a traditional brine.  See my "When should you salt meat?" article for the details.


Recipe: Rotisserie Turkey Breast, Dry Brined

Cook time: 2 hours

Equipment:
  • Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit 650 with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here it is.)
  • Aluminum foil drip pan (9"x12", or whatever fits your grill)
  • Butcher's twine

Ingredients:
  • 1 whole turkey breast (6-7 lbs)
  • 4 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
1. Dry Brine the Turkey: 1 to 2 days before cooking, salt the turkey. Rub 2 tsp of salt in the big cavity, then work the skin loose from the breast, being careful not to tear it, and rub 1 tsp of salt on each breast. Wrap the turkey in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to 2 days.
*I put the turkey in the aluminum foil drip pan, to keep it from leaking in the refrigerator.
Work your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the meat, then rub the salt all over the breast

2. Prepare the grill: Set your grill up for rotisserie cooking at medium heat. For my Weber Summit, this means turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to medium, and turning the infrared burner to medium. Then I put my drip pan in the middle, over the unlit burners. (See here for more rotisserie setup details.)

3. Truss and Skewer the Turkey: Discard the plastic wrap on the turkey, and pat it dry with paper towels. If there is loose skin on the turkey (around the wings and the neck), truss it once, around the wing sockets, and tuck loose skin under the butcher's twine. Skewer the turkey on your spit, running the prongs under the belly of the bird, so you don't pierce the meat on the breast. See picture above; the turkey is upside down.

4. Cook the Turkey: Put the spit on the grill, and turn on the rotisserie motor. Cook with the lid closed. It should take 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the breast. My 7 pound breast was done in 1 hour and 50 minutes. It's better to go by temperature, though - you want the breast at the thickest part to read 160*F to 165*F; start checking about 15 minutes before you think the bird will be done.
*Turkey breast gets very dry when overcooked, so please don't go above 165*F.

5. Serve Remove the turkey from the spit, and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. I like to cut the breast halves from the carcass, then slice them crosswise into 1/4" thick slices. Serve with the juices in the drip pan, if they're not sooty from your fire.
*On a gas grill, this isn't a problem, but check them if you're using charcoal.

Notes:
*Serve with rotisserie pan potatoes and a salad, and you have an easy, healthy meal.  Mashed sweet potatoes are another great accompaniment.

*As I mention in the recipe, the key is to cook the breast to 160*F - turkey breast is so lean, that it goes from juicy to terribly dry at just above 165*F.  You really need an instant read thermometer to tell if your turkey breast is cooked.

*Leftovers make wonderful turkey sandwiches.  I cook this recipe just to get the leftovers, really; it gives me meat for sandwiches and soup all week.

*Speaking of soup, use the carcass to make turkey stock, then make some turkey noodle soup.

What do you think?  Questions?  Other ideas?  Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Rotisserie Pan Potatoes are a great side dish to cook with this recipe.
Rotisserie Turkey Breast with Spice Rub
Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices (The whole bird on a charcoal grill)
Rotisserie Turkey with Cajun Dry Brine (The whole bird on a gas grill)

Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.

Inspired by:
Russ Parsons, It's the turkey everyone loves [latimes.com]
Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook




Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.

Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.

It's a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!


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18 comments:

A Year on the Grill said...

OH NO! I am making two turkeys in a couple days. I was all set to brine, and now I have to research dry brine. I have had such excellent results with wet brine, it will tale a lot to convince me... MAybe when it;s just for my wife and I, but i have to feed a bunch, and want everything familiar...

Great post

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

Why not try both? Do one with a wet brine, one with a dry brine...

That said, two days before feeding a bunch of people is not the time to mess with something that's been working for you.

MikeV

Dennis said...

Mike,

You don't say in the recipe, but are you using non-enhanced poultry?

My wife purchased an enhanced turkey breast that I will be cooking on the rotisserie that will be a supplement to the Big Bird she'll be cooking in the oven.

What would you recommend? Skip the dry brining since it's enhanced? Would you recommend a rub or even maranade to add flavor?

Thanks!

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Dennis:

Good question! I try to find non-enhanced turkey, but I have used my dry brines on enhanced turkeys, and it's worked well.

When I'm stuck with an enhanced turkey (look for the words "soaked in X% enhanced solution"), I keep the dry brining time to the minimum listed in the recipe. I wouldn't go more than a day ahead of time on an enhanced turkey breast.

Anonymous said...

Love your site! I have the same Summit Grill. I have a 17 lb Turkey for Thanksgiving. Have you ever put one that big on the rotisserie?

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Dennis:

Thanks!

The largest I've done is a little over 14 pounds. I'm confident it will work for a larger bird. I didn't see any signs of straining.

One thing to watch out for is burning the wings before the breast meat is done. I would turn off the infrared rotisserie burner if the wings get too crispy, and let the indirect heat from the rest of the burners finish the cooking.

I have a friend who did a 20+ pound bird on the rotisserie last year, on a grill that's not as well built as the Weber, so again, I don't think you'll have any problems.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Anonymous said...

I am brand new to rotisserie cooking. I have a 4 burner gas grill and no infrared burner, but it has a temperature gauge. I have an 8 pound turkey breast and am thinking to start the middle burners on low, the outside burners on medium...but what should I try to keep the constant temperature at? Appx 350-400 just as when roasting a turkey in the oven?

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Anonymous:

For medium heat, you do want 350*F to 400*F. (On the higher end is better, it gives you a little more browning.)

I would go with outer burners on high, middle burners off with a drip pan over them, and see if that can get you the heat you need.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! My husband and I have owned a Jenn-Aire grill with infared burners and a rotisserie for 3 years. We had only used the rotisserie once. Today is a very hot day sooo we decided we were having grilled turkey. Yesterday I put the salt on the turkey breast as you advised. Today we grilled an 8lb. turkey breast to a beautiful golden brown. It was very moist and has a wonderful flavor. I will be reading more from your site.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Anonymous:

You're welcome. I'm glad it worked for you.

Anonymous said...

I am here to tell ya, I'll never roast another turkey....We did a breast and that was the most moist and great tasting turkey I've had in a really long time. Thumbs up!

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Anonymous:

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

Marcia said...

Thank you for posting this, it's just what we needed. We have a small, countertop oven that has a rotisserie attachment and we are planning to cook simply the breasts for Thanksgiving this year so your information hit the spot! Depending on the size we get (4-6 lb. range), we were talking about having the butcher take it off the bone, and send the skin home with us too so we can dry brine and put butter and fresh herbs under the skin. We are also going to soak some cheese cloth in red wine, wrap the breasts in it and wait til it is golden and beautiful! Your idea about roasting the potatoes is also a good one, thanks so much!

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You're welcome! And, off the bone with butter sounds like a great idea.

Udo said...

I have the 400 series Weber Summit with 4 burners. With the outside burners being closer to the meat, I assume I should just make sure I keep the temperature between 350 and 400. Do I still keep the rotisserie on medium?

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Yes, you've got it. Set the rotisserie burner to medium, and adjust the outer burners to get  350 to 400*F.

Udo said...

Worked perfectly. Used the smoker box with hickory and the rotisserie burner on medium. That held the temperature just fine. Salt and pepper on the inside, paprika on the outside. Wonderful!

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Great! Glad to hear it went well. Congratulations!

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