Secret to a Smoked Turkey Breast? A Salt and Pepper Brisket Rub.

Every time I ordered brisket in Texas, I noticed that others were consistently ordering turkey breast. Some believe this is the perfect cut of meat for BBQ. I am not so sure about that, but I wanted to give it a try for Thanksgiving. I am pretty sure I discovered why it’s so awesome and well loved in Texas, even with brisket as an option. The pitmasters in Texas treat the turkey breast just like they treat the flat side of a briket. They are seasoned the same way. They are served the same way. So, you get all of the brisket flavors with the juiciness of turkey. This is how I made my smoked turkey breast for Thanksgiving. Start by making a fresh brisket rub, trimming off the skin and loose bits from the turkey breast, smoking the turkey breast to 150F, wrapping in aluminum with butter pads, and smoking until 165F.

Salt and Pepper Rub

Texas keeps their rubs simple—just salt and pepper, and other things that they pretend not to use. I like to add Lawry’s Seasoned Salt as part of the salt half of the recipe. I also like to use freshly ground tellicherry black pepper for the pepper side. With turkey, you can get away with a little lemon zest, thyme, sage, or other herbs. Have fun experimenting.

Texas Brisket Rub

Recipe by Hans ScharlerCuisine: BarbecueDifficulty: Easy
Prep time



Easy one-to-one by volume BBQ rub for Texas-style brisket.



  • Combine ingredients in a container
  • Shake container until fully combined
  • Store in a container for up to three months

Recipe Video


  • Two cups of the brisket rub will cover a 15-pound brisket. You will have a little left over. You can use the extra rub to season brisket when you serve it, season a Bloody Mary cocktail, or flavor a homemade barbecue sauce.

Prepare the Turkey Breast

Take the turkey breast out of the refrigerator and put it on your cutting board. I use gloves when handling any of the meats that I am cooking. There are two sides to the turkey: the breast-skin side and the meat side. To prepare the turkey breast, carefully remove the skin and remember which side is (was) the skin side. Cut away any loose parts and clean up the breast. The little scraps tend to burn and not come out well. Take your time and trim away anything that you don’t think will make it through the whole process.

Rub the Turkey Breast

Using your freshly prepared rub, season the turkey breast. There are two sides. Start with the “not skin side” and rub the turkey breast with a generous layer of brisket rub. Let it rest for 5 minutes and add a little more rub. Flip it over and rub the skin side. Again, wait for five minutes and add some more rub. The salt in the rub will start pulling out water, and this really helps with the rub sticking to the turkey and forming a bark. Once both sides are rubbed, let it rest for another 15 minutes before you start smoking it.

Turkey Breast with a Texas-style Brisket Rub

Smoke Turkey Breast to 150F

Get your smoker of choice fired up to a temperature of 250–275F and place the turkey breast “not skin side” down. Let it smoke for two hours and check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Keep smoking until it gets to 150F at the thickest part.

Wrap and Smoke Turkey Breast to 165F

Take the turkey breast and place it on top of two large sheets of aluminum foil. Place some butter pads on the turkey breast, along with some fresh herbs. I like to use sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Wrap up the turkey breast with the foil and place it back on the smoker. Smoke the turkey breast until 165F. The butter will help it moist.

Slice and Serve

After letting it rest for 10 minutes in the foil pack, open it up and place it on a cutting board. Save the butter and turkey juices that were collected in the foil packet. I use it on the serving plate to keep the turkey moist while it is sitting around waiting to be served. I use a brisket knife to slide it up. I treat it just like the flat side of a brisket and make long slices. Put the turkey breast slices on a serving platter and pour the butter and juices over them. Take a picture for the Instagram and share it with your friends and family.

Smoked and Sliced Turkey Breast

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