Homemade Stovetop Smoker Turkey Pastrami

Pin It

I wonder how many times I can call something My Favorite Thing Ever before you guys (rightly) become suspicious and start ignoring me.  Like the boy who cried wolf.  Except I’m the spastic girl who cried pastrami and cookies and salads and cocktails and…  Etc.

But let me tell you–smoking turkey breast at home is definitely my favorite thing ever.  I am a sandwich lover first and a human second (it says so on my birth certificate).  Piles of quality deli meats and cheeses on crusty, hearty bread, a healthy smear of good, spicy mustard, crunchy cool lettuce, tangy pickles and pepperoncinis?  Get.  Out.  I think my heart skipped a beat just typing that.

Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of deli turkey shopping.  It’s a frustrating exercise in #firstworldproblems.  If it’s delicious, it’s not hormone-free.  If it’s hormone-free, it has shady preservatives.  If it’s nitrate/nitrite free, it’s not all that delicious.  If it’s all those things, it costs an arm and a leg.

But this?  This is the turkey that is anything you want it to be.  Thick, smoky slices of lean turkey breast, covered in a generous, luxurious coat of sharp, fragrant black pepper.  Or anything you’d like.  It’s the turkey of your dreams, girl (or boy).

If you saw my last post (beef pastrami), you heard enough about the stovetop smoker.  It works equally well for turkey–the only difference is that this won’t require steaming, so you’ll want to be sure it reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the interior.  Let’s practice safe meat, k?

Also, the brining time is much shorter–just two days will do just fine.  Not instant gratification, but much closer.

Start by removing the skin from the breast.  It wouldn’t get crispy in a smoker (I don’t think), and therefore it’s of no use to us.  Also cut away any bone that might still be on there (I reserved mine to use to make broth).

There’s some thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and cloves added to the brine, in addition to the salt and sugar.

A plastic gallon bag and a bowl are great for brining something of this size.

After two days, rinse, pat dry, and rub it all over with thyme and coarsely crushed black peppercorns.  Turkey breasts have nooks and crannies (just like us!), meaning you can get even more spices all up in there.

And there it goes!  45-55 minutes in my experience is perfect, depending on size.    Sticking in a thermometer (not pictured at this point) into the thickest part of the breast (and strategically positioning it near the opening of the lid of the smoker) before smoking allows you to sneak a quick peek to see if it’s done .

Remove, let it cool (if you want), slice, devour.  If you have any left for sandwiches, you may be a willpower savant.

Either way, congratulations!

Also, one more important note!  I have partnered with a great new website, called the Salty Fig.  It allows you to collect, edit and save recipes from their partners’ food blogs (which are growing in numbers every day), all in one place, as well as share your own family favorites, and even create custom recipe books, complete with photos and playlists!  For example, if you wanted to save this recipe and perhaps edit it to your liking, you’d just (after signing up) click the handy dandy purple button at the bottom of this post, and save the recipe however you would like.  Please check it out–I think you might like it.

Homemade Stovetop Smoker Turkey Pastrami
(adapted from about.com)

One 2-3 lb turkey breast

For brine:
1 quart water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 cloves garlic, crushed
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon whole cloves
3 bay leaves

For rub:
1/2 cup black peppercorns, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves 

Combine water, brown sugar and salt in a large pot and bring to boil, stirring to make sure everything has dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the brine ingredients.  Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, remove the skin from the turkey breast and use a sharp knife to cut away any bone still attached, if any.  Place the breast in a large plastic zip bag, and when the brine is completely cooled, pour it into the bag and seal tightly.  Place into a medium bowl and make sure brine covers breast completely.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for two days.

When ready to smoke, rinse the turkey well under cool, clean water, then pat dry completely with a paper towel.  Combine crushed black pepper and thyme and rub mixture all over the turkey.

Prepare stovetop smoker according to instructions (I used 1/2 cup of hickory chips).  Smoke for 45-55 minutes, or until a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees.  Remove from smoker and allow to cool.  Wrap tightly to store in the fridge.

Pin It


  1. says

    Oh my gosh. This looks delicious. You’re really making me consider this smoker thing. (as in stove-top smoker, not as in cigarette smoker ;P). Especially bc I just read that processed meats are one of the biggest factors in heart disease for women. Dadgumit. I love bacon. . . . I don’t want to have to quit it. Can you smoke uncured bacon?? Can you buy chunks of bacon from the butcher un-processed?? This turkey looks awesome though – and my kids would LOVE it. . . . Definite food for thought, that smoker.

    • says

      Haha yeah, the other kind of smoking wouldn’t do much for one’s risk of heart disease! I’m not super paranoid about things like this, but processed meats are definitely scary. I love the smoker, and the possibilites are endless–you could do fish, almonds, I even smoked salsa ingredients once (heavenly!).

      Bacon, however! I’m really not sure. I don’t know if it’s cool enough in one of those things–I wonder if all the fat would just melt. I think bacon is cold-smoked. But I’m definitely looking into this. In the meantime, Trader Joe’s has great nitrite/ate free bacon!