Foolproof Grilled Turkey Breast with Butter and Herbs

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grilled turkey breasts

Years ago we started adding a whole grilled turkey breast along with a whole roasted turkey on Thanksgiving. I have a nice size group with my brother and sister in law, their family and ours, but as time went on we started to realize everyone likes to eat only the white meat. When it came to leftovers for everyone to take home there would hardly be any white meat left, and no one wanted the dark.

So now we have it down to a science, three whole turkey breasts on the grill. For our family it works, the flavor is amazing, everyone loves it and there are plenty of leftovers for everyone, who by the way, always enter my home with to-go containers. Another big bonus to grilling turkey breast is that my oven is freed up for all the delicious sides.

Now this concept might not work for every family. I’ll be the first to admit that a traditional whole roasted turkey looks beautiful when pulled from the oven on Thanksgiving day and I know there are many dark meat lovers out there who look forward to it, but you might want to consider making an extra turkey breast just for leftovers to pass out.

Grilling a whole turkey breast is also great for a smaller group or if you just have a taste for turkey on the grill though out the year. It’s slathered with a garlic herbed butter, it’s so moist and juicy, never drys out and the grilled flavor takes it over the top, what’s not to like?


butter and herbs

Just like the song my herbs of choice are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and of course butter and garlic.foil pans

I buy the deep foil pans like the one on the right, the one on the left is too shallow, and I like to double them for extra stability.turkey breasts

I mix a compound butter with the herbs and garlic but then I like to half melt the already room temperature butter so it’s really soft and I can easily brush it over and under the skin.

grilled turkey breasts

The breasts get propped up in the pan by a ball of heavy duty tin foil that I form and position it underneath the cavity, otherwise the breast will not be stable and fall over. They don’t take long to cook at all, I think max is an hour and fifteen minutes for a six to seven pound breast and you can rest it for an hour tented with foil when its off the grill and it will still be hot.electric knife slice

We love, love, love to use an electric knife, it cuts the turkey like butter. Walk into any thrift store and you’ll find a bunch of them, they were very popular back in the day, not much any more but we use ours every Thanksgiving.sliced turkey breast

This is pure deliciousness and it looks pretty fanned out on your platter!Grilled turkey breast

If you’re wondering about gravy, well I make it a week ahead of time with some turkey wings that I pick up and roast, there are many recipes you can find on the web for make ahead gravy. I love making the gravy ahead of time, no stress, worrying and rushing around to make gravy at the last minute, just heat up and go. There will be drippings in the foil pan which I save or add to my already made gravy or to make more the next day.Thanksgiving

The food most definitely plays a staring role on Thanksgiving Day, but family is really what it’s all about!

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Foolproof Grilled Turkey Breast with Butter and Herbs
  • 1 6-7 lb whole bone in, cavity attached, skin on turkey breast
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 very finely chopped and smashed garlic cloves
  • a handful of fresh parsley and sage, chopped
  • a smaller handful of fresh rosemary and thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • boxed low sodium turkey or chicken stock, so pan does not dry out on grill
  • 2 DEEP sided foil pans ( I like to double them for more strength) not the low half size lasagna pans.
  2. In a bowl add the softened butter, garlic, all the herbs, salt and pepper, mix well together adding more herbs if you so desire.
  4. Take out turkey breast from fridge, wash and pat very dry, let it sit out for an hour before prepping it so it's not ice cold.
  5. Salt and pepper the whole bird, gently loosening the skin by sliding your fingers until you reach the end of the breast, be very careful not to tear the skin.
  6. Take some heavy duty foil and scrunch it into a ball and position it in the cavity of the turkey to give it stability in the pan so it doesn't fall over, this will keep it straight and upright.
  7. Slightly melt your butter mixture and brush it all over and under the breast lifting up the skin where you loosened it and slathering it all over.
  8. For a gas grill we keep the temperature heated to around 350 F. consistently, so that will require some constant checking to make sure it's in the zone more or less as close as you can.
  9. Place the doubled pan onto the grill no cover required because you'll be shutting the lid of the grill.
  10. Pour some chicken or turkey stock right into the bottom of the pan about ¼ inch deep, which you'll be checking every 20 minutes so as to not dry out, you want to maintain that ¼ inch dept.
  11. All burners are on because the turkey breast is in a pan and not directly touching the grill.
  12. The turkey is done when it reaches 165 F. in the thickest part of the breast meat using a meat thermometer.
  13. Start checking after 50 minutes depending on size of turkey and your outdoor grill.
  14. When it done remove from grill, tent with foil and let it rest at least ½ hour more more like an hour for easy and smooth slicing.
  15. If you can get yourself an electric knife it's life changing!
  16. Don't forget to have your make ahead gravy ready and warmed.
  17. Save the drippings from the pan for extra gravy the next day or to make soup from the carcass.
  18. I used a gas grill here but same method would work for charcoal grill as well.


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  1. Marita Ghilardi says

    I love the simplicity of this idea! Can you tell me where you found the foil pans this size??

    • Marita, I find them wherever they sell foil pans. Grocery stores, restaurant supply stores even Walmart I’ve seen them there, you shouldn’t have a problem.

      • Marita Ghilardi says

        Thank you! I found them at Walmart and I cooked a half breast and a couple thighs for dinner last night also so I could make a gravy ahead of time, great tip!! The turkey turned out moist and flavorful. Will definitely be doing this again on Thanksgiving. Thanks again. BTW I made your Italian Christmas Tree Cake last year and everyone LOVED it! I think it will be a family tradition :))

  2. Thanks for the great idea and one an ADORABLE granddaughter!!:) She is a cutie pie!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Carol Szafalowicz says

    Forget the turkey, I want to eat that little peanut up………how cute is she!!! Doesn’t get cuter.

    And yes, great idea and I love the idea of making the gravy ahead of time. Looks wonderful. As always, you are the best!
    Happy Thanksgiving Marie to you and your family.

  4. Marie, they look fabulous! Thank you so much for the “how to”.

  5. You are the queen of holiday cooking. I admire you so.

  6. No family here this year, so I am going to try this recipe! It looks delicious, Marie! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! P.S. I have the same plates and only use them for Thanksgiving.

    • My aunt gave me those plates and I have the platters too, I use them for Thanksgiving like you do. Have a wonderful cozy Thanksgiving Patricia

  7. And it makes for such a pretty presentation, too. May not be quite an impressive as a whole bird, but very inviting.

  8. Love this an so proud of you for admitting that the whole turkey is not always appreciated or necessary. Bravo for using the disposable pans! Yes, it is all about the family and that little one is just darling.

  9. Thank you for this recipe. It sounds perfect. I am going to give it a try this Thanksgiving. Could you share your gravy recipe? Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Oh gosh Marie – You never fail to impress me with your great ideas. I am a white meat lover (mostly) but I do have family that loves the dark meat too, so I can’t make only the breasts. I have actually never cooked just the turkey breast, but you’ve given me a great idea for people to have leftovers to take home. I love the idea of having all that room in the oven for your side dishes too. I wonder what it would be like to grill the whole turkey on the outdoor bbq grill? hmm. The best thing you posted though, is that photo of your beautiful granddaughter. Yes, it is so true – it’s all about the family. Happy Thanksgiving, amica.

    • Yes Linda you certainly can grill a whole turkey, you can put it in a pan to catch all the dripping they’re delicious that way, there’s a ton of ways to do it just Google it. I know your Thanksgiving will be filled with lots of love and good food my friend. xo

  11. Years ago, we started preparing an extra turkey on the grill also. I never thought to just prepare the turkey breast!! Great idea. This will be on our grill this year instead of the whole bird!

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