On our wanderings we came across a butcher selling ‘home reared’ turkey and turkey breasts. Well for 2 of us even a 1kg turkey breast seemed quite a lot of meat and even that was going to be a bit of a ‘tight squeeze’ on the Mini BGE. But the challenge was set! The question was how to cook it? Well we were talking about a skin free turkey breast – so that removed ideas of butter and herbs under the skin – and even in the Big Green Egg drying out was always a possibility. In the end we went for something of a fusion of ideas – some of the flavours of Italian cooked meats; paprika, oregano and fennel seeds all wrapped in thin strips of pancetta and a nod to the USA with some hickory smoke in the cooking.
The turkey breast was first wiped dry and rubbed with a little olive oil – no brining here! A rub comprising paprika, oregano and whole fennel seeds with a little salt and black peppers was applied to all the surfaces and cavities around the turkey breast. Next came the pancetta lattice, which was a first for me and comfortingly straightforward! Simply start with a long strip running the full length of the turkey and then the next at 90 degrees across the width of the bird. Then the next the full length, interlacing with the last and so on until the full breast was covered. A small ‘pad’ of aluminium foil was made with 4 layers of foil and the lattice breast was sat on this. It was there just to hold the strips in place when placed on the hot grill.
The Big Green Egg was setup for indirect cooking – to use the Egg as a charcoal oven. Once lit and the fire established, a handful of hickory chips that had been soaking in water for about half an hour was laid around the charcoal – just outside the burning area. The platesetter was put in place, feet up and the whole thing topped off with the cast iron grill (placed upside down so the meat would sit on the wide bars). Once the oven was up to 180C the meat was carefully transferred and any loose edges of pancetta carefully tucked into place. An indwelling remote temperature probe (iGrill) was put in place and the cooking began! As the fire established itself further, the hickory chips smouldered beautifully, creating a delightfully light smokey aroma!
The BGE was then left to its own devices for the next hour or so until the internal temperature of the turkey was approaching 69C.
Experience has taught me that removing it off the grill at this temperature and double wrapping in foil will allow the meat to continue cooking and for the internal temperature to rise by 5C as long as it is given some time. Therefore it will reach the recommended safe temperature of 74C and stay there for some considerable time and can be tested with an instant read temperature probe (Heston Blumenthal recommends removing even earlier, at 60C but then holding the meat for at least 12 mins to get the same antibacterial effect but at a lower temperature – removing from the oven at 69C gives a greater safety margin without any fears of overcooking). Cooked in the hickory smoke the pancetta takes on a wonderful golden colour and a gloriously subtle smoky spicy aroma! The turkey was carefully removed and double wrapped and left to rest.
A lovely round courgette and 2 tomatoes were roughly chunked, popped into our 7 inch cast iron frying pan – which just fits into the Mini BGE, drizzled with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper and left for about 10 minutes to cook gently.
Slightly more sensibly it was sliced, keeping the lattice in place and at that point you could just see the remnants of the rub, particularly the fennel seeds between the lattice and the turkey. The turkey was served with the warmed courgette and tomato mix and a little wild rice. It is difficult to describe the subtlety of the smoky taste, and whilst it was confined mostly to the pancetta there was still a very gentle flavour of hickory smoke in the turkey itself. This married beautifully with the gentle fennel flavour from the fennel seeds themselves. …. delicious!
But that’s not all!!
With a kilo of turkey and just 2 of us there was plenty left!!
I have to say that sliced cold the following day the tastes and texture were perhaps even better! The lattice stayed beautifully intact and in the picture on the right you can see the fennel based ‘rub’ between the 2 flaps of the turkey breast. If you normally find turkey breast a little dry this recipe will be something of a revelation – do give it a try!
Italian Smoked Turkey Breast
Turkey breast wrapped in a pancetta lattice with Italian herbs and a little hickory smoke
- 16 thin strips of pancetta
- 1kg Turkey breast
- Olive Oil
- For the rub:Equal volumes of paprika, dried oregano and whole fennel seeds with a little salt and black peppers
- Step 1 Wipe the dried turkey breast with a generous amount of olive oil and apply the rub to all surfaces of the breast especially to the area between the 2 flaps of breast meat
- Step 2 Start with a long strip of pancetta running the full length of the turkey and then the next at 90 degrees across the width of the breast. Then the next the full length, interlacing with the last and so on until the full breast was covered
- Step 3 Make a small ‘pad’ of aluminium foil with 4 layers of foil and sit the latticed breast on this.
- Step 4 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and once the fire is established add a handful of soaked hickory chips around charcoal just outside the burning area. Put in the platesetter feet up, add the cast iron grill
- Step 5 Once the oven is up to 180C carefully transfer the turkey breast to the grill and tuck in any loose edges of pancetta.
- Step 6 Monitor the internal temperature of the turkey, ideally with an indwelling temperature probe
- Step 7 Cook until the internal temperature approaches 69C.
- Step 8 Remove the turkey and double wrapping in foil and leave to rest and let the internal temperature reach 74C
- Step 9 A lovely round courgette and 2 tomatoes were roughly chunked, popped into our 7 inch cast iron frying pan – which just fits into the Mini BGE. Drizzled with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper they were left for about 10 minutes to cook gently.
- Step 10 Serve with summer vegetables and wild rice
- Step 11 With the remainder, when cold, slice more thinly and serve