ADVANCE PREPARATION: 24 hours for curing the turkey breast
As a nice Jewish boy from Baltimore, I’ve been eating pastrami all my life, but it had never occurred to me that you could actually make it from scratch at home. Then I dined at the Park Avenue Cafe in New York City, where chef David Burke makes pastrami from just about everything—even salmon. The fact is pastrami is a curing and smoking process, not just a dish. Now I’ve become a pastrami fanatic, and one of my favorite iterations is turkey. It is slightly sweet, slightly salty, highly aromatic, delectably smoky, and surprisingly easy to make.
Setting Up the Grill
To set up a charcoal grill for smoking, first light the charcoal in a chimney starter.
Place a drip pan in the center of the grill and divide the coals evenly on either side of it.
Place ½ cup of drained wood chips on each mound of coals.
Preparing the Meat
If your turkey breast is bone-in, invert it, and using poultry shears, cut off the ribs.
Sprinkle one third of the rub on the underside of the breast.
Sprinkle the remaining rub onto the skin of the turkey breast, being sure to lift the skin at the neck end and to put some of the rub into the neck cavity.
After the turkey cures for 24 hours in the refrigerator (covered with plastic wrap), the salt in the rub will have drawn out some of the water from it; you can see the liquid here at the bottom of the baking dish.
On the Grill
Place the turkey on the grill grate, away from the heat. Add wood chips to the fire and replenish the coals after 1 hour, if using a charcoal grill.
Use an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness. The temperature in the thickest part of the breast should be at least 170°F. This will take 1½ to 2 hours.