Rotisserie Turkey Breast with Spice Rub

There is one problem with cooking Turkey to 150*F. Dark meat. Turkey breast may be better cooked to 150*F, but turkey legs and thighs need the extra heat to break down the fat and connective tissue; they’re OK at 165*F, but they’re better at 170*F, and great at 175*F to 180*F. This is why cooking a whole bird is such a difficult balancing act – the lean breast meat needs to come off the heat the moment it is done, but the legs are better the longer you can cook them.

The solution? Julia Child explained in “The Way to Cook” all those years ago – don’t cook a whole turkey. Carve the legs off of the breast before cooking. That way, I can pull the breast meat out the moment it is ready, and leave the legs to continue to cook. At the time, this seemed sacrilegious – I want the Normal Rockwell picture. I want to carry a whole turkey to the Thanksgiving table in triumph, not a collection of turkey pieces. Eventually I realized that I shouldn’t fight science, or Julia. Turkey breast just tastes better when you cook it on its own.
*This might be why I’m such a fan of dark meat turkey. I cook a whole bird for Thanksgiving, but I’m first in line for a drumstick.

Here is my new favorite turkey breast recipe. I cook it to 150*F, so it is juicy and tender. The rotisserie gives it beautifully crisp skin, the spice rub adds a complex layer of flavor to the exterior. What could be better?
*What could be better? The leftovers – turkey sandwiches for the rest of the week. Just add bread, lettuce, tomato and mayo.

Recipe: Rotisserie Turkey Breast with Spice Rub

Inspired by: Bobby Flay Turkey Breast with Spanish Spice Rub

Cook time: 2 hours


  • Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit 650 with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here it is.)
  • Aluminum foil drip pan (9″x12″, or whatever fits your grill)


  • 1 whole turkey breast (6-7 lbs)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (preferably smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 4 teaspoons Kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons table salt)
Spices ready to be mixed into a rub

1. Spice Rub the Turkey Breast: In a small bowl, mix the paprika, coriander, cumin, black pepper, mustard powder and salt. Rub 1 tablespoon of the spices in the big cavity. Work the skin loose from the breast, being careful not to tear it, and rub 1 tablespoon of spices directly on the breast meat, under the skin. Sprinkle the rest of the spices over the outside of the turkey. (Note: If you have time, dry brine the turkey breast with the spice rub. Rub with spices the night before, or up to 48 hours before cooking. Wrap the turkey in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until 2 hours before cooking).

Work the spice between the skin and the turkey
…really get it on there good

2. Prepare the grill: Set your grill up for rotisserie cooking at medium heat, roughly 400*F. For my Weber Summit, this means turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to medium, and turning the infrared burner to medium. Then I put my drip pan in the middle, over the unlit burners. (See here for more rotisserie setup details.)

3. Truss and Skewer the Turkey: If there is loose skin on the turkey (around the wings and the neck), truss it once, around the wing sockets, and tuck loose skin under the butcher’s twine. Skewer the turkey on your spit, running the prongs under the belly of the bird, so you don’t pierce the meat on the breast.

4. Cook the Turkey: Put the spit on the grill, start the rotisserie motor, and cook with the lid closed. It should take 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the breast. My 6 pound breast was done in 1 hour and 30 minutes. It’s better to go by temperature, though – you want the breast at the thickest part to read 150*F to 155*F; start checking about 15 minutes before you think the bird will be done.

5. Serve Remove the turkey from the spit, and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. I like to cut the breast halves from the carcass, then slice them crosswise into 1/4″ thick slices. Serve with the juices in the drip pan, if they’re not sooty from your fire.
*On a gas grill, this isn’t a problem, but check them if you’re using charcoal.

*Add rotisserie pan sweet potatoes to the drip pan for a quick and easy side dish. The spice rub is a great match with sweet potatoes; sprinkle a little on the sweet potatoes before you put them in the drip pan.

*As I mention in the head note, the key is to cook the breast to 150*F – turkey breast is so lean, that it goes from juicy to terribly dry if it is slightly overcooked. An instant read thermometer is absolutely necessary.

*The spice rub started to burn after an hour on the grill, so I shut off my infrared rotisserie burner and relied on the indirect heat from my two outer burners to finish cooking the turkey.

*Speaking of the spice rub…I wanted to call it a Spanish spice rub, because of the smoked paprika. But the rest of the spices are there because I like their combined flavors, not because of any Spanish flavor profile. In other words, it’s a global mishmash of spices to match my taste.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Rotisserie Turkey Breast, Dry Brined is a simple version of this recipe.
Rotisserie Pan Sweet Potatoes
Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices
Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.

Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.

Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.

It’s a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!

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  1. If the body of the bird is on the rotisserie, where are you cooking the legs and wings?

  2. The whole turkey is on the rotisserie – see the pictures.

  3. Steve Johnston /

    I’m curious….. I’ve always been under the impression that you need to wrap the turkey in foil to keep the juices in, until the last hour or so to brown it. I see that this, and most other recipes don’t mention this. Are there any dryness issues from skipping the foil wrap?

  4. The key to keeping the juices in: cook the turkey to the correct temperature. Juices are squeezed out of meat when the muscle fibers tighten up as the turkey is heated; wrapping the turkey in foil doesn’t change that. Cook the breast to 150°F to 160°F and it will be juicy; cook it past that and it will dry out.

  5. Steve Johnston /

    Perfect, thanks Mike!

  6. Dean Piccirilli /

    I’ve made this at least 10 times, it is amazing in flavor! I did my one the same type of Weber Grill, The smoked Paprika is great! Take it off at 150 Degrees, I let mine sit for 1/2 hour covered with foil! Enjoy!!

    Dad Who Loves to Cook

  7. Excellent! I’m thrilled to hear you get a lot of mileage out of this recipe.

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