Imagine, if you will, a dish that tastes like Buffalo wings: spicy-zingy, meaty, with the rich creaminess of blue cheese dressing. Now imagine it without bones. Now imagine it grilled. And big. And, well, turkey. That’s Buffalo-style stuffed turkey breast!
This butterflied turkey breast, stuffed with blue and cream cheeses, marinated in hot sauce, and basted with buffalo sauce is an absolute treat. We went into the cook fairly excited but were way more impressed by the result than we thought we would be. The breast meat came out tender and juicy, the filling delicious, and the whole thing had more of the buffalo-sauce flavor than we expected.
The keys to this cook are careful rolling and thermal thinking. It would be easy to overcook the breasts, drying them out, and it would be equally easy to undercook them, making your dinner unsafe. But with the temp tips we present below, you’ll have no problem getting them right. And you’ll be glad you did! Let’s take a look.
What meat to use: boneless turkey breast
We liked making this dish out of whole, boneless turkey breast. But boneless, skinless whole turkey breast is not always easy to find, so we recommend buying a whole bone-in breast. That will give you two boneless breasts to work with. If you find a single boneless breast, you can halve this recipe easily enough.
A turkey breast is a thick thing, so you’ll need to butterfly it. I find it best to lay the breast down with the long axis pointing away from you, skin side down, and butterfly from the center outwards. Cut from the center to the left and then from the center to the right.
But even then, it may be on the thick and uneven side for stuffing and rolling, so you’ll want to cover it with a sheet of plastic and pound it flat with a meat mallet. The meat should be about 1/4–1/2″ thick throughout.
How to cook a stuffed turkey breast—temperature talk
Turkey—and chicken—breast meat is easy to overcook and dry out. Cook it past 160°F (71°C) and it starts to dry out. We’ll shoot for an internal temperature of 157°F (96°C) for this cook. Don’t worry, though! Bacterial kill-off is a function of both time and temperature, and at that temperature, the bacteria will be dead in 50 seconds—and there’s no way your chicken will cool past that internal temperature in that time. (See the article in the hyperlink at the beginning of this paragraph for more on that.)
Use a fast and accurate thermometer, like Thermapen® ONE, to check the temperature after the turkey has been cooking for about 15 minutes. Look for a temp no lower than 157°F (96°C) in the center—and be sure to remove it from heat by the time it gets to 165°F (74°C).
(As a matter of course, it’s worth knowing that boneless turkey thigh [or home-deboned] would also work well, but you’d want to push your pull temp up past 175°F [79°C].)
Pull temps are critical, but they can’t do all the work themselves. We have to think of how the heat is entering the meat throughout the cook. If we leave the turkey on one side until we get halfway to our target temp, then flip it and cook it the rest of the way, both sides will be well overcooked by the time the center is done. We need to flip it more frequently. Flipping every 3 minutes will cook the meat more gently and evenly, allowing the heat to both soak into the meat and vent off into the air. This frequent flipping partly mimics a rotisserie. Will you end up with the most beautiful grill lines? Probably not. Will you end up with juicy turkey? Yes!
Also note that cooking a stuffed turkey breast over a raging inferno is a bad plan. We want a nice moderate, direct-heat fire for this cook, about 375°F (191°C).
Stuffing a turkey breast
Stuffing this thing isn’t the easiest task I’ve ever written about, but it’s not all that bad. Lay out the butterflied, pounded breast long-ways (horizontal) in front of you, the smear on the filling. Roll it up from one side toward the other, not from the top down. Correct rolling will make more layers, and more layers will keep more of the melty cheese filling inside the bird. It’s tempting to just fold the whole thing in half and pin it with toothpicks, but that single fold will leak filling like a fountain. Roll it up as tightly as you can and it will have more of that delicious blue-cheesy creaminess at the end of the cook.
I hope you try this recipe, and that you try it soon. Frozen turkey breasts are usually easy to find throughout the year, so you don’t need to wait for November to try it out. It’s quite easy to make, and the reward-to-effort ratio is huge. Get the temperatures right and remember to flip the meat frequently, and you’ll have a treat that is as good for a summer dinner as it is for a February game-day celebration. Give it a try, then share the recipe with your friends—they’ll thank you for it. Enjoy!Print
Adapted from a recipe at Turkeysmoke.org
- 2 boneless turkey breasts, tenders removed
- 1/2 c hot sauce
- 6 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp seasoned salt (or a 2:1 mix of salt and pepper)
- 2 Tbsp hot sauce
- 6 Tbsp shredded carrots
- 4 Tbsp blue cheese crumbles
- 6 Tbsp butter, room temperature for basting sauce
- 6 Tbsp hot sauce, for basting sauce
- Preheat your grill and prepare it for moderate direct cooking. You want it to be running at about 375°F (191°C).
- Butterfly the turkey breasts, then pound them out until about 1/4″ thick.
- Combine the breasts and the 1/2 C hot sauce in a bowl large enough to contain them. Toss to evenly coat. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling by combining the cream cheese, garlic, seasoned salt, 2 Tbsp hot sauce, shredded carrot, and blue cheese crumbles. Mash and mix together until everything is evenly distributed.
- Lay one of the flattened breasts in front of you with the smoothest side (the original skin-side) down, so that its long edge is parallel to the edge of your counter (landscape orientation, not portrait).
- Spread half of the filling on the breast. Roll it up from the left or right. (You want the smooth skin-side to be the last part rolled so that it looks nice and neat.)
- Secure the roll with toothpicks or skewers. (If using skewers, clip the skewers close to the body of the turkey roll. We didn’t at first and it was almost disastrous.)
- Heat the remaining hot sauce to 100°F (38°C), whisk in the butter. This will be your basting sauce.
- Move the turkey rolls to the grill, close the lid, and start cooking.
- Flip the turkey breast rolls every 3 minutes.
- After the first two flips, start basting the turkey with the sauce after each flip. Don’t baste once you start nearing pull temp, as the basting liquid will have accumulated raw turkey juices that you don’t want to apply without giving them time to cook.
- After about 20 minutes of cooking, start checking the internal temperature with your Thermapen ONE.
- When the internal temperature is no lower than 157°F (69°C), remove the turkey from the grill. (At 157°F the bacteria in the turkey will be dead after 49 seconds, and the carryover cooking will keep it at that temp or higher for at least that long.)
- Allow the stuffed breasts to rest for 15–20 minutes.
- Slice and serve, maybe with celery and blue cheese dressing for dipping.
If, by some mad chance, there are leftovers, let me just say this: Buffalo turkey sandwiches.
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