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Home Recipes Turkey Homemade Smoked Turkey Lunch Meat

This homemade smoked turkey lunch meat is the perfect way to get deli-quality lunch meat without the preservatives.

This recipe is my favorite way to get that thinly sliced turkey breast you’d find on a deli sandwich. The difference is that by making it yourself, you can prepare it without sodium nitrite or sodium nitrates. 

Two turkey sandwiches with bacon and avocado stacked on top of each other.

What is turkey lunch meat?

When you go to the grocery store or deli counter, you’ll see a wide variety of sliced turkey lunch meat. These slices are great for building sandwiches or wraps or for tossing on salads.

But where do these slices come from when a whole turkey is full of bones?

Generally, the slices are cut from the breast meat. By itself, this boneless white meat is a little larger than a chicken breast, but still not large enough to create those hefty deli slices.

That’s where the turkey roast comes in. A turkey roast is a collection of boneless turkey meat that is layered together, wrapped in elastic netting and then frozen.

The roast can include all white meat or a mixture of white and dark meat. I prefer the combo, because the dark meat adds more richness.

When the roast is cooked, the meat fuses together to form a solid piece of meat. Then, you can slice it into those large deli slices for your sandwich.

Plate of homemade sliced turkey lunch meat.

How to make all-natural turkey

When you pick out a frozen turkey roast, check the label. It may be pre-seasoned or contain sodium phosphates in the brine or artificial flavors. 

If you are looking for a healthier choice, ask your butcher for a raw, unprocessed boneless turkey breast. You can even be super specific and tell them you want one with no added hormones or other artificial ingredients.

Then, you can make your own turkey roast by rolling the breast up and sliding it into elastic netting. From there, choose a seasoning that matches your dietary needs or keep it really simple with just olive oil and sea salt. 


Ingredients

  • Turkey Roast: Look for a 3-pound frozen turkey roast. You can buy an all white meat breast roast or a roast with white and dark meat. Let it thaw before seasoning.
  • Poultry Rub: I use my award-winning Chicken Rub, but you can experiment with different seasonings if you like. 

Substitutions: Other flavors that work well with turkey lunch meat are Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, maple bourbon rub and even pastrami rub. By using your own seasoning, you control how much sodium the lunch meat has.

See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.

bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

How to smoke a turkey roast to make lunch meat

There are a few phases to this recipe. First, the turkey will go through a dry brine process. Then, it gets smoked. Then, it needs to be chilled to help you get those perfectly thin slices.

I like to smoke the turkey on a pellet smoker. You can also use a gas grill or charcoal grill to cook the turkey. 

  1. STEP ONE: Make sure that your turkey roast is completely thawed. Leave the elastic netting on the roast. Then, apply dry rub on all sides.
Turkey roast seasoned.
  1. STEP TWO: Wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. This is a dry brine, but you can also use a wet brine if you prefer, like my smoked turkey brine
Turkey roast seasoned and wrapped in plastic.
  1. STEP THREE: Preheat your grill to 250F. Remove the plastic wrap and place the turkey roast on the smoker over indirect heat and smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F degrees. This will take 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
turkey, roast beef and pork loin on smoker.

PRO TIP: For best results, insert a leave-in thermometer into the turkey roast from one end toward the center of the meat. Set the thermometer to 165F. It will sound an alarm when it’s ready.

  1. STEP FOUR: Remove the turkey from the smoker. Remove the netting right away. Once it cools, it sticks to the meat. Let cool on the counter for 30 minutes.
  1. STEP FIVE: Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The colder it is, the easier it will slice.
  1. STEP SIX: Using a meat slicer or very sharp knife, slice the breast meat to your desired thickness.
slicing smoked turkey roast with meat slicer.

How to serve deli-sliced smoked turkey

For turkey sandwiches, layer the slices of moist turkey on top of sandwich bread. Add your favorite condiments for a delicious lunch. Plan on around 2 ounces of meat per sandwich.

two turkey sandwiches by plate of sliced turkey.

To make a wrap, spread a tortilla with mayo or smashed avocado. Add layers of sliced turkey lunch meat, bacon, lettuce and tomato and roll it up.

For salads, cut the slices into strips and toss with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and dressing.

You can even whip up a quick meal by mixing smoked turkey with freshly cooked pasta and Alfredo sauce.

Storage

Leftover smoked turkey can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Leftover turkey can also be frozen for up to 2 months.

If you freeze the turkey lunch meat, portion out individual servings of sliced meat into plastic bags. Write a date on them and pop them into the freezer. 


GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • To get the best sliced turkey, start with a turkey roast
  • Keep the elastic netting on the roast as it cooks
  • Smoke to an internal temperature of 165F degrees
  • Let the meat fully cool before slicing

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I smoke a whole turkey instead of just the turkey roast?

If you want to smoke a whole turkey for sandwiches, make my Smoked Pulled Turkey recipe instead. You won’t be able to get nice slices of turkey meat from a whole turkey.

Do I need to flip the turkey roast while it’s smoking?

Nope. Just let it smoke for the allotted time.

How can I make sure the turkey won’t dry out? 

The overnight dry brine is the secret to super juicy turkey. Don’t forget this step.

Can I eat turkey lunch meat while pregnant or breastfeeding?

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, the FDA recommends heating deli meat before eating it to reduce the risk of listeria monocytogenes.

By making homemade lunch meat and limiting the time the sliced meat is in the refrigerator, the risk is lower.

Are cold cuts high in sodium?

When purchasing pre-made cold cuts, look at the nutrition labels. Boar’s Head turkey has just over 300 mg of sodium; whereas Oscar Mayer turkey breast has 500 mg of sodium. Some brands also include artificial color and artificial preservatives.

You can look for low-sodium deli meats or make this deli turkey recipe. It’s a great way to control the ingredients.


More Turkey Recipes

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5 from 1 vote

Homemade Smoked Turkey Lunch Meat

This homemade smoked turkey lunch meat is the perfect way to get deli-quality lunch meat without the preservatives.
Prep Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 11 hours
Servings: 16

Ingredients 

  • 3 lb turkey roast, thawed
  • 2 tbsp poultry rub

Instructions 

  • Season: Keep the elastic netting on the turkey roast. Apply the rub on all sides of the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  • Heat Grill: Heat your grill or smoker to 250F degrees with an indirect heat zone.
  • Smoke: Remove the turkey from the plastic wrap. Keep the netting on. Place it on the smoker and cook to an internal temperature of 165F degrees. This will take 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  • Cool: Remove the meat from the smoker. Remove the netting and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Wrap: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • Slice: Using a meat slicer or sharp knife, slice to your desired thickness.

Notes

You can use an all white meat roast or a roast with white and dark meat. Check the packaging. Some are already pre-seasoned. 

Nutrition

Calories: 73kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 13gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 1014mgPotassium: 178mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 13IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 14mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: lunch
Cuisine: American
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Hey BBQ Family

Hi. I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and have dozens of top ten category finishes. People know me as the girl who is forever hovering over a grill, smoker or campfire with tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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