Roast Turkey Breast

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Cook a roast turkey breast instead of a whole bird for a fast and easy feast. Starting at high oven temperatures ensures a crispy browned skin, but then reducing the heat to finish cooking creates juicy slices of meat.

slices of roast turkey breast on a cutting board
Table of Contents
  1. Turkey breast selection
  2. The seasonings
  3. Elevate for even cooking
  4. Make gravy with the pan drippings
  5. Serve this with
  6. Roast Turkey Breast Recipe

A whole turkey is the star of any holiday table, but it can be a little intimidating to take on. Instead, why not make a roast turkey breast to satisfy those tryptophan-induced cravings, without all the fuss. Just focusing on one portion of the bird allows you to ensure that it’s tender and properly cooked.

The best way to achieve crispy golden skin and moist meat is to employ high and then low-temperature roasting conditions. To make this recipe even more straightforward to prepare, all you need is five ingredients. The turkey is covered with butter and thyme to add an herb layer under the skin. When the turkey cooks in the oven, it bastes in the seasonings for delicious pieces of meat.

Turkey breast selection

For this recipe, use a large boneless turkey breast about 4 to 6 pounds in weight. If you purchase a bone-in piece, try to get a larger size knowing that the weight will drop once the bone is removed. Smaller portions can be used, however, reduce the cooking time at the low-temperature setting, checking with a thermometer for the right doneness temperature.

Just like with my roasted chicken recipe, make sure to keep the skin on! The barrier protects the meat from drying out too quickly on the surface and creates a golden brown skin which many people love. For maximum flavor, I loosen the skin of the turkey breast and rub a mixture of butter, salt, and chopped thyme on top. This process provides equally seasoned meat under the skin, not just on the bottom of the roast.

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The seasonings

Trim any extra skin or loose pieces of meat. It’s best to have the breast to be as consistent in thickness as possible for even cooking. Use paper towels to dry the skin. The least amount of moisture on the surface allows for quick browning and ultimate crispiness. Lightly season both sides with salt and pepper. The breast can also be brined beforehand for added moisture and flavor.

Gently loosen and separate the skin from the breast, keeping the sides intact. Rub the herb butter underneath the skin onto the meat. Brush the skin with melted butter. Ghee or olive oil can also be used and may yield a crunchier skin since there is no water in the product.

roasted turkey breast with crispy skin placed on a cooling rack

Elevate for even cooking

Roast on a sheet pan topped with a sturdy wire rack which allows the meat to lay flat and elevated for even cooking. Alternatively, you can use a traditional roasting rack set in a large pan. Cook at 450ºF for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325ºF for the remaining cook time.

Make sure to rest the turkey for 20 minutes before slicing. This gives time for the proteins in the meat to relax, which allows for some of the expelled moisture to move back into dissolved proteins. The result- maximum juiciness.

Make gravy with the pan drippings

The moment you slice into the turkey breast, you’ll hear the crackling sound of the skin. The meat is cooked to perfection and is well seasoned with herbs and spices. Save those pan drippings to make delicious homemade gravy, it’s so flavorful and you don’t want it to go to waste. Impress your guests with tasty servings of turkey that doesn’t take all day to make- it’s a win for the busy home cook!

roast turkey breast being sliced with a knife on a cutting board

Serve this with

How long to cook a turkey breast?

A general guide is about 22 to 25 minutes per pound of turkey breast. Since this roasting method starts with a very high temperature of 450ºF, the turkey will likely be ready to serve sooner. Keep a close eye on the internal temperature of the meat at the end of cooking at 325ºF to ensure it does not overcook.

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Roast Turkey Breast

Roast turkey breast is a great holiday dinner option for a smaller group. The recipe yields flavorful crispy skin with moist tender white meat. 
Pin Print Review
4.22 from 38 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 4 pound turkey breast, boneless, skin on

Instructions 

  • Place the oven rack in the lower third position. Preheat to 450ºF (232ºC).
  • Thoroughly dry the turkey breast on both sides with paper towels. Season the bottom sides with about ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. More or less may be needed depending on the size of the breast. Flip over, skin-side up.
  • Combine 2 tablespoons softened butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and chopped thyme in a small bowl.
  • Carefully loosen and separate the skin from the thickest part of the breast, making sure that the sides of the skin are still connected to the meat. Evenly rub the butter and thyme mixture under the skin, being careful not to separate the edges of the skin from the breast.
  • Brush about 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the surface of the turkey skin. Evenly season the surface with about ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  • Transfer breast to the wire rack placed on top of a sheet tray. Roast the turkey breast for 30 minutes.
  • Turn the oven temperature down to 325ºF (163ºC). Cook until the thickest part of the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165ºF, about 30 to 45 minutes. Rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Notes

  • Turkey Size: This recipe should work with a turkey breast up to 6lbs (2.7kg).
  • Alternative to Wire Rack: A roasting rack or a large cast iron pan. Alternatively, it can be placed on a sheet pan on a bed of mixed roots vegetables.
  • MAKE IT WHOLE 30: Substitute Ghee for butter.

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Nutrition Facts
Roast Turkey Breast
Amount Per Serving
Calories 369 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 191mg64%
Sodium 991mg41%
Potassium 823mg24%
Protein 73g146%
Vitamin A 155IU3%
Calcium 48mg5%
Iron 1.9mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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13 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Maggie Morris says

    Jessica,
    Maggie Morris here. Katie’s sister. I made this as a trial run for Thanksgiving. It was incredibly moist. I have found a new Thanksgiving turkey. And the leftovers made a great turkey tetrazzini
    Keep the recipes coming.
    Maggie

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hey Maggie! So glad to hear that you had good results 🙂 I love the use of the leftovers, I’ll have to give that a try. Happy holidays!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Al- Depending on availability I get the turkey breast from Albertson’s or my local gourmet grocery store.

  2. Erica says

    Can I make gravy from the drippings? Would I just put chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan to do this?

  3. Gary Bastoky says

    Do you not recommend brining a turkey breast? I have been cooking an organic turkey breasts for Thanksgiving for decades. The past few years I’ve brined it, which gives me the crispy skin you mention. I’ve never tried butter and seasoning under the skin. Will this give me the same results as brining?

  4. Esther says

    I’m roasting the whole turkey cut up into parts this year. Could I use this recipe and if so what modifications do you suggest?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, you could use this recipe. Is the turkey basted already? I would place the parts on a flat wire rack set on top of the vegetables when you are roasting. Check the temperatures early for doneness since it will cook much quicker.

  5. Brian says

    Why do you not mention what temperature to remove the breast from the oven. USDA says 165 minimum, but I find that its usually too done at that temp. i have been removing at 150-155 and with rest it is usually perfect?

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