Roast Turkey Breast

4.94 from 63 votes
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Cook an oven-roasted turkey breast instead of a whole bird for a fast and easy feast. Starting at high oven temperatures ensures a crispy browned skin, but reducing the heat to finish creates juicy slices of meat.

Slices of roast turkey breast on a cutting board.

A whole turkey is the star of any holiday table, but it can be a little intimidating to take on. Instead, why not make this roast turkey breast recipe 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, you only need 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.

Person drying the surface of a turkey breast with paper towels.
Step 2. Dry the surface

Turkey breast selection

I recommend using a large boneless turkey breast of about 4 to 6 pounds for this recipe. If you purchase a bone-in turkey breast, 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 in the thickest part for the proper 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 that many people love. For maximum flavor, I loosen the skin of the turkey breast and rub a mixture of butter, kosher salt, and chopped thyme on top. This process provides equally seasoned meat under the skin, not just on the bottom of the roast.

Placing a herb butter mixture underneath the turkey breast skin.
Step 3. Season under the skin

The seasonings

Trim any extra skin or loose pieces of meat. It’s best to have the breast 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 brine the turkey beforehand for added moisture and flavor.

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

Elevate for even cooking

Roast on a sheet pan topped with a sturdy wire rack. This allows the meat to lay flat and elevated for even cooking. Alternatively, you can use a traditional roasting rack set in a large roasting pan. Cook at 450ºF (232ºC) for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325ºF (163ºC) for the remaining cook time. I like to stop cooking when the thickest part of the meat reaches about 160ºF (71ºC).

Make sure to rest the turkey for 20 minutes before slicing. This allows the meat’s proteins to relax, allowing some of the expelled moisture to move back into dissolved proteins: the result- maximum juiciness. The carry-over cooking helps the meat reach about 165 degrees, the perfect serving temperature.

Beautiful roasted turkey breast with crispy skin placed on a cooling rack.
Step 5. Roast the meat

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!

Serve this with

Frequently asked questions

How do you keep a turkey breast moist when roasting?

Start roasting at a high 450ºF (232ºC) for 30 minutes. This will help develop a golden brown and crispy. Then turn the heat down to 325ºF (163ºC) for the remainder of the time to gently cook the breast and prevent the meat from drying out.

Should a turkey breast be roasted covered or uncovered?

Roast the meat uncovered. This will help the skin become crispy instead of flabby.

Roast turkey breast being sliced with a knife on a cutting board.

Recipe Science

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 (232ºC), 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 (163ºC) to ensure it does not overcook.

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. 
4.94 from 63 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
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 

  • Preheat the Oven – Place the oven rack in the lower third position. Preheat to 450ºF (232ºC).
  • Season the Surface – Thoroughly dry the turkey breast with paper towels. Season the bottom with about ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. More or less may be needed depending on the size. Flip over, skin-side up.
  • Season Under the Skin – 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 with Butter – Brush about 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the turkey skin. Evenly season with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  • Roast the Meat – Transfer the 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 (72 to 74ºC), about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Let it Rest – Before slicing, let the turkey breast rest for 20 minutes.

Notes

  • Turkey Size: For a breast larger than 4 pounds, adjust the cooking time. Roast until the thickest part of the meat reaches 160 to 165ºF (72 to 74ºC). 
  • Bone-in Breast: More time may be needed for bone-in breasts. 
  • Alternative to Wire Rack: Use a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Alternatively, place turkey on a bed of mixed root vegetables like carrots, onion, and celery, in a sheet pan, roasting pan, or large cast iron skillet.
  • Make it Whole30: Substitute Ghee for butter.
  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Freeze for up to 3 months. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 369kcal (18%)Protein 73g (146%)Fat 8g (12%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Cholesterol 191mg (64%)Sodium 991mg (41%)Potassium 823mg (24%)Vitamin A 155IU (3%)Calcium 48mg (5%)Iron 1.9mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Suzanne says

    I am making a bone in Turkey breast that I will spatchcock 🤞🏻🤞🏻Making in a cast iron braising pan with a rack. It’s my first time just making a Turkey breast always do a whole Turkey. This recipe sounds wonderful!!

  2. Alex says

    Thank you Jessica! I had a 1 kilogram turkey breast.. my first time cooking turkey and it turned out perfectly! Made our Christmas perfect!!

  3. 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?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Brian- The recommended doneness temperature to remove the breast from the oven is in the last step of the recipe. You can modify it to your liking. Happy Thanksgiving!

  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. 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?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can definitely still brine the turkey breast, then add the butter and seasonings after. It will still give crispy skin if the surface is nice and dry.

  6. 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?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, you can definitely make gravy for the drippings. Check out my post for “how to make gravy” for step by step instructions.

    • Jessica Gavin says

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

  7. 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!