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. This recipe is a great dinner option to serve a smaller group for the holidays.
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. You can also create a homemade gravy from the pan drippings. 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!
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.
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.
Roast turkey breast
Roast on a sheet pan topped with a sturdy wire rack which allows the meat to lay flat and elevated for even cooking. A traditional roasting rack set in a large pan can also be used. 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. The proteins relax in the cooked meat, which allows for some of the expelled moisture to move back into dissolved proteins. The result- maximum juiciness.
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 the 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.
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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.
Roast Turkey Breast
- ¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter, divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 4 pound (1.8 kg) turkey breast, up to 6lbs (2.7kg), boneless, skin on
- 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 side of the turkey breast 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 of the skin 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). Roast the turkey breast 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.
- Cut the turkey into ½-inch thick slices. Serve with gravy.
- A roasting rack may also be used, or a large cast iron pan for cooking the turkey breast. It can also be placed on a sheet pan on a bed of mixed roots vegetables.
- MAKE IT WHOLE 30: Substitute Ghee for butter.