How to Cook a Turkey Breast in 5 Steps
Have you ever thought about cooking a turkey breast for Thanksgiving? Cooking a whole turkey can seem a little daunting! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I love to plan out our menu. My usual job is to prepare the sides, but this year I was up for an extra challenge and took charge of preparing the turkey!
While cooking a whole turkey is a common option on Thanksgiving, that can give you A LOT of leftovers, especially if you are only cooking for a few people.
Have you ever thought about trying to make a turkey breast instead? Hear me out! It’s really easier and faster than cooking the full bird. I am going to show you how to make this turkey breast in 5 easy as (pumpkin) pie steps, that will make all your guests think you ordered this turkey from a local restaurant. The full recipe is at the bottom!
Buying a Turkey Breast
When you are buying your turkey, you want to aim for about 1/2 pound per person. This helps accounts for shrinkage, and extra weight coming from the bones in the turkey breast. Another thing to look for on the turkey package, is whether or not your turkey has been brined. Brining is the process of placing your turkey in a salt water mixture, which helps flavor your turkey and make it juicier. Some turkeys come already brined, and that means that you don’t have to season them as much.
How to Brine a Turkey
If you buy a turkey that isn’t brined, and wish to do so, it’s easy to do yourself!
- Combine half a gallon of water with 1/2 cup salt and any desired spices on the stove top. For instance, you could use rosemary, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
- Bring to a boil, and make sure all the salt is dissolved.
- Remove from heat, let cool, add another half gallon of cold water.
- Then, add the turkey breast and let it sit overnight in the fridge.
- When you are ready to use the turkey, remove from the brine, pat the turkey dry and you are ready to go!
For my turkey breast, I decided to keep it simple, and get the brined turkey, but either would be just fine.
How to Cook Your Turkey Breast
Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, and it is easy to flavor. You could very easily add other spices to your turkey breast to spice up your Thanksgiving (or make it for any other day of the year honestly). We are going with a turkey breast that has skin on and the bones still attached. Why? Because the skin will help keep all the juices in, and the bones also make for a juicy bird, because no one likes a dry turkey.
We have two options for how to cook your turkey breast. The traditional way is to cook it in an oven, but if you are someone whose oven has a lot of traffic going in and out on Thanksgiving, you may want to try our recipe for air frying turkey breast!
Let’s get started!
Traditional Oven Method
1. Prepare your Turkey Breast
First, make sure your oven is up at 425F. Take your turkey and pat it dry. Make sure it is completely dry! Trust me, don’t skip this step. It will make your turkey skin come out nice and crispy. Season the underside of the turkey with salt and pepper, then return the turkey to the roasting pan breast side up.
2. Add the Flavors
Next, run your fingers under the skin of the turkey. See picture below. Rub 1 TBSP of butter under the skin of the bird, then rub the remaining TBSP of butter over the skin. This will make sure that your skin is nice and crispy.
The next step is to add the flavorings. Pour the wine over the bird, and squeeze the lemon juice over as well. Throw those lemon halves into the roasting pan for some extra aromatics. Separate the head of garlic into cloves and add to the pan. Season the top of the breast with some additional salt and pepper. And don’t forget to throw the sprigs of thyme on top as well.
3. Start It High
Put that turkey breast in the oven at 425F. We are going to start off at a higher temp so that the skin starts to brown, and gets some nice colors and flavors going.
4. Finish It Low
After 30 minutes, turn the temperature down to 325F and let the roast for about 1 hour. After 1 hour, start to check the temperature of the bird. Place the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Cook the bird until the temperature reaches 160F (it will continue to rise). Let the bird rest for 15 minutes before cutting into it (or all the juices will run out).
5. Ready to Serve
Slice the turkey as desired, and serve with your favorite sides!
Air Frying a Turkey Breast
Another way to cook a turkey breast for Thanksgiving is to use an air fryer! This cooking appliance can come in handy if you have a small kitchen, and if you have a lot of side dishes that need to be baked. By cooking your protein in the air fryer, you can take a lot of stress and planning out of your timeline for the day. We’ve already created an easy and fast recipe for you, click here for our Honey Mustard Turkey cooked in the air fryer!
Using Your Turkey Leftovers
You can serve the leftover turkey in a sandwich, a salad, or try using turkey instead of chicken in this Chicken and Broccoli Crescent Braid for a kid-friendly, weekday meal!
What is your favorite way to eat turkey around Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments below! If you would like to make an appointment with Klara or another one of our nutrition professionals please call 301-474-2499 or click here.
Blog updated December 2019.
Whether you are a novice in the kitchen, or a seasoned chef, Dietitian Klara will work with you to help you reach your nutrition goals. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating, Cooking with Diabetes and Cooking with Food Sensitivities Guide.