How to Cook a Turkey Breast in 5 Steps

Have you ever thought about how to cook turkey breast for Thanksgiving? You may feel like cooking a whole turkey is a little daunting! Or maybe you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, and don’t need to make the full bird. So why not trying to make a turkey breast instead? Hear me out! It’s really easier and faster than cooking the full bird, and you don’t have as many leftovers. 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!

roasted turkey breast

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. If you are trying to reduce the amount of salt in your diet, make sure you get a turkey that is NOT brined.

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!

  1. 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.
  2. Bring to a boil, and make sure all the salt is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat, let cool, add another half gallon of cold water.
  4. Then, add the turkey breast and let it sit overnight in the fridge.
  5. 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


ingredients to cook 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

how to flavor turkey breast

This is where you can get creative! For our turkey breast, I used lemon, rosemary, thyme, garlic and butter, but the sky is the limit! I softened the butter, added in lemon rind, minced garlic, rosemary, thyme and mixed it up! Next, run your fingers under the skin of the turkey. Rub about 2 TBSP of the butter mixture under the skin of the bird, then rub the remaining butter over the skin. This will make sure that your skin is nice and crispy. After putting the bird in the pan, you want to add some flavoring in the liquid! You can use lemon juice, chicken (or turkey) stock or wine.

3. Start It High

how to cook turkey breast

Now that the bird is ready to go, 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 165F. How long the bird takes you reach temperature depends on how big the turkey breast is! Let the bird rest for 15 minutes before cutting into it (or all the juices will run out).

5. Ready to Serve

sliced roasted turkey breast

Slice the turkey as desired, and serve with your favorite sides!


Air Frying a Turkey Breast

air-fried 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!

Rotisserie Chicken

Photo credit Klara Knezevic


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 November 2020.

Roasted Turkey Breast

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Condition: Cancer, Diabetes, Gluten Free, Heart Health, Low Sodium, Nut Free, PCOS
Servings: 6 people


  • 1 turkey breast the size of the turkey breast will change how many people this will feed! If you are trying to reduce your salt intake, make sure you get a turkey breast that isn't brined
  • 4 tbsp butter softened
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups chicken broth can also use wine or water


  • Preheat your oven to 425°F. Take your turkey breast and pat it dry using a paper towel. Place in a roasting pan.
  • Zest the lemon, and set aside. Mince up 2 sprigs of rosemary and 2 sprigs of thyme.
  • Mix softened butter, lemon zest, garlic, and minced rosemary and thyme.
  • Run your fingers under the skin of the turkey breast to loosen it up slightly. Rub half of the butter mixture under the skin of the turkey breast.
  • Take the remaining butter mixture and rub it on the outside of the turkey breast. You can also season the turkey with additional salt and pepper if you wish.
  • Pour chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan, and squeeze the lemon juice from the leftover lemon into the pan. Add remaining herbs.
  • Roast the turkey breast at 425°F for 30 minutes until golden brown.
  • After 30 mins, turn the oven temperature down to 325°F and roast for about 1-1.5 hrs or until turkey breast reaches 165°F.
  • Once turkey is done, let rest for 15-20 minutes, then slice and serve!

Klara Knezevic is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Maryland. She has over a decade of experience in the nutrition field and currently serves as the CEO and co-owner of Rebecca Bitzer and Associates, one of the largest nutrition private practices in the country. Klara is passionate about sharing practical nutrition tips to help you feel confident in the choices that you make. Coauthor ofCooking with Food Sensitivities Survival GuideandNourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating.