Roasted turkey breast is a great alternative to roasting a whole turkey. A four- to five-pound turkey breast will feed six to eight people, it's a cinch to carve, and it's perfect for making sandwiches the next day.
Also, you can roast a turkey breast in about an hour, as compared with up to five hours for a whole turkey. Prepare to feel slightly disoriented by how short the cooking time will seem.
Another bonus: With no dark meat to worry about, you can roast a turkey breast at a higher temperature than you would a whole turkey, so the skin gets nice and crispy while the meat remains moist and juicy. For this reason, be sure to get a skin-on breast rather than a skinless one.
Basting is A-OK!
With a whole turkey, basting can be counterproductive because the basting liquid, from the bottom of the roasting pan, is hot, and applying hot liquid to the breast accelerates its cooking relative to the other parts of the bird, which is precisely the opposite of what you want. With a breast alone, however, there's no issue, so feel free to baste away! The pan drippings and stock from basting will help with making turkey gravy.
Our target temperature for white meat turkey is 160F, but we take it out at 155F. It'll hit 160F while it rests. For best results, use a meat thermometer like this one, which has a probe that you insert into the meat before roasting, and leave it there. Set it for 155F and it will beep when it's time to take it out.
And don't remove the thermometer probe, but rather, leave it in while the breast rests. When the temperature reads 120F (which will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20–25 minutes), it's ready to slice.
If you want to cook a bone-in turkey breast, that would be a half-breast, i.e., a single breast. For boneless, you could do a half or a full (double) breast. Either way, just ask your butcher to roll and tie the boneless breast so that it cooks evenly.
Finally, a whole turkey breast is a wonderful candidate for brining. Here's a simple turkey brine recipe.
- 1 (4–5 lb) turkey breast, skin on
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup chicken stock or turkey stock for basting
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Place the turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan.
- Brush turkey with the melted butter, then season generously with Kosher salt and black pepper.
- Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting twice with stock — once after about 15 minutes and again about 15 minutes later.
- When thermometer reads 155F, remove the turkey from the oven. Cover loosely with foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes (or when the thermometer reads 120F) before carving and serving.