This Perfect Roast Turkey Breast is for those who prefer white meat or for a smaller family gathering. The turkey breast is dry-brined, stuffed and brushed with butter before roasting.
I’m showing you how to make a perfect roast turkey breast. I have roasted a whole bird in the past, and I do enjoy the image in my head of the majestic platter being carved table-side like that famous Norman Rockwell painting. For my personal taste and the smallish size of our extended family though, a bone-in breast just works better. I am not a dark meat fan, really no one in our family is. And while turkey is traditionally the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, I’m more of a side dish kind of girl. For this recipe I am combining multiple sources for my perfect roast turkey breast tutorial: Ina Garten (flavorings and roasting time), The Food Network (dry brine) and my mom (extra turkey broth). So let’s get started…
I started with about an eight pound fresh turkey breast. I don’t have room for a 5-gallon bucket in my refrigerator, do you? So I decided to dry brine it. After washing the turkey breast and drying it with paper towels, I rubbed her with a whole lot of salt, a little sugar and pepper. Then she rested, uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, in a foil pan in case she leaked. The next morning, I took her out of the fridge and let her warm up a bit. I rinsed her really well again and dried her with more paper towels. This step is necessary to achieve a beautifully browned skin in the oven.
I stuffed the inside of the turkey breast with a half a lemon, a half an onion, half a head of garlic and a bunch of fresh thyme. I trussed her up, kinda like a purse, and then flipped her, breast side up onto the rack inside my roasting pan. A rack is important to keep the bottom of your bird out of the broth and off the bottom of the roaster. You don’t want a soggy, yet burnt at the same time, situation underneath your turkey.
After stuffing your turkey breast with aromatics, melt some butter and add some more fresh thyme, lemon zest and juice. Brush the entire skin and sprinkle her with salt.
I also found it necessary to prop up my turkey breast so she wouldn’t list to one side. A couple of wads of foil did the trick here. I started her in a hot oven, 450 degrees for 30 minutes, then finished her at 350 degrees. All told, she roasted in the oven for a little over two hours and came out looking like this… nice and tan like after a day at the beach!
Here’s where, on a crazy-busy day in the kitchen, a turkey breast is a good choice. Now she simply rests. I used an OXO poultry lifter to ease her smoking hot self out of the roaster and then tented her with foil. This allows the juices in the turkey to redistribute and gives you time to do other things like make gravy. It took two pours into the OXO fat separator to get all the broth out of the roasting pan. It yielded about 3 cups of broth, but I like a lot of gravy. The trick is to buy extra turkey broth. I’m lucky in that my Kroger stocks locally produced turkey broth. Literally the can says it contains “turkey broth”. Score! Search it out if you can find it. If you can’t use chicken stock.
Tips for Perfect Roast Turkey Breast:
- I prefer to order a fresh, local turkey breast from my grocery. If you are using a frozen, bone-in turkey breast, be sure to allow enough time for it to thaw in the refrigerator before starting the dry-brining process.
- I use a roasting pan and rack similar to this one for roasting my turkey breast.
- I highly recommend this fat separator for helping to make the turkey gravy.
- The turkey breast must be 165 degrees F before it is safe to remove from the oven. I check in several places with a meat thermometer like this one.
- Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for recipes that use leftover turkey.
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Perfect Roast Turkey Breast
- 1 7 - 9 lb bone-in, skin on turkey breast
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 head garlic
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 13 tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 6 cups turkey (or chicken) broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse the turkey breast with cold water and dry with paper towels. Place in a disposable foil pan, breast side up. Mix together 1/3 cup of salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of pepper. Sprinkle the inside and outside of the turkey breast thoroughly with the mixture. Place the turkey breast, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight.
- Remove the turkey breast from the refrigerator and let rest for about an hour. Rinse well with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Place half onion, half lemon, half head of garlic and a bunch of fresh thyme into the cavity of the turkey breast. Tie with twine to keep the aromatics in place.
- Put the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Prop up with foil if necessary.
- Pour 4 cups of the turkey stock into the bottom of the roasting pan.
- Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter on stove top or in microwave. Add the zest and juice of the other half of the lemon and 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh thyme leaves to the melted butter.
- Brush the entire outside of the turkey breast with the melted butter mixture. Sprinkle the turkey breast with about one teaspoon of salt.
- Roast the turkey to start at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature (without opening the door) to 350 degrees and roast for an additional hour.
- Remove the turkey breast and baste. Return the turkey to the oven and roast at 350 degrees for an additional 30 - 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F at the thickest part of the breast.
- Remove the turkey breast to a sheet pan and tent with foil until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, strain and separate the fat from the broth in the bottom of the roasting pan. This should yield about 3 cups of broth.
- Add the canned stock to equal 4 cups. In a large sauce pan, heat the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes.
- Whisk in the turkey broth and continue whisking until the gravy is simmering and thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Carve the turkey breast using a serrated knife and place on a platter topped with gravy and additional fresh thyme.
Allie|Baking a Moment says
Love this Jill! The flavors sound amazing and I’ll have to try a dry brine next year. I’ve always done the liquid brine and I just stash it in a cooler in my garage. This looks way easier though!
That turkey looks amazing…of course so do your pictures! I really wish we could find turkey in China. Thanks for linking up at Foodie Fridays last week!
Lauren Vavala @ DeliciousLittleBites says
Oh my – this turkey does look perfect and that gravy! Thyme is my favorite herb with turkey – saving this!
Wonderful. Thanks for the save!
I have never stuffed a bird, but this year I am totally putting a lemon in my turkey!! Your photos are making me anxious for Thanksgiving!
Hopefully anxious in a good way! Thank you so much Sara.
Jacque Hastert says
The flavors of this sound out of this world good!
The lemon just takes it over the top… but it’s not too much lemon. It’s subtle.
Prajakta Sukhatme says
Love this detailed step by step recipe. The flavors sound amazing. Will try your method this time around during upcoming holidays 💗
So happy to hear this. Thank you Prajakta 🙂
You made is sound easier than I thought with all the instructions that you’ve given. Sounds like the meat will not dry up during cooking, I love juicy and tender turkey.
I just wanted to be thorough in my explanation (and with pictures) in case someone reading had never roasted a turkey breast before. It really is simple. And no dry turkey here!
Lisa Bynum says
Mmm, this recipe has my mouth watering for Thanksgiving. I enjoyed reading your tips. I prepare the Thanksgiving turkey every other year. Never too late to make improvements in the process.
Thanks so much Lisa. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post!
Jorina Fontelera says
We’re not big into having a huge turkey for Thanksgiving so this’ll definitely hit the spot. I can already smell it cooking up!
So glad we’re on the same page with having a smaller portion of the big bird 🙂 Thanks Jorina!
Such a perfect recipe for the holiday season!
Thank you Tisha!
We are planning a small Thanksgiving this year and I think this is the perfect size for us. I can’t wait to cook.
Great. Glad this recipe is helpful!