Roasted Turkey Breast

Small but mighty, the typical turkey breast feeds a downsized crowd and can be flavored any way you prefer.

Roasted Turkey Breast
Photo:

Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
Yield:
6 (serving size: about 7 oz. roasted turkey)

Everyone loves roast turkey. It’s a must for Thanksgiving, but also a great option whenever you need to feed a group. While whole turkeys may be a challenge to find beyond the holiday season, turkey breast is readily available at supermarkets year-round. 

Turkey breast is also a good option for smaller Thanksgiving dinners and for lovers of white meat. A popular sandwich meat, roast turkey breast is available at the deli counter, but why not make it at home?

Roasted Turkey Breast Ingredients 

To make roasted turkey breast, you will need a bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, about 6 to 7 pounds. To properly season the bird, you will need unsalted butter, salt, light brown sugar, Dijon mustard, garlic cloves, lemon zest, fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary along with black pepper.

rubbing butter on turkey breast

Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

How to Make Roasted Turkey Breast

Roasting a turkey breast is fairly easy. You begin by creating a mixture of butter, salt, sugar, mustard, garlic, lemon zest, thyme, sage, rosemary, and pepper. You then push the seasoned butter mixture between the skin and breast meat and on top of the skin.

Allowing the turkey breast to stand at room temperature for an hour before roasting helps to ensure a more evenly cooked bird. Be sure to rest the turkey for a full hour before you roast it whether you refrigerate it after putting on the butter rub or not.

After the hour of resting, you'll roast the turkey at 450°F for about 1 hour 15 minutes (maybe a bit more depending on the size of the turkey breast).

Tip: Using a meat thermometer is essential for making sure the turkey is not undercooked or overcooked. 

Should I Use a Boneless or Bone-in Turkey Breast?

We prefer a bone-in, skin-on turkey breast because it retains moisture better and has greater flavor. But if you like, opt for a smaller boneless turkey breast. You'll need to cut the roasting time—start checking doneness after 45 minutes—and you'll want to double check that the breast is large enough for your crowd. A few pounds of turkey goes quickly.

What's the Difference Between a Boneless and a Bone-in Turkey Breast?

Besides the obvious—one still has a bone and one doesn't—there are a few key differences to consider. First, a bone-in turkey breast is often bigger than a boneless one, around 6 pounds each. However, a boneless can be as small as 3 pounds. After all, a bone-in breast is usually two breasts joined at the bone, where a boneless breast is usually only one breast, or one half of the turkey's chest meat.

You'll want to plan for 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person at your table. (The extra half pound is if you want to factor in leftovers.) So if you have more than a handful of people, consider the bone-in breast or get two boneless ones. (Or consider a turkey tenderloin as another small-crowd Thanksgiving option.)

A boneless turkey breast cooks faster, too. If you're using this recipe for your boneless roasted turkey breast, you'll need to reduce the total cooking time. Start checking the breast's internal temp after 45 minutes to be sure you don't overcook.

roasted turkey breast

Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

How Long Does It Take to Roast a Turkey Breast?

The average turkey breast needs about 15 to 20 minutes per pound to reach the desired point of doneness, or 165°F (74°C). At 450°F, it'll take a 6-pound turkey breast about 15 minutes per pound, or up to 1 hour 30 minutes. If you cook at the lower temp of 350°F, factor in needing 20 minutes per pound.

What to Serve with Roasted Turkey Breast

Turkey is often the main dish at Thanksgiving, accompanied by all the traditional sides, but it’s also great to add to sandwiches or salads or to use in tacos or soups. A classic way to serve roast turkey breast is with mashed potatoes and gravy. The gravy covers a multitude of sins if that breast is just a little dry.

Editorial contributions by Amy Sherman.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt

  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

  • 4 garlic cloves, grated with a Microplane grater (2 tsp.)

  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage

  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

  • 1 (6- to 7-lb.) bone-in, skin-on turkey breast

Directions

  1. Stir together butter, salt, sugar, mustard, garlic, lemon zest, thyme, sage, rosemary, and pepper in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.

    ingredients in bowl

    Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  2. Trim any excess fat and skin around turkey neck. Starting at neck end, loosen and lift skin from turkey breast by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat. Do not detach skin completely from breast. Rub half of the butter mixture under skin; smooth skin over breast, and rub remaining half of butter mixture over skin.

    rubbing butter on turkey breast

    Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set an oven-safe wire rack inside prepared baking sheet. Place turkey on wire rack, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Alternatively, refrigerate, uncovered, up to 12 hours. Remove turkey from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

    turkey breast with butter rub

    Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  4. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third position. Place turkey in oven, and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of breast registers 160°F, 1 hour, 15 minutes to 1 hour, 30 minutes, loosely tenting turkey with foil if browning too quickly.

    roasted turkey breast

    Rob Culpepper; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  5. Let turkey stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Carve turkey, and transfer to a platter.

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