With so many people opting for smaller holiday meals this year, I wanted to share my foolproof method of roasting a turkey breast.
I rarely roast a whole turkey. I usually break my turkeys down and cook the dark and white meat separately as they require different cooking times and I can better control the outcome. Also, I’m not spending hours and hours wrangling a large, hot bird in an out of an equally hot oven, a scenario in which I have been burned (literally) one too many times. Approached separately, a turkey breast and legs can be cooked in about two hours with much less fuss. I then reassemble on a platter so it resembles the original bird.
This strategy also allows me to use the back and neck to make a long-simmered turkey stock before the holiday. I use this technique year-round as a healthier alternative to deli count turkey.
One key to this technique is turning the breast over after an hour. This will assure the underside of the bird is cooked through. I find many roast breasts recipes don’t call for this and it can lead to under cooking the meat close to the bone. I recommend tongs for this duty but picking up the bird with a clean dish towel works fine, too.
You don’t need a special roasting pan for this version. A simple 9×12 Pyrex will work perfectly well. Do let the butter sit out at room temperature as it will be easier to spread on the skin. Once you’ve tried this, feel free to experiment with seasonings and vegetables. I often add mushrooms and even some squash as I like the earthy flavor they add to the finished gravy.
Roast Turkey Breast
- Roasting or casserole pan
- Tongs (to turn turkey)
Turkey and seasonings
- 1 5 to 7 pound bone-in turkey breast
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 tablespoon sage or poultry seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Pan vegetables and stock
- 2 medium onions peeled and quartered
- 1 large carrot cut into two-inch pieces
- 1 stalk celery chopped in half
- 1 apple cored and quartered (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup turkey stock
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups turkey stock
To roast the turkey
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Pat the turkey breast and/or legs dry with paper towels. If your turkey is cold, it will be hard to slather it with butter, so just cover it with dots of butter. Season with salt, pepper and sage or poultry seasoning. Spread the cut up onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and if you desire, apple in the bottom of a small roasting pan. Add a half cup of turkey stock. This will keep the vegetables from sticking and add moisture.
- Roast for one hour. Carefully turn the breast over. Roast for another half hour to cook and brown the underside. Reduce heat to 325F.
- Turn over and cook for 30 more minutes or until an instant-read meat thermometer reads at least 158F/69C. Remove from roasting pan to a cutting board or platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and rest for at least 20 minutes. As it rests, the internal temperatures will rise to 165F/74C.
To make the gravy
- Pour off the juices from the pan into a bowl. Dump the roasted veggies, bay leaves, and fat at the bottom of the pan into a two-quart or larger saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a pat of butter. Heat through ad let remaining juices evaporate a bit. Then sprinkle in flour. Stir to coat the vegetables and cook for two minutes until it smells like popcorn.
- Add two to three cups chicken stock and reserved pan juices and stir until thickened. Pout through a sieve or colander to remove the vegetables. Return to the pan and cook over low heat until slightly reduced and to desired thickness.
Main photo by Bockarev Photography. Recipe photo by Africa Studio.