I’ve said this many times: I really can’t stand turkey for Thanksgiving. But honestly, this insanely juicy roast turkey breast has sort of changed my mind about it all. I’m used to a boring, flavorless bird where the breast meat is often dry and I’m sure many folks can relate! This recipe changes all of that and it honestly blew me away with how good it was. Not only does it cook faster than a whole bird, but the skin is gloriously crispy, and the meat is tender and juicy. This is such a great option for Thanksgiving gatherings this year which are likely to be much more intimate.
All it requires is a quick, dry brine the day before and you’re in for the most delicious turkey you’ve ever had. I roasted the turkey breast over fingerling potatoes with bacon, shallots, garlic, and herbs (INSANELY GOOD). Maybe you’re more of a mashed potatoes person and that’s okay! My favorite ever creme fraiche mashed potatoes recipe can be found here. Roast the turkey with or without the potatoes, it’s your show! But I personally love a one-pan meal and these potatoes were outrageous. Happy cooking!
Dry brine vs. wet brine
Okay, one, I’m sure you’re wondering what a brine is and what it actually does, right? A normal wet brine is a solution of water, salt, and a little sugar, along with some herbs and spices, that raw meat is soaked in to season the meat and add moisture. When you season a piece of meat, you’re seasoning the outside and the inside doesn’t really get the opportunity to absorb that flavor. However, with brine, you’re actually seasoning the inside of the meat as it absorbs the brine through osmosis. A wet brine is often great for lean meats that tend to dry out as it adds extra moisture. I love brining chicken breasts, thick pork chops, and now roast turkey breast before cooking!
A dry brine is all of that (salt, sugar, herbs, spices), without the water. I love dry brine because there is no mess and fuss with trying to find a container large enough for the brine and meat. A dry brine is also referred to as pre-salting because you’re honestly just pre-salting the meat a day in advance. Not only does this break down the muscle tissue in the meat to make it more tender, but it allows the skin to get crispier. Let’s be honest, the crispy skin is the best part!
How to select the right turkey breast
Well, before you can cook the turkey, you really need to know how much roast turkey breast to make, right? In this recipe, I used a 6.5 lb bone-in skin-on turkey breast. This yielded probably 4.5-5 lbs of meat before cooking once you subtract the weight of the bones. A good rule of thumb is 3/4 lb of turkey breast per guest (especially since you will likely have a bunch of sides!). Now, the real question: boneless or bone-in? It’s honestly up to you! I will always prefer bone-in because I just honestly believe that it’s more flavorful. Bone-in breasts are easier to find, less expensive, and you can use the leftover roasted bones in a wonderful broth or stock. I found that a 6.5 lb bone-in turkey breast can comfortably feed 4-6 (maybe 6-8 if you have a lot of sides!).
how to dry brine turkey breast
A good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of salt for every 5 lbs of meat. Since the bone weight in my turkey breast accounted for about 1.5 lbs or so, I used 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, and 1 teaspoon of ground sage. Adding the paprika and sage gave the turkey the most amazing flavor!
That being said, feel free to play with your favorite spices! Some great options would be dried herb blends like herbs de Provence, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, ground mustard, etc. Once you’ve decided on your spice blend, you’re going to rub the whole turkey breast with it, underside and all. I like to even pull the skin away from the meat a bit and really get in there with the spices, in doing so you make sure that the bird is really well-seasoned all over. You’ll throw the breast onto a rimmed baking sheet and leave it in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours. Before roasting, remove it from the fridge and let it hang out for about 30 minutes.
tools needed to make roast turkey breast
You don’t need many tools to make this delicious roast turkey breast, but you do need a couple essential ones!
- a good probe thermometer. A thermometer is essential in making sure that your turkey is cooked all the way through and not overcooked. This thermometer from amazon is the one I use and I simply insert it into the thickest part of the breast, set the temperature to 160 F, leave the display on the counter, and shut the oven. The timer goes off when the meat has reached the right temp!
- a roasting pan. You need a roasting pan or skillet large enough to hold the turkey breast (and potatoes). This all-clad roasting pan is my absolute favorite and it’s large enough to roast a full turkey for next year!
And that’s it! These are all the tools you need to make a beautifully juicy roast turkey breast this year.
how to cook roast turkey breast
Now that you know all about dry brine and what size turkey breast to select, how do you cook it? Easy! The whole thing goes into the oven at 350 degrees F for about 2 hours. For the last 15 minutes, you’ll crank the heat up to 375 F to really get some color on the turkey skin. Before placing my turkey breast in the roasting pan: I tossed 3 lbs of fingerling potatoes with olive oil, whole garlic cloves, sliced shallots, diced bacon, salt, pepper, rosemary, and fresh thyme. The potatoes are honestly amazing and they absorb the fat from the bacon and turkey skin as it renders. Honestly, the easiest thanksgiving recipe you could ever make!
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