Divine Dinner Party

Turkey Breast Cooking Directions:
How to Cook a Whole Breast

Planning a holiday meal or just want something special? The turkey breast cooking directions here may just be a life-saver... especially if you don't have the time or desire to cook a giant whole turkey in your oven.

Why a Turkey Breast?Turkey breast is a great option for people who don't like dark meat or who have less people to feed for a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's a healthy choice for a main dish anytime, as every part of it is low in fat but the skin (which is easy to discard). It's also smaller and easier to cook.

When you look at cookbooks and around the internet, however, most give you information on roasting a whole turkey... almost none include any turkey breast cooking directions! This page aims to fill that gap and give you the basics of making a great turkey breast.

You can also find instructions on cooking turkeys and turkey breasts in my Ultimate Turkey Guide!


Thawing a Frozen Turkey Breast

Thaw a Turkey Breast Before COokingFirst things first... you've got to have your turkey breast ready to cook!

Why Thaw Your Bird? You'll find some recipes out there that give turkey breast cooking directions for a still-frozen breast. Unless you plan to cook a turkey breast in the crock pot for a long period of time, I generally don't recommend cooking a frozen turkey breast. There's a much greater chance of parts of the turkey coming out underdone when you do this. A frozen bird can't be seasoned as easily, either. So take the time to defrost the turkey breast in the refrigerator.

Thawing a Turkey Breast.It takes about 24 hours for 4-5 pound breast to thaw completely in the fridge. Or check here for tips on how to thaw a turkey breast. Once thawed, give the breast a good rising with cool water inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels. Now you're ready to season.

Seasoning a Turkey Breast

Golden Seasoned Turkey Breast Cooked WholeOne of my favorite things about simple turkey breast cooking directions like the ones I'm giving you here? Flexibility. You can go nuts with the seasoning, and have a lot of fun. All kinds of seasonings taste great with turkey meat, including traditional ones described below, citrus flavors, Asian, Cajun, and more.

Turkey Breast Seasoning Ideas. A nice traditional seasoning blend for turkey breast is poultry seasoning, garlic, onion powder, a little lemon zest and softened butter mixed together and stuffed under the skin. To the top off the skin apply olive oil and a little seasoning salt (for those who like crunchy flavorful skin – this is fantastic!).

I also like to use a recipe like this bacon-butter topping (cut it in half for just the breast) to roast a turkey breast with a crisp skin and a wonderful smoky flavor. You can find lots more recipes for cooking a flavorful turkey breast on my How to Cook a Turkey page.

Turkey Breast Brines. To give your turkey breast extra moisture, you might also want to consider brining it. Brining a turkey breast is just like brining a whole turkey-- but because of the reduced size, it's a heck of a lot easier. You can flavor your brine with apple, herbs, citrus, and more. It adds a lot of flavor and much-needed moisture to a type of meat that has a tendency to dry out.

Turkey Breast Injections. To get a ton of flavor and moisture into your turkey breast, you may want to consider adding an injection to your favorite turkey breast cooking directions. Turkey injection recipes like the ones on this page will fill the meat with wonderful moisture and soak the meat in flavor. While created for deep frying turkey these injection recipes can be used for any cooking method, including roasting.


Cooking Times for
Roasting a Turkey Breast

Calculate for your Oven. Many turkey breast cooking directions overlook the fact that the roasting time for a turkey breast can vary a lot. No stove is exactly alike, nor is every roasting pan. That means that the safest way to insure that your turkey is fully cooked is using a meat thermometer ( I like this electronic one). For safety, turkey meat should reach at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast before you eat it.

Turkey Breast Cooking Times. To help you plan your time, a three pound turkey breast takes about 2 hours to cook through at 325 degrees F. A 5 pound turkey breast takes about 2 1/4 hours, and an 8 pound turkey breast takes a little over 3 hours to cook. Most people do not try to stuff the breast because the stuffing tends to fall out, so you won't have to adjust your cooking time for stuffing, as you might for a whole turkey.

My suggestion? Make a great turkey stuffing separately and serve it on the side. You can also find more in-depth instructions on how long you need to cook a whole turkey breast here.

My Turkey Breast Cooking Directions

1. Prepare and Preheat. While the oven pre-heats, place the turkey breast in your roasting pan, meaty side up. Put about a cup of liquid (white wine, apple cider, or chicken stock are my favorites) in the bottom. This liquid keeps your turkey moist and becomes the foundation for a tasty gravy later. Some turkey breast cooking directions might suggest you wrap up your turkey breast completely in foil. But I'd suggest against this, as it makes for more of a steamed texture instead of a roasted bird.

2. Tent the Turkey. Next, you'll want to tent the turkey using aluminum foil. The aluminum keeps the breast from browning too much and drying out. Leave the aluminum in place until the last 20 minutes of cooking.

3. Baste the Bird. When you remove your foil tent, use the juices for basting two of three times before the breast is completely cooked. You can also baste throughout, if you like. Caving a Turkey Breast for Thanksgiving

4. Rest It. Finally, let the breast rest for 15 minutes before carving. This will help the juices to seep back into the meat instead of out of it when you carve. A very important step.

5. Carve It. Carving the bird neatly can make a difference between a rough texture and a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Check here for instructions on how to carve a turkey properly.


Other Ways to Cook a Turkey Breast

Roasted is not the only way to enjoy cooking a whole turkey breast! You can braise it, slow cook it, smoke it, grill it, and deep fry it, too. You'll find lots more resources for cooking turkeys and turkey breasts on my turkey how-to's and recipes page.

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In addition to these easy turkey breast cooking directions, there are lots of great turkey recipes on the site. Check out:

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If it's a fat bird with a beard (no, I don't mean your Aunt Marjorie), we can help you cook it. Click on the icon above or click here to get started with recipes and tips on how to cook a turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any time of year.

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