Roasting Turkey Breast Instead Of The Whole Bird - How?

johnliu_gwNovember 13, 2009

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year. I don't like turkey or stuffing, so the dinner will revolve around a leg of lamb and creamed veg. Still, there is always someone who wants turkey.

So, I was planning to get some skin-on turkey breast and roast that - not the whole bird, just the breast. With some "make-ahead" gravy.

However, I have never cooked just the breast before - again, I don't like turkey so I cook it once a year - and would prefer not to serve a leathery "experiment". Without the mass of the whole bird, I'm not sure how I'll get the skin crisp without overcooking the meat. Break out the propane torch?

I would be grateful for any suggestions. Thanks.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Put it into an open pan and roast it to an internal temperature of not more than 160 degrees....if the pan is shallow the skin will be browned.
And there is really no reason to serve "make ahead" gravy because the breast will yield drippings that will make a lovely gravy.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 11:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not much of a gravy person myself - I usually use those packets for gravy (in with the pkts for everything else like sloppy joes, tacos etc). I usually get one chicken and one turkey - the mix of them is better. I make that up ahead of time and then put in some of the drippings later and reheat.

I don't like thick, gunky, fatty gravy.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 11:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would you brine the breasts first, as if it were a chicken?

I don't brine the whole turkey, I'm usually lucky if it's defrosted for it's appointment with the oven. But maybe I can take a little more care this year.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2009 at 2:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't brine as we keep to low salt but I have cooked a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. It was moist and delicious.
We buy it here without skin, but you would brown the skin after removing the foil in step 6 below. Here's how I prepared and cooked it.

Apricot & Herb Glazed Turkey Breast
Posted by Canarybird (My Page) on Mon, Jan 2, 06 at 16:12

I was feeling under the weather with the flu one Christmas and as there were just the two of us for Christmas dinner I made a change
and instead of buying a whole turkey, I bought a whole breast, which I roasted with an orange, onion, jam and thyme glaze.

The results came out so tender and juicy that even I was surprised. I made a quick dressing which I cooked alongside in a separate dish and made a gravy from deglazing the pan with the vegetable water and a little help from a teaspoon each of Bisto gravy granules, Knorr dry onion soup, cornstarch and an Avecrem chicken stock cube. Served with brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy.


2 TBS sugarless apricot jam
1 heaping TBS dried thyme + a little more for sprinkling on top
1 teasp garlic powder
fresh ground black pepper
2 TBS runny honey
2 TBS butter

1 orange
1 onion cut into 8ths

Turkey breast weighing 1.360 kg (slightly under 3 lbs)

1. Preheat oven to 350F (I used 325F in my fan oven)

2. In small bowl, mix the jam, thyme and garlic powder to a paste. Spread all over the turkey breast.

3. Cut orange in half and squeeze some of the juice over the turkey, then cut orange into slices and arrange under and on top along with the slices of onion.

4. Cut butter into pieces and dot all over and under breast, then drizzle honey over all.

5. Grind black pepper over top and sprinkle on a little more dried thyme.

6. Cover with foil and roast 1 hour, then remove foil, baste once with juices and butter in pan and roast for another half hour (without foil) or until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast reads 170F.

7. Serve with turkey dressing, cranberry sauce and gravy.



    Bookmark   November 14, 2009 at 4:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love the high-heat roasting method. I just roasted a turkey breast last week. I rubbed just a little softened butter over the skin of the breast, salted & peppered both sides, and added a little water to the bottom of the pan (not much fat in a turkey breast and you don't want your pan to scorch). Roast at 500 F. for about 45 minutes or so or until the juices run clear. It resulted in juicy, tender meat and crisp skin. Perfect!


    Bookmark   November 14, 2009 at 11:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The often-overlooked trick to crisp skin is to make sure the skin is DRY. Wash it thoroughly, trim off the excess fat pockets and thoroughly dry it. I usually use paper towels and a lot of them. Don't use a bag, don't tent it and don't cover it. Turkey breast is easy to cook by itself. People dry out the breast most of the time when they do a whole bird since the breast os overdone by the time the dark meat is done. A lot of people suggest cooking them separately. I don't do dark meat. I did butterfly a turkey breast several years ago and it was great. Crisp skin, moist meat, but most of the time I use the good ol' Nesco.

And use a thermometer. I pull mine at 155° and as it's resting it'll raise to 160°-162° or so, which is about perfect to keep it moist and have it cooked safely.

Course, I have to admit, I like turkey breast. I don't even mind if it's on the dry side. That way it doesn't dilute the gravy! But since getting the Nesco, I haven't had a dry turkey breast. Even when I used to cook them to 180°.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 5:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
beachlily z9a

Here are the Butterball instructions for cooking a whole turkey breast:

Preheat oven to 325F
Remove wrapper from breast. Drain juices, rinse and dry turkey with paper towels.
Place prepared breast, skin side up, on flat roasting rack in 2" deep roasting pan. Do not add water to the pan.
Roast uncovered according to time guidelines below, or until meat thermometer in thickest part of the muscle is 170F.

Cook a 3-5.5 lb. turkey breast 1 1/2-2 1/4 hr; a 5.5-9 lb. breast will take 2 1/4 -2 3/4 hr.

These are really basic instructions. Cynic's direction on temperatures is right on.

Good luck with the turkey. I'm sure the people who expect turkey on the table will be really pleased!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 7:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love the look and sound of Sharon Cb's recipe. I've never cooked just the breast of a turkey before, either. And I've never used my Nesco roaster for cooking turkey (mine has always been used for baking sweet potatoes & sides on holidays).

So my question is if I'm using Sharon's recipe, but cooking in a Nesco, should I still cover the breast with foil for the first hour?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 11:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

amck, I always do the turkey in a Nesco Roaster so I have the oven free for other things. I would not cover the breast with foil if I used the roaster, the skin does not get as "crunchy" in there as it does in the oven.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 12:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Annie!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 12:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
beachlily z9a

Just a note: Sharon's turkey is boneless/skinless. Not an issue about crunchy skin.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 12:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you don't care about crispy skin and want a fool proof way for moist meat - put the breast in a large crockpot for about 8-10 hours and you're all set.

We do these like this a few times a year and can't ask for much more (unless you want the skin crispy).

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 4:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

beachlily, thanks for pointing that out about Sharon's chicken. I hadn't taken note of that.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 7:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For those of you who cook a turkey breast in the Nesco--
If you get enough drippings for gravy do you make the gravy in the Nesco pan? Can I put it on an electric stove to make gravy? I have a Nesco with the fan attachment that goes on top of the lid. I have never used it. Do any of you use this attachment for roasting the turkey breast? Also, can I find turkey breasts that aren't injected so they self baste? Injected fluid may contain gluten and I am on a gluten free diet. I have never cooked just the breast even though I don't eat the dark meat. After my kids moved out I have fed my four Siberian huskies the dark meat. They love Thanksgiving.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 11:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL Nancy, I'm sure those puppies just can't wait for holidays! They'll probably leave hints about Thanksgiving is year round and Christmas in July!

Doing gravy in an electric roaster is kind of a personal preference. I think you'd be better off to take the cookwell and put on the stove. A lot depends on the roaster. Nesco does NOT heat from the bottom. They call it the "circle of heat" since it's in all the sides of the unit which helps keep things from burning on the bottom and the heat is more even. My mother used to make the gravy in the roaster. (I don't remember the brand but it was not Nesco) She'd crank it up full blast but as I recall hers had a heating element in the bottom. A cousin takes the cookwell and puts on the stove. Neither of her roasters are Nesco brand.

I have the Roast Air attachment that fits my 6 qt. Now THAT will give you nice crispy skin! I used to just cock the top and let a lot of the moisture out and frequently take a baster and pull the juices out to help dry and crisp the skin, which did work. Now I let it cook and then about the last 1/2 hour or so I turn on the fan and even turn up the heat a bit and the convection action will crisp and brown things up. Be warned though, when the fan goes on, it will blast the juices around so you might want to pull some of them out just in case. The convection action also evaporates it more too.

I never thought about the gluten issue on prebasted meats. I usually prefer to get a non-basted if I have a choice but the cheap ones usually are injected. Maybe look at organic or something? I'm not sure about that. Should ask my sister about that since she's Celiac but I know she's still confused on a lot of the things related to it.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 11:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nancy, I don't like to make gravy in the roaster, as cynic mentioned, it doesn't have bottom heat enough to really do what I want. You could set the entire insert on the stove, which I've done, or you can drain off the juices and make the gravy on the stove in a pan, which I've also done. I like using the insert because I get all the stuck on bits, but it's more convenient to just use a pan because it's smaller.

I don't have the "roast air" attachment and I've never done just a breast because I usually get my turkeys from a local Amish farmer and they're not treated with any "stuff". I would think, but I don't know, that an unadulterated organic turkey breast would be available somewhere...


    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 11:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Question about high heat roastiing, turkey breast in particular. I plan to have beef some way or the other but also a turkey breast, for Christmas. When roasting at 500 degrees does it do a number, spattering on the oven. The reason I ask...I have a Jenn-aire stove and the clock died so I can't use the self-cleaning feature. I don't want to set myself up for a total messed up oven.

Thanks, jude

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 4:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's so much simpler to make a roux, of butter and flour
and chicken stock, and then add whatever drippings you
Or, as Rachael Ray would say: "I KNOW...delishious".

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 3:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My cooking method of choice for turkey breasts is splitting them down the backbone and grilling the halves low and slow, skin side up. I flip them when they're almost done to crisp up the skin a bit. I don't brine but I do spray them occasionally with a fireman's wash of cider vinegar, paprika and Wocestershire sauce.

Instead of gravy, I usually serve them with a salsa or citrussy sauce.

We eat turkey parts all year 'round, not just for Thanksgiving.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 4:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

I use Pierre Franey's method....

Here is a link that might be useful: Pierre Franey Turkey breast & stuffing

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 4:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I usually make two boneless 6-7 lb. turkey breasts for Thanksgiving. Has anyone roasted two boneless breasts in a Nesco roaster? If so, how large was the roaster?
I would like to make sure they both come out looking nicely browned. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 12:28PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
I'm a corned beef virgin
I was at Sam's club today and they had nice looking...
Holly- Kay
Inspire Me PLEASE!
I am currently on a very restrictive “life style...
So what is "a bunch"?
It drives me crazy when recipes call for a bunch of...
Weird "guy food" that's actually delicious?
You know what kind of food I mean? Not the kind of...
What can I make to go with..
Dh has a potluck on Friday. I am making red lentil...
tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™