Learn how easy it is to roast the perfect turkey breast with moist meat and crispy skin. Anybody can cook delicious turkey—just follow these simple step-by-step photo instructions.
A roasted turkey breast is a perfect alternative to a full-size turkey for smaller households or supplemental white meat at a larger Thanksgiving feast. Great for the holidays or a Sunday dinner. Serve it with traditional side dishes, and you will have a fantastic feast.
Let's not make an easy thing hard. Cooking a turkey breast is something anybody can do. This turkey breast recipe is the logical and straightforward way to cook a turkey breast.
👨🍳How to make this recipe
- Thaw a frozen turkey breast, cut out the backbone and butterfly the rib sections to help the breast set flat in the pan.
- Use a rack if you have one. A 7-pound or smaller breast will fit in a 9X13 cake pan. Larger will need a full-size roaster.
- Brush with butter or oil and a little salt.
- Cook at 350° on a rack low enough to place the turkey in the middle of the oven.
- Rotate the pan 180° halfway through cooking—baste if you wish.
- Cook until an internal temperature of 165° and tent if getting too brown. You need a meat thermometer to get this right.
- Rest tented for 15 minutes before carving and making the gravy while resting.
⏰How long to cook per pound
16-20 minutes per pound of turkey breast is a reasonable estimate in a 350° oven. So a 7-pound breast will take about 2 hours.
Cooking time is very dependent on the thickness of the meat. Larger turkey breasts will be towards the lower end of that range. And smaller breasts will be at the longer end of that range.
Remember, you are cooking to a final temperature and not by time alone.
Cooking Time by Weight (estimated for planning only)
|Weight of Turkey Breast||Approximate Cooking Time|
|5 to 6 pounds||1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes|
|7 to 8 pounds||2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes|
|9 to 10 pounds||2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes|
What is the safe final internal temperature for a turkey breast?
According to the USDA, a turkey breast or a whole turkey needs to reach 165° internal temperature in the thickest part to be safe and fully cooked. That will give you a safe, moist, and tender turkey.
Stop right at 165°. Some will recommend stopping at 160° and assume the breast will reach 165° during the rest. It probably will, but I prefer to know I'm serving safe food. For more turkey safety points, see my Thanksgiving Food Safety post.
What is the best oven temperature to cook a turkey breast?
The best oven temperature to cook a turkey breast is 350°. But 325° can work, but it will take a bit longer. The skin will not be as crisp and will potentially dry a little more. 375° is too high, and you will cook the skin very rapidly.
A frequent recommendation is to start high at 425° and turn down the temperature to 325° immediately or in 20-30 minutes. This is to get the browned skin. I don't see it as needed since you will end up tenting longer. 350° is a much better choice.
Should I use convection? You are cooking to a final internal temperature, so yes. Adjust the oven temperature to 325° and watch for excessive skin browning.
Baking tips for the best results
- The breast needs to be in the middle of the oven for the best baking. So, the rack should be below the center of the oven.
- Rotate the pan 180° halfway through cooking—baste with oil or butter if you wish but not needed. Tent lightly near the end of cooking if the skin is browning too much.
- Never really on pop-up timers, which are inaccurate. You must use a meat or instant-read thermometer.
- Cook right to 165° in the thickest part. For more turkey safety points, see Thanksgiving Food Safety and Food Help.
- After removal from the oven, tent lightly with foil for 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the fluid to reabsorb into the meat cells and makes for moister and more tender meat—the perfect time to make gravy.
🦃Buying and preparation of a turkey breast
We can not walk into most American grocery stores and buy fresh turkey breast, especially half of a breast. We will discuss what we usually have available, skin-on bone-in rock-hard frozen whole turkey breast. They are almost always injected with a brine solution and flavor enhancers already.
The label will tell you if your turkey breast is "pre-brined" or "injected." This is fine, and it will be moist and favorable if we don't screw it up.
Some packages will include things like the neck or a gravy packet. They are there to make it weigh more, and you pay more. You could have used them to make broth gravy, but that gets you into the "spending all day in the kitchen" zone.
A "gravy package" is occasionally present. Please may your own with my simple instructions. Fresh is better.
How much turkey to buy per person?
½ pound to 1 ¼ pound per person—a wide range, and both are correct. The number of servings is not the same as how much to buy. Many people eat more than one serving, and most want leftovers.
If I'm only addressing how much turkey per serving, the ½ pound is about right. That is a good-sized slice of turkey.
But I buy a minimum of ¾ pounds per person, but if you want leftovers, then 1 pound to even 1 ½ pound per person a better range.
How to thaw a turkey breast?
The preferred method is to thaw in a refrigerator. Place the unopened breast on a tray in the fridge for 1½ to 2 days or until thawed. If you have a breast over 8 pounds, it may take longer.
That is the official recommendation, but it always seems to be a day or two longer for me. So plan ahead and do not open the sealed package.
NEVER thaw the turkey or any other meat at room temperature. It is not safe.
Quicker Water Method to Thaw a Turkey Breast: Place the unopened turkey breast in cold tap water for 3 to 5 hours. Change water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey in the safety zone of less than 40°F.
Should you brine?
Almost for sure, no. But if you are sure you have an uninjected and not previously brined turkey breast, brining it is a good thing. You should never brine an injected turkey breast, or you will have a salt lick.
How to brine a turkey breast if indicated? If you are sure your turkey is not injected or brined, you can add a simple brine of 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of salt, and ½ cup of sugar for 12 to 24 hours would be good. See How to Brine a Turkey for a complete guide for more details.
Preparing the turkey breast for the oven
1) Remove the backbone and spread the ribs. The turkey breast must sit in the roasting pan with the breast up for best results. You can use a v-shaped rack, but most people don't have one.
To get the breast to set in the pan correctly, the spine needs to be removed and the remaining rib section butterflied out to support the breast.
2) Brush with oil or butter. Most recipes use butter. I feel primarily by default, which is "the way it is done." Arguing against butter is like arguing against bacon, but for crisper skin, according to 52 Food, you will get that with oil more than butter.
Moisture is the enemy of crispy, so a good pat dry with paper towels and using oil and not butter, which is 20% water. Clarified butter is another option.
3) Seasoning: Just a sprinkle of salt, but many recipes use a variety of fresh or dry herbs—thyme and rosemary are common. Some will also add some garlic or onion.
I'm a traditionalist and want my turkey that is just turkey, and this is just a basic turkey breast recipe, so feel free to "decorate" it as you wish.
4) Use the right baking pan: The pan must have sides to prevent oven splattering and oven smoke. It also needs to be big enough if using a rack—highly recommended. A 7-pound or smaller breast will fit in a 9X13 cake pan. Larger will need a full-size roaster.
🥣How to make turkey gravy
Of course, you want gravy, but the most common way to make gravy uses a roux. For the 4 cups of gravy, that would require ½ cup of fat. You don't have that amount of pan drippings here, but we will use any available pan juices and supplement some turkey or chicken stock, or broth.
In this recipe, I suggest a slurry method to make the gravy. Whisk about ½ of the liquid with about two tablespoons of flour for every cup of gravy wanted. Pour into boiling fluid and mix slowly. More details at How To Make Gravy at Home
I rarely find turkey broth in the store, so I usually use Penzeys turkey base, but chicken broth will work well.
No, it is not safe. The stuffing would need to get to 165° to be safe, and the meat would be overcooked and dry.
No, turkey breast should be oven-roasted and uncovered. The skin must be exposed to a 350° oven for about 1 ¾ to 2 hours to brown well. That is the cooking time for a small 5 to 7 lbs breast.
If your breast is bigger, the meat will not be done when the skin is nicely brown. You need to tent lightly with foil when the skin is nice—an easy fix.
Basting is not needed. I like to rotate the breast once during the roasting to account for any oven hot spots, and I brush it with oil simultaneously—a 50-year habit that is unnecessary.
Yes, or you will be undercooked (dangerous) or overcooked (dried out). The "pop-up" timers are notoriously inaccurate—learn to ignore it.
No. Some breast meat may still be slightly pink when fully cooked, but it is still safe to eat if the temperature has reached 165° with a reliable thermometer.
Some turkey meat will be pinker from an older bird with more myoglobin which can cause a soft pink color. Also, smoked turkey is frequently pink. There are other causes, but this is not science class—see the USDA for more discussion.
🍽️What to do with leftovers
We always make extra gravy for leftovers. Cut up some turkey and reheat in the gravy (it may need a touch of water). Serve over leftover mashed potatoes, sausage dressing, or just by itself.
Storing leftover turkey
You can refrigerate cooked turkey for 3-4 days. It can be frozen for about 3-4 months. The gravy made with flour can be stored the same way.
📖Side Dish Recipes
In addition to the mandatory mashed potatoes and peas at our table, here are our favorite holiday dishes.
See Thanksgiving Menu Planning Time for my complete holiday recommendations, updated yearly.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Fully thaw the turkey breast before proceeding. Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack set at the lower third of the oven. No convection is needed here.
Remove any bags of things. Cut out the backbone if present—a heavy knife or kitchen shears are needed. If a popup timer is present, pay no attention but do not remove it.
Break back the rib sections to have a flat bottom to set on a rack. The weak point is about an inch from the breastbone on each side. Use a knife if needed. You can skip this if you are using a V-rack.
Cut back any extra skin, like the neck area—pat dry with paper towels.
Place a rack in an appropriate size pan. You can skip the rack if you don't have one. For a large 7+ pound breast, use a full roasting pan. For the smaller breast, a cake pan will do. Spray the rack and pan with PAM. Place the breast on the rack and spread the rib sections to stabilize the breast.
Give it a bush with vegetable oil or melted butter. You can give it a sprinkle of kosher salt at this point.
Place in oven. Leave it alone for 1 hour, rotate 180° and brush with oil or butter. Check the color at about 1 ½ hours to 2 hours; if the skin becomes too brown, tent lightly with foil while finishing roasting to prevent further browning.
Roast until an internal temperature of 165° in the thickest part. This will be between 16-20 minutes per pound usually. Variability is caused by the thickness of the breast, the starting internal temperature of the breast, and your oven.
Remove from the oven and tent. The internal temperature will rise about 5 degrees when tented—tent for about 10 minutes before carving.
While the turkey is resting, whisk 2 cups of turkey or chicken broth with ½ cup of flour. Add 2 cups more broth to the roasting pan and any drippings present. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Decrease the heat to medium and slowly add the broth-flour mixture while continuously whisking. Add most of it and add more later if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once thickened, cook an additional few minutes.
Slice and serve hot.
How to Cook a Turkey Breast the Easy Way
- 5-8 pounds turkey breast - thawed
- 1 tablespoon oil - or butter
- ½ cup flour
- 4 cups broth - turkey or chicken
- salt to taste
- theFully thaw the turkey breast before proceeding. Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack set at the lower third of the oven. No convection is needed.
- Remove any bags of things. Cut out the backbone if present—a heavy knife or kitchen shears are needed. If a popup timer is present, pay it no attention but do not remove it.
- Break back the rib sections to have a flat bottom to set on a rack. The weak point is about an inch from the breast bone on each side. Use a knife if needed. You can skip this if you are using a v-rack.
- Cut back any extra skin like the neck area—pat dry with paper towels.
- Place a rack of the appropriate size pan. For a large 7+ pound breast, use a full roasting pan. For the smaller breast, a cake pan will do. Spray the rack with PAM. Place the breast on the rack and spread the rib sections to stabilize the breast.
- Give it a bush with vegetable oil or melted butter. You can give it a sprinkle of salt at this point.
- Place in oven. Leave it alone for 1 hour, rotate 180 degrees, and brush with oil or butter. Check the color at about 1 ½ hours to 2 hours—if the skin is becoming too brown, tent lightly with foil while finishing roasting to prevent further browning.
- Roast until the internal temperature of 165° in the thickest part. This will be between 16-20 minutes per pound usually. Variability is caused by the thickness of the breast, the starting internal temperature of the breast, and your oven.
- Remove from oven and tent. The internal temperature will rise 3- 5°.
- Tent for about 15 minutes before carving.
- While the turkey is resting, whisk 2 cups of turkey or chicken broth with ½ cup of flour. Add 2 cups more of broth to the roasting pan and any drippings present, place over medium-high heat and bring to boil.
- Decrease the heat medium and then slowly add the broth-flour mixture while continuously whisking. Add most of it and add more later if needed to thicken it more. Add salt to taste. Once thickened, cook an additional few minutes.
My Private Notes
- For safety, never thaw at room temperature. Place the unopened turkey breast on a tray in the refrigerator for 1½ to 2 days or until thawed.
- To thaw faster, place the unopened breast in cold tap water for 3 to 5 hours. Change water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey cold under 40° for safety.
- You can brine if you are absolutely sure your turkey has not been injected or previously brined.
- Use a 350° oven. Lower the rack to have the breast in the center of the oven.
- Brush with either oil or melted butter.
- Use a meat thermometer and remove it from the oven when the internal temperature is 165° in the thickest part.
- Use foil to tent the breast in the oven if the turkey is getting too brown, and use foil again after removing it from the oven.
- After removal from the oven, tent with foil and let the breast rest for 15 minutes before cutting.
- Cooked turkey and the gravy are good refrigerated for 3-4 days and may be frozen for 3-4 months.
- Nutrition is calculated on ½ pound servings and ⅓ cup of gravy.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: First Published on March 25, 2018. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.