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 a turkey breast
About 16-20 minutes per pound of turkey breast 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.
Also, we love Leftover Turkey Tetrazzini. Or make a pot pie, Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie—Quick and Easy.
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.
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole
Green Bean Casserole Without Soup
Easy Yeast Dinner Rolls in 60 Minutes
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.
Your Own 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.
© 101 Cooking for Two, LLC. All content and photographs are copyright protected by us or our vendors. While we appreciate your sharing our recipes, please realize copying, pasting, or duplicating full recipes to any social media, website, or electronic/printed media is strictly prohibited and a violation of our copyrights.
Editor's Note: First Published on March 25, 2018. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.
Hi Dr. Dan
Can you put stuffing under the breast?
Maybe cook a little longer?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog and good question.
It is all about safety which means temperature. So yes, as long as you get the stuffing to 165 in all areas. But you do not want to overcook the turkey. So, remove the breast when it is 165 and you can leave the dress in to reach the required 165 while the breast rests to absorb the fluid back into the cells.
I see two issues, first, the pan is tied up with the dressing so my gravy is either skipped or another method is needed. And the second is the dressing will be cooked under the weight of the breast, leading a compressed texture I probably wouldn't prefer.
Hope that helps.
I found this recipe last year and forgot to save it and Thank Goodness I came across it again this year. It's just me and my husband right now and even if we do get invited over to family I always like to make turkey that weekend and have our own dressing and gravy. Yes, it's Thanksgiving Day right now and the breast is going in the oven in about 30 minutes. This time I will try and cut the backbone properly. And thank you for the Penzley's tip. I have family that is in a city right now where they have a location. I am going to ask them to pick it up for me. Thanks Dr. Dan!
I would like to make my turkey beasts the day before I need it. Any suggestions on how long to cook and then heat up when needed.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
Yes, you can. If you do a Google search, you will find some instructions. You will basically cook fully, cool completely, carve into larger pieces, sprinkle with some broth, cover tight and refrigerate. Reheat still covered at 325-350 to serving temperature. The skin will not do well but the meat should be good. If you don't carve ahead, heating the center of the meat will take about the same time as cooking.
The reheat will take about 45-60 minutes I suspect (I never did a full breast or bird ahead). I would only do this if I was traveling/taking it somewhere. Cooking fresh doesn't take a whole lot longer.
Hope that helps.
Even tho I've done turkey breast before, this recipe had several good tips. Also I like the fact that the recipes in general are for two. I'm only one, but an extra helping for another nite's quick dinner is my idea of easy cooking.
I roasted a 6.5 lb turkey breast following these instructions, but it did not work out as well as I had hoped. I had defrosted the turkey in the refrigerator for about 1.5 days. Then I wet brined it using kosher salt according to the SeriousEats proportions (1.25 cups kosher salt to 1 gallon water) for 8 hours. I thoroughly rinsed off all the brining solution and then dried it well and air dried it in the refrigerator for another day. I took the bird out of the refrigerator 1.5 hours before I planned to roast it. I brushed the skin well with clarified butter, scattered onions and celery and shallots under the rack which held the bird and poured in some water to keep the veggies from scorching.
I then followed these roasting instructions. Based on the 5 lb. bird mentioned here which took 20 minutes per pound, I took it out after 1 hour and 45 minutes and the temperature was already at 185 degrees. I was so upset, thinking the meat would be tough and dry. However, the brining saved me. It was juicy enough when served and very tasty because we did not wait to let it rest and just carved it after waiting about 10 minutes. The skin was golden brown, very nice.
I think the instructions should be modified to start to take the temperature based on 15-16 minutes per pound total roasting time. [Part of this comment removed for food safety issues- DrDan]
I will follow this method again with the change I recommend and post back here again. Thanks for posting these instructions DrDan!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog. I do have a number of comments.
1) Almost all frozen turkey breast are injected or brined already. There are a few but not many (I have never seen one) So, you should not be brining an already injected/brined breast.
2) The breast is overdone at 185 but turkey is very forgiving especially if injected or brined.
3) The primary reason your breast was overdone is the 1.5 hour rest at room temperature. So you gave the turkey a "headstart" on getting up to temperature. So normally the refrigerated breast is 35-40 degrees when it goes in the oven. Assuming yours was about 55-60 degrees when it went in the oven, that is 15-25 degrees headstart on getting to temp. That accounts for the 20 degrees you were over.
4) I will play my doctor card here having seen lots of food poisoning in my time. FDA is correct.
5) I have removed some of your comments since I consider it dangerous if followed. I will leave your poor rating for now but this recipe and instructions were not followed. (you had rate twice, in the card and comment. One delete)
I hope I have convinced you not to follow the dangerous instructions you found on another site.
This is the best, most straightforward instruction I have seen.
Thank you for sharing this information..I will be roasting our turkey breast, & these instructions seem like the BEST of all I have read..Will post the results on Friday. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours🥰
Amazing, simple instructions for cooking turkey. Everyone else seems to be going overboard with herbs and spices and brines and rubs and sauces. And there must be a dozen "new and improved" ways to roast turkey. This is the way my Dad and my Granny roasted their birds, and it's a trip down memory lane. Thanks!
I like the way you explain how to cook the turkey, but my problem is I am cooking in an electric roaster, not an oven; Would you change the temp or any other procedure, or run it the same as for a regular oven? Thanks for any help you can provide.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
I have a roaster, so you have the other one. I had to say that. I have never really used the roaster to cook. I use mine to keep food (like my chicken for a hundred) warm in the safe food zone without cooking. I have a long discussion on them on that post.
Having said that, I would just think of it as an odd looking oven (it is) and do it about the same. I wouldn't rotate or baste since I don't want to lose all the heat. So a remote thermometer would be good. I suspect the skin won't be very good since all the moisture that is trapped.
If you do it, post about it. Inquiring minds want to know.
Thanks for the interesting question and the rating.
Pure joy, love it! Great, practical advice. All worked like a charm. This is my third one and pretty sure your site is the one I used before. A lot of "junk" on the internet, but this was well worth it!!! I saved it to my phone because I'll probably forget by next time , lol single, old guy. Thanks, Tim
Welcome to the blog.
I learned many years ago to be straight forward and complete. I try to make things like this recipe so visitors can see themselves do the recipe before they actually do it. So it is almost like doing it a second time.
Glad you enjoyed it.
Thanks for the note and rating.
Thank you for this wonderful recipe. The Turkey breast filled my entire home with such a delicious aroma. I made this for our Sunday dinner it was the star of the meal.
Welcome to the blog.
Glad it worked well for you and thanks for the note.
This is sooo good. I made the mistake of cooking past 165 and it was still juicy. The hardest part for me was taking out the backbone-I didn't have a tough enough scissor or the right knife. If you buy a fresh breast have the butcher do it.
Hi Mary Lou,
Welcome to the blog.
I have a couple of pairs of very sharp kitchen shears that work great but they are "heavy". Those light ones just won't do it.
Thanks for the note.
The step by step instructions, with photos, are very helpful. I have cooked many a turkey breast, but never thought about removing the backbone and flattening the breast. The solution for gravy without the benefit of drippings is appreciated. I look forward to more recipes.
FIVE stars, but can not locate where to enter them. MERRY CHRISTMAS
Welcome to the blog.
I like step by step photos. Readers can just take their time and understand the instructions. I don't do videos since I don't see them as useful in the long run.
Glad you find the tips useful. The rating is by clicking the star you want in the the recipe card.
Thanks for the note, enjoy your turkey and Merry Christmas to you.
Would you recommend an unbridled turkey breast for people on a low sodium diet and if so, how can I keep it moist?
Welcome to the blog.
The first part of your question is really medical. How much of a sodium restriction are you are on. This will vary by why you are on the diet and other medical issues. Your doctor will have a recommendation for you. I, a retired pediatrician, really can't answer it for you.
Brined turkey will add about 350-400 mg of sodium to the serving. A 4 oz serving of Butterball turkey breast (frozen, pre-injected) is 410 mg. Roasted turkey breast without brine or injection is 71 mg per my reference.
So sorry no solid anwser for you. It is hard (around me at least) to find a non-injected turkey breast. Even the fresh ones are frequently injected.
Hope that helps somewhat.
Where's the "like" button? Great article. : )
Welcome to the blog.
Thanks for the compliment. The rating is in the "recipe card" area. Click on the star you want (obviously the star on the right for a 5 :) ).
Have a great holiday.
i have not made this yet but plan to, will let you know when I do I just found your web site. This is the first time I found a simple basic recipe with good instructions and no ingredients I don't have and never heard of. I am looking forward to being part of this group and am excited to check out other recipes.
Welcome to the blog.
I try to do simple and basic recipes. Once you master that, you can go fancier.
Let me know if you have any questions. And thanks for the note.
I am thinking of begging my husband for two golden pups. One for each of us. Thank you for the wonderful pictures of your beautiful dogs!
I am new to your blog. I just purchased the All-Clad Prep and Cook. I’ve read about similar cookers around the world (some so expensive I thought I would never get one. We’ve had ours for about a month. I find their cookbook mostly things I’ll never make. So I’m signing up for every blog using one. Thank you for helping we newbies!
Welcome to the blog. And Molly (my wife's dog) and Lilly (my dog) say thanks and you should do it. There is nothing like have your sister adopted with you.
I hate those cookbooks that come with things that are recipes for things that you never have heard of or even think of cooking, They just need to fill the book I guess. But occasionally you will find a gem in the weeds.
I doubt you will find many recipes (at least on blogs) specifically for a Prep and Cook. The market would be "limited". It is hard enough for blogs to get traffic for general use recipe without limiting to such a small audience. But you may find some that would work. Good luck with your search.
Michele @ Queenbeebaker
I love turkey! This looks so delicious and easy. Cannot wait to try your instructions.
You have made such a difference in my life. I was sick of cooking. Now I check your blog often for straightforward, delicious recipes. Thank you. Best wishes to you and your garlic loving wife.
I'm blushing and you just can't see it.
I hope you continue to enjoy my offerings. I try to be simple and straightforward with everything and to present it with some joy and love.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Thanks for the wonderful note.