Last year we were grateful to celebrated an early and intimate family Thanksgiving dinner while my daughter was visiting. Not wanting to roast a whole turkey for five people, I decided to roast turkey breast because we only eat breast meat anyway. This was actually easier than trussing, roasting and basting a whole turkey. I carved and presented this delicious turkey and it’s was a stunner!
I purchased a six-pound, bone-in, skin-on whole turkey breast because bone-in always adds extra flavor and the skin helps keep the breast from drying out. I had purchased truffle butter with the idea of making truffle mac-n-cheese, but after watching a Barefoot Contessa episode, I quickly slathered the butter on the turkey breast instead. No regrets!
TIPS ON SELECTING & THAWING TURKEY
Keep in mind the number of guests and if you want leftovers. Generally speaking, a three-pound turkey breast will feed 2-4 people and a six- to seven-pound turkey breast will feed 6-8 people. If you’re buying a frozen turkey, allow approximately 24 hours per every 4-5 pounds of meat. Large whole birds can take up to five days to thaw. My small turkey breast took two days to thaw. Always thaw in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter. Once thawed, the breasts will stay fresh a few extra days in the fridge allowing plenty of time to season and cook the turkey by the big day. This recipe is a method so it will work well for any turkey breast or whole turkey.
Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature at least for 30 minutes before cooking. You can use this time to gather the ingredients, place the oven rack in the bottom third and preheat the oven to 350°F. Make sure your butter is at room temperature for easy spreading. Peel the onion and cut into big chunks, cut an unpeeled head of garlic in half crosswise and prep some fresh thyme leaves.
Important Cooking Tip: Did you know that poultry can safely sit at room temperature up to an hour? This is very important if you want juicy meat that is evenly cooked from edge to center. When you place any meat from the fridge directly into the pan or oven, the heat will dry the meat on the outside before the inside has time to come to temperature and cook properly. This applies to poultry, meat and pork.
About Your Oven: Not all ovens heat evenly or come to temperature when the pre-heating alarm sounds. This is especially true of older ovens. I allow an extra 15 minutes to preheat the oven, but you can also purchase an oven thermometer.
PREPPING AND ROASTING THE TURKEY
Pat dry the turkey breast all around with paper towels and discard the paper towels. Using your fingers loosen the skin under the breast without tearing it apart. Be mindful of any rings that could tear the skin. Place pats of butter under the skin and massage the butter around and spread evenly. It’s okay if the butter is lumpy – it will melt into the meat. Transfer the turkey breast onto the roasting pan and generously season the cavity with kosher salt & pepper and sprinkle with poultry seasoning and ground sage. Stuff the cavity with a few fresh thyme sprigs, cut garlic and onion chucks. If it doesn’t all fit or if it spills out onto the roasting pan, that’s okay – these are just aromatics.
Rub a little extra virgin olive oil on the skin to coat and generously season with kosher salt & black pepper. Evenly sprinkle from top to bottom in a zig-zag motion poultry seasoning, ground sage and fresh thyme leaves. Place the roasting pan in your preheated oven and roast at 350°F for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of white wine and roast for an additional hour. Thereafter, check every 15 minutes for doneness. If your turkey breast is browning too quickly, tent it with foil until completely roasted.
General Guidelines for Cooking Turkey: Turkey is done when the thickest part of the breast meat registers 165°F on a meat thermometer. Generally it’s 20 minutes cooking time per pound of meat. Oven temperature should range from 325-350°F to ensure the turkey is fully cooked internally.
Once fully cooked, remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Not only will the turkey continue to cook due to the internal heat, but as it cools, the juices will redistribute throughout. If you bypass this step and you carve into your turkey, all the juices will run out and you’ll be left with a very dry turkey.
I’m not an expert carver, but I’ll share how I carve a turkey. I prefer to remove all the meat off the bone at once, slice and serve it all on a platter so my guests can help themselves. This allows me to also enjoy the meal and not be carving as guests want a second helping. I realize this is a matter of preference and there isn’t a right or wrong way to serve a turkey, this just works for me. Using a sharp knife, cut alongside the top breastbone and move the knife downward, following the rib cage. If you stay close to the ribcage, you’ll be able to remove most of the meat off the bone. Once you reach the bottom, make a straight horizontal cut and remove the full breast. Repeat steps and remove the other breast. Slice both breasts in thick slices, transfer them onto a serving platter and garnish with fresh thyme and cranberries for color. That’s it. Each guest is free to help themselves and everyone can enjoy dinner together.
DRIPPINGS & MAKING GRAVY
Depending on your turkey’s fat content, you may or may not have enough drippings to make gravy. My turkey was very lean and I used a larger roasting pan, so I didn’t have any pan drippings. Don’t reach for jar gravy! You can make delicious gravy with caramelized onions. I’ll share that recipe soon and link it here. The best thing about gravy is you can make it ahead and control the amount of salt.
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS
The beauty of having extra white meat is you can make sandwiches or casseroles so you can focus on baking! Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months. As I populate the blog, I’ll link some here.
Roasted Turkey Breast with Truffle Butter
Truffle butter sets this turkey apart! It's the perfect main attraction at any Thanksgiving table.
- 1 6-7 lb. whole turkey breast, bone-in, skin-on, thawed
- 3 ounces black truffle butter, room temperature
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut in chunks
- 1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
- kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- fresh ground black pepper
- poultry seasoning
- ground sage
- fresh thyme sprigs
- extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ cup white wine chardonnay, chablis or other white wine of your choice
PREPPING THE TURKEY
Allow ample time to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. Generally, allow approximately 24 hour per 4-5 pounds. I thawed my six-pound turkey breast two days before roasting.
An hour before you roast the turkey, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature. This will ensure even cooking from edge to center and will aid in yielding a juicy turkey.
MAKING THE TURKEY
Preheat oven to 350°F and set the oven rack in the middle to lower third of the oven, allowing ample space from the oven's top heat element to the turkey.
Pat dry the skin with paper towels and discard.
Use your fingers to loosen the skin from the breast meat without tearing the skin. Be mindful of rings that could tear the skin.
Place pats of truffle butter under the skin and massage the butter around to spread and coat evenly. Don't worry if it looks a little lumpy, it will melt into the meat.
Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and generously season the cavity with kosher salt and black pepper. Lightly sprinkle poultry seasoning and ground sage. Stuff the cavity with a few fresh thyme sprigs, onion chunks and garlic. If it spills out onto the pan, it's okay.
Lightly coat the skin with a little olive oil and generously season with kosher salt and black pepper. In a zig-zag motion, lightly sprinkle both poultry seasoning and ground sage over the skin and top with fresh thyme leaves.
Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven and roast at 350°F for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of white wine and roast for an additional hour. Thereafter, check every 15 minutes for doneness.
Note: Turkey is done when the thickest part of the breast meat registers 165°F. Actual size of your turkey and varying oven temperatures will affect the cooking time. This is why it's important to roast until a meat thermometer registers 165°F.
Once done, remove from the oven and tent with foil for 15-20 minutes. This will allow juices to redistribute throughout.
Carve and plate on a platter. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.
This recipe was inspired and adapted from Ina Garten’s Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter recipe.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.