How To Cook A Turkey Breast America’s Test Kitchen

Hi !

appears on Americas Test Kitchen TV and Cooks Illustrated November/December 2017

For a smaller holiday gathering, a perfectly cooked, crispy-skinned turkey breast may be the perfect choice—especially if it comes with gravy.

SERVES 6 to 8

TIME 2½ hours, plus 24 hours salting

How To Cook A Turkey Breast Americas Test Kitchen

We employ a few more tricks in this recipe. Rubbing butter into the meat and under the skin adds flavor and fat, two things that white meat turkey lacks. We discovered that adding herbs, garlic, shallots, citrus zest, chiles, or spices to the butter was simple. There is an additional advantage to lifting up the skin to incorporate the butter into the meat. When the skin is loose, the meat separates from it more easily, which improves the browning of the turkey in the oven.

Editor’s Note: America’s Test Kitchen is a real 2,500-square-foot test kitchen just outside Boston that is home to more than three-dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time and equipment that yields the best, most foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen’s online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Any kind of turkey breast will work just fine in this recipe. If you’re using a natural turkey breast (one without added salt), we suggest brining. To brine a natural turkey breast, fill a large container with ½ cup table salt and 4 quarts cold water. Brine the turkey, then cover and refrigerate the container for three to six hours. Brine is not necessary when using a kosher turkey breast, which is soaked in salt water during processing, or when using a self-basting turkey breast, which is injected with salt and water. If the turkey breast has been salt-treated, it will be indicated in the ingredient list on the package. If brining the turkey, omit the salt from the recipe. Don’t take out the pop-up timer if the breast has one. Ignore it; they pop too late. Instead, adhere to the recipe’s timing and temperature requirements.

But the problem with white meat turkey is that it can be flavorless and easily overdone. For two reasons, roasting a turkey breast in a moderate oven is the best way to prevent it from drying out. First, if the oven is set to 325 degrees instead of 425 degrees, there is a larger window of time during which the turkey will reach the proper internal temperature of 160 degrees. Second, in a moderate oven, the meat just beneath the skin is less likely to overcook. When the center of the breast reaches temperature in a hot oven, the meat immediately beneath the skin has already overcooked. In a cooler oven, this effect is lessened.

It goes without saying that roasting a turkey at 325 degrees results in a soft and pale skin. Our easy fix is to start the turkey in an oven set at 425 degrees to render fat in the skin and speed up the crisping and browning process. After just 30 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. After that, the turkey can bake for a further hour, gradually achieving the internal temperature of 160 degrees.