How to: Moist Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

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Turkey breast, with or without the bone, stays moist and tender while roasting.
Turkey breast, with or without the bone, stays moist and tender while roasting. (Image: turkey breast meat image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

When turkey is cooked properly, it's tender and juicy. When it's not, it's dry and stringy. You don't have to get up at midnight to slow roast a turkey breast in the hopes that the lower temperature will keep the bird moist. There's no need to tie up the oven for five or more hours. Brining the breast, or even the entire turkey, is the secret to juicy roasted turkey. The turkey breast must be fresh, or you can use a completely defrosted frozen breast.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon
  • 3 qt. water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, lime, orange sliced
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • Thyme
  • Sage leaves
  • Large cooking pot
  • Ice cubes
  • Food storage bag
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Paper towels
  • Roasting pan
  • 2 cups chicken broth or white wine
  • Saucepan
  • Cornstarch

Combine 3 qt. of water with 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of brown sugar. Add a sliced lemon, lime and orange. Add a bunch of washed parsley, four or five sprigs of thyme and two sage leaves. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Add enough ice cubes to the brine to make 1 gallon. The ice cubes cool down the liquid, so the turkey's temperature doesn't rise to room temperature. You want to keep it cold while it's brining. Place the turkey in a glass bowl or in a giant-size food storage bag. Pour the ice cold brine mixture over the turkey. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before roasting. All parts of the turkey breast should be submerged in the brine.

Combine 1/2 cup of butter with 1 tbsp. of lemon juice, 1 tbsp. each of chopped thyme, chopped parsley and two sage leaves. You can use more sage if you really like the flavor, but it does have a tendency to overpower other herbs.

Remove the turkey breast from the brine about one hour before roasting. Rinse under cool running water, then pat dry. Pull the skin of the turkey away from the meat by running your fingers between the skin and the meat; but don't remove the skin.

Rub the herbed butter mixture on the meat underneath the skin of the turkey. Save about a tablespoon of the mixture and rub it directly on the skin. If you like the flavor of lemon, thinly slice a lemon and put the slices under the skin after you've used the butter mixture.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Immediately lower the heat to 350 degrees F. when you put the turkey in. Bake for 20 minutes per pound of turkey breast. For example, a five-pound turkey breast would roast for 1 hour and 40 minutes. If the turkey is browning too fast, lightly cover it with aluminum foil. Use an instant-read thermometer to determine when the turkey is done. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. When it reaches 160 degrees, the turkey is done.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth or white wine to the drippings in the pan. Scrape all the bits from the pan and transfer them and the broth or wine to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. This intensifies the flavor of the liquid. Dissolve 1 tbsp. of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of cold water for every cup of drippings. In other words, if there are 2 cups of drippings you'll need 2 tbsp. of cornstarch. Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce pan, stirring briskly. Bring it to barely simmering. The cornstarch slurry will thicken the liquid. Use it as a gravy.

References

  • "The Joy of Cooking"; Irma S. Rombauer; 1972
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