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How to cook bone-in turkey breast

Have you been avoiding cooking turkey breast because you are afraid of serving a dry piece of meat? Put all such fears aside because we are about to show you how to cook a turkey breast and achieve juicy and flavor-packed meat.

The breast is considered the most prized part of a turkey. It’s big and meaty and pairs well with various sides, especially gravy.

However, making roasted, grilled, or fried turkey breast can be a delicate affair. If you don’t cook the turkey breast the right way, your seasonings may not penetrate and flavor every part of the meat. Also, you could overcook the bird and end up with dry meat.

Estimated Roasting Time††
††For food safety, and best dining experience, always use a meat thermometer to check for proper doneness.
Weight in Lbs. Roasting Time at 350° Slow Cooker Time on High Slow Cooker Time on Low
3-5 lbs. 1-2¼ hours 3-4 hours 5-6 hours
5-7 lbs. 2¼-3 hours 4-5 hours 6-7 hours
7-9 lbs. 3-3½ hours 5-6 hours 7-8 hours

Why Should You Cook a Bone-In Turkey Breast?

Compared to boneless turkey breasts, high-quality bone-in turkey breasts are typically larger and contain both sides of the breast.

Properly cooked bone-in and boneless breasts can be juicy and flavorful. However, bone-in turkey breasts have a slight advantage. The bone in the breast insulates the nearby meat during cooking, causing it to heat slower and retain moisture.

Lastly, if handling a whole turkey intimidates you, opt for bone-in turkey breasts. Breast meat requires less time to prep. Also, since it’s only white meat, you don’t have to worry about overcooking the breasts while waiting for the dark meat to cook.

How to Cook a Bone-in Turkey Breast

Here’s how to cook a bone-in turkey breast:

Preparation: How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey Breast

Note: If you have fresh turkey breasts, skip the thawing process and jump to the brining process.

Cooking frozen turkey breasts does not deliver the best results. Seasonings won’t penetrate the frozen exterior, leading to under-seasoned meat. Also, frozen breasts take longer to cook, and the extended cook time could dry out the meat. For these reasons, you need to thaw your frozen turkey before doing anything else with it.

The two most effective thawing methods are cold water and refrigerator thawing. Refrigerator-thaw your turkey by:

  1. Adjusting your fridge temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to prevent bacteria growth
  2. Leaving the turkey breast in the packaging and placing it in a baking pan
  3. Placing the frozen turkey in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours

Since a frozen turkey breast will take 24 to 36 hours to thaw in the fridge, put it in the fridge the day before you need to cook. If your fridge doesn’t have enough space to thaw a turkey breast, or you need a faster thawing process, follow these cold water thawing steps:

  1. Leave the turkey breast in its original packaging
  2. Fully submerge the packaged turkey in a container filled with cold water (never warm or hot water)
  3. Change the water every 30 minutes until you have thawed the turkey

How to Brine a Bone-in Turkey Breast

Note: Before brining a turkey breast, check if the label states brined or pre-basted. If you have a pre-basted or brined turkey breast, reduce your brine recipe’s salt by half.

After thawing your turkey, the next step is brining. Brining turkey breasts locks moisture and flavor inside the meat, leaving you with a cooked bird that’s moist and delicious. You have two options for brining turkey breasts – wet and dry brining.

Wet brining will give you the juiciest possible meat, while dry brining will give you the tastiest turkey breasts. Read how to brine a turkey here. After completing the brining process, it’s time to oven roast your turkey.

Oven Roasting Turkey Breast

Oven roasting offers better control over the cooking heat, enabling you to achieve cooked breasts with crispy skin and moist meat on the inside.

Follow these steps to oven roast turkey breast:

  1. Pat the turkey breast dry with a paper towel
  2. Coat all sides of the turkey breast with vegetable oil or butter (it will give the meat a beautiful color and help your seasonings adhere)
  3. Rub your dry seasonings into the meat
  4. Place the meat breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan
  5. Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and put the pan with the turkey inside
  6. After the turkey turns golden brown, loosely cover it with an aluminum foil tent (it will help prevent over-browning)
  7. Take the turkey breast out of the oven when the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the breast
  8. Let the meat rest for ten minutes before slicing it

Other Cooking Methods

If you don’t own an oven or want a different flavor or texture, you can cook your turkey breasts with these other methods.

Explore Our Turkey Breast Recipes

Mustard & Sage Roasted Turkey Breast

The simple recipe requires minimal prep time (less than 20 minutes) and delivers brightly flavored turkey breasts. You will have enough meat for eight to ten servings.

Maple Bourbon Glazed Bone-in Turkey Breast

This bone-in turkey breast recipe is ideal for Thanksgiving and other festivities. It takes 20 minutes to prep and about two hours to cook. The meat is rich, delicious, and moist, and you will have potatoes and other accouterments on the side for a well-balanced meal.

Herbs de Provence Bone-in Turkey Breast Roast

If you are planning a fancy dinner party, you should try this recipe. It’s tasty and has enough meat for six servings. Don’t let the 12 to 24-hour prep time intimidate you because the results are worth it.

Get fresh turkey breasts for bringing these recipes to life here.

Bone-In Turkey Prep FAQs

Appetite varies between individuals. However, the USDA recommends serving one pound of turkey per person.

In a 350°F oven, a three to five-pound bone-in turkey breast will cook within one to two hours. A five to seven-pound turkey breast will take two to three hours to cook, while a seven to nine-pound breast will cook within three to three and a half hours.

Your turkey is ready and safe to eat when the meat thermometer reads 165°F.

You can debone a bone-in turkey breast with a sharp knife. Place the meat on a cutting board with the breast facing down. Vertically cut open the backbone at the center and pull the meat apart to expose the interior. Find the keel bone and use your knife to peel it away from the turkey breast. Do the same with the rib bones at the sides of the breast.

Everyone has their preferences. If you plan on serving and carving a turkey breast at the table, a bone-in turkey breast can be more visually appealing. However, if having the bone inside the breast will interfere with your recipe, a boneless turkey breast could be a better choice.

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