Servings: 6 – 8 people
5-6 lb single turkey breast, skin on, bone in (Note 1), NOT BRINED
1/2 tsp salt
Small bunch of fresh herbs – 4 rosemary sprigs, 8 sprigs sage, 10 thyme sprigs
12 garlic cloves, smashed with side of knife (see video)
5 oz (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 tsp table salt or 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped sage, fresh
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary, fresh
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, fresh
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves, fresh
Take turkey out of the fridge 45 minutes before cooking (or 30 minutes if it’s super hot where you are).
Preheat oven to 390F (all oven types). Put rack in the lower middle position. (Note 3)
Place garlic and bunch of herbs in the middle of a baking dish. (Note 4)
Butter: Mix Butter ingredients together.
Use an upside teaspoon to help loosen the skin from the turkey flesh (easiest to go under the paper thin layer under the surface skin). Video helpful here.
Use about 2/3 of the butter, and smear it under the skin on the top half of the breast. Best to smear using hands under the skin (not on surface), to ensure it spreads as evenly as possible.
Turn turkey upside down. Reserve about 2 tbsp butter for the surface, smear the rest on the underside.
Place turkey in pan on the herbs, skin side up. Now smear skin with remaining butter – you don’t want much on the skin because the herb bits burn.
STOP HERE for make ahead – the turkey can be left like this for up to 24 hours. Remove from fridge 45 minutes before serving then proceed.
Sprinkle top and sides of breast with salt and pepper all over. Place turkey in oven, turn DOWN to 350F.
Roast for 1 hr 30 minutes, basting all over every 30 minutes. (Note 5)
COOK TIME / INTERNAL TEMPERATURE: The turkey is cooked when the meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part is 165F. I check in several places. My 5.5 lb bone in turkey took 1 hr 40 minutes.
COVER turkey with foil when it becomes golden to your taste, at any point during the cook time (1 hr 15 minutes for me).
Remove turkey from pan and place on serving plate. Cover loosely with foil and rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
Butter Sauce (Note 6):
The pan will have melted butter and roasting juices. Remove herbs and garlic, squeezing out juices. Pour sauce into jug, serve with turkey.
Gravy option – see Note 11. I personally love using the butter, but I understand if you feel the need for gravy.
1. TURKEY: Single breast, bone in, is the most popular turkey breast cut here in Australia. You can also use a 2 – 2.5kg / 4-5lb single breast with no bone. This can also be with a whole bone in turkey breast (called “buffe” or “crown” here in Australia, see photos in this turkey recipe). If your turkey is larger, use the scaler (hover mouse over Servings) to adjust the ingredients.
BRINED TURKEY: Frozen packaged turkey sold in the freezer section of supermarkets is often brined (if ingredients include salt, it’s brined). This recipe will be too salty if you use brined turkey, so reduce the salt in the butter to 3/4 tsp. You may also need to add more melted butter in the pan juices to make it less salty – depends how brined your turkey is. Ensure the turkey has SKIN ON as some packaged turkey’s do not, if they are deboned and rolled (eg. Steggles).
THAW TURKEY: You must must MUST thaw turkey properly before cooking it. Thaw in the refrigerator in a large bowl/tray 24 hours for every 2 – 2.5kg / 4 – 5 kg. Or for a quick thaw, use cold tap water (not warm or hot) and allow 30 minutes for every 500g/1lb of turkey, changing the water every 30 minutes. Ensure the turkey is submerged.
Do not even think about microwave thawing it – trust me, I’ve been there, tried that, suffered dry turkey. And cooking a partly frozen turkey is a no-no too.
2. COOK TIME: Rely on your thermometer, because so many variables will affect the cook time – the accuracy of your oven, the coldness of your turkey, how often you open/close the oven, how much heat escapes every time you do that etc etc.
3. RACK POSITION: Put the rack just below the middle so the turkey itself is in the middle of the oven. If the turkey is too high, the top can brown too fast, especially in standard ovens.
4. Choose a baking dish or ovenproof skillet the breast will fit in comfortably without loads of space around it.
5. BASTING: Use a large spoon and scoop up the pan juices, pour it all over the turkey. Do this about 8 – 10 times, then return to oven.
6. BUTTER SAUCE: Taste the sauce for saltiness (depends how much salt came off skin). Too salty: Add melted unsalted butter OR lemon juice (a bit at a time) if you want lemon flavour. Key is to taste test as you go. Not salty enough: Add salt. Not enough Sauce: Add butter and salt.
You will not need loads of sauce, it’s rich . You’ll need about 2 tsp per serving. See video to see how much there is – remember there are turkey juices combined with the butter, it’s not just butter.
8. SERVINGS: Turkey should be sliced fairly thinly for optimal experience. Start carving at the fat end of the breast which is juicier (it’s inevitable the thin end will be a bit overcooked). Ensure every slice has a bit of skin OR some of the underside (it is seriously loaded with flavour in this turkey.).
Because it’s sliced thinly, and assuming plenty of sides, I think that 300g / 10 oz UNCOOKED weight is sufficient per person. The drumstick/wing/bone you see in mine and the bone in a whole double breast weighs about 400g/14oz. So to serve 8 people, I would use 8 x 300g / 10 oz = 2.4kg / 5 lb, plus 400g/14oz bone = approx 2.8kg / 5.8 lb.
9. LEFTOVERS ARE EPIC: Keep leftover turkey whole. The salt under the skin seems to sort of cure the turkey so the next day, it slices like deli meat, rather than being dry leftover turkey. Make sure you save the butter and pan juices too. See photo in post for the leftover turkey cheese sandwich with garlic butter. It’s a brioche roll that I lightly toasted. I piled turkey on a plate and topped with provolone cheese, microwaved it briefly to melt the cheese. Dollop some butter / turkey juice “jelly” onto the bottom of the bun, pile on turkey cheese, dolloped more butter then put the top on. It’s so crazy good…
10. SLOW COOKER: By popular demand, I tested this recipe in a slow cooker using a whole chicken. Gravy is a MUST for this slow cooker version because you don’t get the caramelisation from roasting so the flavour profile is different. Here is how to make this recipe in a slow cooker (it is based on this Juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast).
* Follow recipe to make the rub and put it under the skin but DO NOT put any on the underside of the breast (no point, it ends up under liquid). Just reserve 2 tbsp for the top skin surface, put all the rest of the butter in a THICK layer under the skin on the upper side of the breast.
* Put a halved onion + entire head of garlic, halved, face down in the slow cooker (unpeeled is fine). Put bunch of herbs on top per recipe, put breast on top.
* Slow cook 6 – 7 hours or until thermometer reads 74C/165F, start checking at 6 hours (see Slow Cooker Turkey Breast recipe for cook times for different turkey sizes).
* When ready, remove turkey immediately, do not leave it sitting on Warm setting. Drizzle with melted butter, bake at 220C/430F (standard) or 200C/30F (fan/convection) for 20 – 25 minutes or until browned. Stand 15 minutes, then carve and serve with gravy.
* GRAVY: Reduce juices in slow cooker to 2 cups in a large saucepan over high heat. If you are short (unlikely, because of all the butter), top up with water. Mix together 2 tbsp flour with a splash of the juices until flour is dissolved. Pour into juices and whisk. Simmer on medium high until thickened to gravy consistency, season with salt and pepper. To make the gravy colour browner, add a tiny bit of dark soy sauce (yes really, works way better than Worcestershire, adds salt too, no it does not taste Chinesy).
11. GRAVY: If you really want a gravy, this is how to do it (it will be a browned butter gravy, super delicious): Scrape the pan juices into a large saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer then add 1/4 cup of plain flour. Mix into a slurry and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in 1 cup of chicken broth, whisking as you go. When it heats up, it will thicken, if it’s too thick, add water (depends on how much juices were in pan). To darken gravy colour, use dark soy sauce – just 1/2 tsp at a time (see note above for rationale). Lastly, season with salt & pepper to taste.