Whether hosting a smaller gathering or when extra is needed, a turkey breast is a great choice. And this Brined Roast Turkey Breast guarantees great flavor with juicy, moist results. Use the leftover for Turkey Tortellini Soup.
If your Thanksgiving table looks anything like mine, there's usually one platter of turkey and lots and lots of sides. Carving the turkey is sometimes a bigger draw than actually eating it. And turkey, especially the white meat, can be dry and well—let's face it...boring. This smaller portioned, Brined Roast Turkey Breast will satisfy all the white meat lovers with its big flavor and juicy texture.
Why brine a turkey?
- Moisture. Say buy-bye now to dry white meat and hello to the most popular dish on your Thanksgiving table. A brine is the deep dark secret to keeping this juicy roast turkey breast.
- Flavor. A brine includes herbs and spices and sometimes even citrus adding tremendous flavor and seasoning.
And of course with brining you have choices: wet or dry. For this turkey breast brine, we are going to use a dry brine.
The difference between a dry and wet brine
Other than the fact that a dry brine doesn't have water, there are some advantages to making a dry brine turkey breast:
Juicy meat with big flavor. A wet brine adds more water to the turkey breast potentially leading to waterlogging, which is the main problem with traditional brining. For more information on why dry brining rules, this article from Serious Eats offers more insight.
Time. Making a dry brine is as simple as stirring some herbs and spices together in a bowl. No boiling and cooling of a brining solution. Time saved!
Ease of preparation. The biggest advantage of a dry brine is you only need a bag big enough to hold your protein and a pan to put it in. A wet brine is a little more complicated. You'll mix water and the seasonings together and then immerse the whole bird, breast, or cut of meat into the brine in a container large enough to hold the whole lot (a cooler, for example). And then you'll have to find somewhere cold enough to store it. Blech.
How long to brine
Brine time for a whole, bone-in turkey breast is anywhere from 8 hours to overnight.
[Side note: don't use a boneless, rolled turkey breast for this recipe. It's essentially parts of turkey pressed together which isn't what you want here].
Tips for crisp golden turkey skin
High heat blast. You'll crank the oven temperature for the first 15 minutes and then lower it down after that to brown that bird beautifully.
Secret ingredient. I borrowed a brining technique from Chef J Kenji Lopez-Alt for this recipe that gives a crispy, golden skin to the turkey breast. A little bit of baking powder added to the dry brine creates this beautiful crackling skin that your guests will fight over.
How to make dry brine
Mix together the following:
Kosher salt. The best type of salt for a dry brine is kosher salt. [Note: I have successfully used sea salt before even though it's not been hailed as the best choice because its texture doesn't allow the dry brine to be evenly spread over the bird.} See note below about using different types of salt.
Seasoning. Brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder and thyme
Baking powder. Per the crispy skin benefits highlighted above.
Rub the dry brine all over the outside of the turkey breast and sprinkle in the inside cavities.
Place the turkey in an extra large ziploc, brining bag or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set the whole thing on a sheet pan to refrigerate overnight.
Roasting rack alternative
If you don't have a meat rack to hold your turkey breast, thickly sliced potatoes (or onions) work fabulously for keeping the bird lifted off the sheet pan. This is what I did here and the potatoes under the bird were so flavorful and the ones outside were almost potato chip crispy. They are on the saltier side but still really good!
NO! Rinsing a brined turkey adds water which affects browning and washes off all that great seasoning you've just added to the turkey. Your turkey will not be too salty. I promise!
I have used Jacobsen Italian Sea Salt, Morton Kosher and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt all with great results. However, they are different by weight. Jacobsen and Morton are the same by weight and Diamond is lighter with bigger flakes.
1 cup of Morton Kosher Salt = 1 ⅓ cup of Diamond (1.34 conversion)
1 cup of Diamond Crystal = ¾ cup of Morton (.75 conversion)
Absolutely! Start with this recipe for up to a 10-12 pound turkey and adjust accordingly. See the recipe for more information on brining a whole turkey.
Cooking and Storing Tips
How long to cook a bone in turkey breast. The golden rule for cooking a turkey breast is 20 minutes per pound but use a meat thermometer to ensure the bird is cooked to 165°.
Storing leftover turkey. Refrigerate for or up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Leftover turkey breast recipes
Most anywhere you add chicken to a recipe, you can substitute roast turkey breast.
Brined Roast Turkey Breast
- roasting rack
- large ziploc bag or plastic wrap
- 5-6 lb bone-in turkey breast, rinsed and dried, giblet bag removed; can use for a whole bird up to 10-12 lbs*
- ½ cup kosher salt, Morton/Jacobsen (if using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, see conversion note below)*
- 2 Tablespoons baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon thyme
- 6 whole fresh sage leaves
- Fully pat turkey dry with paper towels.
To dry brine
- Mix brine ingredients in medium mixing bowl until fully blended.
- Coat the inside and outside of the bird with the dry brine. Use all of it.
- Place inside large ziploc and set on a sheet pan in the fridge.
- Refrigerate overnight until ready to roast. DO NOT RINSE THE TURKEY (see below).
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Set the turkey in a roasting rack (or see alternative in notes below) and place on a sheet pan.
- Roast for 15 minutes and then lower oven to 350° until meat thermometer reaches 165° (cooking time is approximately 20 minutes per pound).
- Cover with foil and let rest for 10 - 15 minutes before removing breast from bone and carving into slices.
- Garnish option: before roasting, slide whole sage leaves under skin for a pretty presentation.