How to cook moist oven roasted turkey breast

Written by katie jensen
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How to cook moist oven roasted turkey breast
Turkey breast, with or without the bone, stays moist and tender while roasting. (Image by timsackton; Flickr)

When turkey is cooked properly, it's tender and juicy. When it's not, turkey can be dry and stringy. You don't have to get up at midnight to slow roast a turkey breast in the hope that the lower temperature will keep the bird moist. Brining the breast is the secret to juicy roasted turkey. The turkey breast must be fresh, or you can use a completely defrosted frozen breast.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon
  • 2.8 litres of 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

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  1. 1

    Combine the 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 the liquid simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

  2. 2

    Add enough ice cubes to the brine to make 4.5 litres. 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. Submerge all parts of the turkey breast in the brine.

  3. 3

    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 flavour, but it does have a tendency to overpower other herbs.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 5

    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 flavour of lemon, thinly slice a lemon and put the slices under the skin after you've used the butter mixture.

  6. 6

    Preheat the oven to 230C. Immediately lower the heat to 170C when you put the turkey in. Bake for 20 minutes per 500 grams of turkey breast. For example, a 2.5 kg turkey breast would roast for 1 hour and 40 minutes. If the turkey is browning too fast, lightly cover it with aluminium 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 71C, the turkey is done.

  7. 7

    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 flavour 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.

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