A whole turkey for Thanksgiving? Nope, not this year! What if I told you that you could have all the juicy and delicious turkey that you could handle on your dinner table without having to cook a whole bird? Would you be interested?
This year I’m trying something new in the interest of minimizing the time and effort it takes to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table, but without sacrificing any flavor. I want to make things as easy and painless, oh and I want it all to take about two hours to make everything. To make this happen, roasting a whole turkey just isn’t necessary.
Cooking a whole turkey can be a little intimidating and they can get quite expensive when you pick out one of those free range premium birds that live a happy life before they arrive at your door. You can get just the breasts from those birds and I promise that you will get the same smells in the house and the breast will taste just as good (or better) than if it was part of a whole roasted turkey.
If you are intrigued by this concept, then brining and roasting a turkey breast just might be for you.
Pick out a turkey breast that has the bone in and the skin on. I noticed that not all of them covered the entire breast with skin, so try to get one that does. The skin helps protect the meat from the heat, and ins’t the skin the best part anyway? Having the bone still attached will help keep it even juicier.
Reasons to roast turkey breast instead of a whole bird
If you always roast a whole turkey and will never change, then by all means, keep on doing that. If you are on the fence between cooking a whole turkey or just the breast; here are some reasons to just roast the breast.
Roasting times: Roasting times are dramatically reduce when only roasting the breasts. Mine cooked in about an hour and a half.
Leftovers: As wonderful as leftovers can be, if you are at a vacation house or going on vacation after thanksgiving; then leftovers aren’t needed and a lot might get wasted.
Cost: The cost of stand alone turkey breasts is significantly less than buying a whole bird.
Perfectly Cooked: Since the breast cooks faster than the other parts of the turkey, it can easily get overcooked when trying fully cook the dark meat. When only cooking the breast, you can get complete control to perfectly cook it.
Carving: Removing the breast from the bone and slicing it might take all of 2 minutes; where carving a whole bird could take 10 to 15 minutes
Extra Oven Room: Roasting just the breast gives you extra oven room in the oven for your stuffing/dressing, desserts and other sides that normally have to wait when the whole oven is taken up by a big turkey.
Brining the Turkey Breast
A ton of flavor is infused into the breast with this brine, it also helps keep it super juicy. Lots of herbs along with the salt in the brine are infused to keep the turkey super moist when cooking.
You can brine the turkey breast for anywhere between 2 and 4 hours. You can easily brine it the day before or in the morning, then remove and rinse it from the brine.
Do note that a brined turkey cooks faster than if it wasn’t brined, so be sure to check the temperature frequently.
- 4 cups Water
- 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
- 3 tbsp Honey
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 Rosemary Sprigs
- 4 Thyme Sprigs
- 4 Fresh Sage leaves
- 4 Garlic Cloves smashed
- 6 Black Peppercorns
- 1 4lb bone in and skin on half Turkey Breast
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 2 tsp Thyme Leaves
To make the brine
- Boil half of the water 2 cups of water and combine with the other ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Whisk to dissolve and let steep for 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining 2 cups of cold water to cool down the brine. You can add a few ice cubes to cool it down quicker.
- Place the turkey breast in large zip lock bags and fill with the brine, seal, place in a large bowl (to prevent spills) and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
- Remove the breast from the brine and rinse thoroughly, then dry with paper towels.
To roast the Turkey Breast
- Preheat oven to 450
- Bring the turkey breast to room temperature.
- Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan with a rack.
- Rub the breast with butter and the thyme leaves, being sure to get some under the skin and underneath.
- Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes (or until it is golden), then reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
- The breast is done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Tent with foil and rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.