Turkey breast is festive. There are so many ways to cook it: From smoking it with a lovely glaze, to brining and herb-roasting, to going fancy with a roulade. But there is no easier way to have it come out absolutely perfect every time than when you cook it with this sous vide method.
The texture, juiciness and tenderness that you get from cooking turkey breast sous vide is pretty much unmatched. Oh, and it's so darn easy and just about impossible to mess up.
And this is not just a holiday or dinner recipe; sous vide turkey breast is perfect for slicing into lunch or sandwich meat!
Why You Should Sous Vide Your Turkey Breast
There are numerous benefits from cooking your turkey breast sous vide.
- The Best Turkey Breast you will ever taste: That's what everyone tells me who makes hthis.
- Texture, Juiciness and Flavor: It's really difficult to achieve this level of turkey perfection with any other method.
- No stress: You can't overcook it. Unlike roasting turkey in the oven, with sous vide there's a big window of time that it can cook at, so you don't have to worry about going too long.
- Make It Ahead: Yep, you can literally cook your turkey days ahead of time, chill it and refrigerate right in the bag and simply reheat it, sear it, slice and it's ready to serve.
- No Brine Required: It's not often that I would recommend cooking turkey without brining it first. But when it comes to sous vide, seasoning liberally before it heads to the bag will help season it all the way through, sort of brining it while it cooks.
Bone-In vs Boneless Breast
Either will work just fine. This one was done with the bone-in, but boneless works great too and I actually prefer it boneless since the bone doesn't enhance the end result. When it is boneless, you can get it into a nice round shape and easily slice for serving. Just remove the bone prior to placing it in the bag if you prefer, and save the bone for making turkey stock.
Adding Flavor to the Turkey
For this recipe, we make herb-flavored brown butter that is added to the bag. It includes fresh sage, thyme and rosemary, but you can easily add in garlic, shallot or whatever herbs you like. The herbs are first cooked in the butter, which will pasteurize them for cooking with the turkey and add flavors to the butter that surrounds the turkey while it cooks.
Times and Temps
Water Bath Temp: 145°F / 62.7°C for extremely tender and juicy texture.
Time: 3 to 4 hours for a 2 to 4 lb breast.
*If you prefer a firmer and slightly dryer texture, use a 150° F water bath temperature.
Is Sous Vide Turkey Safe? Pasteurization Explained
Wondering why this turkey is only cooked at 145°F, rather than the FDA's recommended 165°F? Well, bacteria are killed off at high temperatures (above at least 135°), and the higher the temp the less time needed. At 165°, it takes hardly any time at all, so that's considered safest. But at 145°, it takes about 10-12 minutes to destroy the bacteria, and since our turkey will be at that temp for well over that, it's perfectly safe.
When cooking poultry sous vide, the meat may stay slightly pink. Slightly pink doesn't mean undercooked, and the meat is fully cooked and safe to eat. However, if the pink bothers you aesthetically, just bump up the temperature to your preference.
Finish With a Sear
The turkey breast comes out of the sous vide bath fully cooked and delicious, but it probably looks a little unfinished since it hasn't been roasting in a hot oven. Easily sear it off in a very hot skillet or grill to brown it up — just a minute on each side. You can also use the broiler. It only takes a few minutes, so be careful not to overcook it.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can try a sous vide and smoked turkey breast, which would first cook the breast sous vide, then take it out to the smoker to finish bringing it up to temp, infusing that wonderful smoky flavor.
3 to 4 hours at 145°F is a good place to start. With sous vide, you can always go longer, as it is essentially impossible to overcook it, though it will continue to get more tender the longer it goes. Times and temps with sous vide are something to experiment with to achieve the texture you love.
Yes, absolutely. Just add an hour to the cook time. It's ideal for it to be seasoned prior to freezing, but you can still season it before sealing for the water bath if not.
The beauty of sous vide is that since the turkey breast is already fully cooked, you can leave it sealed in the bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Simply reheat it (still in the bag) in a water bath at 145°F for about 45 minutes.
It is even great to eat when it's cold. Use it on sandwiches, in tacos, add to a stir-fry or even with eggs Benedict.
Nope. If properly seasoned, it is going to be super flavorful, tender and juicy without brining when you cook it sous vide.
Great Throughout the Year
Turkey doesn't just have to be for a special holiday meal. I bet you buy turkey deli meat that is quite expensive per pound. Buying turkey breast when it's on sale and cooking it sous vide is an excellent way to make your own sandwich meat that is far superior to the store-bought stuff.
Tools & Equipment Used
- Water bath container
- Sous vide immersion circulator
- Sous vide weighted magnets (to keep the bag submerged)
- Searing skillet (I prefer carbon steel or cast iron.)
- Slicing knife
Serve It Up with Delicious Sides
- Sous Vide Carrots
- Sous Vide Mashed potatoes
- Perfect Green Beans
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Sausage and Apple Stuffing
- Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Sous Vide Creme brûlée or cheesecake for dessert
And don't forget to try Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Eggs Benedict with your leftovers.
Sous Vide Turkey Breast Recipe
- 2-4 pound turkey breast (skin on, boneless or bone-in)
- 2 teaspoon Diamond kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon neutral oil such as canola or vegetable for searing
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (coarsely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (coarsely chopped)
- 4 sage leaves (coarsely chopped)
- Preheat water bath to 145°F / 62.7°C
- Make the seasoning: Add butter and herbs to a small skillet over medium heat until the butter starts to brown, just to pasteurize the herbs and flavor the butter. Transfer to a ramekin and set aside to cool slightly so it doesn't melt the plastic bag.
- Season the turkey breast on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Place the seasoned breast in a vacuum-sealed bag or Ziplock bag and pour the butter seasoning all around. Vacuum seal or use the water displacement method to remove the air from the bag.
- Cook in the water bath for 3 to 4 hours.
- Remove from the water and allow to sit on the counter in the bag for 15 minutes to cool slightly before searing so it doesn't overcook.
- Remove the breast from bag and pat dry with paper towels.
- To sear in a skillet: Add about 2 tablespoon of canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan and heat over high heat. Sear the dried turkey breast on the skin side first for about 1 minute to brown, then flip and sear for another minute on the second side.
- Slice against the grain, serve and enjoy.
- The turkey breast can be sous vide ahead of time, chilled in an ice bath and reheated again in the water bath at 145°F for 45 minutes before searing.
- If you prefer a firmer texture, use a 150° F water bath temperature.
- Frozen turkey breast can also be sous vide. Just add 1 hour to the cooking time.
- The breast can also be seared for a few minutes under the broiler, on a grill or even with a gas sear torch to brown the skin.