Turkey breast is so festive and there are so many ways to cook it. Some definitely stand out as a highlight, and that's what this one does. It's the juiciest, most tender and most flavorful turkey breast I have had. There is really no easier way to have it come out absolutely perfect every time than when you cook it with this sous vide technique.
The texture, juiciness and tenderness that you get from cooking turkey breast sous vide is pretty much unmatched. You just season it up and add the flavors you love, seal it up, cook it in a water bath, and then give it a quick sear to brown the skin. It's seriously just so darn easy and impossible to mess up.
Why You Should Sous Vide Your Turkey Breast
There are numerous benefits to cooking your turkey breast sous vide.
- It will seriously be the best turkey breast you have ever made
- Amazingly tender texture, it is so juicy and has tons of flavor. It's nearly impossible to achieve this level of turkey perfection with other cooking methods.
- 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 and becoming dry.
- Make It Ahead: Yep, you can literally cook your turkey days ahead of time, chill it and refrigerate right in the bag. Simply reheat it, sear, 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.
What You'll Need
- Turkey Breast - Either bone-in or boneless breast will work great for sous vide. This one was done with the bone-in, but boneless has the advantage of being able to get it into a nice round shape and is even easier to slice for serving. You can just remove the bone prior to placing it in the bag if you prefer. Save the bone for making turkey stock.
- Kosher Salt and Pepper - You can salt the turkey a day in advance, but it's not totally necessary when cooking it sous vide.
- Neutral Oil for searing and browning the skin, such as canola or vegetable oil.
- For the herb-butter marinade: butter, fresh thyme, rosemary and sage leaves. You can also add garlic, shallot or other herbs if you prefer.
Tools & Equipment
- Sous Vide Machine (Immersian Cirulator)
- A large container for the water bath. A large pot will work great, too.
- Vacuum Sealer (optional)
- Vacuum seal bags (optional) or ziplock freezer bags
- Weighted magnets or bag clips or for keeping the bag submerged
- Searing skillet - I prefer cast iron or carbon steel because of their heat retention and ease of cleaning.
- Slicing knife - A sharp, long knife makes easy work of slicing the turkey.
How to Sous Vide Turkey Breast - Step by Step
Now that you've got your equipment and ingredients ready, let's go through the simple steps to cook turkey breast sous vide.
Step 1: Set Up Your Sous Vide Cooker
Preheat the water bath with your sous vide machine to 145°F (63°C) for a delicate, juicy texture. You can go less or more depending on your specific preference. Use 150° F for a firmer, and slightly dryer texture.
Step 2: Make the Herb-Butter Seasoning
Make an herb-flavored brown butter that is added to the bag to add some great herby flavors to the turkey. Brown the butter in a small skillet with the herbs which will flavor the butter, and then add that flavor to the turkey as it cooks. Let the butter cool slightly before adding it to the bag.
Step 3: Season the Turkey
Season all sides liberally with Kosher salt and black pepper.
Step 4: Vacuum Seal
Place the turkey breast in a bag (either a vacuum seal bag or a ziplock freezer bag) and then pour in the herb butter, coating all sides of the breast. Vacuum seal or use the water displacement method for a ziplock bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible so it cooks evenly and is easy to submerge in the water bath.
Step 5: Cook in the Water Bath for 3 to 4 hours
Be sure that the turkey is fully submerged in the water so that it cooks evenly. Use a clip or weighted magnets to secure it in place.
Step 6: 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.
Key Times and Temps
Water Bath Temperature Options:
145°F / 62.7°C for a super tender and juicy texture (recommended)
150° F for a firmer and slightly dryer texture
Time: 3 to 4 hours for a 2 to 4 lb turkey breast.
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.
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 the 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 it is undercooked. The meat is fully cooked and safe to eat. However, if the pink bothers you aesthetically, just bump up the temperature to 150° or 155° F.
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.
Pro Tip: Save Money on Turkey Sandwich Meat
Turkey deli meat is quite expensive and quality is often lacking. Buying uncooked turkey breast when it's on sale at the grocery store, then cooking it yourself sous vide is an excellent way to make your own sandwich meat that is far superior to the store-bought stuff. You will know exactly what went in it and it will be way cheaper! Just keep it vacuum-sealed and take it out to slice as needed.
Serve it Up with Delicious Sides
- Sous Vide Carrots
- Sous Vide Mashed potatoes
- Perfect Green Beans
- Scalloped 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 leftover turkey.
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 the water bath to 145°F / 62.7°C
- Make the herb-butter 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.
- Vacuum Seal: Place the seasoned breast in a vacuum-seal 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.
- Sear: Add about 2 tablespoon of oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottom skillet over high heat. Sear 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 still in the bag 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.