Turkey breasts are a great way of cooking a large meal without fear of leftovers. Plus, they cook faster than a whole turkey would, so you get extra convenience. But the size may confuse you on how long it should be cooked and eventually discourage you. So, to help, here are ways to know how long you can cook turkey breasts and different methods to do it.
Turkey Breast Nutrition Facts
Choosing the Turkey Breast
You can decide whether to choose between bone-in and skin-on and boneless, skinless turkey breasts. But note that the former cooks for longer compared to the latter. Also, consider that the skin helps the breasts attain good browning and retain moisture, compared to skinless. Plus, the bone adds more flavor to the meat.
Preparing the Turkey Breast
It’s always advised to thaw the turkey breasts before cooking, as seasoning won’t adhere to the frozen surface. So, let the meat sit in the fridge overnight or for a maximum of 24 hours to thaw it completely. Once it’s ready, take it out and pat it dry with paper towels.
Once the turkey breasts are thawed, you can add moisture and flavor in various ways. You can add unsalted butter under the skin and over the entire breast for more flavor. Plus, as the butter melts, it infuses extra moisture into the meat.
You can also bring the turkey for an extra boost of flavor and moisture. And anyone between wet or dry brine will work perfectly. Just note that this technique means you’ll have to reduce the seasoning in the recipe. And you’ll have to plan for this method, so do it hours before you plan to cook it.
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Seasoning the Turkey Breast
Turkey breasts can be seasoned the same way as turkey, which means any spice combination works. The options include black pepper and salt, as well as aromatics like garlic and shallots. Dried herbs that also work include rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, and marjoram. You can also consider seasoning mixes like Cajun seasoning, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, or herbes de Provence.
Whichever you choose, make sure to generously rub it over the breast and underneath the skin above the breast.
Add a Liquid for Moisture
Some cooking methods, like roasting, require adding a liquid ingredient to the pan before roasting. So, you’ll have options ranging from water to wine, broth, or stock. Note, though, that the wine or stock adds more depth to the breast’s flavor. And for the broth, you can choose between chicken or vegetable.
Cooking Methods for Turkey Breast Per Pound
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In the Oven
Rub unsalted butter on the turkey breasts, and if you’re cooking with the skin-on, carefully slather some of it underneath the skin with your fingers. Then, season the meat and place it on the rack. Fill the roasting pan beneath the frame with water, wine, or broth, along with some aromatics if desired. Then, roast the meat until the thickest part reads 165F on a meat thermometer.
At 400F, a boneless turkey breast should cook for 12 minutes per pound or 20 minutes if it’s rolled. But bone-in breasts will need from 17 to 20 minutes per pound to thoroughly cook. Still, some may prefer to cook at a lesser temperature than suggested above. So, if you do, consider this table for cooking temperatures per pound;
|Turkey Size||Cooking Temperature||Minute per Pound||Cooking Time|
|2 to 3 pounds (boneless)||350F||20 to 25||2¼ to 2¾ hours|
|3 to 4 pounds (boneless)||350F||20 to 25||2¾ to 3¼ hours|
|4 to 5 pounds (boneless)||350F||20 to 25||3¼ to 3¾ hours|
|6 to 7 pounds||325F||24||2¼ to 2¾ hours|
|7 to 8 pounds||325F||24||2¾ to 3¼ hours|
|8 to 9 pounds||325F||24||3¼ to 3¾ hours|
Whichever you decide, make sure the internal temperature reaches 155F to 160F before setting it down to rest. And as it rests, the carryover cooking will heat it to the approved 165F.
In a Slow Cooker
Pour the wine, broth, or water into the slow cooker, combine your selected seasonings and rub it all over the turkey breast. Gently work your fingers beneath the skin so it loosens, and slather some unsalted butter beneath it. Then, smear the surface with the butter and place the breast into the crockpot with the breast side up. Secure the lid and cook the turkey breast on LOW for three to four hours until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Then, remove the breast and sit it for 10 to 15 minutes.
In the crockpot, the turkey should cook for about an hour per pound. This duration means if you’re using a 6-pound turkey breast, it’ll take about five to six hours to be ready.
On the Grill
The first step for grilled turkey breasts is to blot them dry with paper towels, as a wet surface will not attain crispiness. Once it’s patted dry, let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. While you wait, leave some wood chips to soak in water for almost half the time- you’ll need this to add smokiness to the breast. Then, prepare your selected herbs and spices with softened butter in a bowl to season the turkey.
Once done, loosen the skin above the breast and slather half the butter mixture beneath it, keeping the remaining for melting later. Then, set the grill for indirect heat (about 350F to 400F) and add the soaked wood chips once it’s hot. Melt the butter mixture and brush it over the breast. Then, grill the meat over indirect heat with the skin side up for about 1 to 1½ hours, basting it with the remaining melted butter every 20 minutes.
Once the internal temperature hits 165F, take the breast down and sit it for 15 to 20 minutes before you carve. With the grilling method, the turkey breast should be cooked at 12 minutes per pound.
In an Instant Pot
Pat the turkey breasts dry, and rub it all over with the mixed spices and herbs. Then, put it in the pressure cooker, cavity side up and add some chicken broth (the broth adds more flavor for this method). You can also add vegetables like carrot, celery, and aromatics at this point. Seal the lid and close the valve, then cook the breast on HIGH for one hour. And when the time is elapsed, unseal the valve so the pressure releases naturally and the pin drops to nil. Take the turkey breast out and sit for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing it up for serving. At the cooking rate, it’ll take about seven to eight minutes per pound of turkey breast. Try using a meat thermometer to check for the approved 165F internal temperature.
In an Air Fryer
Heat the air fryer to 360F and season the breast as desired. You can also smear some butter or mayonnaise over the surface for more crispiness. Next, place the turkey breast in the basket with the side down and cook for 25 minutes. Then, turn the breast over and fry for another 25 minutes until the internal temperature hits 165F. Once it’s ready, rest the breast for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
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More Cooking Tips
- If you’re worried about browning the skin too quickly, try covering the pan with heavy-duty foil before roasting. The coverage also traps the moisture in the meat.
- If the breast is frozen, rub it with oil and cover it upside-down in the oven. Then, baste the breast with broth from the pan every 45 minutes until it reaches the proper doneness temperature.
- Frozen turkey breasts take longer to finish, so plan about 45 minutes to one hour into cooking. And you can cook frozen turkey breasts better in an instant pot or slow cooker, but it’s best always to thaw them first.
- If the turkey breast has been brined, then use unsalted butter or oil to avoid excess saltiness.
- A fast way to thaw turkey breasts is by placing them in cold water for 30 minutes per pound. You’ll also need to replace the water every quarter of the defrosting time.
- Note that rolled boneless breasts take longer to cook in the air fryer as they’re denser.
- Consider placing a drip pan below the grate before cooking if you’re roasting the breast on the grill. In it, you’ll collect the drippings from the turkey breasts and can even baste the meat with it.
- Save the drippings from the turkey breasts to make delicious gravy.
- One turkey breast, bone-in, skin-on, three pounds; thawed
- One tablespoon kosher salt
- One tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Set the oven to heat at 450F, and dry the breast with paper towels. Then, gently loosen the skin above the breast with your fingers, and rub half the butter underneath the skin. Apply the remaining butter all over the turkey breast and season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce the oven heat to 350F and cook the turkey until it reaches 165F on a meat thermometer. Return to check for this doneness after one hour, and then every 10 minutes afterwards. And if the skin seems to brown faster, cover the turkey breasts loosely with foil.
- When the temperature reaches 157F, take the turkey breast out and rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, carve the breast and make gravy with the pan drippings if desired.
Want more ideas? Here’s a video on how to cook turkey breasts per pound.