Looking for a smaller dish alternative to a whole turkey for Thanksgiving? I got you covered with this simple yet flavor-packed Oven Roasted Turkey Breast recipe!
I’ve also provided plenty of tips to make sure you get PERFECTLY cooked, tender, juicy turkey breast, without ever running the risk of over-cooking and drying out the meat.
It’s Thanksgiving week in The Flavor Bender household! 🙂
Which means I’m sharing some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you guys this week! I’ve already got the ball rolling with this easy recipe for Fudgy Pecan Pie Bars, but I’ve got a few more recipes coming up over the next week.
So what do you do if your family is small (like mine), and a whole turkey is just too much food? That’s why I love making smaller turkey roasts like this slow roasted turkey roulade, or this sous vide turkey roulade, or the even easier option of Oven Roasted Turkey Breast.
Here’s a close up so you can see how JUICY this roasted turkey breast is!
The main issue with oven roasted turkey breast is the meat drying out during the cooking process, so that you end up with roasted turkey breast that tastes like cardboard. But not today, not with this recipe!
In this post, I’ll share several tips on how to make PERFECT oven roasted turkey breast – tender, juicy, succulent, perfectly cooked roasted turkey breast that’s full of flavor and easy to prepare! Just check out HOW JUICY that turkey roast is (see the photo above!). It is unbelievably good!
The breast cut of poultry is obviously more prone to drying out during cooking, but it’s also the more healthy cut of the meat, because the beast cut has less fat, and relatively more protein as well.
How can I make juicy oven roasted turkey breast and prevent drying out while cooking?
I use three methods to make sure this Cajun roasted turkey breast doesn’t dry out during cooking.
- Letting the turkey breast marinate for a day (or even two). If you’re using either a dry rub or a wet rub, you can apply this the day before as well. I prefer to just season the meat with salt, on both sides, including under the skin, and let it sit in the fridge until I’m ready to roast the turkey.
- Low and slow cooking method. I slow roast this turkey breast in the oven at no more than 300°F. The low temperature allows the turkey roast to heat slowly, so you have more control over the cooking process, and you can remove it from the oven when the internal temperature registers 160°F (the internal temp. will continue to rise even after the meat is removed from the oven).
- Adding liquid to the roasting pan, so that there’s a constant supply of moisture as the roast turkey breast cooks. I cover the entire piece of meat in foil as it cooks in the oven, while the moisture envelops the roast as it cooks.
I promise you this method of cooking turkey breast will guarantee perfectly cooked, deliciously succulent results!
I used a delicious Cajun spice mix to flavor this slow roasted turkey breast. You can use any spice mix of your choice.
Here are some spice mix options for this oven roasted turkey breast
- Sage and rosemary mix that I used for this sous vide turkey roulade.
- Herb and garlic mix that I used for this slow roasted turkey roulade.
- A little different, but delicious nonetheless – green curry spice mix that I used for this green curry roast chicken.
- And if nothing else, just a simple salt and pepper spice mix will be just as great!
Adding a little extra butter or oil will make this Cajun roasted turkey breast even juicier. Slow roasting is a very straightforward way to make sure that the meat is tender, juicy and full of flavor, while perfectly caramelizing the skin too.
Another important aspect to cooking perfectly roasted turkey breast or any roast meat is the use of a cooking thermometer. This really is a must, and an inexpensive and simple investment for guaranteed results. A cooking thermometer will allow you to check the internal temperature of the roast as it’s cooking. Turkey breast dries out quickly as it goes past 165°F. With a temperature probe, you will know precisely when to remove the meat from the oven, eliminating over-cooking and the meat drying out.
How to accurately check the internal temperature of a turkey roast
This is true for any roast. ALWAYS insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast to get an accurate reading. If you’re using an instant read thermometer, you will usually get the reading within a couple of seconds. Other types of thermometers may need a few seconds to register the right temperature. Allow time for the thermometer to reach the right temperature.
I always remove roasted turkey breast from the oven, when the internal temperature hits 160°F. The turkey breast requires 20 seconds at this temperature to reach the food safety mark, and by keeping the turkey breast covered after removing it from the oven, the internal temperature continues to rise, making the meat perfectly food safe, while also ensuring tender and succulent results!
More tips on making PERFECTLY cooked Cajun roasted turkey breast
- I used a bone-in turkey breast, with the wing drumette attached. This actually makes the turkey breast look like a massive leg roast! This cut is also called a Frenched breast cut. You can ask your butcher to prepare this cut for you. HOWEVER, you can use other turkey breast cuts as well.
- A skin-on boneless turkey breast with the drumette (still called a Frenched breast cut).
- A skin-on boneless turkey breast without the drumette.
- Turkey crown – i.e. both turkey breasts, skin-on and bone-in (may take longer to cook)
- Skin-on, boneless turkey breast roll up (prepared cuts you can buy from the supermarket).
- Skin-on, boneless turkey breast roulade
- Since turkey breasts can vary in size, it’s important to go by internal temperature to make sure your turkey breast is perfectly cooked and food-safe. The turkey breast I’m showing in this post was on the small-ish side, about 3 lbs.
- I prefer to cook the turkey breast on a wire rack, over a cooking pan that has liquid in it. The steam that this liquid generates helps keep the turkey breast moist. I prefer to use a very flavorful liquid for this purpose, like stock with butter or oil, or even white wine sometimes. The steam also allows the meat to cook evenly because of air/moisture circulation, without getting a terribly soggy turkey breast bottom.
- Covering the turkey breast with foil, while cooking, also prevents the turkey breast from overcooking or drying out. This way you don’t have to keep basting the turkey breast while it’s cooking either.
- A cooking thermometer IS A MUST! These are quite inexpensive, so it makes perfect sense to have one for guaranteed results. My temperature probe is the most utilized kitchen tool next to my mixing spoons and pots. A cooking thermometer will open up new culinary possibilities for you, while guaranteeing perfect results for often made dishes like steak, other roasts, fish, and even candies like marshmallow. It’s such a handy tool to have in your kitchen and I very highly recommend it!
- Caramelize the skin under the grill/broiler. I like to allow the roasted turkey breast to cool down before broiling the skin. This is because when the turkey breast has cooled down sufficiently, caramelizing the skin under the broiler won’t dry out the meat on the inside. And since this is the very last step before prepping the oven roasted turkey breast for Thanksgiving, I know the roast turkey breast will be perfectly warm and delicious with crispy, caramelized skin when I’m ready to serve it.
This Cajun roasted turkey breast will very generously serve 2 people, but with all the side dishes you prep for Thanksgiving, it will easily serve 4 people.
I guarantee this slow roasted turkey breast will be a hit at your Thanksgiving spread! And it makes the most amazing leftovers too, which you can use to make these tasty croque madame sandwiches for brunch the following day, using leftover turkey slices.
How are you going to cook turkey for Thanksgiving this year? 🙂
- If you like slow roasted turkey – this roast turkey breast is perfect, or for something a little fancier, you can try the slow roasted turkey roulade here.
- If you own a sous vide, then you can make the juiciest turkey roast (because you cook it at a lower temperature for longer in a sous vide), by following this sous vide turkey roulade recipe here.
- Prefer slow cooking turkey breast instead? Then stay tuned for a delicious slow cooked roasted turkey breast recipe coming soon!
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Tools I recommend for this oven roasted turkey breast (affiliate links)
Cooking thermometer – I have two types. A probe that I can keep IN THE MEAT while it cooks, and an instant read thermapen. I use them interchangeably. This thermopro thermometer is affordable and very versatile, with a timer as well as a temperature alarm as well. I have two and use them all the time.
Whisks – You will need a good whisk to make the gravy, to make sure there are no lumps.
Small roaster pan with a rack – You can buy a roaster pan that’s dedicated for roasting smaller cuts of meat, OR you can use your quarter sheet pan, with a wire rack that fits over it as well. Either option is great for this Cajun roasted turkey breast recipe.
Roast Turkey Breast
This Cajun roasted turkey breast is tender, juicy and flavorful and is a great small dish alternative to a whole turkey for Thanksgiving.
Roast Turkey Breast
- 1 turkey breast skin-on (can be bone-in or not), about 3 lbs
- Kosher salt to season
- 3 tbsp Cajun seasoning (see notes)
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
- 1 - 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock
- Extra oil or melted butter to be used when broiling the turkey breast
Turkey Roast Gravy
- 3 tbsp flour
- 4 tbsp butter
- Leftover turkey roast jus
- 2 cups turkey or chicken stock enough stock to make up 2 - 2 ½ cups of liquid
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Quarter sheet pan lined with foil to make clean up easier
- A wire rack that fits inside the sheet pan
- Meat thermometer
- Basting brush
Prepping the Turkey Breast
Place the turkey breast on a plate, and sprinkle kosher salt over the whole turkey breast. (Make sure to sprinkle salt under the breast, as well as under the skin. Lift the skin carefully when you do this, making sure not to tear or detach the skin from the beast). You can sprinkle a little salt over the skin as well, but not too much. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and leave the turkey breast to marinate in the fridge overnight, or up to 2 - 3 days.
Roasting Turkey Breast
On the day you're roasting the turkey breast - remove the turkey breast from the fridge at least an hour before you plan to roast it. Pat dry the turkey breast with paper towels.
Mix the Cajun spice rub, sugar and vegetable oil together to make a spice paste. Rub ½ of the paste under the turkey breast skin. Rub a little of the spice paste over the skin, and then rub the rest of the paste on the bottom of the turkey breast, and sides, making sure the breast is completely covered with the Cajun spice paste.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a quarter sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack over the sheet pan. Pour about 1 cup of the stock into the quarter sheet pan and place the marinated turkey breast on the wire rack.
When the turkey breast has reached room temperature, cover just the turkey breast with foil, and transfer it to the oven to cook.
Cook the turkey for 60 minutes, and check on the pan drippings. If the liquid is completely gone, add the other cup of stock as well.
Check the temperature of the turkey breast after 1.5 hours. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast to check the internal temperature. Check every 10 minutes or so, until the temp. registers 160°F. (This takes about 2 hours for me).
Remove the turkey breast from the oven and keep it covered with foil for at least 20 minutes.
MAKE AHEAD - If you'd like to cook this turkey roast ahead of time to save time on Thanksgiving/Christmas day, STOP HERE AT THIS STEP. Then once the turkey has cooled down, wrap the roast and place it in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to 2 days. Put the roast turkey drippings in a separate container/bowl, to make gravy with it later.
Before serving the roast (on the day of)
If you kept the turkey roast was in the fridge, remove it at least 40 minutes before grilling to let the roast come to room temperature.
Preheat the broiler/grill to high, and position the oven rack in the upper ⅓ of your oven.
Place the turkey roast on a foil covered roasting pan (or quarter sheet pan), and drizzle some oil/melted butter over the surface, and brush it on evenly.
When the broiler is preheated and ready - place the pan with the roast under the broiler for a few minutes, just until the turkey roast caramelizes on the surface. (If parts of the turkey roast is caramelizing too fast, use a piece of foil to cover that area, and continue to broil until the roast is evenly caramelized).
This can take 5-10 minutes, and you MUST KEEP AN EYE ON THE ROAST AS IT BROILS, to prevent it from burning.
- When ready, remove the roast from the oven and serve with other side dishes and turkey gravy.
Measure how much pan drippings you get from the turkey roast in a measuring cup.
- Add enough turkey stock/broth (or chicken stock/broth), to make 2 cups of liquid.
- Place the butter in a pot and let it melt over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk until there are no lumps in the flour. Keep stirring this roux until the color changes to brown, and it smells quite nutty.
Whisk in the stock and pan drippings and continue to whisk until there are no flour lumps. Bring the gravy to a boil and then lower the heat. Cook until you have a gravy with a desired consistency. If the gravy becomes too thick, you can add more stock to thin it out. Taste the gravy and season with extra salt if needed.
- Pour the gravy into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap - make sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface to prevent any gravy skin from forming on top.
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