When you are in the mood for turkey and you don't feel like roasting a whole bird, roasting a turkey breast is a nice alternative. The advantage to cooking a breast on its own is it will be easier to keep the meat from drying out, as you don't have any of the slower cooking parts of the turkey to deal with. Therefore the meat turns out juicy and delicious, just like it should. When I was a little kid my favorite part of the turkey was the breast. I used to put butter on it because the company that processed it was named Butterball, and I felt like I was supposed to.
These days my favorite part of the turkey is the dark meat. A cold turkey drumstick with a lot of salt is the perfect snack. But I still enjoy white meat, especially on a sandwich with salt and mayo. To cook the turkey breast, I decided to stick to my preferred method of roasting poultry—hot and uncovered for 30 minutes and then slow and covered till it's done. The nice thing about this technique is that the flavors really penetrate the meat.
1. Set the oven temperature to 500 degrees and let it preheat for ½ an hour. Meanwhile, take the breast out of the package and pat it dry with paper towels. Put some aluminum foil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Next, rub your spices, salt, and pepper onto the breast. Follow that with a thin coating of vegetable oil. It seems I almost always put onions in the pan with my roasts. I guess I just like the way the onions caramelize in the juices. You can do what you like. Put the turkey breast in the pan and proceed.
2. When the oven is finished preheating, put the roasting pan on the rack two rungs above the bottom. Set the timer for 30 minutes and do something else—just don't open the oven. This first stage of roasting will help to crisp up the skin and make it really tasty. So, find something else to do while you wait for the timer to go off. I peeled sweet potatoes. Yup. I made sweet potatoes with marshmallows. But this time I added some chipotle pepper to the mix—something my brother taught me. It's yummy.
3. Once the timer goes off, take the turkey out of the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees F. The turkey should be a little brown around the top, and the onions should be beginning to break down a little. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and wait until the oven cools some before putting it back in. Cook the turkey at 350 degrees F until you get an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. The best way to know when the internal temperature has been reached is to use a digital thermometer with a detachable probe. That way, while the turkey cooks, you can monitor the temperature as it rises. Once the temperature gets there, you can take the meat out.
4. When the turkey breast has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat, take it out of the oven and place it on a hot pad. The turkey needs to rest now for at least 20 minutes. The hot turkey juices are still very active inside the meat, and if you cut into it now, they would all run out and leave you with a dry hunk of flesh. So, just wait a little bit; you won't regret it.
5. Brined turkey breasts are a nice way to add flavor and moisture to the meat. Brine denatures proteins, and the denatured proteins hold onto liquid better, so the meat will be perfectly seasoned with salt ,and it will be juicier. Brine is essentially just water with salt and sugar. To brine a turkey breast, combine ½ cup kosher salt, ½ cup sugar, and 6 cups water in a container. Stir the liquids to dissolve the solids. Put the turkey breast in a Ziploc bag, and put that inside of a bowl. Pour the brine inside the bag, and put it in the fridge for 6–8 hours. The longer you leave it in the brine, the stronger the solution will be. When you want to cook the turkey breast, use the same process outlined above. You can add other items to the brine for extra flavor if you want.
Don't open the oven unless you have to. Letting all the heat out is bad.
Elevate the meat while it rests, so the juices have somewhere to go. I elevate one side of the pan so the juices all run to the other. Or you can put it on a rack.
Leftover turkey bones can be used to make soup, so don't throw them away.