To say I was nervous about cooking the Thanksgiving turkey would have been an understatement last year. Cooking the perfect turkey seemed a culinary challenge that I just was not equipped to do. In the year’s past that I had taken on the task of hosting our Thanksgiving dinner, my grandmother would provide the turkey for us. Last year, I really wanted to see if I could live up to the challenge of cooking the perfect turkey.
A marathon of Martha Stewart how-to television watching ensued. I read every blog and turkey website I could on how to cook the bird. Once armed with my aresenal of knowlege, I decided to cook two turkey breasts based on the fact that no one really loved the dark meat and I thought it would be a great way to dip my toe in the water of turkey roasting.
I read a lot of recipes and decided on Ina Garten’s Herb Roasted Turkey Breast. Everything about this turkey sounded delicious to me and the recipe had rave reviews. Ina had never lead me astray and so I created two of her delicious turkeys for our dinner.
This turkey is so moist and flavorful. A paste is created from fresh herbs, dried mustard, lemon juice, and minced garlic. I relied on my inexpensive handheld food chopper to make quick work of chopping the herbs. The white wine added to the bottom of the pan offers a delicious finish on top of the turkey and keeps the meat from drying out.
Armed with this simple turkey breast recipe and my Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes and my Make-Ahead Thanksgiving appetizers, I guarantee that you will be on track for the perfect first Thanksgiving in your house. There is no need to be nervous with great planning and fabulously foolproof recipes.
Of course, turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving Day in our house. Don’t forget that a Weeknight Turkey Breast can yield amazing lunches for your family. These are way better than lunch meat and just as easy to prepare as any other weeknight meal.
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Roast the turkey for 2- 2 1/2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. (I test in several places.) If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Serving Size: 6
Source: Adapted from Food Network (Barefoot Contessa)
How to Use a Meat Thermometer
The cooking timeline for your turkey will depend on the weight of the turkey breast you purchase. The best investment a novice chef can buy for her kitchen is a meat thermometer that can let you know when your turkey has reached the desired temperature. I have a simple instant-read thermometer (less than $10), but you can also make the investment into a digital thermometer that you can beep at you when your bird is done (less than $20).
Make sure you stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast to get the most accurate reading. For this turkey breast, you want the thermometer to be at 170 degrees for a perfectly cooked breast. The turkey breast, above, recommended 165 degrees, but 170 degrees is what you should aim for. Be sure to test the bird in several spots to make sure that it is cooked through.
Here are some basic cooking guidelines for how long to cook that turkey breast. These turkey breast cooking guidelines are for roasting the bird at 325 degrees.
Turkey Breast Cooking Guidelines
2 to 3 pounds 1½ to 2 hours
4 to 6 pounds 1½ to 2¼ hours
7 to 8 pounds 2¼ to 3¼ hours