Roasting a whole turkey breast should be easy. Unlike a whole bird, where you need to worry about cooking dark and white meat correctly, the breast has just one kind of meat. The challenge, however, is that white meat turkey can be bland and is easily overcooked. Roasting turkey breast in a moderate oven is the best way to ensure that it doesn’t dry out for two reasons. First, the window of time when the turkey is at the correct internal temperature of 160 degrees is greater when the oven is set to 325 degrees versus 425 degrees. Second, the meat just under the skin is less likely to overcook in a moderate oven. In a hot oven, the meat just under the skin overcooks by the time the center of the breast comes up to temperature. In a cooler oven, this effect is lessened.
Of course, roasting a turkey in a 325-degree oven leaves the skin soft and pale. Our solution is simple: Start the turkey in 425-degree oven to render fat in the skin and accelerate the crisping and browning process, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees after just 30 minutes. The turkey can then spend another hour in the oven, slowly reaching the desired internal temperature of 160 degrees.
We employ a few more tricks in this recipe. Rubbing butter under the skin and directly into the meat adds flavor and fat—both of which are lacking in white meat turkey. We found it easy to flavor the butter with herbs, garlic, shallots, citrus zest, chiles, or spices. The process of lifting up the skin to work the butter into the meat has an added benefit. Loosening the skin helps separate it from the meat, thus promoting better browning once the turkey goes into the oven.
Once you master this recipe, you can vary it by trying other flavored butters.
Total Cooking Time: 150
Preparation Time: 30
Active Cooking Time: 90
Make Ahead: Serve immediately
Yield: 8 to 10 servings