This Turkey Breast is wet-brined overnight, for maximum flavor and moisture, basted in butter then roasted to perfection. This Brined Roast Turkey Breast is what Thanksgiving dreams are made of!
Brined Roast Turkey Breast
To brine or not to brine, that is the question. I’ll be the first to tell you that I lived pretty much my whole life without ever brining my turkeys. Once I did, I realized that brining is the way to go, especially if you’re brining with something flavorful.
What Is Brining?
A brine is a solution usually made with salt and water that is used to pickle or preserve foods. Brining meats usually can help to increase the amount of liquid inside the meat cells, thus giving us juicier turkeys.
The key to brining is to use great flavors, don’t just do salt and water, even though that is still going to make your turkey juicier, you want to add more delicious flavors such as citrus flavor, garlic, sugar, cinnamon and herbs. Make the brine count and don’t be shy to use flavors that you love.
Why Should I Brine My Turkey?
You’re accomplishing two very important things when you create a brine like this for your turkey. Since it’s a very lean type of meat, especially the breast, this will help it plump up and get extra juicy. No more dry bites of turkey! You’re also getting flavors deep into the actual meat rather than just having them sit on top.
Ingredients in Brined Turkey Breast
When I’m creating a brine, I want as much flavor as possible. The mixture of citrus and fresh herbs takes this bird right over the top! Keep scrolling for the full recipe and ingredient amounts.
For the brine you’ll need:
- Water – You’ll need lots of water to carry those flavors, impart them into the meat, and completely cover the turkey breast.
- Salt –I used kosher salt. The granules are a lot bigger than table salt, so if that’s all you have then use half the amount that’s called for in the recipe.
- Sugar – The sugar helps balance out the saltiness of the brine. It’ll add the perfect touch of sweetness that you’ll barely notice when taking a bite, but really makes a big difference.
- Garlic – I used full fresh cloves for this recipe.
- Cinnamon stick – For a brine, it’s much better to use a cinnamon stick versus powder. The powder will stick to the breast too much, making it way too cinnamon-y.
- Fresh sage & rosemary – Again, rather than using the powdered versions I like to use fresh leaves. You will still get that amazing warm herb flavor without it being overwhelming.
- Lemons & orange – I juice these and add them whole to the brine. You can’t get too much citrus in here!
- Ice – After cooking all these flavors into the brine, we want to cool it down right away before adding the turkey. The heat from the brine will cook the outside of the turkey and it won’t be able to absorb the brine.
To roast the turkey breast you’ll need:
- Onions & garlic – I like to place the turkey on top of the onion and garlic to not only impart flavor, but act as almost a natural rack to ensure even cooking.
- Salt & pepper – Since the meat is seasoned from the inside out, you only need a little bit of salt and pepper to season the skin.
- Butter – I always use unsalted butter, especially in this case. The butter helps get that skin nice and crispy after it has soaked in water.
- Chicken broth – Use only unsalted. This will help catch the drippings and prevent them from burning so you can make your delicious gravy.
For the gravy you’ll need:
- Pan drippings – Don’t throw these away! Strain the onion and garlic from the drippings before using them.
- Chicken broth – Use only unsalted. This will help you yield more gravy, and tone down the saltiness from the drippings. You can also use water.
- Cornstarch & water – This combo is what will thicken your gravy. You can use more or less depending on how thick you like it.
The only problem with brining is that you want to make sure you have a pot that is big enough to fit your bird, however you can also buy brining bags that are usually large enough to fit whole turkeys or hams.
How To Brine Turkey
It may be a labor of love to take this extra step in making your turkey, but I promise you’ll never go back. The flavor is unbeatable!
- Prepare the brine: Bring the water to a boil. Add the orange peels, orange juice, squeezed oranges, lemon juice, and squeezed lemons. Add the rest of the brine ingredients, other than the ice, and boil until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Add the ice to the brine to cool it completely. Now you can add the turkey breast to a pot and cover it with a plastic wrap, or add the brine and turkey to a brining bag. Let it brine for at least 12 hours in the fridge.
- Roast the turkey: After it has brined for at least 12 hours, remove the turkey and pat it dry. Add onions and garlic to the pan, and place the turkey breast on the onions so that it’s elevated and doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan. This will ensure even cooking. Brush the turkey with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken broth into the roasting pan and cover everything with foil. Roast at 350F for 1 1/2 hours, remove the foil, then roast for a final hour, or until the breast registers 165F t the thickest part.
- Make the gravy: Strain the onion and garlic from the pan drippings and discard them. Add the drippings to saucepan and skim off some fat if you’d like. Pour in the broth and bring everything to a simmer. Mix the cornstarch with the water to create a slurry, and add a little bit at a time while whisking until you’ve reached you desired thickness. Keep in mind that as the gravy cools it will thicken up.
Tips for Making the Best Brined Turkey
- Buy the right size turkey breast. I used a whole turkey breast (two breasts, still joined at the breast bone) that weighed about 5 pounds, which is enough to feed 4 to 6 people. Plan on serving 0.5 – 1lb of turkey per person.
- Make sure the turkey breast is fully thawed before brining it. Take it out of the freezer and it will thaw overnight on your counter in either a bowl or on a large plate.
- Make sure you know what type of salt you’re using. Kosher salt or coarse salt will work perfectly for this recipe. If you use table salt, use only 1/4 cup.
- Don’t chop the ingredients up very small. When there’s a lot of substance and pulp floating around in the brine, these pieces will block the meat and make it very hard for the brine to penetrate. Bigger pieces are better.
- Brine for at least 12 hours to get lots of flavor into the meat.
- Use an instant read meat thermometer to determine when your turkey is done baking. These are super cheap, and will make your life so much easier!
- Let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before carving it. If you carve too early, the juices will come out and leave the meat dry.
How to Store Leftover Turkey
In the fridge:
Store your turkey in an airtight container for 3-4 days. You can reheat it in the microwave or sliced up on the stovetop. Use a skillet over medium heat. I like to reheat it using a bit of the gravy so that it doesn’t dry out.
In the freezer:
Your turkey will last 2-3 months in the freezer. I would suggest slicing the turkey and freezing it for an hour on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap. Transfer the pieces to a large freezer bag or an airtight container. With this method, you can grab a few slices when you need them without everything sticking together. Thaw either in the microwave or at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
Looking for Ways to Use Up Leftover Turkey? Try These Recipes:
Craving More Turkey? Try These Recipes:
- Instant Pot Turkey Breast
- Maple Mustard Roasted Turkey Thighs
- Roast Turkey Breast with Saucy Cranberry Sauce
- How to Roast a Turkey
Brined Roast Turkey Breast
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
- 8 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup sage fresh
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 lemons
- 1 orange
- 4 cups ice
- 2 medium onions quartered
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 5 lb turkey breast bone in, thawed
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp pepper or to taste
- 8 tbsp butter melted
- 1 cup chicken broth low sodium or no sodium added
- pan drippings
- 3/4 cup chicken broth low sodium or no sodium added, or water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch or more for a thicker gravy
- 1 tbsp water
Brining the Turkey Breast
- Add the water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. For the orange, peel it using a potato peeler or a knife, then cut it in half. Cut the lemon in half and juice it. Add the remaining brine ingredients together (excluding the ice) and bring to a boil to dissolve all the salt and sugar. Add the lemon halves and orange halves after they've been juiced to the brine as well, they will provide more flavor. Remove from heat and cool completely. To speed this up add about 4 cups of ice to the brine. I used my instant pot for this but any big pot that will fit the brine and the breast will work.
- Once the brine is cooled, place the turkey breast in the brine making sure it's fully submerged in it. You may have to weigh it down with another pot of water. What I did is wrapped the pot with plastic wrap, then placed a plate over it, and then a pot of water over the plate. This worked for me because the brine and turkey came up to the top of the pot. Another option is to use a brick or rock wrapped in plastic wrap. Store it in the fridge overnight or at least for 12 hours, so make sure you have enough room in your fridge.
Roasting the Turkey Breast
- Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Remove the turkey breast from the brine solution and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Place the quartered onions and smashed garlic in a large metal roasting pan then place the turkey breast on top of the onions. Season it generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Brush the turkey with melted butter, keep remaining butter for basting later. Add the chicken broth to the pan.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place the roasting pan in the oven. Cook covered for 1 1/2 hours, basting with the melted butter (remelt again if necessary) every half hour. After 1 1/2 hours, remove the aluminum foil and roast for another 1 hour or until golden brown. The breast is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers at 165 degrees F.
- Transfer the turkey breast to a platter or cutting board and let it rest for a full 15 minutes before slicing into it.
- Skim some of the fat from the pan drippings if necessary.
- Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat. In a little bowl whisk together the cornstarch with the water, then add it to the pan. Whisk everything together. If the gravy is too thin and you prefer a thicker consistency, feel free to add more cornstarch until you reach the desired consistency. Cook for a few minutes, until the gravy thickens a bit. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as necessary.
- Strain all the liquid into a bowl, then press all the liquid out of the onion and garlic using a spatula, for additional flavor.