Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Roasting Turkey Breast

I am in the habit of roasting whole turkeys. But I happened to find a turkey breast at the grocery store, so why not give it a shot? When I make a whole turkey, the procedure begins nearly 36 hours before we plan to eat. It goes into a salt brine overnight (shameless self promotion here -- brining instructions are in The Diva Runs Out of Thyme), and then it rests, uncovered in the refrigerator for twenty-four hours. But that seemed like a lot to go through for the smaller breast (though I have brined chickens, so I guess I was being lazy).

I didn't plan to do anything fancy to the turkey breast, but I wondered how long it would take to roast. How early should I put it in the oven? So, as I often do, I checked the internet. Wow. Such variation. I was fascinated by the number of recipes which called for temperatures of 325 to 350 and a roasting time of two and a half hours. Huh? I don't even roast a whole turkey that long. That didn't seem right to me. Not at all.

Now I have to admit that I believe in roasting meat at a relatively high temperature because it seals in the juices. My temperature of choice hovers around 425. I roast chickens at 425 and they take one hour. The turkey breast didn't seem all that much bigger than a chicken. Two and a half hours seemed like overkill.

Of course, I didn't take the time to search hundreds of recipes. But I was stunned by how many recommended a slow, low temp roast. Only Rachel Ray roasted her turkey breast the way I would. Yay, Rachel! Finally, sensible instructions. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. When I slid the turkey breast into the oven, I turned the temperature down to 410. It should have been 400, but I was fighting the urge to leave it at 425 and compromised with 410.

One hour and ten minutes later, the top registered 175 degrees on my Thermapen and the bottom registered 150. Apparently turkey meat should be at 160 degrees, so I took it out (with trepidation, I might add) and let it rest for ten minutes. The outer slices were fine. Very nice, actually, but below the top two slices, it turned into the juiciest turkey breast meat we've ever eaten. I'm still a believer in high heat for roasts.

I'd love to hear from anyone who roasts turkey breast at a low temp for two and a half hours. I'm having trouble imagining that it doesn't dry out the meat.


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