If you are hosting a smaller holiday get-together, need extra turkey, or maybe you want to roast some turkey breasts for the week's meal prepping, this Brined Boneless Turkey Breast recipe will be your new go-to!
Preparing a whole turkey can be a daunting task and if you aren't hosting a large crowd you may have more leftovers than you know what to do with. Brined roast turkey breast is just the solution you need. You will spend less time in the kitchen and not have a big turkey carcass to deal with.
This post also includes a recipe for an easy all-purpose gravy that you can make anytime!
What is brining?
Brining is a process that once was used as a preservation method. Nowadays it's used as a way to add flavour, moisture, and tenderness to otherwise tough and dry cuts of meat. It works like osmosis. The meat is submerged and soaked in a salt water bath, often with added sugar and other aromatics.
During this time the salt water penetrates the meat adding a higher salt content which increases moisture and breaks down and softens the proteins strands. All of this produces more moisture and less toughness.
What other meats can I brine?
Brining is best used with cuts of meat that tend to get dry when cooked such as chicken breasts and lean cuts of pork such as pork chops or loins. You can also brine whole chickens and turkeys.
Here's what you will need to make this recipe. For quantities see the recipe card below.
- Boneless turkey breast
- Fresh thyme
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaves
- All-purpose flour
- Chicken broth
- First prepare the brine by mixing the brine ingredients with 4 cups of water in a large pot. Heat and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add 8 cups of cold water. Let the brine solution cool to room temperature. Add turkey breasts to the salt solution, cover and refrigerate overnight. If you don't have a pot large enough to hold all the brine and the turkey you can place everything in a brining bag or large container covered with plastic wrap.
2. A couple of hours before cooking remove the turkey breasts from the brine mixture. Pat dry with paper towels and let stand at room temperature until ready to roast. This will reduce the cooking time as the meat won't be cold from the fridge. If you decide to leave it in the fridge until it's time to cook, the roasting time may increase.
3. Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. When hot, add the oil and then the turkey breasts, skin side down. Lower the heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is nicely browned. If it's getting too dark, lower the heat.
4. Using tongs, flip the breasts and and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickets part of the breast, registers 160°F. Transfer to a plate, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. The temperature will rise to at least 165-170°F as it rests.
5. While the turkey is roasting and resting, make the gravy by sautéing the vegetables until they start to soften and brown. Sprinkle the veggies with flour and stir for one minute. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring well to remove lumps before adding more broth.
Pro tips for making this recipe
- Keep the skin - Even if you don't like to eat the skin, leaving it on during the cooking process adds more flavour and moisture to the meat.
- Measure the salt and water correctly - I give 2 different measurements of salt depending on which type you use. Because Kosher salt is more coarse you need a bit more that if using table or fine salt.
- Dry the breasts well and let come to room temp.- Be sure to pat the breasts dry with paper towels. Drying helps to crisp up the skin and encourage browning. Letting the meat come to room temperature before cooking results in more even cooking and tender meat.
- Take the temperature - A quick read thermometer is an essential kitchen tool and ensures you are cooking all your meat properly. Cooking times vary greatly for many reasons. The internal temperature is the only sure way to know your meat is cooked to perfection! Thermoworks brand is my favourite for it's accuracy and reliability.
- Let it rest - It's important to let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing to keep it nice and juicy.
- Boneless turkey breasts - You can also make this recipe with bone-in turkey breasts either halves or whole. The cooking time will increase by approximately 15 minutes. Check temperature after 20 minutes to gauge how much longer it will need.
- Fresh herbs - Other fresh herbs can be added to the brine and also the gravy such as parsley and rosemary. Orange peel or slices can also be added for a citrusy flavour.
- Sugar - White or brown sugar can be used.
How to store leftover turkey
Leftover turkey meat can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat slices in the microwave or in a skillet using extra gravy to keep it moist. Store the gravy in the fridge for up to one week.
How to freeze - Leftover turkey can be stored in the freezer for 3 months. Store it in slices laid flat in a Ziplock bag. This way the pieces won't stick together and you can easily grab a few slices at a time. Defrost in the fridge overnight or on the counter until thawed. Gravy can be frozen in small containers or ice cube trays.
Leftover turkey is great used in soups, to top salads, for tacos or just reheated with some gravy when you have a craving.
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- Cast iron skillet - I recommend investing in a good cast iron skillet. It is an invaluable tool in my kitchen. They are perfect for so many things but especially searing meats.
- Meat thermometer - This is my most highly recommended thermometer. It's a bit pricier than others but it's reliability and accuracy is like no other I've ever used, and I've gone through a ton of thermometers!
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Brined Boneless Turkey Breast with Gravy
- 4 cups hot tap water
- 8 cups cold water
- ¾ cup Kosher salt or ½ cup table or fine sea salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 cloves garlic cut in half
- 1 or 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 boneless skin-on turkey half-breasts approximately 1 kg/2 lbs each
For the Gravy
- 2 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
- 1 small onion or half a large roughly chopped
- 1 small to medium carrot peeled roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic smashed or cut in half
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2 small sprigs of thyme
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- More salt and pepper to taste
- Place the salt, sugar, garlic, peppercorns, thyme and 4 cups of hot water into a pot large enough to hold the breasts plus 12 cups of water. Heat the water and seasonings until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add 8 cups of cold water. Once the brine has come to room temperature add the turkey breasts and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
- 2 hours before cooking remove breasts from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine. Let the turkey sit for 2 hours to come to room temperature before cooking.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a cast iron skillet or another ovenproof frying pan over high heat. When hot add 1 tablespoon of olive or avocado oil to the pan, then add the turkey breasts, skin side down, and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until nicely browned. Check the skin to make sure it isn't burning. If getting too dark, reduce the heat.
- Using tongs, flip the breasts so they are skin-side up and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until temperature, with a quick read thermometer, registers 160°F at its thickest part. Remove from the oven and place breasts on a plate or platter. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice against the grain (crosswise) on the bias.
Making the Gravy
- Heat oil in a medium to large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Stirring every so often, cook vegetables until they are softened and starting to brown. Adjust heat as necessary. Add flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add thyme sprigs. Slowly add chicken broth, stirring constantly and scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened and reduced. Strain sauce with a fine mesh strainer. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.