Garlic roasted turkey breast lets you enjoy the flavors of the holiday season whenever you’d like. With a quicker cook time than a whole turkey, you won’t spend all day in the kitchen making this delicious turkey breast recipe.
Don’t hate me when I say this. But I am not a let’s eat leftover turkey for days person after Thanksgiving. A day of leftover turkey, sure. But days upon days? Hard pass. So we normally do a smaller turkey or just a turkey breast. Plus I always go overboard on the side dishes. I mean yes, there’s stuffing and mashed potatoes, but I also go nuts and make things like Parmesan Brussels sprouts and mac n cheese, skillet cornbread and about 5 different desserts. So we just don’t need a huge turkey.
Still I have to follow the song and appreciate that “a turkey and some mistletoe will help to make the season bright.” And I agree. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven is the smell of the holiday season. And when it’s this garlic roasted turkey, oh yes. The smell is so good. And fortunately it translates to the flavor of the turkey. It is absolutely delicious with bits of garlic running throughout the meat. Yum!
Why only make Turkey Breast?
There’s a few reasons you might want to only make turkey breast for your next holiday gathering.
- Turkey breast meat is the driest meat on the turkey because it has the least fat. So when you cook a full bird, the breast cooks up faster than the legs and thighs, which can really dry out the meat. A brine and roasting techniques, like cooking breast down, can help, but if you really want juicy white meat, then try making a turkey breast roast instead.
- Not every holiday gathering is as big as pictured on TV and movies. Sometimes, especially if no one you know likes dark meat, it just makes more sense to make a turkey breast roast than to make a whole turkey.
- On the other hand, some times there are TOO many people at your holiday table. The solution? Prepare a full turkey and make an extra turkey breast roast or two. Just start the turkey breast a bit later than the full turkey so it doesn’t dry out in the oven.
How to Make Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast
Making this garlic roasted turkey breast is very similar to roasting any type of turkey with 2 exceptions.
First, I like to actually put the garlic and seasoning into the turkey meat and not just slather the skin in it. What’s the point of only making the outside yummy and delicious? I do this by cutting little slits into the turkey’s skin and popping garlic into the slit so it’s sitting directly against the turkey breast meat. The skin holds it in place and roasting the garlic against the actual turkey meat gives it the best flavor. Any extra cloves can get stuffed into the cavity in the bird.
Second, instead of just popping this turkey breast in the oven, which you certainly can, I seared it first in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. This browns up the outside so it’s really pretty for that showstopping presentation and locks in flavor and moisture.
After you have the turkey breast seared on all sides, add more olive oil and butter to the outside and stuff the cavity of the breast with herbs.
Then cover it and pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes per pound until a meat thermometer reads 165. A turkey breast is done at 170 according to the National Turkey Foundation, but you want to pull it out of the oven with a few degrees to go. It will continue to cook as it rests. Twice during the cooking process, spoon on the juices from the bottom of the pan.
Tips and Tricks for Making Delicious Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast
Roasting a turkey breast is pretty easy. But you can follow these tips and tricks to make the perfect, juicy turkey breast sure to delight your whole family and friends.
- Sear the sides and ends of the turkey breast. Whether you get a bone in or bone out turkey breast, you want to sear the meat before putting it in the oven. To do this, coat the breast in olive oil, salt, and pepper (you can omit either salt or pepper if you prefer). Bring a cast iron skillet or other oven safe pan up to medium-high heat with 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Carefully place the breast on the hot pan and let it sit for about 3-4 minutes. After the timer goes off, carefully flip the breast to the next side. If it does not come up easily or without ripping, give it another minute or two on that side. On most breasts, you should be able to easily sear 3-4 sides plus the flatter end of the breast.
- If you want to sear the end of the breast (which you should) you’ll have to hold it in place with tongs. Do not use forks or other sharp objects to flip the turkey. If you sear the ends, you will need to hold it in place for 3-4 minutes while it sears.
- When inserting garlic under the skin and into the breast meat, cut slits that are longer than needed to fit the garlic piece. Slice the garlic to form narrow pieces and insert into the opening you made.
- Brine the breast for 6-8 hours in a salty and fragrant brine. Our favorite brine mixtures involve salt, water, apple cider, garlic, onions, cloves, and sliced apples. The salty water adds moisture to the breast while the aromatics add additional hints of flavor. Rinse the brine off the breast before cooking.
- Let the breast come up to room temperature before cooking. This helps the breast cook evenly.
- Add the stuffing towards the end of cooking to keep cook times shorter and still give the stuffing the flavor from the turkey. To do this, remove the turkey from the oven with about 20 minutes left and add stuffing with a spoon to the cavity and to the surrounding pan.
- 4-6 pound turkey breast
- 1 head of garlic
- packet of fresh poultry herbs, which are generally a combination of rosemary, thyme, and sage
- 1/2 cup of chopped parsley
- 4 sweet onions, quartered
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1 sliced orange (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 and heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in an oven safe pan or cast iron skillet.
Peel head of garlic. To make it easier, you can crush the cloves by giving it a good hit with a can or other blunt object in your kitchen. Once peeled, slice about 6 cloves lengthwise forming longer sections. With a small knife, cut small incisions in the turkey breast meat and skin. Make them just slightly bigger than the garlic sliver.
Insert a single garlic piece into slit and repeat. I usually space them about 1 to 2 inches apart. You'll likely have left over garlic slivers. Rub turkey breast with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper (to taste) all around the outside of the breast.
Carefully place the breast on the hot skillet. Cook each side for 3-4 minutes. For best result, sear the ends of the turkey breasts by using tongs to hold the breast on its end while it sears.
Once the last side is seared, stuff the cavity with the sage, poultry herbs packet, parsley, onions and remaining garlic and orange slices if using. Add butter and any remaining olive oil to the pan. (If you are stuffing the turkey, you could add stuffing into the cavity and to the pan. We make our stuffing often on the side and add it to the pan for the last few minutes of cooking.)
Cover with aluminum foil and cook the turkey breast for 20 minutes per pound. So for a 4 pound breast, cook it for 1 hour and 20 minutes. While it's cooking, baste it twice by spooning the juices over the turkey breast. If you have a meat thermometer, you can check the internal temperature which should be at 165 when it is done cooking.
*If you are waiting to the end to stuff the turkey, remove it from oven with 20 minutes to go. Add the stuffing to the cavity and sides of the pan. But be careful, it will be hot!
Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting into it.