Making a juicy and flavorful roasted turkey breast does not need to be difficult, and the key is in the dry brine method.  To make a dry brined turkey breast you only need a few simple ingredients:  salt, pepper, sugar, an unadulterated turkey breast, and time.  My step-by-step instructions walk you through the entire process so you too can make the juiciest turkey breast you’ve ever had!  

Platter with one carved and one uncarved turkey breast and carving fork.

I have spent countless years trying to perfect the Thanksgiving turkey.

I’ve tried various brining and roasting methods, using the entire bird, and while they’ve all been pretty good, I find myself going back to a dry brined turkey breast, time and time again.

It never disappoints, is super easy, and if you’re feeding a smaller group, it’s almost a no brainer.  

After discovering the dry brine technique, I almost never wet brine a turkey anymore.

Wet brining takes up too much valuable refrigerator real estate and offers no advantages over the dry brine technique.

How does a dry brine work?

Every now and then, I like to infuse sciency bits into my recipe posts.  Cooking is more of an art than baking, which is usually more scientific. 

If you’re into geeking out on culinary topics, be sure to read my homemade pizza dough post where I dive deep into hydration levels, protein percentages, and more.

Dry brining is another corner of the culinary world where science comes into play.

By salting any meat, in our case the turkey breast on all sides, water is drawn out of the turkey breast through osmosis and also out of the air which then pools back onto the turkey. 

The salt crystals then dissolve in that water and create a flavorful briny mixture.

In turn, the turkey reabsorbs that briny mixture back into itself, flavoring the whole breast and making it juicier than you can imagine!

Other benefits of dry brining include decreased cooking time and way crispier skin than a wet brine.  

I told you it does not need to be difficult!

Carving fork holding one piece of turkey. 

A word on commercially pre-brined turkey breasts

Take a stroll through the poultry section of any given supermarket during the holiday season and you’re sure to notice that most turkey breasts and full turkeys are pre-brined. 

Why do turkey sellers do this?  Quite simply, pre-brining adds water weight; water weight equals profit.  

Depending on the brand of Turkey (Jennie-O, Cargill, Tyson, Perdue, Shadybrook, etc.) they will all have a different solution percentage. 

The solution often contains turkey broth, sugar, sodium, vinegar, and natural flavorings. I’ve seen some breasts with a 15% solution and some with 3%. 

Sodium amounts fluctuate greatly too.  Some can be as high as 600mg of sodium per 4 ounce serving while some will be only 80mg.

If you do buy a turkey breast in solution, it will most likely not need much of a dry brine at all.  I wouldn’t recommend dry brining any turkey breast that has more than 200-250mg sodium per 4 ounce serving.

Your best bet is to find a non-adulterated turkey breast from a butcher, a small local farm, or a premium grocery store, such as Whole Foods or Wegmans.

How to make the best roast turkey breast

  1. Mix together 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 tablespoon light brown sugar.  Pat dry the turkey breast with paper towels and season all over with the salt mixture.  Try to get the salt under the skin and onto the breast.  Season on all sides but use the majority of the mixture on the top of the breasts since they are the thickest and will take the most time for the brine to penetrate.  Place the turkey in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours (better at 48 hours).  A tray and wire rack setup works well for this but a large plate with the breast facing up would be fine too.  That would save a bit more room in the fridge.

Dry brined turkey breast recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. After 24-48 hours the turkey will be brined.  Water will have accumulated from the bottom of the turkey.  Make sure to let the turkey rest for 1 hour at room temperature prior to cooking.  Preheat the oven to 450f and set the oven rack to the middle level.
  2. Set up a roaster pan and rack and thoroughly dry the turkey skin with paper towels.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto the turkey skin and rub it all over to evenly coat.  Pour a half cup of chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan.  Roast the turkey breast for 30 minutes at 450f then turn the heat down to 300f and continue cooking for 50-70 more minutes (exact time will depend on weight, use an instant-read thermometer to check).  When checking the turkey, if the pan is dry, add a half cup more stock.  You want just a little stock to keep the turkey breast moist and to collect the drippings.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Check the breast a couple of times during cooking and once it hits 155f to 160f, it’s done. 
  2. Remove the turkey breast and place it on a large cutting board.  Tent it with foil, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes, where it will rise in temp by another 5-10f.  Make sure to save the pan drippings for turkey gravy.

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. To carve the rested turkey breast you’ll need a carving fork and a large knife.  Remove each breast by sliding and cutting down the breastbone.  Come in from the side with the knife or turn the breast on its side to fully detach the breast with your knife.  Repeat for the other breast.
  2. Now working quickly so that the breast doesn’t get cold, cut slices across the long part of the breast.

Dry brined turkey breast recipe process shot collage group number four.

  1. Depending on the number of guests, leaving one breast uncarved will keep it warmer and give a nicer presentation.  Serve with gravy, cranberry sauce, and your favorite sides and enjoy!

Platter with carved turkey breast, bowl of mashed potatoes, and gravy boat.

Top tips

  • Use kosher salt.  Kosher salt prevents clumping, which allows the salt to be more evenly distributed into the meat.  
  • Pat dry the turkey breast with paper towels before applying the brine and before roasting.  Don’t worry.  The salty briny flavors will have absorbed into the meat so you’re not removing those flavors by drying the bird before roasting.
  • Dry brine the turkey breast for a minimum of 24 hours, but 48 hours works even better.  For thicker meats, the brine needs time to work itself all the way through.
  • Leave the turkey breast uncovered in the fridge.  This will help crisp the skin even more.
  • Skip all the herbs and other flavors.  Besides the kosher salt, the only other ingredients we’re using are pepper and sugar.  It’s all you need.  In fact, you really just need kosher salt.
  • I highly recommend you use an instant-read thermometer when making a turkey.  Not only is it an indispensable kitchen tool, but it can go a long way to making sure your turkey breast cooks perfectly.  Cooking time can be a bit shorter with a dry brine,  but having the thermometer takes the guesswork out of it.
  • Save the pan drippings!  Though a turkey breast won’t have as many drippings as a whole turkey, there will still be enough to make a tasty turkey gravy.

Gravy being poured on platter of carved turkey breast.

Holiday and other Fall menu items

If you grew up in an Italian-American household as I did, you expect to see lasagna on the Thanksgiving menu, usually served as the first course.

In addition to that, some of our tried and true holiday and Fall recipes are listed here.  Which are your favorites?

And what Fall gathering would be complete without a simple and refreshing drink that can be made in bulk? 

Check out our white wine sangria with pears and apples (perfect with turkey!) or our pumpkin mule.

For dessert, try our pumpkin pie with amaretto whipped cream or our rustic apple crostata which is perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Close up shot of sliced turkey breast pieces.

If you’ve enjoyed this dry brined turkey breast recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

We strive to satisfy a number of learning styles.  If you are someone who prefers to learn by watching, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.

Dry Brined Turkey Breast

5 from 9 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 40 minutes
Brining time: 1 day
Servings: 12
Tender and moist dry brined turkey breast is made with just a few ingredients making this one of the simplest ways to prepare this holiday staple.

Ingredients 

  • 1 6-8 pound turkey breast bone-in
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock divided, will most likely not need all of it

dry brine (mix together)

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Instructions 

  • Pat dry the turkey breast with paper towels and season all over with the dry brine mixture. Try to get the salt under the skin and onto the breast. Season on all sides but use the majority of the mixture on the breasts since they are the thickest and will take the most time for the brine to penetrate. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 24 hours but preferably 48 hours.
  • Remove turkey 1 hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 450f and set the oven rack to the middle level. Place the turkey breast on a roasting pan and wire rack setup and pat dry very well. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto the skin and pour a half cup of chicken stock into bottom of the pan.
  • Roast turkey for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 300f. Continue cooking until the turkey registers 155-160f in the thickest part of the breast (should take approximately 50-70 minutes longer). When finished cooking place turkey breast on a cutting board and tent with foil for 20 minutes before carving.
  • To carve, remove breast by sliding knife down breast bone and by cutting under the breast. Cut pieces to 1/4" thick across the length of the breast. Enjoy!

Notes

  • The sodium amount is for a fresh turkey breast with no added sodium solution. If using a turkey breast in solution only use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.  This is provided that the sodium level is less than 200mg per 4 ounce serving.  Anything higher than that, no salt should be used.  
  • Use kosher salt to allow for a more even salt distribution. 
  • Pat dry the turkey breast with paper towels before applying the brine and before roasting.  
  • Dry brine for a minimum of 24 hours.
  • Leave the turkey breast uncovered in the fridge.  
  • Use an instant-read thermometer for accurate temperature readings.
  • Make sure to let the turkey breast rest for 20 minutes prior to carving.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 410kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.7g | Protein: 56g | Fat: 19.8g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 163mg | Sodium: 525mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 0.7g | Calcium: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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20 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Reporting great results. I’m just part of a small family of 3 and do t usually have turkey for thanksgiving (but plenty of everything else). My mother’s baked turkeys were incredible and it just hadn’t been the same without her. However, this year I wanted to do a breast to have leftovers for sandwiches and soup. I used this recipe and followed it to the letter. I had to improvise bc I do not have a roasting rack and I stacked carrots and celery to elevate the breast. I baked in my Dutch oven and relied on my meat thermometer. Very pleased with the results and would definitely make this recipe again!!!! I also used your instruction to make stock from your giblets gravy recipe!!! A side note to pass on, it took a good 3 days for my 6.5 breast to thaw in fridge.

  2. 5 stars
    My family loved this recipie. So easy to prepare and so moist and tasty! This will be used every year! Thanks Jim and Tara!

  3. Hi! Loooooove you and your wife’s cooking! I am going to brine a turkey for the first time. You mentioned to get most of brine onto breast. Understand I can lift the skin to do this, or do you put the brine directly on the skin?

    1. Hi Maureen, if you can lift the skin it will be even better, just be sure to not rip off the skin. Hope you enjoy and so happy you’re enjoying the recipes!

    1. Hi Josie, to reheat, cover it with foil and heat in the oven at 350f until warmed through. It may dry out a bit but covering it with foil will help.

  4. I will be buying a whole turkey so should I double the brine so it covers the whole bird thanks Btw I watch you cook all the time and the best part is when your son does the tasting❤️

  5. Should I wash the bird first? I am in West Africa and just got a plain cleaned 3.5 kg turkey. I am sure I need to brine it! I’ll try this brine on it.

    1. Hi Cathy, you can if you want to but many people don’t recommend washing poultry as it can cause cross-contamination. It’s really up to you.