Overthinking a plate of turkey
November 19, 2012 8:26 AM   Subscribe

We decided to do turkey parts this year, instead of a whole bird, and could only find a boneless skinless turkey breast for the white meat portion of our Thanksgiving meal. How do we cook it?

I realize the cut of meat is not ideal, but it was all we could get in the way of white meat.

I've looked at advice on Chowhound on how to cook it, but it's somewhat above my head as I've never cooked a turkey before, though I do roast chicken pieces occasionally.

So in the Chowhound thread, someone suggests cooking the breast "butterflied, stuffed and braised with bacon on top to baste the bird as it cooks to keep it moist." This sounds good! But I don't know how to do it!

For instance, do you put raw stuffing mix in the cavity, and roll it up like it's Chicken Kiev? In which case, do you then dredge it in flour and pin the bacon to it and brown it in the skillet? Or do you just pin the bacon to it and brown it, then pour the fat on top and put it in the oven? Do you use toothpicks to keep the turkey roll closed, or do you dredge it in flour and egg, and then cover it in bacon? And when you cook it, at what temperature? For how long? Do you need to baste it? How often?

Also, my partner and I thought that stuffing tended to dry out white meat, in which case wouldn't it be better to just cover it in bacon? Or are we wrong about that? If it is better to do just the bacon, do we need to dredge it or something to get the bacon to stick to the turkey?

Finally, we are planning to dry brine the turkey legs. Should we also dry brine the (boneless, skinless) breast? Is there any reason we should not dry brine the breast?

Does anybody here have answers to all these panicky questions, or perhaps just a link to a comprehensive, step-by-step recipe for moist (boneless, skinless) breast meat?

posted by brina to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just cooked a thanksgiving dinner yesterday. I did this recipe from Alton Brown. It came out really nice, since you have the breasts I would dry brine them in the same mixture as the legs, and then just cover in bacon strips. It won't need any securing as the bacon will essentially stick to the turkey like a wet piece of paper. You could butterfly the breast, but I think it would be better to make a sage and onion sausagemeat stuffing and just bake it alongside the turkey.

Get a thermometer so you can check when the breasts are done and just bake it all at 350 or so for a couple of hours. I think that ht ebreasts should take just about an hour, assuming that they are boneless. If you are skilled with a knife you can cut the breasts in half and then that will reduce the cooking time, and increase the bacon useage and probably have everything come out at the correct time.

In summary:

Stuffing on the side in another dish
Cut the turkey breasts so they are an inch think
dry brine everything
bacon over the breasts to make a new "skin"
Roast everything for 30-45 minutes at 350 in a single layer and I think everything should be close to done at that point
posted by koolkat at 8:39 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, my partner and I thought that stuffing tended to dry out white meat

I think this is a 'correlation, not causation' problem. Raw stuffing in the cavity of a whole bird is insulated from the oven's heat, and takes a long time to cook. The breast of a stuffed turkey is likely to be overcooked by the time the stuffing is done, and it's the overcooking that dries out the meat, not the stuffing itself.

in the Chowhound thread, someone suggests cooking the breast "butterflied, stuffed and braised with bacon on top to baste the bird as it cooks to keep it moist."

Did the Chowhound poster give any more detail? Because braising involves partially submerging a piece of meat in some sort of hot, tasty liquid (broth, wine) and letting it simmer in the oven for a long time at a low temp. It's great for tough cuts of meat with lots of connective tissue (oxtails, short ribs), but not for tender cuts that cook quickly, like turkey breast. Also, I am picturing bits of soggy stuffing floating around in the braising liquid. If the poster didn't mention a braising liquid, they may have simply misused the term and meant roasting.
posted by jon1270 at 9:12 AM on November 19, 2012

One other thing you can do, since you have no skin to brown, is to put the turkey breast in a fortified broth and poach it in the oven. It should be nice and juicy that way.

Use turkey stock or broth, white wine, rosemary, thyme, sage.

Not braising, poaching.

You can probably get away with this on the stove in a deep frying pan.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:31 AM on November 19, 2012

You probaly already considered this, but I would suggest maybe getting a whole small turkey and cutting it up before roasting it. That way you get all the parts you want (including bones for stock and giblets for gravy if those are your things), but have the ease of dealing with cooking just parts.
posted by grouse at 12:06 PM on November 19, 2012

I'm planning to slow-cook my turkey breast using this recipe. It comes well-reviewed, but I haven't personally tried it before.
posted by quiet coyote at 2:13 PM on November 19, 2012

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