WWABD? (What would Alton Brown do?)
November 15, 2017 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I’m a turkey novice. Last year, I used the Good Eats brine/roast method to great success in cooking my first turkey. This year, I want to do just a breast, since I’m only cooking for two. I need some guidance.

I loved the moist, flavorful turkey we got last year, and the skin was so crispy. Here’s a link to his recipe. Basically, you roast at 500 for 30 minutes, then drop the temperature and cook until the bird reaches the desired internal temperature.

So, given that I’m doing just the breast this year, how do I adapt this method? Or should I do something else entirely? All the recipes out there purporting to be the “holy grail turkey recipe” have my head spinning.
posted by bluloo to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd do the same recipe, to the letter, but just know you may only need to do the final bake for ~45 minutes, not 2.5 hours, as it will take much less time to come up to temp. Also, I might do the 500 degree step slightly shorter, like 20 minutes or so.

It will taste great either way, most of the reason his recipe works so great is the brining, not the exact baking directions!
posted by bbqturtle at 10:14 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't know what Alton brown would do, but will 'what would Kenji Lopez-Alt do?' do?

do do do
posted by quaking fajita at 10:15 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

For the brine, you'll need something like a quarter of what the whole-bird recipe calls for, with the same ratios. Having too much brine isn't a problem as much as a waste.

For the aeromatics, hmm. If this is a bone-in breast, then you can tuck them (in reduced portion, maybe half?) under the ribcage of the skin-side-up breast. If not, keep the breast elevated on a rack and put the aeromatics in the bottom of the pan.

Roasting: you're going to have to play the time by ear. I agree that 45 minutes is a likely cooking time, but roasting the skin will go faster than 30. I would check the skin every few minutes (through the window if possible) for the first 15; i'd think the skin would be crisp by then. After that, drop the temp, and throw a loose sheet of foil (which you can mold into the right shape before putting the breast into the oven) over it so the direct radiant heat of the top element doesn't burn the skin.

Afterwards, tenting for 5-7 minutes should be adequate, but maybe 10 to be on the safe side.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:24 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

A couple of years ago I did a breast-only Thanksgiving, and while I usually do the "dry it out" turkey adaptation of the Zuni Restaurant chicken recipe, instead I did Ina Garten's herb-roasted turkey breast. It was really, really delicious and very simple.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:29 AM on November 15, 2017

I did this last year with the NYT's Fastest Roast Turkey recipe. I used legs and thighs, but turkey breast should be about the same. It came out wonderful, and it's very similar to the recipe you used last year. The temps are a little lower, but the idea is the same. Your original recipe is 500* for 30 mins, then lower to 350. The NYT's is 450* for 30 mins, then lower to 325*.

I think I'm going to do the same recipe this year, but instead of basting, use oil so the skin comes out crispier.
posted by onecircleaday at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2017

Just for the sake of askme completion, if you're willing to go another track entirely, I would suggest giving that bird a bath. Sous vide turkey breast is fucking phenomenal. No need to brine, you can add in any herbs you want. Maybe throw in a pat of butter. Birds + Sous vide are amaaaaaaazing, and totally foolproof.

This setup does require a vacuum sealer and an immersion circulator. If you are particular kitchen-gear averse, this might not be the best track to take, but once you have those items, it opens up a nice dimension of cooking.

If you want to level up your browning ability, Searzall is where it's at.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:46 AM on November 15, 2017

Best answer: I have done the Alton Brown brine with just a turkey breast and I am encouraging you to do so!! Cut the brine ratios down to the size of breast you're using, still do the high temp but only for about 20 minutes, or until the skin looks amazing, and then the final bake for maybe 45 min - 1 hour, depending on the weight of the breast (TEMP TEST TEMP TEST TEMP TEST).

posted by cooker girl at 10:58 AM on November 15, 2017

Response by poster: Hmm, I had not considered the sous vide route... I will take this under advisement.
posted by bluloo at 11:49 AM on November 15, 2017

Martha Stewart says you can sous vide without the fancy equipment (though I'm not sure about cooking in a Ziploc bag).
posted by onecircleaday at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2017

My favorite Thanksgiving advice: "Just put the f*cking turkey in the oven." It's a cute video with some actual advice about relaxing a bit with your cooking.

I've roasted turkey breasts a few times now. The great news is that a ton of the conflicting advice you're seeing online about turkey cooking is all about handling the different cooking times needed between the breast and the legs. So since you're just doing the breast, you don't have to worry about any of that!

That J. Kenji Lopez-Alt recipe linked above looks great. He's a solid, reliable recipe writer. If you'd like to try something a little more complex and unusual, I made his "Turkey Porchetta" a couple years ago. It's neat - you debone the turkey breast (use the bones to make broth for gravy), butterfly it, rub it with a salt and herb mixture, then roll it up and leave it in the fridge to "cure" for up to 2 days.
posted by dnash at 1:35 PM on November 15, 2017

Martha Stewart is right, but I speak from experience in that rocking a DIY sketchy sous vide setup is such a righteous pain in the ass that it might turn you off the whole operation.

Right tools for the job are life changing, and they've really dropped in price over the last few years.

And cooking in ziploc bags is fine as long as you don't exceed boiling. If you're sketched out about ziploc bags, you should avoid sous-vide altogether. There's no functional difference other than thickness between ziploc bags and 'proper' sousvide bags.

*whipsers* Doooooo it. Sousvide that bird. Birdy wants a bath....
posted by furnace.heart at 5:57 PM on November 15, 2017

Best answer: I've always done turkey breast because I'm usually cooking just for me and one other person. I got tired of the mess of brining a few years ago and started doing a dry brine instead. You just rub salt under the skin all over and in the cavity, wrap the turkey breast tightly and put it in the fridge overnight, unwrap and rise the next morning, and cook. Here's the recipe, if it counts as a recipe.

Cooking instructions don't need to be modified much from the instructions for a whole turkey (except of course you can skip any steps that require you to cover parts with foil for part of the cooking time), and will be much easier if you have a probe thermometer. (Saint Alton would want you to have a probe thermometer.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:15 PM on November 15, 2017

Response by poster: To clarify, I already have an immersion cooker, and am fully on the sous vide train! Just hadn’t considered the option for my turkey.
posted by bluloo at 8:36 PM on November 15, 2017

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