Roast Turkey Breast with Roasted Garlic Gravy

The way my brother Eddie tells it, he and a college friend decided to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving one year. The day before Thanksgiving, Eddie went out and bought a 25 pound turkey, frozen, and put it in the fridge to defrost. (Can you see where this is going?) When it came time to cook the turkey, he took it out of its plastic wrapping, only to discover that the bird was still completely frozen. Rock hard. Undaunted (due either to the unchecked optimism that accompanies that time in life, or to beer addled judgement, and probably a little of both), Eddie went about cooking the turkey anyway. Heck, what’s a little frozen meat that a hot oven can’t overcome?

Into the oven it went. When it came time to eat, my brother pulled out of the oven a beautifully roasted, browned all over turkey. Success! thought my brother, hungry by now for the bird that had been roasting for several hours and filling the house with that wonderful aroma of Thanksgiving. A few friends had gathered as well, waiting for the feast to come. Then it came time to carve. Ed took out his longest, sharpest chef’s knife and aiming for the breast, cut in. Or tried to. As he tells it, he got about one inch in before the knife bumped up against rock hard, stone cold, frozen turkey.

Or maybe it was a half inch.

In any case, from what I understand they gave up and went out for Chinese.

The obvious moral of this story is to allow your bird plenty of time to defrost. A 15 pound turkey will take about 3 days in the fridge to defrost, a 25 pound turkey, about 5 days.

The less obvious moral to this story, and the point of the following recipe, is why cook a 25 pound turkey when you are only feeding 4 to 5 people? Unless you want turkey leftovers for weeks, you might be better off cooking just a part of a turkey. In this recipe, we are cooking just the turkey breast, bone-in and skin-on, and making a rich, creamy gravy with drippings from a couple turkey wings.

Roast Turkey Breast with Roasted Garlic Gravy Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

Roasted Garlic Gravy

  • 2 turkey wings
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour

Turkey Breasts

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on turkey breast (with two breast halves), about 6-7 pounds
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Chop the turkey wings into pieces with a cleaver or heavy kitchen knife (or have your butcher do this for you). Coat the wings with some olive oil and salt well. Arrange in one layer in a roasting pan.

2 Slice off the top 1/4 of the garlic heads and discard. Nestle the heads into some aluminum foil and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the garlic. Close the foil and place in the roasting pan with the turkey wings. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the garlic (do not unwrap), turn the turkey pieces and roast another 15 minutes.

3 While the turkey wings are roasting, take the turkey breast out of its package, rinse under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Let it sit out to come to room temperature.

4 When the turkey wings are ready, place them in a medium pot and cover with water.  Add another cup of water to the roasting pan and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add this to the pot with the turkey wings. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour.

5 Heat the oven to 425°F. Coat the turkey breast with the vegetable oil, then sprinkle it all over with salt. Sprinkle it as well with black pepper, thyme and sage. Place the turkey breast skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pan (this will help prevent the oven from smoking). Put the turkey in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350°F and cook until the thickest part of the breast reads 155°F with a meat thermometer, about 80-90 minutes for a 6 to 7 pound breast. (Note that the internal temperature will continue to rise after you take the turkey out of the oven to rest.) To be on the safe side to keep from overcooking the turkey, check the internal temperature of the breast after one hour.

6 Make the gravy while the turkey breast is roasting. Pour the turkey broth through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pot and stir in the flour. Cook the butter flour mixture over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is the color of coffee-with-cream. Add the hot turkey broth to the butter flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Stir in enough broth to make a thin gravy, about 2-3 cups. Squeeze all the garlic from the garlic heads into the gravy. Simmer gently while the turkey breast cooks, adding more turkey broth or water if the gravy gets too thick.

7 When the turkey breast is ready, remove it from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Finish the gravy by pouring it into a blender and puréeing until smooth. Return the gravy to the pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter to finish.

8 To carve the turkey, cut straight down from the keel bone (the keel bone separates each half of the breast) until your knife hits the breast bone. Slice the meat off and, using short strokes with the knife, free the meat from the bone. If you want, pull off the tender underneath the breast and slice this piece separately; it tends to fall off the rest of the breast when you slice it anyway. Slice the deboned breast and serve.

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26 Comments

  1. Timbo

    Looks fabulous! How long do you cook the wings for?

  2. jennifer

    Looks fabulous! BTW you have remove the garlic in step 2 and step 4?

  3. Stef

    I make the whole feast, 15lb turkey and all the trimmings even 2 pies from scratch for Thanksgiving. Normal, right? Here’s the kicker: I do it just for myself and my husband. That’s right. Two people and a few stragglers who come by in between trips between their families.

    Thanksgiving is my olympics.

  4. Sheila

    Egads! what a waste! your turkey and gravy look amazing. I don’t know why I don’t make turkey breast more through out the year like this.

  5. susan

    this is exactly was i was thinking about this year. thanks so much!

  6. Chris

    I think I would miss the dark meat. I love it, especially in a casserole or gumbo. Still looks amazing though.

  7. Kate

    What a wonderful recipe! I am so excited for the Thanksgiving meal!!

  8. Frances

    I’m thinking your turkey broth is the beginning of a good turkey soup with some of the roasted garlic added. Thanks for your wonderful site!

  9. Ari Brown

    My favorite T-day mishap was the year my mother grabbed the flour to make gravy and was very upset when it wouldn’t thicken. She made a second roux and added the not thick gravy to it. She gave up and called my brother in to help. He tasted the soupy gravy, and informed my mom she had been using powdered sugar, not flour. Oops. The best part is my brother still ate it, calling it “candy gravy.” We laugh about it every year!

  10. Jesse Gardner

    You’re making me hungry for Thanksgiving, Elise!

  11. Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca)

    I looooooove turkey, especially with lots of gravy!! This looks so yummy!

  12. Chris

    Can’t wait to try this, looks great!

    What do you do with the wings after straining?

    • Elise

      Hi Chris, well, you might want to strip off the little meat that is there and save it for tacos or a snack. Or you can eat, if you like wings. Or you can discard. The wings are just to produce drippings for the gravy.

  13. Kate

    Not directly related to THIS recipe, but in the last week or so I have sent the link to your Mom’s Roast Turkey recipe/technique to, let’s see….SIX different people, after I raved about how terrific and moist it turns out and they begged for ‘my’ secret. Many thanks to you and your genius mom!

  14. Judson Chasey

    Would there be any benefit to cooking the breast “upside down” like you recommend cooking a whole turkey breast side down?

    • Elise

      No, not really. The turkey breast cooks much more quickly than a whole turkey and there is less risk of the breast drying out as long as you are careful about monitoring the turkey’s temperature.

  15. Billy Martin

    I always buy 5 extra of the smallest turkeys while on sale now and freeze them. Then we have one every couple months. Everyone thinks turkey is such a pain to prepare but if you make the stuffing in it’s own dish it only needs 1 1/2 hours in the oven. Plus the small ones only cost $5 to $7.

  16. Lee

    Recipe look wonderful, but one of the tags for it says gluten free while there is flour listed in the ingredients. Just a small heads up on that.

  17. leslie

    LOL..now thats a funny story!!!!
    your turkey is beautiful!

  18. Bonnie

    Wow! This recipe will be great for making an easy turkey gravy throughout the year. I will definitely be using it. We are just having a turkey breast with separate thighs this year and I needed cooking times. Sooo glad I found this recipe! I also like the comment about buying a few extra small turkeys to freeze to use later, will do that too! Thanks!

  19. Joyce

    Made as written, this is hands down the best gravy recipe ever! Thanks Elise!

  20. john tucker

    This was the main for Christmas dinner. Six thumbs (my dad, sister, and me) up.

  21. Lee

    Cannot find the time/temperature for a 14lb Turkey Breast?
    Can anyone help?

    • Elise

      You still take the turkey breast to an internal temp of 155°F, but you’ll have to cook it longer, maybe another hour and a half.

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