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Perfect roasted turkey and pan gravy

Herb roasted turkey breast with pan gravy is one way to achieve perfection for Thanksgiving dinner without needing to roast a whole turkey.

By The Gourmand Mom / November 15, 2010

Roasted turkey breast reduces cooking time and avoids the problem of too-dry turkey. If you still want drumsticks for your Thanksgiving table, you can roast them separately on the side and no one will know the difference.

The Gourmand Mom

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I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret. I haven’t roasted a whole turkey in years. For the past few years, I’ve been roasting a bone-in whole turkey breast separate from the drumsticks. Some people may claim that this is Thanksgiving culinary sacrilege. I claim that it produces the best end result. Here’s the deal… when you cook the turkey whole, you’re forced to continue cooking that big ole turkey until the slowest cooking parts come up to a safe temperature. In the mean time, this often results in overcooking and drying out the faster cooking breast. And who likes dried out turkey breast?? Not me!

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The Gourmand Mom

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By cooking the turkey breast separate from the drumsticks, you can cook each part to perfection. The roasted turkey breast continues to make a stunning presentation on the Thanksgiving table. Serve it with roasted drumsticks on the side and you’ll hardly notice the difference. Besides, how long does everyone really sit and gaze at the whole turkey before it gets carved and served anyway? The roasted turkey breast is big, golden brown, and perfectly moist. Your guests will have nothing to complain about.

Because the turkey breast is smaller, it will require less cooking time. Furthermore, the smaller size is easier to handle overall. So, my recommendation is to cook a large turkey breast separate from the drumsticks. My grocery store carries whole turkey breasts right alongside the whole turkeys. One large turkey breast should serve at least 6-8 people with some leftovers. If you’re serving a large crowd, buy two. For dark meat lovers, grab a couple drumsticks. Go crazy. Buy more than two. Then roast (or braise) the drumsticks separately and serve with your perfectly roasted turkey breast.

There are many creative recipes out there for turkey. Food Network is consistently a wonderful source for turkey recipes and other Thanksgiving menu ideas. Today, we’re sticking with a basic herb-roasted preparation. We’ll rub the turkey with an herbed butter, then begin by roasting at a high temperature to achieve a nice brown color on the skin while searing the exterior to lock in the juices. Then, we’ll lower the heat and let the turkey finish cooking to perfection. As the turkey cooks, delicious juices will collect on the bottom of the roasting pan. We’ll enrich the flavor of those juices by placing a few aromatics, in the form of celery, carrots, and onions, in the bottom of the roasting pan. While the turkey is resting, we’ll be able to turn those juices and a bit of chicken stock into a simple and delicious pan-gravy.

Herb roasted turkey breast

  • 1 6-7 pound Turkey Breast (bone in)
  • 1/2 stick Butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Rosemary
  • 3/4 cup Carrots, coarse chopped
  • 1 Onion, quartered
  • 3/4 cup Celery, coarse chopped
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock

The night before, remove the turkey breast from it’s packaging. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and sit, uncovered in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the butter, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Rub the herbed butter all over the turkey. Working from the edges, try to loosen the skin and rub some of the butter directly onto the turkey breast. In the bottom of the roasting pan, scatter the carrots, celery, and onion. Add the chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. The skin should take on a nice golden browned color. Baste the turkey with the pan juices. Then, lower the heat to 325 degrees F. Periodically, baste the turkey with the juices from the bottom of the pan. (If the bottom of the pan becomes too dry during cooking, add a little more stock.) Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Use an instant read meat thermometer, inserted into a deep part of the breast, to check the temperature. A 7 pound turkey will take approximately 2 hours at 325 degrees, after the initial 25 minutes at 475 degrees. When the turkey is cooked, remove the pan from the oven. Loosely cover the turkey with foil and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the gravy and side dishes.

Serves about 6-8, generously

Turkey Pan Gravy

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • Drippings from Turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock (approximately)

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