If you’re having a small gathering, consider forgoing the giant bird and opting for boneless turkey breasts. This cut is a quicker and more approachable option, offering all the hearty flavor of turkey without the challenges of cooking and carving a giant bird or bone-in breast. And with this two-for-one recipe, you’ll get perfectly cooked meat and another staple: a cranberry sauce.
Like with any other cut of turkey, we knew we had to take measures to combat dryness. The first step was to submerge the breasts in a quick brine to protect the delicate white meat. After that, we tucked the tapered ends underneath and tied the breasts with twine. This made the unevenly shaped turkey breasts more uniform and easier to cook.
As for the cooking method, we used a technique that incorporated both high-temperature searing for crisp skin and roasting at a lower temperature to ensure moist meat. To do that, we turned to the ultimate do-it-all pan that can go from stovetop to oven: a cast-iron skillet. We preheated the skillet on the stovetop and browned the breasts on all sides before roasting. Not only did this give us golden skin on the turkey, it meant that the meat needed much less time to finish cooking in the oven.
For a simple chutney that added flavor to the mild meat, we used shallot, fresh ginger, mustard seeds, sugar, cranberries and orange zest, with a splash of vinegar to round out the flavors.
A main for a smaller crowd
with this two-for-one recipe, you’ll get perfectly cooked meat and another staple: a cranberry sauce.
Salt and pepper
2 (2-pound) boneless, skin-on turkey breasts halves, trimmed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
12 ounces (3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- Dissolve 6 tablespoons salt in 3 of quarts cold water in a large container. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
- Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 325 F. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Tuck the tapered end of each breast underneath and loosely tie lengthwise with kitchen twine. Tie the breasts crosswise at 1 1/2-inch intervals to make tidy, even roasts. Season the turkey with pepper.
- Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add oil and heat until just smoking. Brown the turkey on all sides, about 10 minutes. Flip the turkey skin side down, transfer the skillet to the oven, and roast until the turkey registers 160 F, about 1 hour, flipping the breasts halfway through roasting.
- Using potholders, remove the skillet from oven. Transfer the turkey to carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest while making the chutney.
- Being careful of the hot skillet handle, pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add shallot, ginger, mustard seeds and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat until the shallot is softened, about 30 seconds. Stir in cranberries, sugar, water and orange zest. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have mostly broken down and mixture is thickened, about 15 minutes. Off heat, stir in vinegar and any accumulated turkey juices. Remove twine from the turkey and slice into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve with chutney.
- If you’re using self-basting turkey breast halves (such as frozen Butterball) or kosher turkey breast halves, do not brine in Step 1, but season with salt in Step 2. Often, boneless turkey breast halves are sold in elastic netting; be sure to remove the netting before brining or cooking.