How to Tell if a Turkey Breast is Done (3 Quick Steps)

Turkey breast is delicious, healthy, and perfect for sandwiches year-round. But how exactly can you tell if turkey breast is done?

Let’s dig in!

In this guide, you will learn:

  • How to tell if your turkey breast is done
  • Tips for cooking turkey breast
  • And much more!

Cooking Turkey Breast

Sometimes, cooking an entire turkey can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you don’t have a giant crowd to feed! We are a fan of just cooking some turkey breast from time to time, it’s so versatile, you can use it for almost any recipe. But how do you know when it’s done?

The only way to know if turkey breast is done is to use a meat probe to ensure it has reached an internal temperature of 165°F. You can take your turkey breast off the heat ay  160°F, but then give it time to rest to rise to 165°F before consuming it.

Because turkey breast varies in weight depending on the turkey it came off of, it can be difficult to know exactly how long cooking some turkey breast can take. Plus, some turkey breasts are flatter than others, lowering the cooking time.

Before you panic, keep reading, as we go over all the basics as well as some tips and tricks for cooking succulent turkey breast.

Related: Should Turkey Be Cooked to 165°F or 180°F?

Supplies Needed to Tell if the Turkey Breast is Done

Knowing if turkey breast is done only requires a few simple supplies:

  • Meat temperature probe
  • Oven mitt

That’s it!

You don’t need any special tools other than the temperature probe. If you are smoking your turkey breast, however, we do recommend using an exterior temperature probe in addition to the one which is built into your grill.

This is because the built-in probes may be a degree or two off because of being in the turkey breast for the entire cook time.

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06/13/2024 05:33 am GMT

How to Tell if a Turkey Breast is Done (3 Easy  Steps)

Ready to check and see if your turkey breast is done? Here are the steps.

Step 1: Grab Your Supplies

Grab your oven mitt and temperature probe and head to your oven or smoker (wherever the turkey breast is)

Step 2: Insert the Probe into the Meat

Place your temperature probe in the meat. Ensure it is situated in the thickest part of the meat and isn’t touching any bone. Also ensure it isn’t poking out the other end. If it is, you’ve gone too far.

Step 3: Wait

Watch the temperature probe carefully as it stabilizes. Some meat probes take longer than others to read, so give it a minute or two to do it’s job. Once it is no longer changing, you’ve got your temperature!

As you can see, with the right temperature probe it is actually quite easy to know whether or not your turkey breast is done.

a smoked turkey on a cutting board on a table with herb garnishes.

Can You Tell if Your Turkey Breast is Done Without a Thermometer?

In a bind and can’t find your meat thermometer? It happens. Unfortunately, there is no truly safe way to know if turkey is done without a meat probe.

But, you can’t exactly abandon your turkey in the oven once it’s already in, therefore we will outline a couple of of the ways you can try to tell if your turkey is done without a thermometer. Do note however, that any of these methods do run the risk of contracting foodborne illness and are not recommended.

Method 1: Time the Cooking

If you know you don’t have a thermometer in advance, we recommend weighing your turkey breast and estimating the time it will take to cook. For those roasting the bird in the oven, estimate 15 minute per pound. For those smoking their turkey breast at 275°F, you should plan for 20 minutes per pound.

This can give you a general idea of when the turkey will be done, but you do need to combine this method with method 2.

Method 2: Cut and Check

The cut and check method involves pulling your turkey breast out of the oven and cutting into the thickest part. The meat should be white all the way through, and you shouldn’t see any signs of pink.

The problem with this method is that sometimes smoked turkey retains its pink color, which can result in you over cooking your bird. Additionally, the FDA has noted that turkey which appears white all the way through may not always be cooked all the way through.

These two methods are extremely unreliable, meaning you may not find out that you overcooked the turkey breast until you take a bite and it is dry, or someone in your family is sick the next day. This is why we recommend never cooking turkey without your thermometer.

thanksgiving turkey resting in a pan

How Long Does it Take to Cook Turkey Breast?

How long it will take your turkey breast to cook will depend on its weight.

The average turkey breast weighs about 4-8lbs, but some are taller while others are flatter. Turkey breasts that have a thicker portion will be at the higher end of the time ranges, while flatter turkey breasts will be at the lower end of the time ranges. Whether the bone is in your turkey breast will also affect how quickly it cooks.

In the Oven

In the oven you should plan for 10-15 minutes per pound of turkey breast when cooked around 325°F. Note that this will change if you change the temperature of your oven.

In the Smoker

In a smoker the amount of time the meat take will depend on the temperature of the smoker. At 325°F you should plan for 15-20 minutes per pound of turkey breast.

At 275°F you should plan for 20-25 minutes per pound of turkey breast.

Remember, the only way to know if a turkey breast is done is to check it with a meat temperature probe.

Tips for Cooking Turkey Breast

Want to make your turkey breast the tastiest and juiciest in the neighborhood? Here are out tips!

1. Brine Your Turkey Breast

Just because you aren’t cooking a full turkey doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to brine your turkey breast. Whether you plan to smoke or roast it in the oven, brining makes all the difference when it comes to moisture retention.

2. Season Your Turkey Breast

We recommend seasoning your turkey breast, especially because white meat turkey doesn’t have as much natural flavor as dark meat turkey. Even if you do just a simple salt and pepper rub, it can make your turkey breast that much more delicious.

3. Cover With Foil

Turkey breast is more prone to drying out than any other part of the turkey, while we don’t usually recommend cooking turkey in tinfoil, this can help with moisture retention in your turkey breast.

Just know that you won’t have as crispy of a skin when using the tin foil method, but if you are planning to cut up the breast to serve on sandwiches it is a great tactic because you won’t miss the skin anyway!

4. Let the Turkey Breast Rest

Turkey breast, just like the full turkey still needs to rest. Ensure you allow it 5-10 minutes to sit out on the counter before you cut into it. This helps the juices to render back into the meat instead of leaking all over the counter when you cut into it!

Final Thoughts on Turkey Breast Doneness

Overall, the only one way to know if a turkey breast is done is to check it with a temperature thermometer. If you don’t have one, go out and buy one so that you can cook some juicy turkey breasts for dinner, or for use on sandwiches later!

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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