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Learn how to make a delicious Sous Vide Turkey Breast. This cooking method allows you to cook your turkey in advance without fear of overcooking.
What is Sous Vide?
Sous vide means ‘under vacuum’ in French. It’s a cooking method where foods are vacuum sealed in a bag that is then suspended in a circulating water bath, at a preset temperature. The food is cooked in the sealed bag, allowing the food to retain all of its moisture.
Sous vide cooking was once used primarily in restaurant settings, but now, many home cooks have a sous vide – the wand that circulates the water in the water bath and heats the water to your set cooking temperature. It takes some practice* but it really is a great way to cook and reheat meat, poultry, and other foods.
Why is Sous Vide ideal for cooking turkey breasts?
The results are incredible! The turkey breast turns out extremely juicy and moist. You’ll season the turkey breast overnight in a spice rub before placing it in the bag to cook, so the flavors also infuse the meat as it cooks.
Also, sous vide cooking is ideal for cooking ahead. With this recipe, you could cook your turkey breast up to a day ahead of time. Then reheat through in the sous vide and brown the breasts in the oven just before serving.
Finally, with sous vide, it’s not necessary to bring the internal temperature up as high as you would using conventional cooking methods – so you won’t over cook it.
In the case of turkey breast for instance, traditional roasting guidelines have you remove the turkey from the oven once it reaches 160 degrees F – then let it rest while the internal temperature rises another five degrees or so to a ‘safe’ temperature of 165 degrees F. Using sous vide, you’ll need to cook the turkey to only 145 degrees F, BUT you do need to allow it to stay at the set temperature for longer to kill any bacteria – for this turkey recipe, a minimum of an additional 20 minutes.
More about timing:
There are various sous vide charts available on line and most say to get the turkey to 140-145 F. But that five degree range has different times to maintain once you reach that temperature. At 140 F for example, you need to leave the breast at that temperature for 30 minutes and at 145 F, you would leave it for 12-15 minutes. But leaving it longer does not dry it out like it would in the oven. So to make things simple and to make sure all types of bacteria are killed, we state 145 F for 20 minutes, which is a few minutes longer that necessary to kill other bacteria besides salmonella. In the case of sous vide, the extra precaution will still yield a moist finished product.
But don’t worry, as long as you set your sous vide to the proper temperature, your turkey breast will not overcook even if you leave it in the water bath for longer than those twenty minutes. (Note that you’ll brown the turkey breast in the oven after it comes out of the sous vide, so that does raise the temperature of the meat a little more.)
*Full Disclosure: Jack and I are self-taught sous vide home cooks, so we’re sharing recipes based on our own trial and error in the kitchen. Note that we also still relied on our trusty probe thermometer to test our turkey breast for doneness.
Why you’ll love Sous Vide Turkey Breast
- It’s the ideal way to cook perfectly tender, juicy and flavorful turkey breast.
- You won’t struggle with oven space if you are preparing other baked side dishes for your meal.
- You can even cook your turkey breast ahead of time – then reheat in the sous vide just before serving.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Turkey – We bought a whole turkey for this recipe and removed the legs and wings to make turkey stock and gravy. You could also simply buy a breast only – although they are typically smaller than the breasts you’ll get from a whole turkey.
- Dried Herbs – We made a simple dry rub of kosher salt, black pepper, poultry seasoning, and brown sugar.
- Fresh Herbs – We tied together sprigs of fresh thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary.
- White Wine – Any good drinking white wine is fine. A little bit of wine is added to the cooking bag.
- Turkey Stock – Note that you’ll be making a homemade turkey stock using the legs and wings from a whole turkey breast.
- To Brown the Turkey after it’s cooked in the sous vide – Butter, salt and pepper
- To Make Gravy – Butter, flour, turkey stock and the liquid from the cooking bags are combined with gravy seasoning sauce such as Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master.
Special Tools Needed
- Butcher’s Twine – To tie the fresh herbs together.
- Sous Vide Wand – We have an Anova brand sous vide wand. Also note that some multi-cookers now come with sous vide settings – we haven’t tried this recipe using a multi-cooker, but technically, it should work.
- Sous Vide Cooking Container or a Large Pot to fill with water – After using a stock pot for the first few years of sous vide cooking, we recently bought this Anova Sous Vide Cooking Container and it is much more convenient because it is specially designed for sous vide cooking. Regardless of the tub or pot you use, you’ll need to clip the bag of food to the side or, ideally, a rack over the top so the water can circulate all around the food.
- Two Gallon Zipper Seal Bags – While you can vacuum seal your turkey breasts using a device like this, we decided to use a zipper seal bag (squeezing as much air out as possible before sealing) so we could test for doneness at the end. See Tips & Tricks below – to avoid leaking, double up on the bag.
- Probe Thermometer – An instant read thermometer like this is great to check the internal temperature of your turkey breast to ensure proper doneness.
- Sheet Tray – To brown the turkey in the oven before serving.
Tips & Tricks
We kept the bone in our turkey breasts while cooking because the bone adds flavor.
However, the first time we tested this recipe, the bones punctured the bag! That’s why we recommend doubling up and sealing the breasts in two bags.
Alternately, you can remove the bone from the breasts if you prefer.
How do I make Sous Vide Turkey Breast?
- Remove the two breast halves, leaving the rib cage attached to each.
- Mix a dry rub with dried herbs. Cover each breast, seal in gallon bags and refrigerate overnight.
- Place legs, thighs, neck, wings and turkey carcass in a pot with water and vegetables and simmer to make a stock. (Follow this recipe for guidance.)
- Make a thick gravy with the turkey stock, butter, turkey fat, flour and gravy seasoning. Chill to reheat later.
- When ready to sous vide, pour out any salty liquid that collected in the bag with the turkey breasts. (No need to rinse).
- Tie the dried herbs together with butcher’s twine (this is called a bouquet garni) and place in the bag with the turkey breasts, along with white wine and turkey stock.
- Seal and cook the turkey breast in a sous vide water bath until internal meat temperature reaches 145 degrees F, then cook for 20 additional minutes to kill any bacteria. Assuming your turkey breast halves are about three pounds each, the timing will be about three and one half hours to reach 145 degrees F.
- Remove breasts from bags, reserve liquid and add to the thick gravy made earlier.
- Coat breasts with butter, salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven to brown the skin.
- Let sit for ten minutes then carve and serve with gravy.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Sous Vide Turkey Breast ahead of time? Yes! Part of the appeal of sous vide is to prepare foods in advance, then reheat in the sous vide and keep hot until needed. For a quicker reheat, thickly slice the cooked breasts and place the slices into a vacuum sealed bag, squeeze out the air and place in the Sous Vide to reheat.
- How do I store leftovers? Store leftovers refrigerated for up to two to three days.
- How do I reheat leftovers? Sous Vide would be the best way to reheat and maintain the moisture of the turkey, however for a quick reheat, simmer a sauté pan with a little stock or gravy or microwave individual portions the same way.
- Can I freeze? You can if the cooked meat is sealed in a vacuum bag with all air squeezed out. Thaw, and reheat in the Sous Vide bath to maintain the moisture and texture of the meat.
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1 whole turkey, 18-20 pounds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
8 large sage leaves
8 parsley sprigs with stems
4 stems of fresh thyme
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups turkey stock (see below)
Legs, thighs, wings, neck and carcass after removing two breast halves
2 medium carrots, coarsely cut up
1 large onion, coarsely cut up
2 stalks celery, coarsely cut up
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, with stems
1 1/2 teaspoons black whole peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 bay leaves
Enough water to cover the ingredients in a large pot
2 tablespoons turkey fat from making the stock
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart turkey stock
1/4 teaspoon gravy color, such as Kitchen Bouquet
Additional salt and pepper if needed
2 tablespoons butter to crisp the turkey skin
Salt and pepper to flavor turkey skin
- Cut alongside both leg and thighs and remove from the turkey. As you carve, bend them back and you will see where the end of the thigh bone rotates. Once you find that joint, just cut right through.
- Do the same for both wings, removing where the joint meets the body.
- Tip breast down and with a large sharp knife, separating the backbone from the breast and ribs. There are a few ways to do this, best to go online and follow videos if you have never done this.
- To remove the two breast halves, make a slit with a sharp knife right down the center between the two breasts. Using a sharp small knife, carve around the keel bone and when enough of it is exposed, pull or cut it out. Once that is out, press the breasts flat and cut down the center, leaving the rib cage attached to each breast half. Each breast half should be about three pounds. Again, there are great videos on line if you have never done this before.
- In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and brown sugar and rub over the skin of both breast halves.
- Place each breast half in a gallon zip lock bag and refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.
- While the breasts are sitting in the dry rub, make the stock.
- In a large stock pot, place the legs, thighs, wings, neck and carcass along with the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, parsley, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves.
- Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook two hours.
- Remove the legs and thighs and pick off the meat. Reserve meat for other recipes or save to serve with the cooked breast meat.
- Return the bones from the legs and thighs to the pot and cook one more hour.
- Strain out the solids and pick any residual meat from the wings then discard the solids.
- Separate the fat from the stock by using a gravy separator or by skimming it off the top. Save two tablespoons of the fat and discard the rest.
- You can make the gravy ahead and reheat or wait for the turkey breast to be fully cooked. We made ours ahead and made it thick, then thinned it down with the liquid from the bags after cooking the turkey breasts. The flavor was incredible.
- After the breasts sit for at least six hours, get your Sous Vide setup started with the water bath and set the water temperature to 145 degrees F.
- Drain off the salty liquid from each bag and discard.
- Make two bundles using the rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme tied with twine and add to each bag with the turkey breast halves.
- Divide the half cup of white wine and the two cups of turkey stock between the two bags, then seal each bag, squeezing out all air. Place each bag into a second gallon zip lock bag and squeeze out the air and seal.
- Place in the Sous Vide bath for 3 ½ hours, assuming your breast halves are three pounds each. The internal turkey breast temperature should reach 145 degrees F in that time frame. Once it does, seal the bag and place it back in the water for an additional 20 minutes to kill any possible bacteria.
- Basically, you want the turkey to reach 145 degrees F and stay at 145 degrees F for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven at this point to 500 degrees F to crisp the skin.
- Remove the bags and pour the liquid from each bag through a strainer and into a bowl or pitcher.
- Discard the bouquet garni and place the turkey breasts skin up on a foil lined sheet tray and pat dry.
- Brush with the butter, salt and pepper and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes to brown the skin.
- Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest ten minutes.
- While the turkey rests, reheat the gravy and thin down with the liquid you removed from the bags.
- Remove the rib cage from the breasts, (should pop right off from the bottom), slice and serve with the gravy.
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We like to freeze leftover stock in quart zipper bags, squeezing out all air and laying flat in the freezer to freeze. Then when a recipe calls for stock, we simply pull a bag from the freezer.