Are you planning on serving turkey breast at your next gathering? Good call–the humble turkey makes a festive centerpiece at any celebration. When you prepare turkey breast rather than the whole bird, it’s important to make sure you have enough meat to serve everyone. Read on to find out how much turkey breast per person you’ll need.
Why Turkey Breast?
Poultry in general is consumed more than any other protein source in the United States, and turkey itself has gained steadily in popularity since the 1970s. Once thought to be only a meal for special occasions, it’s now sought out for everyday dining as well.
Turkey breast is simple to prepare, but that’s not the only reason why it’s so popular. The meat is high in protein, which our bodies require in order to build muscle tissue. It’s also naturally lean, which makes it a fine option for health-conscious diners.
Turkey is an excellent source of vitamin B6, phosphorous, and selenium. All of these vitamins and minerals play a large role in keeping the body healthy. B vitamins, for example, are thought to combat fatigue by maintaining the health of the red blood cells. Meanwhile, selenium helps to maintain hair and nail strength, and phosphorus contributes to bone development.
Because the breast contains all white meat, it cooks fairly quickly, even if you purchase the bone-in variety. Other segments of the bird, like turkey ribs might take less time to cook, but they also yield less meat, which diminishes their appeal when cooking for larger groups.
How Much Turkey Breast Per Person: A Breakdown
As a general rule, you should plan on purchasing 1-1/4 pounds of bone-in turkey breast for each person you’ll be serving. That may sound like a lot, but remember that the bones will account for some of that weight. The overall mass will also decrease as the meat cooks.
A single person will consume between a half-pound to a full pound of cooked turkey, depending on their appetite and eating habits. Children will usually make do with smaller servings, typically a quarter-pound to a half-pound apiece.
What does this mean for your guest list? Essentially, if you’ll be serving four people, you should plan on purchasing 5 pounds of bone-in turkey breast. For a party of eight, boost the total yield to 10 pounds. If your party consists of 10 people, purchase 13 pounds of bone-in meat.
If you want to have plenty of turkey left over for sandwiches the next day, you can plan on 1-1/2 pounds of uncooked meat per person. We would recommend this course of action, as it ensures that you’ll have plenty of food for everyone.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to be stuck with leftovers, it’s better to stick with the prescribed amount. You won’t have to worry about what to do with the excess turkey, and you’ll save yourself a few dollars in the bargain. Just be sure to prepare enough sides to create a meal that will satisfy everyone on the guest list (see Let’s Talk About Sides,. below).
Understanding The Options: Boneless vs. Bone-In
How much turkey you buy depends on whether the cut you buy is boneless or bone-in. If you opt for boneless turkey breast, you should plan on about 3/4 pound per person. For a bone-in cut, go for the aforementioned 1-1/4 pounds for each person–rounding it up to 1-1/2 pounds if you’re planning on plenty of leftovers.
Methods For Preparing Turkey Breast
Turkey and other poultry products are safe to consume only when they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. To make sure the meat is fully cooked, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest portion of the turkey breast. Be careful not to touch any part of the bone, as this will give you an inaccurate readout.
On The Grill
Grilling is a great way to prepare bone-in turkey breast. Of course, I think grilling is a great way to prepare most dishes, even when I’m cooking a whole turkey. If you agree, give this method a try. You’ll be rewarded with meat that’s crispy and golden on the outside and tender and succulent on the inside.
If you have the space for it, plan on soaking the turkey meat in a brine solution beforehand. In addition to being a flavor booster, brining helps to tenderize the meat by breaking down the muscle fibers.
Combine 2/3 cup of kosher salt with 2 cups of water, and add a handful of whole black peppercorns and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Place the turkey breast in a large container, then pour the brine over it so that it’s covered by at least 1/2 inch. Set the container in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.
Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the solution. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
Preheat a pellet grill or smoker to 375 degrees, or prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. If you’re using a gas grill, turn the burners to medium.
set the turkey skin-side up in a disposable foil pan. I like to set the meat on a makeshift rack of carrots and celery stalks to add flavor to the cooking juices. Alternatively, you can use a regular roasting rack.
Brush the turkey with olive oil or melted butter. Place the roasting pan inside the grill over indirect heat if using a gas or charcoal grill. For pellet grills, it doesn’t really matter where you set the pan as long as the temperature holds steady at 375 degrees.
Close the lid and roast the meat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. At this point, the skin should be a deep golden brown color.
Remove the turkey from the grill and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Carve into thin slices. If there are enough pan drippings, you can prepare a gravy according to your favorite recipe.
Here’s a nifty video demonstration on how to grill brined turkey breast.
In The Oven
The tried-and-true method for roasting a whole turkey is just as easy when you’re dealing with the breast alone. Obviously, it calls for a marked reduction in the cooking time, but the process is largely the same. These instructions assume that the turkey breast weighs about 4 pounds with the bone in.
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating, mix together a blend of garlic powder, paprika, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a blend of dried herbs, such as oregano and basil. Blend in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Apply the butter mixture to the turkey breast, massaging it over and under the top layer of the skin. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and tent it with aluminum foil.
Roast the turkey for about one hour, then baste it all over with the pan drippings. Return it to the oven and continue to cook for about 30 minutes more, or until the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes before carving.
In The Slow Cooker
The following instructions apply to the preparation of a bone-in turkey breast weighing about 4 pounds. If you have a larger piece of meat, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Plan on an extra 30 minutes for every pound of meat.
Also, note that if the breast comes from an older turkey, the meat will likely be tougher. This will also translate into a longer cook time.
To make the meat more flavorful, add a handful of diced aromatic vegetables to the bottom of the slow cooker before you put in the turkey. A blend of onions, carrots, and celery works best. You can also add a clove of raw garlic and a sprig of fresh thyme.
Season the turkey breast as desired, then lay the meat on top of the aromatic vegetables. Turn the slow cooker to the “Low” setting and close the lid. Allow the meat to cook for about 6 hours, or until the temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Don’t be tempted to open the lid, or you’ll lose about 10 degrees of heat every time, making the cooking process take even longer. Once the turkey is done, remove it from the slow cooker and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving the meat into thin slices.
Let’s Talk About Sides
The more sides you have on offer, the less turkey your guests will consume, which means more leftovers for you to enjoy. That’s not to say that you should take the focus off the bird–on the contrary, you want the turkey to remain the star of the show. That said, these classic accompaniments are sure to make your dinner a well-rounded and successful affair.
If you’re planning on serving your turkey with a homemade gravy, these spuds are a must. Not only are they both delicious and filling, potatoes are an excellent source of potassium.
You can either keep your recipe simple with a splash or two of cream and a few pats of butter, or stir in roasted garlic or shallots and minced herbs. Either way, don’t forget to season the potatoes with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Sure, you can stick with the store-bought version, but it’s simple to make your own. Just make a simple syrup by combining equal parts of sugar and water and allowing the mixture to boil for about 5 minutes. Stir in fresh cranberries, reduce the heat, and let them simmer until the mixture is well-combined.
If white residue appears on the top, skim it off with a slotted spoon. Stir in orange zest, if desired, and let the sauce cool before transferring it to a bowl. Keep it chilled in the refrigerator until about two hours before you plan to serve the meal.
If you’re not actually using it to stuff the turkey breast, you can refer to this tasty blend of savory cubed bread as “dressing” instead. Saute celery and onion in butter until soft, then add turkey stock or broth and bring to a boil. Stir in seasoned bread cubes and whatever add-ons you desire: cubed apples, crumbled sausage, or currants. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Steamed carrots and green beans are always a good bet. Some people are partial to green bean casserole, with its crunchy topping of fried onions. If there are vegetarians in your party, it’s a nice idea to serve large slabs of roasted acorn or butternut squash as a substitute for the main dish.
Remember: You can shift the roster of side dishes according to your own preference and that of your guests. If you don’t care for creamed spinach and would prefer Brussels sprouts instead, by all means stick with what you enjoy.
When deciding how much turkey breast per person you might need, always err on the side of caution. It’s better to be stuck with too much food than to send your guests home hungry. You can always tuck the leftovers into a savory pot pie or a batch of piping hot turkey noodle soup. When you begin with an ingredient as versatile as turkey breast, the sky is the limit.
Related article: Smoked turkey neck recipe.
Best of luck with your event, and happy grilling!