Whether you’re in the market for a whole turkey or the breast portion alone, you’re bound to come across the Butterball label. This is one of the best-known products out there, even if you’ve never purchased it before.
Is Butterball turkey breast processed before being packaged for sale? And what does that mean exactly? Let’s take a closer look.
Is Butterball Turkey Breast Processed?
Butterball turkey breast products are packaged with a mixture of salt, water, and a few other ingredients in the interest of preserving their quality and texture. In that sense, they can be classified as processed meat.
Turkey Breast 101
For health-conscious diners, turkey breast is a popular choice. The meat is high in protein, but it’s also naturally low in fat. This is true of all poultry products, but the breast is even leaner than the dark meat of the drumsticks and thighs.
Turkey breast also cooks relatively quickly, which is good news if you don’t have time to smoke a huge cut of meat. As you’ll come to learn, you can even buy it precooked—but in these cases, it’s more likely to be processed.
In addition to being a great source of protein, turkey breast contains significant amounts of vitamin B6, selenium, and phosphorus. These vitamins and minerals aid in combating fatigue and may also contribute to bone, hair, and nail strength.
About Processed Turkey Breast
You may have heard that processed meats pose a health risk when consumed in large amounts. But what exactly is processed meat, and why would it be detrimental to your health?
In order to fall under the “processed” classification, the meat must have undergone a treatment to preserve or flavor it in some way. This could be as simple as adding salt or a curing solution to the meat, or it could involve fermentation or smoking.
For example, bacon, which is cured and then smoked, is processed meat. Salami, hot dogs, and deli meats also fall under this label.
Some of these products are made from red meat, which can be high in saturated fat and therefore poses a health risk even when it’s not processed. But that doesn’t mean that processed white meat poses no risk at all.
The main reason why you should only consume processed meats in moderation is that they’re high in sodium. While your body needs a small amount of sodium to survive, excess amounts can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart issues.
Is Butterball Turkey Breast Processed or Not?
The answer depends on what type of turkey breast you buy—and how strict you are in your definition of “processed.”
All of the Butterball turkey products we researched included a mixture of water and salt on the ingredient list, often with other seasonings as well. So if you want to get technical, these products can be classified as processed meat.
That said, the raw turkey breast products don’t seem to have been altered in any way. That is, they haven’t been smoked or otherwise cooked beforehand. The salt solution is there to ensure that the poultry remains fresh for as long as possible.
The ready-to-eat turkey breast products, on the other hand, are “minimally processed” according to their product descriptions. Since these can be labeled as deli meat, it’s better to consume them sparingly.
What’s The Best Way To Cook a Butterball Boneless Turkey Breast?
A Ready to Roast Classic Boneless Turkey Breast from Butterball cooks through more quickly than its bone-in counterparts (see below). As such, you should choose a cooking method that allows the meat to retain plenty of moisture.
These boneless roasts contain a solution of water, salt, sugar, and sodium phosphate. This solution is intended to preserve the turkey and promote a juicy texture.
According to the label, a Classic Boneless Turkey Breast weighs about 3 pounds and should be cooked from a frozen state, without defrosting. If you follow these instructions and cook the roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, it should be done in approximately 2 hours.
You can do this either in the oven or on the smoker, depending on preference. Since you’ll be starting the smoke while the meat is still frozen, it should have time to take on plenty of smoke flavor.
How Long Does It Take To Cook a Butterball Turkey Breast?
If you’ve purchased one of Butterball’s Ready To Cook Turkey Breast products, you can opt for a lower cooking temperature. These are designed to appeal to barbecue enthusiasts, as they’re well suited for the smoker.
An 18% Turkey Breast Roast consists of two skinless full breast lobes, each weighing in at 5 to 6 pounds. It will likely be frozen when you buy it, so we recommend thawing the roast in the refrigerator for 2 days before putting it on the smoker.
Preheat the smoker to 325 degrees. When it’s ready, remove the breast lobes from the package and season as desired. Place them on the cooking grate separately and smoked until the meat has cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this temperature, the breast meat should cook at a rate of about 15 minutes per pound. So if you’ve separated the two lobes properly, they could be finished cooking in 1 to 2 hours, depending on their size.
How Much Butterball Turkey Breast Should I Serve Per Person?
When you buy raw bone-in turkey breast, estimate at least 1-1/4 pounds per person. We like to round up to 1-1/2 pounds per person, just because we prefer to plan on plenty of leftover turkey once the gathering is over.
For raw boneless turkey breast, you can scale back on the per-person estimate. 3/4 to 1 pound of raw product should be sufficient for each guest.
That might sound like a lot of turkey, but remember that the meat will lose moisture as it cooks. This moisture loss causes the meat to shrink down, so it will weigh significantly less once it comes off the smoker.
What’s more, bone-in turkey has a lower yield than boneless products. The bone will be discarded after the turkey is cooked, so that weight will be subtracted from the total.
Finally, remember to use these numbers as a guideline, relying on your common sense to round out the total. The age and eating habits of your guests, the number of available food options, and the time of your gathering can all affect portion sizes.
What About Precooked Butterball Turkey Breast?
If you’re buying deli meat rather than a raw product, you’ll need to adjust your serving sizes accordingly.
For cold cut buffets, 2 to 3 ounces of meat per person is standard. Since there are 16 ounces in a pound, a single pound of deli turkey should be sufficient for 5 to 8 people.
As always, you can adjust this number depending on the circumstances. If there will be other meat options available, for instance, 1 to 2 ounces per person might be a better estimate.
If these sound like skimpy portions, remember that most people will be putting the deli-style turkey on buns or some other bread product. When this is the case, you can get away with serving less meat.
The Bottom Line
Is Butterball turkey breast processed? Yes, in that it contains water and salt in addition to a few other preservatives. But that’s true of most frozen turkey products you buy. Unless you opt for precooked turkey, it shouldn’t be altered in any other way.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!