Banish any chance of a dry bird with this salt-crusted turkey breast. Salt-roasting is a technique that is often employed to keep lean fish moist while roasting; the mixture of salt and egg whites forms a nearly airtight crust when baked, locking in moisture and flavor. It works the same magic with turkey. Whereas traditional methods for roasting turkey tend to yield dry white meat, salt-roasting delivers an incredibly juicy breast that's perfectly seasoned to the bone, with no brining required. Use kosher salt to ensure maximum coverage at a reasonable cost. While a 10- to 15-minute rest is ideal, the turkey breast can rest in its crust up to 30 minutes while remaining juicy and tender.

John Somerall
November 2021

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Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Recipe Summary test

active:
30 mins
total:
2 hrs
Servings:
6
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Place turkey, breast side down, on a work surface. Using poultry shears or a sharp knife and beginning at the tail end, cut along each side of backbone. Remove backbone from turkey; reserve for stock or discard. Turn turkey breast side up. Using the heels of your hands, press firmly against breastbone until it cracks and turkey breast flattens slightly. Trim any excess fat and skin around neck, and trim any exposed ribs sticking out from sides of breast. 

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  • Starting at neck end, loosen and lift skin from breast by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat. (Do not detach skin completely.) Rub 1 teaspoon oil under skin; smooth skin over breast, and rub remaining 1 teaspoon oil over skin. 

  • Stir together salt and egg whites in a large bowl until well combined. Add 1/4 cup water to salt mixture, and continue stirring, adding remaining 5 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until texture resembles lightly wet sand or fresh, powdery snow. (To test for proper consistency, pack salt mixture into a small ball using your hands; it should hold its shape but break apart if tossed into bowl.) 

  • Place 2 cups salt mixture in a mound in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, leaving a 2-inch border around edge of skillet. Place shallot halves, cut sides up, on salt mixture in skillet; top with 2 sprigs each parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Place turkey, skin side up, on salt and herbs. Cover turkey with remaining salt mixture, pressing to adhere and making sure cavity around neck is filled and sides are covered. Insert a probe thermometer in thickest part of turkey breast; press to seal cracks or fill holes in crust, forming a tight seal around thermometer. Gently but firmly press salt mixture into turkey, smoothing surface to repair cracks or holes. (Alternatively, insert a trimmed wooden skewer into turkey before packing on salt crust; leave skewer in as turkey roasts. To check temperature, remove skewer, and insert a meat thermometer. Replace skewer, and resume roasting, if needed.) 

  • Roast in preheated oven until thermometer registers 150°F, 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes. Remove from oven; let rest 10 to 15 minutes. (Turkey will continue to cook, reaching an internal temperature of 165°F.)  

  • Using the back of a large spoon or knife, crack salt crust on turkey. Remove crust in pieces; gently brush away any excess salt using a pastry brush. Remove and discard skin. Carve turkey; place on a serving platter. Garnish with remaining herb sprigs and, if desired, black pepper. Serve with gravy.  

Suggested Pairing 

Berry-bright Beaujolais: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages  

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