Cooking a pre-cooked, roasted turkey breast might seem counterintuitive, but it's a great way to serve an impressive dish without much time or labor in the kitchen — especially if you're not serving enough people to justify cooking a whole turkey.
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You just need to reheat frozen pre-cooked turkey breast to make it safe for eating. Using a roasting bag or aluminum foil tent and some water will prevent the turkey breast from drying out in the oven.
Thaw your frozen turkey in the fridge for 1 day for every 4 to 5 pounds of meat, per the USDA. Pre-cooked turkey breast is considered safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
How to Cook Pre-Cooked Turkey Breast
Things You'll Need
Pre-cooked turkey breast
Oven bag or aluminum foil
Large baking tray
When you're ready to cook your pre-cooked turkey breast, follow these instructions for a tender, juicy result:
1. Thaw Your Pre-Cooked Turkey Breast
If you're working with frozen turkey breast, thaw it before you start the cooking process. If you thaw your turkey breast in the refrigerator, the USDA recommends allowing 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of meat.
If you didn't get your turkey out of the freezer in time, you can also thaw it in cold water. In that case, the USDA recommends allowing about 30 minutes of thawing time per pound of meat.
If you're in a real bind for time, you can also thaw your turkey breast in the microwave. But in that case, the USDA warns that for the sake of food safety, you must cook your turkey immediately after — don't freeze or refrigerate it again. To do it, you'll have to check your microwave owner's manual for details about what power level and time settings to use.
Finally, the USDA notes that you can cook a frozen turkey breast, but it'll take at least 50 percent longer to finish cooking, so it's well worth taking the time to thaw it out first.
2. Prep the Turkey Breast
Many pre-cooked turkey breasts come with a roasting bag. Your prep work can be as simple as slipping the turkey into the roasting bag, sealing it and placing it on the rack of a shallow roasting pan, then adding a bit of water to the bottom of the pan to prevent the turkey from drying out.
If you're not using a roasting bag and want a little extra browning, create a loose foil tent over your turkey breast.
Most pre-cooked turkey recipes are just that simple — after all, the meat has already been cooked for you, and it may also be pre-seasoned. But there are several clever ways you can add flavor to your precooked turkey breast, which you can read about in the "Tips" section below.
3. Oven Temperature and Doneness
You should cook pre-cooked turkey breast at a temperature of 325 F in the oven, a method called roasting, according to the USDA. As for how long you need to reheat pre-cooked turkey breast in the oven, it depends on the size of the meat. A small turkey roast may take about an hour and a half, while larger ones can take over three hours.
According to the USDA, the approximate cooking times for an unstuffed, thawed turkey breast are:
Turkey Breast Size
4 to 8 lbs.
1 hr. and 30 mins. to 3 hrs. and 15 mins.
8 to 12 lbs.
2 hrs. and 45 mins. to 3 hrs.
12 to 14 lbs.
3 hrs. to 3 hrs. and 45 mins.+
It will take 1 and a half hours to 3 hours and 15 minutes to cook a 4- to 8-pound turkey breast; 2 hours and 45 minutes to 3 hours for an 8- to 12-pound turkey breast; and 3 hours to 3 hours and 45 minutes in the unlikely event that you have a massive 12- to 14-pound turkey breast.
All of these times assume that the turkey breast is unstuffed. It's best not to stuff a pre-cooked turkey breast as it may result in uneven cooking and bacterial spread. If you're including stuffing on your holiday menu, cook it in a separate casserole dish, per the USDA.
Note: These cooking times are all approximate. Instead of relying on your oven timer, use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey breast to make sure it's done. The center of the breast should reach at least 165 F, per USDA guidelines.
Tips for Cooking the Best Turkey Breast
Pre-cooked turkey breast is often seasoned, but you can make a pre-cooked turkey breast taste better with a few simple ingredient additions and cooking tricks:
- Season the Meat: The first, of course, is to rub the turkey breast with the seasonings of your choice. The classic combination of rosemary, sage and thyme is a great place to start.
- Flavor the Liquid: The second option is to add herbs and spices to the water at the bottom of the pan.
- Baste With a Glaze: A third option is to baste the turkey breast every 20 minutes as it cooks, using a sweet, savory or sweet/tangy glaze.
What to Serve With Pre-Cooked Roasted Turkey Breast
Serving pre-cooked turkey breast that's been roasted in the oven to tender perfection is a great option for holidays or weekend dinners. Serve it with sides like:
And don't forget to use what's left in some of our favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipes!