Choosing the best cooking temperature for turkey breast depends on a number of factors. Individual recipes vary, with preparation, cooking methods, the amount of meat being cooked, and cooking time all having an impact on the ideal temperature. Typical recipes call for roasting temperatures of about 325º Fahrenheit (160º Celsius). Regardless of the oven temperature or cooking method selected, turkey breast should reach an internal temperature of 170º F (77º C) before serving.
One of the most common methods of cooking turkey breast is roasting, typically in an oven preheated to 325º F (160º C). Higher temperatures will overcook the outside before the center is fully cooked. Lower temperatures do not seal the juices quickly, and may allow the meat to dry while taking considerably longer to cook.
While roasting temperature for turkey breast remains constant, cooking times vary depending on the breast’s weight. Many cook books and recipe websites include charts for cooking times for both full birds and turkey breasts. Instructions may vary for cooking a turkey breast that has been frozen and thawed, but it is essential that the meat is completely thawed before cooking.
Internal temperature of a turkey breast is the best indicator that the turkey is done. Use of a meat thermometer is the easiest way to gauge the internal temperature. The cook should stick the probe into the center of the breast to get an accurate reading.
If no meat thermometer is available, the cook can still check to see if the breast is ready by piercing it. The turkey is not fully cooked until its juices run completely clear, with no trace of pink. This is a less precise method of cooking, and is considered less reliable than the use of a thermometer.
Optimum temperature for turkey breast not only improves the taste of a meal, but is important for safety as well. Turkey meat must be thoroughly cooked to kill bacteria and prevent the risk of food poisoning. Even slightly pink meat is not considered safe to eat, and should not be served.
Many cooks warn that a turkey breast cooked to an internal temperature of 170º F (77º C) will become too dry. They recommend 160º F (70º C) as a target internal temperature for turkey breast before removing it from the oven. The breast should then be allowed to rest under loose foil for half an hour before serving. As it rests, the internal temperature continues to rise to the target 170º F (77º C).