I have a personal vendetta against dry turkey. It’s why you’ll always find me reaching for dark meat (which is naturally fattier and more moist) whenever I’m eating Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s dinner table—so often, white meat from a roasted turkey is dry, flavorless, and tough.
It can take some serious skill to get moist and juicy white turkey meat! I’ve roasted dozens of turkeys and turkey breasts in my day, and I’ve tested pretty much all the tips and tricks out there, and here’s my final word—for a full-size turkey, the key to getting juicy flavorful meat is to dry brine it before roasting. But for just cooking a turkey breast, the absolute best way to get juicy, delectable turkey is to bring out your Instant Pot! Using an electric pressure cooker to cook a turkey breast makes the meat so moist and flavorful that I prefer it even to my beloved dark meat! You can’t beat it.
How do you cook a turkey breast in the Instant Pot?
The simplicity of an Instant Pot turkey breast is part of what makes it so gloriously wonderful. It’s so simple, you can make turkey for a busy weeknight instead of just reserving it for Thanksgiving dinner! Here are the steps for perfect turkey breast:
- Combine fresh or dried herbs with your prefered cooking fat—I like grass-fed butter, but lard and coconut oil both work as well. Spread that goodness all over the outside of the turkey breast.
- Add some flavoring to the Instant Pot—carrots, celery, onions, and broth—and add the trivet that came along with the Instant Pot. Then place the turkey breast side-down in there and fill the turkey cavity with apples (yes, apples!) and garlic.
- Seal the Instant Pot and cook according to our handy-dandy cooking time chart down below. Release the pressure.
- Optional: pop the turkey breast under the broiler to brown and crisp up the skin. This is also a great time to whip up our SUPER EASY turkey gravy from the drippings in the Instant Pot.
- Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes before carving (this allows the juices to redistribute in the meat), then slice and serve!
Should you use a boneless turkey breast or a bone-in turkey breast?
You’ll see both boneless turkey breasts (which are usually actually a half breast—around 3-4 pounds and sometimes sold as a “turkey breast roast”) and full-size bone-in turkey breasts (which run from 6-10 pounds) at the store. Both are usually frozen, although occasionally in November you can find them fresh at a speciality meat counter or butcher.
I highly recommend sticking to the full-size bone-in turkey breast. Why? Well, there are a lot of advantages:
- You’re getting more bang for your buck. Any time you buy something boneless, you are paying for the convenience of someone else removing the bones. You are paying $1-2 more per pound for boneless—and actually getting less! Because those bones are useful for our next point.
- You can use the leftover bones to make amazing turkey bone broth. Whenever I make this recipe, I just pop the leftover breast bone right into the same Instant Pot (no need to even clean it) to make delicious and nutritious turkey bone broth.
- Bone-in helps the meat stay even more moist and flavorful. The best flavor is going to come from a bone-in breast.
But wait, how do you make sure a turkey breast will fit in the Instant Pot?
Using an electric pressure cooker limits the size of the turkey breast you can cook—if I had a big enough Instant Pot, I’d cook a whole turkey in there! But alas, Instant Pots are limited in space. No matter what, your bone-in turkey breast will probably go above the “Max Fill” mark—this is the one and only time it’s okay! Just as long as the lid can seal well and the breast is below the rim of the pot, you’re good. Here’s what I’ve figured out during my rounds of testing for different size Instant Pots:
- The 5 quart, 6 quart, and 8 quart Instant Pots will easily fit either a boneless turkey breast or a medium to large bone-in turkey breast. In my 6 quart DUO, I tested both a smaller sized bone-in turkey breast (~6 pounds) and a big one (~11 pounds), and they both fit. I did have to trim off a bit of the neck on the big one to get it below the rim of the basin. If you have a 5 quart Instant Pot, stick to smaller sizes—between 5-7 pounds. If you have an 8 quart pot, you can easily fit in one of the bigger breasts—10+ pounds.
- The 3 quart Instant Pot Mini will probably be too small for even the smallest of bone-in breasts, but you should be able to fit a small boneless breast. I do not own a 3 quart, so this was tricky for me to test, obviously! If you do own one of the Instant Pot Minis and try out this recipe, please chime in with your experience in the comments so you can help everyone out!
- The key here: test it out! Buy your turkey breast, and see if you can get it to fit in your Instant Pot. If not, you can always roast it in the oven.
Can you cook a frozen turkey breast in the Instant Pot?
You sure can. And below you’ll find instructions and cooking times for it. I will warn you that a lot of times (like almost always) frozen turkey breasts come with plastic gravy packets inserted into the cavity, which are nearly impossible to remove until the turkey is defrosted. Promise me (PROMISE ME) you will not try to cook a frozen turkey breast with a gravy packet still inside. If you are able to get your gravy packet out—or happen to find a turkey breast without one—you can easily cook it from frozen following the same instructions laid out below and just adjust your cook time.
How long do you cook a turkey breast in the Instant Pot?
Electric pressure cooking can be a bit like cooking blind because you can’t see or test anything to check for doneness! Because of this, we created an easy-to-follow chart to help you get the perfect amount of doneness. The rule of thumb for poultry in the Instant Pot is six minutes per pound from fresh, and 10 minutes per pound from frozen. I’ve found that I can cheat that to slightly less in my Instant Pot.
Cooking Times for Fresh/Thawed Bone-In Turkey Breasts
Always double check for doneness by using an instant read thermometer to make sure your turkey is at 160°F in the fleshiest part of the breast—you’ll get the additional 5°F (which gets you to the 165°F safe zone for poultry) by resting and browning off the skin.
|High Pressure/Poultry||Natural Pressure Release||Rest Time|
|3-4 lb. Turkey Breast||21 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|5-6 lb. Turkey Breast||33 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|7-8 lb. Turkey Breast||37 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|9-10 lb. Turkey Breast||45 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
Cooking Times for Frozen Bone-In Turkey Breasts
Make sure to remove any gravy packet from the turkey breast before cooking. Because the meat is frozen, the Instant Pot will take longer to get up to high enough temperature to seal. Always double check for doneness by using an instant read thermometer to make sure your turkey is at 160°F in the fleshiest part of the breast—you’ll get the additional 5°F (which gets you to the 165°F safe zone for poultry) by resting and browning off the skin.
|High Pressure/Poultry||Natural Pressure Release||Rest Time|
|3-4 lb. Turkey Breast||35 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|5-6 lb. Turkey Breast||55 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|7-8 lb. Turkey Breast||70 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|9-10 lb. Turkey Breast||90 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
How do you make turkey gravy with the drippings?
I used to think making gravy was hard. But it turns out it is one of the easiest kitchen tasks on the planet! I promise you can do it. To make easy turkey gravy, all you need to do is:
- Strain the drippings from the Instant Pot through a fine mesh sieve.
- Melt some cooking fat (I like butter, but lard and coconut oil work, too) in a saucepan, and then sprinkle on arrowroot powder.
- Pour in the strained drippings and heat until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
What side dishes can you serve with turkey breast?
- Turkey breast with gravy is a match made in heaven with our Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes.
- For a little bit of green on your plate, roast up some Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon.
- Of course, no turkey dinner is complete without cranberries! For a different twist on the classic, try our Chunky Cranberry Applesauce.
How can you use up leftover turkey?
If you’re roasting a larger turkey breast, you’re bound to have some leftovers! Once you are sick of sandwiches, take those leftovers and turn them into these dishes:[gdlr_core_row] [gdlr_core_column size=”1/3″]Next Day Turkey Vegetable Soup[/gdlr_core_column] [gdlr_core_column size=”1/3″]Creamy Turkey Gnocchi Soup[/gdlr_core_column] [gdlr_core_column size=”1/3″]Turkey Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Biscuits[/gdlr_core_column] [/gdlr_core_row]