When it comes to preparing meals in an air fryer, we thought we’d seen just about everything. But then we learned it was possible to prepare an air fryer turkey breast that’s good enough to be the crown jewel of Thanksgiving dinner, we knew we had to share the recipe ASAP. Keep reading to see how it’s done.
Benefits of Using an Air Fryer
What we love most about using an air fryer for preparing a turkey is how it cuts down cooking time immensely. A 3- to 4-pound turkey breast can be ready in around an hour, making a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner accessible almost any night of the week. Here are a few other benefits of air fryer turkey breast:
Extra oven space: Using an air fryer frees up precious oven space, leaving real estate open for Thanksgiving side dishes.
Even cooking: Because air fryers circulate air around the food, all sides of the turkey are evenly heated as it cooks.
Crispy skin: Your air fryer will do a fantastic job at creating a crackly, crispy skin on the turkey.
Healthy turkey: This is especially true if you typically deep-fry your turkey. The air fryer uses less fat and oil to cook a turkey breast while still locking in moisture. This results in a juicy, moist bird that tastes as good as fried with a fraction of the fat.
Best Air Fryer for Turkey Breast
You won’t be able to air fry a whole turkey, of course. The baskets of even the largest air fryers, like the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL, are simply too small to accomplish this feat.
Ultimately, we recommend measuring the depth and size of your air fryer’s basket before heading to the store to select your turkey breast. Look for a breast that will comfortably fit in your fryer’s basket and has a flatter shape versus a domed one. In terms of size, a 3 to 5-pound turkey breast is likely the maximum weight most air fryers can hold.
How to Choose the Best Turkey Breast for Air Frying
Do I buy a turkey breast with or without skin? Is bone-in or boneless turkey the way to go? Good news: All variations are great options for the air fryer. Your choice will come down to personal preference. Just know that the preparation method and cooking time may need to be adjusted slightly if you choose a boneless and/or skinless turkey breast.
Boneless Turkey Breasts
Boneless breasts often come wrapped in a mesh netting that you may either leave on or remove. If you choose to remove, use a gentle hand since the netting holds the turkey breast together. If you choose to leave the netting on the breast, you may need to increase the cooking time by 10-15 minutes depending on the size and shape of your turkey breast.
Skinless Turkey Breasts
A turkey’s skin protects the meat from drying out while cooking. To preserve the turkey’s moisture, brush or spray the turkey breast with a little oil every 15 minutes while cooking.
Tips for Seasoning Turkey Breast for Air Frying
When it comes to seasoning a turkey for an air fryer, you can keep it as simple as brushing the breast with a little olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. You can also add other fats, herbs and spices for even greater flavor.
In our recipe, we’re using a blend of softened butter and mayonnaise mixed with fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and lemon zest rubbed all over the outside of the turkey to really infuse the meat with flavor and add as much moisture as possible.
How to Air Fry a Turkey Breast
3 to 5-pound bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, fully thawed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Step 1: Mix the herb butter
In a small mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and mayonnaise. Then add the herbs, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
Step 2: Rub
Using clean hands (or a brush), rub an even coating of the herb butter on all sides of the turkey breast.
Step 3: Cook
Preheat the air fryer to 350°F. Then, place the turkey breast in the air fryer basket skin-side down so it comfortably fits inside the basket. Cook for 25 minutes. Then, flip and cook for an additional 25-35 minutes. Remove from the air fryer when an internal temperature of 160°F has been reached and the skin is golden and crisp.
Step 4: Rest
Remove the turkey from the air fryer and set onto a carving board. Cover with foil and let the breast rest for 10 minutes. Note that the turkey will continue to cook slightly as it rests and bring the internal temperature up to the USDA recommended 165°F.
Step 5: Carve
Remove the foil from the turkey and carve into slices using an electric knife. Serve warm.
How to Carve a Turkey Breast
One benefit of preparing a turkey breast rather than a whole turkey is that the carving process is simplified. To carve a turkey breast:
Run the blade of your carving knife along both sides of the breast bone.
Continue to cut along the breast bone all the way from the top of the breast to the bottom.
Next, using the groove you created with the first cut, carefully work your knife under one of the breasts using gentle strokes to separate the meat.
Continue this motion until the entire breast comes away completely from the bones. Repeat on the other side.
With the breasts removed from the carcass, cut the breasts into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter for serving.
What to Serve with Air-Fried Turkey Breast
Now that you have learned how to cook a turkey in the air fryer, you’re probably wondering what to serve alongside it. Pair it with any classic Thanksgiving side dishes, like mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberries or green bean casserole. Here are a few of our all-time favorite recipes that go great with turkey.
You can even serve these air fryer Thanksgiving recipes!
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