Skip to Content

How long should a turkey breast sit before slicing?

Deciding how long to let a turkey breast rest before slicing and serving is an important part of achieving the perfect roasted turkey. There are a few factors to consider when determining the optimal resting time.

Why Should You Let the Turkey Breast Rest Before Slicing?

Letting the turkey breast rest after roasting and before slicing is crucial for a few reasons:

  • It allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat. As the turkey cooks, the juices get pushed toward the center. If you slice too soon, the juices will spill out onto the cutting board and the turkey will end up dry.
  • It gives time for the proteins to relax. The high heat of roasting causes the turkey proteins to contract and tense up. Resting gives them a chance to unwind, so the meat stays tender when sliced.
  • It carries over the cooking. The internal temperature will continue rising 5-10°F during resting time. This ensures the meat is cooked through without overcooking.

So resting is clearly a vital step. But exactly how long should you let that turkey breast sit before carving?

Recommended Turkey Breast Rest Times

There are some general guidelines to follow when resting a roasted turkey breast:

  • Whole turkey: Rest for 30-40 minutes before carving.
  • Turkey breast: Rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing.
  • Turkey tenderloins or cutlets: Rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

A whole turkey needs more resting time because of its larger size. The thicker the cut of meat, the longer it takes for the juices and heat to redistribute internally. Bone-in turkey breasts take a bit longer than boneless.

Factors That Affect Proper Resting Time

While the times above are suitable in most cases, a few factors can impact just how long you should let the turkey breast rest:

1. Size and Shape

As mentioned, a larger or thicker cut of turkey needs more resting time. A huge turkey breast roast may require up to 30 minutes of resting time. A small, thin turkey tenderloin may only need 5 minutes.

2. Stuffing

A stuffed turkey breast often requires slightly longer resting since the stuffing can insulate the meat and slow the carryover cooking process. Give a stuffed breast 20-30 minutes before carving.

3. Brining

Brining, or soaking the raw turkey in a saltwater solution, helps the bird retain more moisture as it cooks. A brined turkey may need less resting time, as the juices are already dispersed evenly. You can slice after 10-15 minutes.

4. Cooking Method

The roasting temperature and method impact resting time as well. In general:

  • A turkey roasted at a lower temperature (325°F) will need more resting time than one roasted hotter, since the meat cooks more slowly.
  • A deep fried turkey requires less resting time, around 10-15 minutes, since it cooks very fast.
  • A smoked turkey that is already cooked through may only need 5 or so minutes before slicing.

5. Carryover Cooking

You want the turkey breast to rest long enough to finish cooking to the proper safe internal temperature. In general, the turkey will rise around 10°F as it rests. So if you pull it from the oven when the thickest part of the breast reaches 155°F, it will coast up to a safe 165°F as it rests for 15-20 minutes.

How to Tell When the Turkey Breast Is Rested Properly

Checking the temperature and feel of the meat are the best ways to test that you’ve allowed it to rest long enough. Look for:

  • Internal temperature of 165°F in the deepest part of the breast.
  • Firm, tender flesh when pressed – it should not feel squishy or raw.
  • Clear juices running from the meat when pierced, not pink.

The turkey breast should still feel hot, but not scalding to the touch after resting. And juices will pool at the bottom when you uncover it.

Steps for Resting a Turkey Breast

Follow these steps for perfectly rested turkey breast every time:

  1. When the turkey breast reaches 5°F below the target temperature (160°F for whole breast, 150°F for boneless), remove it from the oven, griller, or smoker.
  2. Transfer the breast to a cutting board and tent it very loosely with foil. You want steam to escape so the skin doesn’t get soggy.
  3. Let it sit undisturbed for 15 minutes (bone-in breast) to 20 minutes (whole breast). Go by temperature, not time.
  4. Once the deepest part of breast reaches 165°F, it is ready to carve and serve!

What Happens If You Don’t Let the Turkey Breast Rest?

Insufficient resting can lead to a few issues:

  • Dry, stringy meat – juices will escape rather than being retained.
  • Tough, chewy texture – proteins won’t relax as they should.
  • Undercooked meat – center won’t reach safe serving temperature.
  • Burnt exterior – meat may overcook if left in oven while resting.

None of those outcomes will make for an enjoyable turkey dinner! Always allow ample resting time for the juiciest, most tender results.

Can You Rest the Turkey Breast Too Long?

While it’s far better to rest too long rather than too short, there is a point where the turkey breast can over rest:

  • The meat temperature will start declining as it cools.
  • The skin may start to soften as steam condenses.
  • The juices being held within the breast will start spilling out.

Once the turkey drops below the food safe temperature of 140°F, bacteria could start growing as well.

For food safety, it’s best to carve and serve the rested turkey within 2 hours of removing it from the oven. The quality will decline after that time.

Tips for the Best Rested Turkey Breast

Follow these tips for a perfectly juicy, tender sliced turkey breast:

  • Use an instant read thermometer to monitor the internal temp, not time.
  • Tent the turkey breast with a loose sheet of foil to allow steam to escape.
  • Rest on a wooden or metal cutting board, not plastic or glass.
  • Keep the turkey in a warm spot or heated platter as it rests.
  • Resist slicing into it early – patience pays off!

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have to hold the turkey breast for longer?

If you need to hold the roasted turkey breast for longer than 2 hours before serving, you have a couple options:

  • Carve the turkey and return the slices to the warm oven to keep until serving time.
  • Slice the turkey, arrange on a platter, and tent with foil. Reheat to 165°F later on.
  • Cook the turkey to just underdone, then finish to the proper temperature just before serving.

Can I speed up the resting time?

It’s not recommended to cut short on the resting time, as it can result in dry, tough meat. If needed in a time crunch, you may be able to shave off 2-5 minutes. But do monitor temperature closely and expect some moisture loss.


Allowing your turkey breast adequate resting time is a surefire way to enjoy tender, juicy meat. Follow the guidelines above for the size of your roast and cook to the proper internal temperature. Rest it uncovered for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing. A little patience goes a long way for the best results!