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Turkey Breasts

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2007

What is the difference between regular and hotel-style turkey breasts? How do I buy the best turkey breast?

Most supermarkets regularly offer two slightly different styles of whole bone-in turkey breast: regular, or “true cut” and hotel, or country-style, turkey breast. Regular cut turkey breast includes the whole bone-in breast with ribs, a portion of the wing meat, and a portion of the back and neck skin.

The hotel-cut turkey breast is essentially the same cut, though it comes with its wings, neck, and giblets, all important material if you intend to make a gravy or sauce to accompany the cooked meat (or stock, for that matter). These tend to cost a little more and are almost always sold fresh, not frozen. Since gravy is not part of most grilling recipes, the cheaper regular cut makes more sense if your market carries both.

Whichever style you find and purchase, try to avoid turkey breasts that have been injected with a saline solution (a brine of sorts), often called “self-basters”, as we found the solution masks the natural flavor of the turkey. (If you can only find a “self-baster,” omit the brining step as the meat will already be quite salty.) Also, ignore the pop-up timer that comes with some turkey breasts; the meat will be long overcooked before the popper pops. If your turkey comes with a pop-up timer, leave it in and gauge doneness according to an instant-read thermometer. Don’t remove the timer until the meat is done; otherwise it will leave a gaping hole from which juices will flow.