Learn how to cook a turkey breast in the air fryer. This is a great idea if you need more meat for Thanksgiving. The turkey is prepared with a dry brine that will make this the most flavorful turkey you have ever tried.
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Ok I am going to say it, I think turkey is better than chicken.
I just think it tastes better. Whether you agree or disagree I have a recipe for you today that I am super excited for you to try. I take turkey breasts, remove them from the bone, put on a dry brine, let them hang out in the fridge for 48 hours, and then cook them in the air fryer!
Trust me it will come out better than you hope. Whether it's just a meal on a regular Tuesday night or you want to do this instead on Thanksgiving, this recipe is one of my favorites that I have come up with on the blog.
⚙️ Why This Works?
When you remove the bone and reduce overall size of the turkey you can cook it faster. By cooking faster you enable the meat to stay moist.
The smaller space of an air fryer will speed up the cooking process over a standard oven.
If you haven't heard of a dry brine is basically made of a rub that you allow to sit on the meat for a longer period of time, than you would something like a marinade or even a wet brine. What this does is gives the salt and spices time to enter into the meat so that every bite is pure heaven, not just the outside.
By not using any liquid you dry the skin out. So when the turkey is cooked, the skin will be crisp and enjoyable to eat.
Start with a either a fresh or frozen bone-in turkey breast.
Do not use a turkey roast. They are boneless and are shaped like a log. They contain seasoning already, usually include dextrose or other things you don't need.
If you want to not have to deal with the bone altogether some places will have boneless turkey breasts. Publix stores in the south do a good job of carrying them. Most likely your option will be the frozen bone-in. Don't worry I will share with you how to thaw one in a moment.
Here is the ingredients for the dry brine:
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons total of a combo of dried rosemary, dried thyme, and/or dried sage
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
Feel free to edit the recipe to what you prefer for your herbs or spices. This is meant to be a guide to how much you need. I want you to go heavy on them. This is no time to be shy with the seasonings. It will pay off in the end, trust me.
Obviously to cook an air fryer recipe, you are going to use an air fryer. You likely already have one if you ended up here, but if you aren't happy with yours, might I suggest a Ninji Foodi Dual Basket model. Having two baskets is so nice. It beats having just one huge area, which I have seen not cook very evenly. Plus you can cook multiple things at once at different times and temperatures.
For this recipe I cooked one turkey breast in each basket. I had a really small air fryer before where I would have had to work in batches, cooking 1 breast at a time. I am thankful to have the one I have now.
Besides the air fryer itself, the single most important tool you will need to cook this turkey to perfection is a thermometer.
I want you to cook this turkey to temperature and not time. There are so many factors that would affect when the turkey is done, so you are better off cooking to temperature that way your turkey will be perfect. For that I use:
The DOT® Simple Alarm Thermometer from ThermoWorks. What you will do is stick the probe into the center part of the meat. Close it inside the air fryer and hook it up to the unit to monitor the temperature.
It takes out all the guess work on whether the turkey is finished or not. This model is affordable. Yes it's more than the $20 or less ones you find in the store especially around Thanksgiving, but the quality and accuracy of this one is so much better. I bought the cheap ones before and found myself replacing them yearly because the probe stopped working which cost me more money in the long run.
If for some reason your probe did stop working (I haven't experienced this) ThermoWorks sell replacement ones so you don't have to buy a whole new unit and probe.
🧊 How Long to Thaw?
First you need to thaw your turkey if it's frozen. Turkey breasts don't vary too much in size, so I can say if you put it in the fridge 2 days before you are going to season it, then you will be great. Always put the turkey in something else just in case you get a leak in your packaging. You don't want juices all over your fridge.
🦃 If you are cooking for Thanksgiving, take out it of the freezer and put into the fridge, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. By Tuesday it will be thawed so you can then add the dry brine and allow it to sit for 2 days. Then on Thanksgiving Day you are ready to go.
If you need to speed up the thawing process, submerge the turkey breast in a bucket of ice water. The average turkey breast weights between 6-8 pounds. At a rate of 2 pounds per hour, it will take about 3-4 hours to defrost.
Learn more about How to Quickly Defrost a Turkey
Once you have a completely thawed turkey breast, you will need to de-bone it.
💡 Tip - Remove the keel bone first. It's called that because it's the same shape as a keel of a boat. You can also call it the breast bone.
Then slice one breast off the bone at a time. Save all the bones. They are great for making homemade turkey stock. You can use my recipe for the Instant Pot that uses smoked turkey parts, but instead you will use your bones.
Place the turkey breasts in a pan that will fit both of them. Evenly distribute your dry brine on the top and bottom of each breast. Then place in the fridge for 2 days. You don't need to cover the turkey. You want the skin to dry out so that it will be crispy when you cook the turkey.
This same method is used in Alton Brown's Dry Brined Spatchcock Whole Turkey.
Once 2 days is up it's time to air fry!
If you can fit all the turkey at once, that's great. You don't want to crowd, so do one at a time if you don't have the space. Since I have two baskets, I can do one in each.
Make sure you spray the turkey breasts with oil before you cook. This will help promote browning and keep the turkey moist.
Then insert the probe of your thermometer into the deepest part of the thickest turkey breast. Cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Angle it in a way that goes straight it so you can still close the basket with the probe cord coming out. This cord are meant to be shut in an oven door so this is no different.
If you don't have a probe but have an instant read thermometer you will need to check the turkey every so often to know when it reaches 165. The probe is definitely better since you don't have to stop the air fryer and open it to check, which slows down cooking.
An estimate time for that for me was between 30-40 minutes. Plan on that much time. I really want you to focus on cooking to that temperature not the total time though.
Do you need to flip the turkey while cooking? No. I didn't find a reason to do that. My turkey was cooked perfectly without flipping. And when you flip you have to stop the cooking which slows down the cook time. And with the probe inside it could make it hard to flip without messing it up.
I start at a high temperature and then reduce it. Start at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then reduce to 360 degrees until your turkey is at 165 degrees.
💡 Tip - Bringing your turkey out of the fridge for 30 minutes before you cook it will help it cook faster and more evenly.
Once the turkey is at 165 degrees, turn off the air fryer. Carefully remove the turkey breasts with a pair of tongs that won't scratch your air fryer. Allow to set on a carving board for about 5-10 minutes before slicing. Since it's a boneless turkey breast, this part is super easy. Just make even slices. I like to cut them on an angle because it looks good.
🍽️ More Turkey Tips & Recipes
Thanks for reading through this air fryer turkey recipe today. I am confident it will be a winner in your household. Let me share with some more turkey knowledge along with a couple more recipes (if you think you will have leftovers, pay close attention to the last two recipes!)
- How Far in Advance to Buy a Fresh Turkey
- Can You Thaw and Brine at the Same Time?
- Instant Pot Turkey Breast Recipe
- Leftover Turkey Ramen
- Leftover Turkey Orzo
Dry Brined Air Fryer Turkey Breast
- air fryer
- probe or instant read thermometer
- 6-8 lb whole bone-in turkey breast
- 1 tbsp 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tbsp total of a combo of dried rosemary, dried thyme, and/or dried sage
- 1 tbsp 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tbsp 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- spray oil of your choice
- If your turkey is frozen, check the notes below for instructions to thaw.
- Combine all the salt, spices, or herbs in a bowl. Set aside.
- Remove the keel bone from the turkey breast. Then slice off anywhere the breasts are still attached to the bones. Save bones for stock making.
- Place the turkey breasts into a pan. Spread the dry brine evenly over the top and bottom of each turkey breast.
- Set the pan with the turkey into the fridge for 48 hours. You don't need to cover it.
- Remove the turkey from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
- Place the turkey breasts into your air fryer. Spray with oil on each breast on each side. This will help with browning and keeping the turkey from drying out.
- Insert a probe thermometer into the deepest part of the thickest breast. Set your alarm to go off at 165 degrees.
- You don't need to flip the turkey while it cooks.
- Shut the basket into the air fryer. Cook at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Then reduce to 360 degrees and cook until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This could take anywhere between 25-40 more minutes.
- Remove the turkey from the air frying and allow to rest on a carving board for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Slice the turkey on an angle and serve.