Instead of cooking a whole turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, try baking a turkey breast and turkey drumsticks. Faster cooking time, more meat, and less waste.
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Recipe updated: May 5th, 2024

This oven baked turkey recipe with breast and legs is super easy to make. Sometimes I put a whole turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving dinner, and sometimes I don’t. Instead, I buy a turkey breast and a couple of turkey legs. Baking a turkey breast and a couple of turkey legs instead of an entire turkey is so much easier. We also get more white meat and dark meat, less waste, and less cooking time in the oven.

We always serve cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, and biscuits with our delicious turkey dinner.

Turkey breast and drumsticks on a white plate.

ūü¶É Key Ingredients

  • About 9¬†pounds of turkey¬†breast
  • 2 and a half pounds of turkey drumsticks
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 2 teaspoons of table salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground¬†black pepper
Ingredients for oven baked turkey recipe breast and legs.
Ingredients for oven baked turkey recipe breast and legs.

ūüćó How to Make Oven Baked Turkey Recipe (Breast & Legs)

These step-by-step instructions are accompanied by detailed photos for enhanced clarity and guidance.

Step 1. Preheat Oven

Set the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2. Prepare the Turkey Breast and Legs

If you have a frozen turkey breast, check out the thawing instructions on the label. Usually, it takes a couple of days or so to thaw in the refrigerator. Do not let it sit on the countertop at room temperature to thaw.

Step 3. Wash the Turkey Breast and Legs

I always wash and rinse the turkey breast and legs with cold water, then wash and rinse again. It’s important to be sure the turkey parts are clean.

You can line the sink with paper towels and set the turkey in the sink and run cold water over it, in it, and all around it. Or, you can use a big roasting pan, set the turkey breast and turkey legs in it, and rinse water all over it, turning the turkey and rinsing again.

After the turkey breast and legs are clean, then lay the turkey breast and legs on a plate and rinse out the roasting pan.

Note: If you used the paper towel and sink method, when you are all done washing the turkey breast and turkey legs, clean the sink area too.

Washing raw turkey and legs in roasting pan in the sink under cold water.
Washing and rinsing the turkey breast and drumsticks with cold water.

Step 4. Arrange Turkey Breast and Legs in Roasting Pan

After all washing is done, lay the breast side of the turkey facing down in the roasting pan if you can. Then, arrange the turkey drumsticks to fit in the roasting pan, too.

Note: I had to lay this one on its side because it’s a larger turkey breast to lay it facing down and be able to still put the lid on it.

After you have arranged the turkey parts to fit in the roasting pan, with a basting brush or your clean hands, spread about 1/4 cup of butter on the outside of the turkey breast and turkey drumsticks. You can melt the butter if you prefer, then pour the melted butter on top of the turkey and legs. Then, after that is done, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper all over the turkey breast and legs.

I added about an eighth of a cup of water, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. The water helps keep the turkey moist while baking in the oven.

Note: You can place a roasting rack in the bottom of the roasting pan first before placing the turkey breast and legs in it. Sometimes I do that, and sometimes I don’t. This time, I didn’t do that.

Raw turkey breast and turkey legs in a roasting pan.
Raw turkey breast and turkey legs in a roasting pan.

Step 5. Cover the Roasting Pan, then Bake

Put a lid on the roasting pan, or cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours. Depending on how large your turkey breast is, and how hot your oven gets, you may have to adjust the time. The cook time and internal temperature recommendations are listed on the back of the turkey packaging. It is also recommended by the CDC that you use an instant-read thermometer or meat thermometer to check the internal temperature when cooking meat. The best way to get an accurate reading is to insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast.

I put the turkey breast on its side before I put it in the oven because it wouldn’t fit any other way. Then I arranged the turkey legs around it. If you are wondering what the other stuff is in the roasting pan with the breast meat and turkey legs, I washed up some chicken hearts in a small bowl and threw them in with the turkey breast and legs. We love baked chicken hearts with our baked turkey breasts and legs.

Oven baked turkey and legs in a roasting pan.
Oven baked turkey recipe (breast & legs) in a roasting pan.

‚≠źÔłŹ Recipe Variations for Oven Baked Turkey Breast & Legs

  • You can use¬†herb butter, if you prefer, instead of regular butter.
  • If you want¬†crispy skin, rub¬†olive oil¬†instead of butter on the turkey breast and legs before putting it in the oven.
  • Toss your favorite¬†fresh herbs¬†on the¬†top of the skin¬†of the turkey after rubbing on the butter or olive oil and before baking it in the oven.
  • Prepare a¬†butter mixture¬†of your favorite herbs and seasonings to spread on the turkey before baking.
Oven baked turkey recipe (breast & legs) on a plate.
Oven baked turkey recipe (breast & legs) on a plate.

‚Ěď FAQs

What do I do with Leftover Turkey Breast and Legs?

You can put it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Make your favorite soup with the leftovers, or have turkey sandwiches the next day.

Can I Freeze Leftover Turkey Breast & Legs?

Yes, you can freeze any leftover turkey breast and legs. Put the leftovers in an airtight container or freezer bag. When you are ready for some turkey, take it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. To reheat, put the thawed turkey in the microwave until hot, or cover it in a piece of foil and put it in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until heated through. Or, you can have cold turkey sandwiches with mayo and black pepper sprinkled on top.

‚úŹÔłŹ Final Thoughts

If this is your first time cooking turkey, don’t worry, you can make the prefect Thanksgiving turkey with little effort. Wash the turkey, season it, and pop it in the oven. It’s an easy recipe to prepare for smaller groups of people or a lot of people.

The simple secret is, do not overcook your turkey, but it’s very important to not under cook it. The safe rule of thumb is to follow the cooking guidelines on the back of the label.

Close-up shot of oven baked turkey recipe (breast & legs).

ūüďĚ Recipe Card

Cooking Turkey Breast

Oven Baked Turkey Recipe (Breast & Legs)

Avatar for FloFlo
Instead of cooking a whole turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, try baking a turkey breast and turkey drumsticks. Faster cooking time, more meat, and less waste.
5 from 2 votes
Cost $27
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Servings 14 people

ūüęē Equipment

ūüßā Ingredients
  

ūüĎ©‚Äćūüć≥ Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare the turkey by thawing, if needed.
  • Wash and rinse the turkey breast and turkey drumsticks with cold water.
  • Put the turkey breast and the turkey drumsticks in a roasting pan. Put the breast part of the turkey facing down in the roasting pan if it will fit that way.
  • Spread the butter all over the turkey breast and drumsticks.
  • Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the turkey and drumsticks.
  • Add water to the bottom of the roasting pan, just enough to cover the bottom area of the pan.
  • Cover the roasting pan with a lid or aluminum foil and place it in the oven.
  • Bake for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours, depending on how large your turkey breast is. Baking times are on the turkey packaging.

*ÔłŹ‚É£ Recipe Notes

  • Buying a bigger turkey breast than needed is a great idea, then you can have leftovers the next night. Also, don’t forget about hot turkey sandwiches with gravy the next night, or just turkey sandwiches with mayo, salt, and pepper.
  • Use your leftover turkey to make Chicken soup dumplings.
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