Turkey Roast - sliced

Homemade Deli Meat – Tutorial


I recently wrote about the health dangers of using processed lunch meats in a post titled “Healthy Homemade Options to Replace Deli Lunch Meats“.  In that post I talked about some alternatives to deli lunch meats including the idea of roasting a turkey breast, cooling it overnight while tightly wrapped and then slicing it thin for sandwiches.  I bought a turkey breast roast at the grocery store last week so I decided to take pictures of the whole process to show just how easy it really is to create your own turkey lunch meat without any added chemicals, fillers or preservatives.

The first step is to roast the turkey breast in the oven.  This roast was pre-tied with butcher’s string, but if you buy a whole bird it won’t be tied up already.  This is not a problem because the point of wrapping the meat really tightly in aluminum foil is to compact it while it cools for easier slicing the next day.

I roasted the turkey at 325 degrees until it reached a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees which took approximately 2 hours for this roast.

I wrapped the roast very tightly in aluminum foil and left it in the refrigerator overnight to completely cool.

The next day I unwrapped the roast and removed the butcher’s string. Then I used my super sharp Henckels Carving Knife to thinly slice it for sandwiches (a good knife is essential in every kitchen, I have had my set of Henckels knives for over 15 years since I got them as a wedding gift, and I still use them every day).  If you have an electric meat slicer, you could make all sorts of custom cuts for your sandwiches from paper thin shaved slices to thick buffet slices.

This technique works for any roast from turkey to pork to beef.  The important thing to remember is to wrap it tightly and cool it overnight so that it is very easy to slice evenly.

Have you ever tried making lunch meat the old fashioned way? If you have any tips, tricks or advice I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

For more cooking tips and natural cooking recipes, visit my cooking site at Jen’s Natural kitchen.

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  1. I would like to try this one day. It looks like a great alternative to buying lunch meat with preservatives.

    • It works out to be more economical too. Lunch meat usually runs around $8-$10 per pound, the turkey roast I used in the tutorial came out to less than $4 per pound. I will freeze half of it right away because it was a large roast and use the other half for lunches and snacks for the kids right now. Later, I will have the frozen half to pull out as needed.

  2. Hi Jennifer – I did this and it was a hit! Thanks. J

  3. I just found your blog through Real Food Wednesday. I like this idea a lot because my husband loves sandwiches for lunch. Do you think the meat could be frozen after cooking? I am not sure how much we would go through and i know after a few days he would be tired of the same meat every day.

  4. I found this idea of yours today after thinking about doing this for a while myself. In fact I bought an electric slicer at K Mart for half price and will use for slicing.
    I might be missing something here but how are you going to wrap the roast real tight with alum foil and why, if it is tied tight in butchers string, each one I ever bought was wrapped tight?
    Something I am worrying about with a beef or pork roast is the fat that is usually pretty thick. Do you trim before roasting?
    Thank you Jennifer for the great tutorial, I loved it. Mitch

    • Hi Mitch, thanks for stopping by. I wrap the roast with foil after it has cooked and cooled on the counter, I do it to further compress the meat and make it easier to slice when it is cold. Even though most roasts are tied already by the butcher, the meat shrinks as it cooks and I want to make sure that everything stays tight while it is cooling in the fridge. As far as trimming the fat, yes I trim obvious excess fat but I leave a little bit on there to keep the meat moist while it is roasting. Most of it will end up melted at the bottom of your roasting pan anyway so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of the process.

      I would love to hear how this works for you, please check back in later with your results :)

  5. Jennifer
    It”s a deal, I will get back to you with results. Right now I put a small two lb pork roast on in My Nesco roaster to see how it works. One thing that I ran into when reading the instruction book on the slicer was, it says to slice a roast while it is still sort of hot yet. This is different than what I was going to do, but I will try slicing while hot and then slicing and cooling like you suggest. This roast is an experimental one for us. A turkey breast is next on the agenda. Mitch

  6. Hi Jen
    Well I made a small pork roast today to see how it would work for me. I read in the manual for the slicer that we bought yesterday and it says to cut roasts when still warm so I cut half after it cooled and wrapped half and refrigerated and will slice tomorrow to see if there is any difference I notice when either slicing when hot or cold. I am very pleased with the way the meat roasted today and I sliced wafer thin and found out this little slicer is well worth the money. One thing I should of done was trim the fat before roasting and square the meat up so the slices would be even on every slice. No problem though and we got enough slices for both of our lunches for almost two weeks. Something else I did different than you was instead of roasting in the oven I roasted mine in a six quart Nesco roaster at 325 degrees. I already roasted in the oven and it works very well like you said and the Nesco roaster works as well if anyone else is interested.
    Thanks again Jen for the great tutorial. Mitch

  7. Why are all my reply’s being deleted or not even posted?

  8. I know it’s been a long time since you wrote this, but if you are still replying I have a question… How long will the meat stay good in the refrigerator?

    • Great question! Treat this like any other roast, chops or steaks and try to use it up in 3-5 days. What I do is refrigerate the amount I think I’ll use from Mon-Fri for lunchboxes and then freeze the rest (already sliced and vacuum sealed) in similar sized portions. When I run out if the stuff in the fridge, I just pull a pack from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. I hope this helps :)

  9. Thank you SO much for posting this!! My husband and I decided to try this when he gets home from his deployment, and I was so glad to find all the tips that you;ve provided. I think you have answered just about every question that came to mind as we were planning this out! I saw on 1 site that some people recommend soaking the roast in a brine – maybe for a certain type of meat. I don’t think I want to go that route – but I was wondering if you do anything in particular to infuse flavor? Thank for posting this!!

    • Hi Jennifer welcome to my site :) I think that when you hear about brining, the reference is to turkey. I have noticed that my local Whole Foods will tie together 2 or 3 large turkey breasts to make a really big roast and then they brine it before coating the outside with flavorings and baking the whole thing. It is something that I have been thinking of trying out myself, if you decide to try it I would love to hear about your results. As far as flavoring without the brine, I like to coat the roast pretty heavily in spices. For instance, I enjoy Cajun flavors so I roll my roasts in Cajun Seasoning and then pat it on firmly before cooking. You could use any flavors you like such as Cajun, Herbs de Provence, BBQ dry rub, Jamaican Jerk etc. I hope this helps and that you and your husband enjoy this technique for making yummy and healthy lunch meat.

  10. i like your method for generating home made deli-meat – very straighforward. Questions about deli-meat are among the top requests on our site – feel free to tell us about your angle.

    • Rob – Thanks for your comment about my method being very straightforward, that is exactly what I was going for! Like most people I want it to be simple, healthy and tasty and I find that home cooking a roast and slicing it later fits all three criteria.

  11. Jennifer, where did you get the “turkey breast roast”? Was it a special order through the butcher at the grocery store or does turkey come tied up like that usually in the meat section? I really wanted to try this out but couldn’t find any turkey like that in our grocery stores nearby.

    • I found this one in the freezer section, I think it was a Butterball. Watch out though because they make a “turkey breast roast” and a “turkey roast”. The “turkey roast” is pieces of dark meat bundled together which don’t hold up as well to slicing later. You can also ask your butcher to tie up two boneless turkey breast halves and work with that. Hope that helps!

  12. I think I am going to have my husband smoke some ham and turkey and I roast some chicken and beef at the same time so we can freeze weekly portions in variety packs. Thanks for such a great idea on cutting cost and keeping it healthy! My biggest concern is how much sodium is in deli meat. Making my own allows me to control the content. Thanks for the tip!

  13. This is Great! Your advice is appreciated. So glad someone is already on the journey I’m beginning… so looking forward to treasuring whatever is found along the way. Have a Blessed Day :)

  14. Hi! I’m reposting from June – My husband came home from his deployment last month and we just got around to trying this. I have to say, it is so easy and our first turkey breast came out PERFECT! We made up a spice brine with a salt/water base and soaked it for 24 hours. It flavored it well and now I have lunch meat for the next 2 weeks – thanks so much for posting this process!!

    • Jennifer,

      Hooray for your husband coming home!! I am so glad that the turkey roast worked out for you and I love your twist of brining the roast before cooking it. I bet that you had a delightfully juicy result from that brine. You could do a pork roast the same way but use apple cider for the brine and it comes out great!

  15. Hey there, I was wondering if you can suggest an alternative to using aluminum foil? I am trying to stay away from metals that can leach into food. Also, is your turkey breast roast boneless or does it still have the bone in it? It doesn’t look like it from the pictures, but I also saw that you suggested to someone else to use 2 turkey breast halves, which to me would be very hard to keep together. Thanks for posting this! I hope to try it soon!

    • Yes, the roast is boneless. If you use two halves together then you will need to tie them up with regular butcher’s string to make one roast. I have been reconsidering the use of aluminum foil myself and I think that freezer paper or parchment paper would work just as well. You would probably need a piece of tape or a rubber band on the outside if you use paper to keep it tightly bundled. Hope that helps :)

  16. Thanks for wring back! I am looking forward to trying this next week! I will try it with parchment paper and a rubber band and see how it goes :)

  17. oh and one more question, do you season it at all?

    • Yes, I like to generously rub it with different seasonings. Some of my favorites are french or italian herbs with salt, chili powder, curry powder or garlic/herb. I have also done simple brine mixtures to infuse the meat with flavor and moisture. You can really use whatever flavors you like, but remember to be very generous with the rub because when you slice it thin, you just get a little sliver of the seasoning on the edge of each slice. Enjoy!

  18. I have been wanting to try this for a long time. I even own a professional slicer! You make it sound easy and I have a turkey breast thawing as I type. I am wondering what type of beef roast works best. We buy our beef from the local FFA kids and have it butchered.

  19. Pingback: How to Make Homemade Lunch Meat | Dollar Store Mom Frugal Fun – Crafts for Kids

  20. Being a T2 Diabetic, I have to cook everything fresh at home in order to keep my sugar in check and lose weight. With all the junk they put into deli meats now a days, not to mention the price, I also have started making my own deli meats. So much more flavor when made at home. Thanks for sharing this idea – will have to try it soon.

  21. I had a whole turkey brining for the last 24 hours. The drums, thighs, and wings I put on the smoker. Cold smoking btw. I took the bones and made stock. What meat I picked off of the bones before this process I I turned into ground turkey, along with the tenderloins. What meat was left on the bones after making stock I turned into a small meatloaf. I pickled the inards. The bones I ground and gave to the dogs. I was unsure what to do with the breasts. I did this recipe, well sort of, and spiced the outside. I put it in the smoker as well for a couple hours and then cooked it in the oven for 1.5 hours. It turned out awesome.

  22. Thank you very much for posting this. I have been looking for ways to make my own deli meat for sandwiches and salads. Besides trying to save money and eat healthier (This is obviously the way to go for both of these issues), I must be on a low sodium diet and I am trying to lower the amount of sodium my family eats as well.
    Thanks again, for making this project easy.

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