In this post I will explain my technique for making homemade turkey lunch meat, more specifically, pepper turkey lunch meat. After reading the SIMPLE process and making the recipe, experimenting with other flavors will be easy.
Why make Homemade Lunch Meat?
First and foremost, homemade lunch meat is worlds better than store bought lunch meat. It's more tender and juicy, and tastes like real meat, if that makes sense.
Cold cuts are also convenient. It's so easy to slap a little turkey, roast beef, or ham between 2 slices of bread and change up the toppings for a different sandwich or salad all week long.
I grew up bringing turkey-ham-and-cheese sandwiches with tomato and mayo to school almost every day for lunch. I almost never got tired of it, but when I did, I'd change it up. A simple switch to turkey and cole slaw on rye or rolled up roast beef over iceberg lettuce made my lunches exciting enough for me.
Preservatives and Additives
As I got older, I became more conscious about my consumption of overly processed foods. Even cold cut brands that claim to be nitrate-free and low sodium, still have a TON of sodium and other additives needed to cure and preserve the meat. After all, they have to remain in a case in the grocery store and then in your fridge, sliced, for at least a week.
Sodium and Nitrates
There are a few brands of cold cuts that I find to be of high quality and nitrate-free. Boars Head is an excellent option, as is Dietz and Watson I recently learned. They maintain meatiness rather than becoming homogenous, and taste like actual turkey. However, these brands also contain a lot of sodium.
Don't get me wrong, I cook with salt. It's the easiest way to layer flavor in food. However, just 2 ounces of Boars Head Low Sodium Blackened Turkey has 700mg of sodium! This is 29% of the recommended daily consumption. And that's in 2 ounces of meat!
The more concerning additive is nitrate. Boars Head and many other brands have stopped adding nitrates or nitrites to their products, which is truly great. As WebMD explains, Nitrates get broken down into nitrites in the stomach. And nitrites are known carcinogens.
Homemade Lunch Meat has NO additives
So if the goal is to find a deli meat that tastes like actual meat with zero additives, why wouldn't you just just make homemade lunch meat? If you plan on eating the turkey within a week, there's no need for it to contain preservatives or last extra-long.
You can also slice it as needed to help preserve it longer, since sliced meat goes bad more quickly. I know this from experience, but you can read a "HowStuffWorks" article about why this is the case here.
Sure, homemade turkey deli meat is slightly more time consuming, but it's also very hands-off. All you have to do is season and roast a turkey breast. Because pepper turkey is my favorite type of cold cut, I decided to publish my first homemade deli meat recipe for Pepper Turkey Lunch meat.
How Easy is it to make Homemade Deli Meat?
SO EASY! Like I stated before, making your own homemade turkey deli meat is a little time consuming in that it spends about 60-80 minutes in the oven, depending on its size. However, though I don't recommend leaving your house with turkey in the oven, you can certainly do other things in your home while your pepper turkey cooks.
There's also almost no prep or cleanup. Just buy a turkey breast tenderloin (I find them at both Trader Joe's and Wegmans), season it, coat it with a little olive oil, and roast it until it reaches an internal temperature of about 155F.
In my opinion, slow roasting at 275F it is the best way to achieve maximum juiciness and even doneness throughout.
What you'll need to make Homemade Lunch Meat
There's no need for any fancy equipment to make homemade deli meat. You just need to roast the turkey on a rack so that air can get under the turkey, allowing to to cook evenly.
I use a rack set over a sheet pan, which catches all the delicious roasting turkey juices. However, a roasting pan is a helpful tool to have, so you might consider buying one and using it for this recipe, meatloaf, roasted chicken, and more.Print
This homemade pepper turkey lunch meat comes out of the oven juicy and tender. It's awesome for spicing up sandwiches and salads and is healthier and much more flavorful than the store bought kind.
- 1 turkey breast tenderloin, weighing anywhere from ¾ lb to 1 lb
- 1 Tb black pepper
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp chili powder
- A pinch of cayenne
- 1 Tb olive oil
- Preheat oven to 275 and place an oven rack in center of the oven if one is not there already.
- Place the black pepper, paprika, salt, chili powder, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix to combine. (see notes 1 & 2)
- Place the turkey breast on a cutting board and sprinkle the seasoning all over the turkey. Then drizzle the olive oil onto the turkey and use your fingers to coat the whole turkey breast.
- Place turkey on a rack set over a sheet pan and roast in the middle of your oven for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on the size of your turkey. If you have a smaller turkey, check its temperature at the 1 hour mark. Make sure it reaches 155F in the thickest part.
- Let it cool until you can handle it, then use a sharp knife to slice it very thin and enjoy. (see note 3)
Note 1: If you don't like pepper turkey, you can make other seasonings with dried herbs, such as oregano/thyme/garlic powder; rosemary/lemon zest; or any other combination you like. Use about ½ teaspoon of salt in any of your combinations.
Note 2: If you want to eliminate added sodium altogether, leave out the salt. Its sole purpose is for flavor in this recipe, not preservation.
Note 3: Having a very sharp carving knife will help you achieve clean, thin slices. Watch my video on how to sharpen a knife using an inexpensive home sharpener here. I prefer to slice the turkey as I need it. It will stay last longer in the fridge this way.
Keywords: Homemade lunch meat, pepper turkey lunch meat, homemade deli meat, homemade pepper turkey