Turkey breast is the traditional meal for most Americans come Thanksgiving Day. But cooking it can be intimidating because it can dry out easily. The crockpot method alleviates all the stress because it allows the turkey to baste in its own juices while the crock pot while it does all the work.
Crockpot Turkey Breast
If I had any idea how easy it was to cook a turkey breast in the crockpot I seriously would have done this years ago. Can you just take another look at that meat?
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I started experimenting with alternative ways to cook a turkey. I’ve cooked it in the oven for over 20 years and it was time for something different.
I can tell you in all honesty that this recipe is very hard to mess up. The slow cooker traps moisture which created the moistest turkey I think I’ve ever made without having to brine it first.
Oven vs. Crockpot:
Ovens use air to transfer heat ~ you heat an element at the bottom of the oven, and the hot air rises up into the oven, cooking your food. This makes this top of the oven much hotter than the bottom.
Slow cookers use moisture in a unique way because they remain sealed during the cooking process. As the food cooks and lets off steam, the condensation collects inside the device and acts as a baster.
How To Slow Cook a Turkey:
- Turkey, as you know, is a very bland meat. It gets it flavor from the spices that are rubbed on it. We used dried garlic, onion, paprika, salt, pepper, thyme and a hint of nutmeg (a little secret ingredient there)
- We then placed the turkey on a bed of onions, garlic and rosemary. These aromatics are what give the gravy such great flavor and raise the turkey up allowing it to ‘braise’.
- We cooked it on ON LOW for about 4-5 hours. Each crockpot and the size of turkey will determine the cooking time.
- Once the turkey reached 160°F, we placed it in an oven safe dish and broiled it on the 3rd rack just to give it a little golden color. This will give a delicious crispy skin that just crunches when you cut into it!
But the best part of all, let’s be honest here, is the gravy! The juice that comes from the crockpot smells incredible.
Let’s make some gravy:
- Strain what’s left in the slow cooker into a glass measuring cup to measure out 2 cups of liquid. If it doesn’t reach 2 cups, no problem, just add broth until it does.
- Create a roux with equal parts butter and flour in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the flour to cook for a minute or two in order for that raw flour taste to dissipate.
- Pour in the drippings and whisk until combined. Taste and season if needed. I always add 1-2 Tablespoons of milk to make it a little thinner. This is optional.
Important Things to Note:
- The size of the turkey breast and the size of your crockpot matter – trust us on this one, we did not check first! Our turkey breast was 6.14 lbs and it B-A-R-E-L-Y fit in the crockpot. It ended up breast side down and the onions in the cavity (not what we had originally planned). This obviously made inserting a thermometer a little tricky.
- Check if the turkey has been brined. This is very important because most frozen turkeys will be brined which means a lot of salt has been added. This needs to be taken into consideration as less salt will be needed in the dry rub.
- The turkey must be completely THAWED and we mean COMPLETELY. Once the turkey is thawed out, place it on a wire rack on a baking sheet and place it back in the fridge UNCOVERED for at least one day. This allows the excess moisture to dissipate and gives a really nice crispy skin.
Reasons to cook your turkey in a crockpot:
- Making a turkey this way is perfect for families who don’t need a huge turkey and all the hassle and work that goes with it. A 5 lb. turkey feeds a family of 4 with leftovers or a family of 6.
- You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving for turkey!
- It frees up the oven so you can make these INCREDIBLE Roasted Garlic & Caramelized Onion Potatoes Gratin Dauphinoise or a healthier version of Sweet Potato Casserole to go along with it.
I really hope you give this recipe a try. It was a game changer for me. If you still want to cook your turkey the traditional way but are leery of stuffing it, then the slow cooker again comes to the rescue with our amazing Crockpot Stuffing Recipe!
And whatever you do, DO NOT THROW AWAY THE BONES! We have the most delicious recipe for turkey bone broth. You can freeze the broth and use it in soups, stews or just for sipping!Print
Simply put, cooking a small turkey breast in a crockpot does not get the recognition it deserves. Cooking it this way results in the moistest breast meat due to the crockpots unique ability to baste as it cooks. Once you try this, you’ll never go back to an oven!
- 4 – 5 lb. Turkey Breast (bone in, skin on)
- 2 Whole Cloves of Garlic
- 1 Onion, halved
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 ½ teaspoons EACH Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika
- ½ teaspoon EACH Sea salt*, Black pepper, Thyme
- ⅛ teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 Cups Liquid from Slow Cooker
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- ¼ Cup Flour
- 2–4 Tablespoons Milk
- Completely dry the turkey breast inside and out with paper towels. If time permits, place the turkey on a cooling rack on a baking sheet and place it in the fridge UNCOVERED for at least one day to continue drying out.
- Slater the rub all over the turkey (this may require some gloves).
- Place the onion halves and whole garlic in the slow cooker and place the turkey on top (be sure there is enough room in your slow cooker to get the lid on. If it doesn’t fit just place the vegetables on the side)
- Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. (Our 6 lb turkey took exactly 5 ½ hours)
- Remove the turkey and let it rest. If you want crispier skin, place the turkey in a roasting pan (or other oven safe dish) and broil until golden. Do NOT walk away, the skin is easy to burn. (Our turkey took 6 minutes on the 3rd shelf).
FOR THE GRAVY:
- Place a large strainer over a large 4 cup measuring glass or large bowl. Discard the bay leaf, onion and garlic. Carefully pick up the slow cooker and strain the juice into the bowl. You should get at least 2 cups of juice, if not add a little broth or water to reach that level.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook until the flour begins to smell a little nutty (2 minutes), whisking.
- Slowly pour the liquid into the flour mixture until it gets thick. Continue to add the liquid until all incorporated, whisking constantly. Take the gravy off the heat and add the milk – taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper if necessary. The gravy will thicken upon standing.
*NOTES: Be sure to check if the turkey comes BRINED, ours did, therefore the salt added to this recipe is very minimal. If your turkey has NOT been brined, a little more salt can be added.
For a CRISPY skin, place the turkey breast in the refrigerator breast side up UNCOVERED overnight to let the skin completely dry out.