Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

It's turkey talk here, my friends, a column stuffed (!) full of useful turkey tips. Maybe you've been wondering why or how to cook a turkey breast in a slow cooker. Or how to make turkey gravy or turkey stock. Or what to do with those little sacks of giblets found inside turkeys. So many tips for cooking a Thanksgiving turkey!

Easy Enough for Every Day, Special Enough for Occasions. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast ♥ KitchenParade.com. Easy Enough for Every Day, Special Enough for Occasions. Great for Meal Prep. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

It's Not Too Early To Begin Planning for Thanksgiving

People are beginning to plan their Thanksgiving menus. I can tell: already people are poring over the collection of Thanksgiving Vegetable Recipes at A Veggie Venture, especially the World’s Best Green Bean Casserole, the traditional holiday casserole, except updated with fresh green beans and fresh mushrooms.

We Could Go Out ... or Order In.

The traditional Thanksgiving meal has many moving parts. It’s not hard to cook, it just takes planning and plotting. This morning I saw a supermarket ad, a full Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and rolls) for eight for $8 a plate. That’s a bargain, I understand its appeal.

Still, isn’t there a psychic pleasure in cooking special family meals ourselves? For the next few weeks, my aim is to offer up simple Thanksgiving recipes to give cooks new confidence to tackle the Thanksgiving meal.

First Up, the Thanksgiving Turkey.

It’s oh-so-easy to cook a turkey breast in a slow cooker. I’m newly in love with a programmable slow cooker, especially the "keep warm" setting that turns on automatically once the food is cooked.

But more than that – this is the real magic – the breast may be cooked and sliced the day before, then warmed in the microwave just before serving. It works for whole turkeys too, a trick I learned from my mother many years ago, and produces moist, flavorful turkey while avoiding all the kitchen mess just before serving. Neatniks will love this!

(And for anyone comparing how to cook a breast in the slow cooker vs cooking a whole turkey? I've got you covered! See How to Dry-Brine and Roast a Whole Turkey.)

Buy an Extra Turkey, an Extra Breast or Two.

Frugal shoppers know that for during November and December, turkey is dirt cheap. I like to buy an extra turkey breast or two or three.

Some times it's to have extra white meat for our Thanksgiving meal or after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches or turkey soup. Some times it's to have a breast on hand for an easy, healthy slow cooker supper during the holidays or the winter months. And there's nothing easier than cooking a turkey breast in the slow cooker, you're going to love this recipe!

When to Cook a Turkey Breast

  • For a hot meal for the end of a long day.
  • For a small Thanksgiving gathering.
  • A few weeks before Thanksgiving, perhaps This Year, Celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, just to make turkey stock for making turkey gravy on Thanksgiving itself.
  • A day or two before Thanksgiving, just to make sure there's enough turkey after Thanksgiving for sandwiches and casseroles. This is especially useful if you have a houseful for the holiday.
  • A day or two before Thanksgiving, just to have for leftovers. This is especially useful if you're not hosting your own Thanksgiving.
  • Whenever turkey breasts go on sale!



SLOW COOKER TURKEY BREAST

Hands-on time: 20 minutes to start, 10 minutes to finish
Time to table: 3 – 7 hours
Serves: Varies with breast size, allow 1/2 pound uncooked weight (including bone) per serving
  • 1 turkey breast, skin on, bone in, about 4 – 5 pounds, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade (I use No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock)

Remove the sack of giblets (see TIPS) from inside the turkey. Rinse the breast inside and out under running water. Pat it dry with paper towels.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high until shimmery. Add the breast, letting it cook on all sides for 2 – 3 minutes a side until golden. Transfer the breast to the slow cooker, breast side down if possible, on its side if needed.

In the same skillet, add the onion, celery and garlic and cook until just golden, stirring often. Stir in the thyme and pepper. Stir in the chicken stock. Pour this liquid over top of the breast.

Cover and cook on Low for about 6 hours or on High for about 3 hours, until a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the breast registers 165F/75C.

Transfer to a platter, cover the breast with foil while making the Turkey Gravy. (Not making gravy? Let the turkey rest for 20 - 30 minutes before slicing.) Slice and serve.

After serving, "pick the turkey" by cutting or tearing off as much meat as possible. Save the meat for leftover-turkey sandwiches. Use the carcass to make Turkey Stock.

ALANNA's TIPS
  • TURKEY BREAST Before starting, make sure that the turkey breast will fit inside your slow cooker, preferably without touching the lid. If it doesn’t, cut the "breast" (which is actually both breasts) in half and cook them one at a time. For a rough guideline, a six-pound breast barely fits into a six-quart slow cooker.
  • THYME Measure the thyme leaves into your hand, then rub between your fingers over the skillet to release the oils.
  • MEAT SAFETY If needed, brush up on how to safely handle meat. For example, here, be sure to thoroughly clean your sink after rinsing the turkey. (And! put any cleaning tools into the dishwasher and any cleaning cloth into the laundry!) This is to prevent contaminating the sink with organisms lurking in the raw meat juices. In fact, the current guidance is to not rinse the turkey at all (so not to risk cross-contaminating the sink) but so far my brain resists this. But I do carefully clean my sink!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per 3 ounces cooked breast meat: 133 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 58mg Cholesterol; 54mg Sodium; 0g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 25g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 0 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 2.25oz (19g protein).
Adapted from The Healthy Slow Cooker: More Than 100 Recipes for Health and Wellness by Judith Finlayson I independently select cookbooks and other products here on Kitchen Parade — if you buy something after clicking a link, I may earn a small commission, no extra cost to you. This notice is required by U.S. law and good manners. My Disclosure Promise



HOW TO COOK TURKEY GIBLETS

Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Serves: Varies

FIRST, WHAT ARE GIBLETS? Giblets are the turkey’s heart, liver and gizzard.

WHERE DO YOU FIND THE GIBLETS? ARE GIBLETS IN THOSE LITTLE BAGS INSIDE A TURKEY? Yes! In a whole turkey, you'll find the giblets in a small paper bag inside either the neck end or the, ummmm, "other" end. Be sure to check both ends for a little bag, one will hold the turkey neck. A turkey breast package may or may not include giblets.

HOW TO COOK THE GIBLETS & NECK To cook the giblets (except the liver) and the neck, cover all but the liver with a water and simmer gently for 30 minutes for a thick, flavorful stock that adds wonderful flavor to turkey gravy. If you like, chop up the cooked giblets and put them into the turkey stuffing.

HOW TO COOK THE TURKEY LIVER Since there's just one small liver, cook it in a little butter until just barely cooked and eat it right out of the skillet. Cook's treat!



TURKEY GRAVY

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes about 4 cups
  • Hot liquid from slow cooker (or 4 cups No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock or 4 cups chicken broth)
  • Liquid from cooking the giblets, optional
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Transfer the liquid from the slow cooker (if you like, add the stock from cooking the turkey giblets too) to a large pot and bring to a boil on medium high. Stir together the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. A tablespoon at a time at first, add about two cups of the liquid to the bowl, stirring to incorporate each addition before adding another. Slowly whisk the broth-flour mixture into the pot. Return the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer until the desired thickness is reached.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Half Cup: 56 Calories; 1g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 3mg Cholesterol; 171mg Sodium; 7g Carb; 0g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 4 & SmartPoints 2 & Freestyle 2



HOW TO MAKE TURKEY STOCK

Even when the turkey meat is gone, the carcass will yield wonderful stock for using in soups, stocks, sauces and more. If you don’t have time to make stock right away, throw the carcass into the freezer for a day or two. Otherwise, put the carcass, a rib or two of celery, a carrot or two and some onion wedges onto a baking sheet and put under the broiler – yes, the broiler. It will take about 10 minutes for the carcass and vegetables to brown. Don’t be afraid of a little burn, either, it really adds flavor.

Transfer the carcass and vegetables to a stock pot (or even back into the slow cooker on high) and cover with water. Add a bay leaf and about five peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer for about an hour. For the first 30 minutes, skim off and discard the gunk that accumulates on top.

Turn off the heat, let cool, then strain through a colander and discard the solids. For extra-clear stock, strain through cheesecloth one or more times.

I like to freeze the stock, How to Freeze Stock in Canning Jars.

But if you prefer, use freezer bags – and do be sure to use actual freezer bags, not just plain ziplock bags; the double-line bags work better than the zipper bags.

Two cups at a time, pour the stock into quart freezer bags, it helps to "stand" the bag up in a bowl, turn the tops over to the outside, then fill the bags through a funnel. Then seal tightly, making sure the zip up tight! Label and place carefully flat in the freezer; once the bags are frozen, you can store them upright.

For more tips about making turkey stock, see my cooking lesson for Homemade Chicken Stock, it's filled with tips and techniques. But really, making homemade stock needn't be a big production, I think of it as No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock.


More Thanksgiving Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

How to Dry Brine & Roast a Whole Turkey Sausage Stuffing Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Party Potatoes) ♥ KitchenParade.com
Squash Puff Bodacious Brussels Sprouts Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple
Cranberry Chutney Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce for the Slow Cooker Cranberry Orange Relish with Fresh Ginger
American Apple Pie Apple-Butter Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Pecan Pie
~ more Thanksgiving recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ more Thanksgiving Vegetable Recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ turkey ~
~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~



This Recipe Has Moved


How to Cook a Turkey the Day Before
please see

~ How to Dry-Brine and Roast a Whole Turkey ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2008, 2014, 2015 & 2019

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this recipe. Can I substitute turkey thighs without making changes to the recipe?

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  2. I haven't tested with turkey thighs, Julie, so don't know. If you try it, will you let me know, please? That would be a great variation!

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  3. I never know what to do with my crockpot, all the recipes I have call for a can or two of mushroom soup. This looks great, I think I'll try it over the weekend.

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  4. Ali ~ Excellent, let me know how it goes. Be sure to get your turkey breast today, it'll need a couple of days to thaw out in the refrigerator.

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  5. Thanks for the ideas! I clicked through the cranberry chutney and that looks great. Cranberry sauce is far and away one of the highlights of Thanksgiving dinner

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  6. Anonymous11/22/2008

    Can I cook a 9# turkey in my 6 qt. slow cooker? I would like to cook it overnight due to meal time frame. Any precautions I should take?

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  7. Anonymous11/23/2008

    Looks great and a perfect timesaver not just for Thanksgiving!
    Is the turkey breast the frozen ButterBall or Jennie-O type?

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  8. I'm making some variation of this today, sounds great!

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  9. Anonymous ~ I've only tested this recipe with a turkey breast, not a whole turkey. I'm always amazed what can be cooked in a slow cooker so you may well find other resources online that tell you how to cook a whole turkey.

    Anonymous ~ The turkey breasts I've done in the slow cooker were non-name brand, just frozen turkey breasts.

    Kalyn ~ Let me know how it goes!

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  10. You can spoon a little dressing into the curve of the turkey breast after you've put it in the crock pot, then mix it later with the rest of your dressing. Really adds flavor to your dressing.

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  11. Anonymous11/24/2008

    I'm a little confused about the last statement under the make a day ahead recipe. You state "Remove the plastic wrap just before heating, so the meat stays hot."

    Do you mean reheat in micro without being covered or covered while reheating and keeping the cover off? Doesn't make sense to me. Sorry for not understanding.

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  12. Good catch, anonymous. What I mean is "Leave the plastic wrap on until just before serving, so the meat stays hot." Better?!

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  13. How long would I cook this with a split, bone-in turkey breast that's a little over 2 lbs? I'm only cooking for two and would love to try this! Hope I'm not too late in asking!

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  14. Hi Kami, My guess is that you'd cook it for about 3 hours. But the good news is, cook it until you reach the internal temperature of 165F, then just 'hold'. It's getting it to temperature that counts the most. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  15. I also made your turkey gravy which was THE BEST!!!!!! I've almost had to go to therapy to reconcile my Thanksgiving and Christmas "gravy issues" with my 84-year-old southern mother.

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  16. It's been 2 months since Thanksgiving and all of the sudden I'm craving turkey.

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  17. Anonymous12/03/2015

    I'm going to be using this to make turkey stock. In that section you wrote "Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer for about an hour. For the 30 minutes, skim off and discard the gunk that accumulates on top." and I don't understand what you meant by "For the 30 minutes,". Please clarify.

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  18. Anonymous ~ Good catch! It should read, “For the FIRST 30 minutes ... “ Thanks so much for letting me know, off to fix this!

    ReplyDelete

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna