I’ve tried a handful of recipes for turkey breast and have always been disappointed by the dry meat and mediocre gravy. So I tossed out everything I’d read and decided to come up with my own version using a slow cooker. This is by far the juiciest turkey breast I’ve ever had. And my friends agreed!
*** This recipe is part of a Christmas Special where I show you how to make 3 mains and 4 side dishes that take 1.5 hrs to prepare and can be largely made ahead. So this Christmas, you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family! ***
A whole roasted turkey looks fabulous as a centrepiece for any festive gathering. But the reality is that I only have one ordinary size oven and I have to prioritise and use it for things that can only be made in the oven. In my case, I reserved it for Easy Maple Sticky Glazed Ham and Festive Duck with Apple Cider Drizzle, neither of which can be made in a slow cooker.
Also, when you already have a 4.5kg (9 lb) ham and a 2.5kg (5 lb) duck and are only feeding 15 people, a whole turkey would be serious overload! So this year I opted to go with a turkey breast for a Christmas Party I was having with friends.
“Turkey breast is really tricky to cook as it goes from raw to overcooked in a flash.”
Turkey breast is really tricky to cook. I’ve tried other recipes in the past that swore that by using a particular “secret” step, the roasted breast would come out super juicy. I also tried another recipe by a celebrity chef which involved simply poaching the turkey breast. That works perfectly every time without fail – if you have a thermometer. Otherwise, it’s really difficult to get the timing exactly right. Also, the gravy is made just using the poaching liquid so it’s really pale which I find rather unappetising. (I really hope I haven’t given away who this particular chef is because I don’t want to offend anyone!!).
So decided to do away with all those recipes and make up my own method using a slow cooker. And if my friends’ feedback is anything to go by, it worked. The turkey breast came out as juicy as turkey breast can be. Slow cooking is superbly forgiving, so if your cooking time is out by and hour or two, you still won’t end up with turkey that tastes like cardboard.
In addition to the juiciness of the turkey breast, the skin crisps up beautifully just by popping it under the grill/broiler for a few minutes AND the intense flavour of the juices that pool in the slow cooker make a fabulous gravy.
I took this turkey to a Christmas party lunch. I slow cooked it overnight and in the morning I made the gravy. When I arrived at the party, I popped the turkey in the microwave for a few minutes to reheat it, then placed it under the grill/broiler to crisp up the skin (again).
I am promising myself that next year I will get more organised so I have time to make a turkey roulade. I’m going to be using this recipe – Roasted Turkey Roulade with Pork Sausage Apple Stuffing by Hapa Nom Nom. If you have the time to make a roulade, consider making it! The stuffing in this roulade is the recipe I used for my Pork Apple Stuffing in Pancetta Cups which was definitely the hit of the party!
Happy SLOW cooking! – Nagi
PS If you’re making this turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I think you NEED to add my Cheese and Garlic Crack Bread to your menu….aptly named because it’s like garlic bread, on crack!
Easy, Stress Free Seven Course Thanksgiving or Christmas Menu (1.5 hr prep)
You can read about this menu here, including a step by step of the order in which I prepared, baked, reheated and plated up each dish. I made all these dishes (with the exception of the cabbage salad) for a Christmas Party with my friends and these are photos of the actual dishes that I took to the party. I’m sharing this in the hope that it might inspire your Christmas menu!
- Easy Maple Sticky Glazed Ham (15 min prep, 1 – 1 1/2 hrs inactive baking, can be made ahead)
- Juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast (5 min prep, then set and forget, reheats well but best slow cooked overnight on the night before serving)
- Festive Duck with Apple Cider Drizzle (5 min prep, 1 1/2 hr inactive baking, reheats very well)
- Pork Apple Stuffing in Pancetta Cups (20 min prep and worth every second. Reheats extremely well)
- Julia Child’s Potato Dauphinoise Gratin (15 min prep, 45 min baking, reheats very well)
- Red, Green and White Christmas Salad (10 minutes prep)
- Warm Red Cabbage and Spinach with Garlic Herb Butter (10 minutes prep)
- 2 kg / 4 lb turkey breast bone in (if using frozen, thaw it) (Note 1)
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- 1 onion (brown, yellow or white), unpeeled, cut in half
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 5 sprigs of thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves)
- 1½ tsp garlic powder
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 grinds of black pepper
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 - 2 cups chicken stock/broth (or water)
- ¼ cup flour
- Salt and pepper
- Place Rub ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine.
- Pat the turkey dry all over with paper towels. Slather with the Rub, using most for the side and top.
- Place the garlic, onion, thyme and 1 half lemon face down in the slow cooker. Place the turkey breast on top so it is elevated.
- Squeeze over the remaining ½ lemon and then push it down the side.
- Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
- Remove turkey from the slow cooker and let it rest for 20 minutes before crisping the skin.
- Preheat gril/broiler to high.
- Place an oven shelf 30cm / 1 foot from the heat source.
- Remove turkey breast from the slow cooker into a heatproof serving dish.
- Place on the oven shelf and broil for 3 to 5 minutes until the skin is crispy. Keep an eye on it - it browns very quickly!
- Serve immediately with gravy on the side.
- There should be quite alot of liquid and fat in the slow cooker (see photo of turkey in the slow cooker).
- Scoop off ¼ cup fat from the surface and place into a medium saucepan.
- Scoop off as much of the remaining fat as you can and place into a separate bowl - reserve for another use (or keep as a back up or discard).
- Then pour the remaining liquid from the slow cooker (and the onions etc) through a sieve into a large bowl. Use a potato masher or spoon to mush the onions etc to extract as much flavour out of them as possible. I usually even get my hands in there to mush it up.
- Heat the fat in the saucepan over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until combined. Stir for 2 minutes until the mixture browns slightly (this is how you give the gravy some colour, otherwise it is a pale golden colour).
- Lower the heat to medium low and add 2 cups of the juice you strained in the previous step and use a whisk to combine. As it simmers, it will thicken - this will happen quickly. Add the chicken stock/broth (or water) to get the consistency to your liking.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove the saucepan from the stove. If your gravy has lumps in it, strain before serving.
I live in Sydney, Australia. I got this large (not brined) turkey breast from the butcher. However, I've also made this using Ingham's frozen turkey breast from Woolworths. Ingham's and other packaged frozen turkey sold at supermarkets in Australia are typically brined. This means they have been infused with salted water, which makes them even juicier. The same cook times apply for brined frozen turkey - but defrost it first before cooking. (See note below for cook times for different weights).
2. To make ahead, slow cook the turkey but do not brown the skin. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight, then bring to room temperature. Cover with cling wrap and microwave for 3 minutes on LOW (if high, you run the risk of drying out the edges of the turkey), then grill/broil per instructions to brown and crisp the skin. The gravy can also be made ahead then reheated in a saucepan or in the microwave.
3. COOK TIMES: Slow cookers are very forgiving so don't stress too much about cooking time, an hour or 2 over and it will still be moist. The worst that might happen is that the meat falls apart a bit when you lift it out of the slow cooker, but still juicy!
Bone in skin on turkey breast (I used this):
1 kg / 2 lb: 5 hours on low
2 - 3 kg / 4 - 6 lb: 6 - 7 hours on low
4 - 5 kg / 8 - 10 lb: 8 - 9 hours on low
4. No water is required for this, the turkey steams in its own juices. It won't dry out or burn but it is important to elevate the breast off the bottom with the onion and garlic!
Nutrition assumes the turkey breast serves 12 people as part of a multi course meal and it includes the gravy.