Without a doubt, this is the easiest, safest and tastiest way to cook turkey breast without brining. This Slow Cooker Turkey Breast is moist and juicy, takes 3 minutes to prepare, then just leave it to cook in your slow cooker (crock pot). Then use the juices to make a killer gravy!
Turkey breast is notoriously lean so the only way to guarantee it comes out juicy if you roast it in the oven is to brine it – dry or wet brine. If you don’t brine it, then even if you use a meat thermometer, it is extremely difficult to roast the turkey breast perfectly.
I created this Slow Cooker Turkey Breast after trying a handful of recipes for turkey breast and being disappointed by the bland looking skin, 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 – without fussing with brining. And my friends agreed!
HOW TO MAKE SLOW COOKER TURKEY BREAST
TIPS FOR COOKING TURKEY BREAST
- Type of turkey breast – bone in or boneless turkey breast is fine. Skin on is recommended because the fat under the skin melts while the turkey is cooking and it bastes the turkey (helps with flavour and moisture). Also skin is required to get that lovely browned seasoned crust you see in the photos.
- Single or double breast? Either is fine. These photos show a single turkey breast. See here for what a double turkey breast looks like (on the bone, also called a turkey buffe or turkey crown)
- What size? Turkey breast differ drastically in size – they can range from 1.5/3lb to over 5kg/10lb! The beauty of this recipe is that it will work for any turkey breast size – as long as it fits in your slow cooker! Note the different cook times in the recipe.
- A great rub goes a long way with turkey breast! It not only adds flavour, it seasons the broth and it gives the turkey breast great colour!
- How long to cook turkey breast in the slow cooker – A 2 kg / 4 lb turkey breast will take about 6 hours on LOW in a slow cooker. See recipe notes for cook times for other sizes.
- How to tell when turkey breast is done – When the internal temperature is 165F / 75C. That’s optimum perfectly-cooked juiciness, allowing for a slight temperature increase while the turkey rests.
- Elevate the turkey breast with a halved garlic and onion to ensure even cooking because otherwise the breast will be half submerged and poaching in liquid (you will be amazed how much liquid the breast leeches while cooking)
- Crisp the skin under the broiler. The extra flavour you get is worth it – and it only takes a few minutes
- Use slow cooker juices for GRAVY – the turkey juices are loaded with flavour and are the best broth ever to make an absolute killer gravy!
- Slow Cooking is FORGIVING! Because of the low temperature, there’s far less risk of drying out the turkey from overcooking. So even if the turkey is in the slow cooker for 1 or 2 hours longer than necessary, it will still be lovely. Plus – speaking really frankly – that gravy can save anything. ANYTHING!
Prefer ROASTED turkey breast? Use this Garlic Herb Butter Roasted Turkey Breast.
Turkey is more often than not a centrepieces for holiday feasting in many households around the world. So I know it can be nerve racking, trying a new recipe.
But you can have Confidence in this Slow Cooker Turkey Breast recipe. It’s been viewed over 2 million times since I first published, there’s hundreds of fantastic reviews, it’s a simple recipe and there’s a recipe video below to guide you through it step by step.
And in all honesty – worst case? Your turkey goes a bit over and it’s not as juicy as you hoped. Of course, I’m doing everything in my power to help avoid this – including sending over virtual positive vibes.😂
But if it does – don’t fret! That Turkey Gravy is so insanely good, it will totally make up for it! – Nagi x
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
SLOW COOKER: Many people have said that my slow cooker looks like a pressure cooker. They are actually correct, it is a slow cooker and pressure cooker in one (but no, it is not an Instant Pot). It is called a Breville Fast-Slow Cooker (it’s an Australian product). I use the slow cooker function for this recipe.
I've tried a handful of other methods over the years. This has produced the juiciest turkey breast by far, without brining the breast in advance. Plus slow cooking generally is very forgiving so you don't need to be spot on with the cooking time. SCALE RECIPE by moving slider on Servings to adjust for different turkey weights. More turkey recipes below recipe. 2017 Easy Thanksgiving Menus here and all Thanksgiving recipe here. RECIPE VIDEO above.
- 2 kg / 4 lb turkey breast, skin on, bone in or boneless (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
- 5 sprigs of thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves)
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 grinds of black pepper
- 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp olive oil
- Chicken stock/broth (or water), for topping up liquid (see Gravy step 1)
- 4 tbsp / 50g butter
- 1/4 cup / 35g flour
- Salt and pepper
Place Rub ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine, it should be a wet paste.
Pat the turkey dry all over with paper towels. Slather with the Rub, using most for the side and top.
Place the garlic, onion and thyme face down in the slow cooker. Place the turkey breast on top so it is elevated.
Slow Cook on LOW for 6 hours (do not use high) or until internal temperature reads 165F/75C when thermometer is inserted into the middle. Check internal temperature at 5 hours if you can. (To roast, follow this recipe).
Remove turkey from the slow cooker (do not leave in slow cooker on Warm setting) 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.
Strain the liquid into a measuring jug, squishing the garlic etc to extract all the flavour. If you are short of 2 cups, top up with chicken broth (I usually get 2 cups of liquid from a 4 lb / 2 kg turkey breast).
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and mix to combine. Pour about 1/2 cup of liquid into the flour mixture and mix until it forms a paste. Slowly add remaining liquid, stirring as your go. Use a whisk if required to make the gravy smooth. Simmer until thickened - take it off before it is as thick as you want because it will continue to thicken.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with turkey.
1. Turkey breast can come in all sorts of sizes and cuts. A single boneless breast can be as small as 1 kg / 2 lb. A double bone in breast (also known as turkey "buffe" or "crown") can be as large as 6 kg / 12 lb. In Australia, turkey breast can also come with the leg still attached, which is what I have used in the past so you may see some photos floating around on my site with a drumstick attached to the breast. 🙂
This can be made with any cut of turkey breast - but it needs to have skin if you want the nice colour you see in the photos.
BRINED TURKEY: If you buy a frozen turkey breast from the supermarket that comes in a box, check to see if the the breast is already brined (i.e. marinated in salty water to make it more moist once cooked). Check the label / ask the butcher - if the ingredients include salt, your turkey is brined. Here in Australia, generally anything that is sold in boxes / vac packed in the frozen section of supermarkets (e.g. Steggles), it is brined.
If it has been brined, no problems, just cut the salt in half. But if it's been preseason with another sort of rub, I'd suggest either scraping the rub off before adding my rub.
2. Because turkey is so lean, it is far better made as close as possible to serving time. But if you need 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: Ready when the internal temp is 165F/75C. 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! DO NOT try to save time by using HIGH!
Bone in skin on turkey breast (I used this), start checking internal temp at the short cook time provided:
1 kg / 2 lb: 5 hours on low
2 - 3 kg / 4 - 6 lb: 6 hours on low
4 kg / 8 lb: 7 hours on low (see 8 June '17 report from reader Tony)
5 kg / 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!
5. SLOW COOKER: Some people have questioned the slow cooker I am using, saying it looks like a press cooker. I am using a slow cooker called a "Breville Slow Fast Cooker" which is a slow cooker AND pressure cooker in one. This recipe is cooked using the slow cooker function. This recipe is not suited to a pressure cooker.
6. Nutrition per serving, including gravy.
MORE TURKEY RECIPES
GARLIC HERB BUTTER ROAST TURKEY BREAST
The garlicky, herb butter smeared under the skin takes this turkey to over-the-top-deliciousness! No brining. Recipe here.
One Pan Cajun Turkey and Sausage Stuffing / Dressing
An irresistible Cajun seasoning rubbed on turkey breast then roasted WITH the dressing around it. No bringing required. Recipe here.
Genius Dry Brined Turkey
Hands down, the easiest and smartest way to brine a whole turkey for juicy roasted turkey. And you can brine even while it’s still frozen! Recipe here.
🦃See all Thanksgiving recipes 🦃
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LIFE OF DOZER
This is what a food coma looks like.