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!
I know 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, this year 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.
This recipe starts with a tasty rub for the turkey. It can be made using a boneless single breast – which is what I have done here – or a bone in breast, either single OR both breasts (which we call a “turkey buffe” here in Australia).
Turkeys differ drastically in size – they can range from 3kg / 6lb to over 10kg / 20lb here in Australia. The beauty of this recipe is that it will work for any turkey breast size – as long as it fits in your slow cooker!
I place a halved garlic bulb and onion in the base of the slow cooker to elevate the turkey so the bottom half isn’t poaching in it’s own liquid AND they flavour the turkey juices which is then used to make the gravy. Double duty!
When it comes out of the slow cooker, you will be shocked how much liquid is in the slow cooker – all from the turkey. The best gravies in the world are made with a homemade stock, and that’s how this gravy is made – using those juices. It’s INCREDIBLE!
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 using the juices released by the turkey.
I took this Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 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).
Each year, I share Thanksgiving and Christmas Menus where I provide menu suggestions, a guide for how to choose your Thanksgiving menu and a selection of my Thanksgiving-worthy recipes, along with quick-decision indicators that tells if you they reheat well, difficulty, if they need to be planned ahead (e.g. brining). This Slow Cooker Turkey Breast is the star of my 2017 Super Easy Thanksgiving Dinner Menu! Pop over to my Easy Thanksgiving Menus post to read the full menu along with how to get organised for it!
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 6-7 hours (do not use HIGH, will dry out, do not use pressure cooker, my slow cooker looks like a pressure cooker because it also has that function but not it's not an Instant. To roast, follow this recipe).
I check at 6 hours with a meat thermometer - it's ready when it reads 165F/75C when inserted into the middle, mine is usually done at 6 hrs for a single breast, but don't stress, even 7 hours is fine (video was 7 hours).
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 - 7 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. OPTIONAL lemon addition: Sometimes, I like to make this with a touch of lemon. To do this, use 1 small lemon. Cut it in half then place half on the base of the slow cooker and squeeze the lemon of the other half over the turkey once it is in the slow cooker. Cook per recipe. Discard the lemon before making the gravy.
6. 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.
7. More ways with turkey:
- Garlic Herb Butter Roast Turkey Breast: Smearing butter under the skin takes this over the top!
- Dry Brined Whole Turkey: the most practical way to brine a whole turkey AND you can do it while it's still defrosting
- One Pan Cajun Roast Turkey Breast and Dressing: Epic reader recipe from last year! Cajun rubbed turkey baked in the same pan as a fabulous sausage dressing (stuffing).
8. Nutrition per serving, including gravy.
Thanksgiving Menus! A super simple Thanksgiving menu, my Perfect Thanksgiving Menu and a guide for choosing your Thanksgiving menu, along with links and descriptions and preparation indicators for all my Thanksgiving-worthy recipes! Find my Thanksgiving Menus here.
MORE WAYS WITH TURKEY
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.
LIFE OF DOZER
This is what a food coma looks like.