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Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Turkey for when you don’t have a crowd OR the oven space.

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My family is not big on turkey so we never need a very big turkey for Thanksgiving. We are, however, big on the things that go with turkey, like stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce, so we still need a turkey of some sort… but the smaller the better as we always serve another main dish like a roast or Honey Baked Ham. Cooking a turkey breast is the perfect solution — it’s small enough to give us the turkey experience without having to deal with a whole bird. And do you know what else is the perfect solution on a day when oven space is at a premium? Cooking it in the crockpot. It may seem a little crazy, but it’s a set-it-and-forget-it method that turns out moist and juicy meat every time, I promise. So when you only need turkey for a few people, you don’t have the oven space for a 15-pounder, or you’re just not big on the bird, it’s the way to go.

I was so surprised at what great turkey meat this method made — succulent, and juicy, and full of flavor. There are pros and cons to this method, like there are to most things in life, but we’ll go through this as we go along.

To start, you want to create a kind of “shelf” in your slow cooker with some onions and garlic that you slice in half. This keeps the bird from sitting in the broth that you’re going to pour in the bottom of the slow cooker too (about a cup. Chicken or vegetable is fine.)

Next, you’re going to create a rub to season your turkey. You can use your favorite seasoning mix if you’d like but I find that a simple combo of garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper works beautifully here. You stir that into some olive oil before you rub it all over the turkey.

See, one con to turkey in the slow cooker is that the skin doesn’t have a chance to crisp up all golden and beautiful (I have a solution for that in a minute…) so the skin can come out looking a little sad. The paprika helps mitigate that a bit and adds some needed color. So even if you use a different seasoning mix, go ahead and add some paprika for color.

Coat your turkey, place it on your onion and garlic “shelf” and place some fresh rosemary and thyme around it. I’ve used a boneless breast here that was about three pounds but you could go a bit larger and bone-in, just plan on a longer cooking time. You want to start checking on it at three hours on high or seven hours on low.

You want to let temperature be your guide, not time, so get your thermometer out early and start checking at the above hour marks. Your turkey needs to reach 165°F, but if you’re planning to let this sit on warm for a while, turn the slow cooker off once you hit 160°F as this will definitely continue to cook if it sits in a hot slow cooker. That’s one con — this will dry out if you let it sit on warm once it comes to temp, but I guess you could say that with the oven method too. Just keep an eye on it and don’t let that temp get too high and moist, juicy turkey will be yours.

The only other con I see to this method is the skin situation and that is that it doesn’t get crisp and delicious like it does in the heat of the oven. But there’s a remedy for that! And that is to use your oven just a little bit. When the turkey is done cooking you can transfer it to a wire rack placed over a baking pan and broil it in the oven just long enough for the skin to crisp up. And it does, beautifully.

You can still make gravy with the drippings. You still get delicious, moist turkey. It’s just all a little more convenient and reasonably sized.

Yield(s): Serves 6

10m prep time

3h cook time

Rated 3.5 out of 5
Rated by 4 reviewers
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  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 3-4 lb boneless turkey breast
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half horizontally
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil and mix until combined.
  2. Rub seasoning paste all over the turkey breast.
  3. Rub seasoning paste all over the turkey breast.
  4. Place turkey breast on top of the garlic and onion (to try to keep it out of the liquid). Add thyme and rosemary to slow cooker.
  5. Cover and cook until turkey breast is cooked through and reads 165°F on a thermometer, 7-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.
  6. Use drippings to make gravy, if desired. Enjoy!
  7. Note: If you'd like to crisp the skin up, transfer turkey breast to a wire rack over a sheet pan and broil on low for 5-8 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Plain Chicken.