Slow Cooker Roast Turkey Breast

 Posted by on April 12, 2013  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Apr 122013

In my 5 years of writing this blog (5 years!), I’ve mentioned my $2/pound rule for meat purchases several times. What this means is that I don’t purchase any protein that costs more than $2 per pound, with the exception of beef. It’s become very difficult, though not impossible, to buy most cuts of beef at such a low price, and because we love it, we keep costs down by purchasing a quarter of beef from a local farmer each fall. The cost per pound, on average, is around $4, but this includes both economical ground beef and stew meat, and expensive cuts like rib-eye, sirloin, and New York strip steaks, and the meat is SO much better than anything you can buy at the store. I’m very spoiled now.

In recent years, some readers have questioned whether I can still buy any meats for less than $2/pound, and the answer is a resounding YES! We don’t even eat pork, which is generally the least expensive meat, but we still have no trouble finding affordable, quality sources of protein. I still routinely purchase large quantities (20-25 pounds) of bone-in, split chicken breasts for 99 cents/pound when they go on sale, usually every 3 months or so. I also regularly purchase whole turkey breasts when they go on sale for $1.69/pound or less (I have 3 in my freezer right now).

In my post, Turkey – It’s Not Just for Thanksgiving Anymore, I discussed our tendency in the U.S. to relegate economical and delicious roast turkey to Thanksgiving only, which is weird because turkey is one of the most popular proteins eaten here (but mainly in the form of lunch meat). I’ve noticed that most women’s magazines, when offering recipes and menu plans, don’t often include turkey recipes, probably because turkeys are very large, and people don’t always know what to do with the leftovers. Also, cooking them in the traditional way is somewhat labor-intensive, so while pork, beef, and chicken recipes are quite common, most people just don’t think to roast a turkey for a regular weeknight meal. With this post, I’m hoping to offer a new way of thinking about roast turkey – it’s not just a Thanksgiving meal, it can be an anytime meal. If you’re a carnivore, you’ll enjoy making it a regular part of your diet because it’s a lean, healthy source of protein, and a year-round bargain. If you cook the breast only, as I do, it’s quite easy to prepare using a kitchen appliance that most of us have – a slow cooker. Slow cooking produces the moistest, juiciest, most flavorful turkey breast meat you’ll ever eat (it does NOT, however, produce crispy skin, but we don’t care about this because the skin is unhealthy, and we don’t eat it).

This is the brand of turkey breast I usually purchase,

Whole turkeys are even cheaper, but we don’t like dark meat, and also they won’t fit in the slow cooker!

and here’s what you’ll need to make a delicious roast turkey breast in your slow cooker:

An 8-9 pound whole, bone-in turkey breast (fresh or completely thawed)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Coarse salt (I prefer kosher)
Black pepper
Herbs and seasonings of your choice (I use my roast chicken seasoning)
One large onion, cut into chunks
2 cups chicken broth (or 2 bouillon cubes, plus 2 cups hot water)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Most turkey breasts are fairly big – between 7 and 10 pounds is typical – and you need a large slow cooker to accommodate one. I have a 6-quart, oval-shaped slow cooker, and it can handle most turkey breasts, but this particular one was too tall for me to get the lid on, so I cut it in half by running my sharpest kitchen knife along one side of the breast bone, beginning at the tail end. This takes some muscle, and if you aren’t interested in attempting it, be sure to measure your slow cooker before you head to the store, or buy the smallest turkey breast you can find and hope for the best.

Even if you don’t plan to eat the skin, don’t discard it! Simply use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to loosen it from the meat. Pull it back, but don’t detach it completely, because it will help keep the meat moist during the cooking process. Brush the breast with melted butter,

and sprinkle it generously with roast chicken seasoning (or whichever seasoning you prefer), plus salt and pepper to taste.

Pull the skin over the seasoned meat, and place onion chunks in the cavity of the breast. Put the turkey in the slow cooker, and if you have leftover melted butter, just pour it over the top. It will make your gravy taste really good!

Next, mix together the chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce. I make my own chicken broth whenever I cook a whole chicken, but if I don’t have any on hand I use this delicious chicken broth powder, which I buy from an Amish bulk grocery store. I teaspoon, plus one cup of hot water makes very flavorful broth, and the powder keeps for a long time in the fridge. If you can’t find this, you can also use chicken bouillon, but it’s just not quite the same.

Pour broth mixture over turkey,

then cover and set the slow cooker for 6 hours on low.  This is just a guideline – always, ALWAYS test the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast with an instant-read meat thermometer before serving. It should be at least 170 degrees to kill harmful bacteria.

When the turkey is done, I put it on a platter and cover it with foil to keep warm while I make the gravy. I strain all the liquid left in the slow cooker through a fine sieve, and then pour it into my fat separator. There’s nothing worse than oily gravy, and the fat separator allows me to strain off the meat juices, leaving the majority of the fat behind.

The meat juices are in the Pyrex cup, and all the fat is left behind in the separator. This makes a rich, creamy gravy that isn’t greasy.

I like to serve the turkey and gravy with “company rice” (brown rice browned in butter with minced onion, then cooked in chicken broth), and green beans sauteed with dried cranberries and chopped almonds.

After dinner, be sure to remove all the little bits of meat from the bones, for future meals. We usually get at least 3-4 meals from one turkey breast.

So much meat left!

When I’ve removed as much meat as I can, I put all the bones back in the slow cooker, along with celery, onions, and carrots to make stock for turkey rice (or noodle) soup the next night (see this post for details about how I make slow cooker stock). For lunch the next day my husband and I will have turkey reubens, and I’ll also make turkey pot pie. If there’s still meat left over it will be diced and frozen in meal-sized portions. It thaws quickly, and is a lifesaver on those days when I’m exceptionally tired, or forget to take something out of the freezer to thaw for supper.

If you give slow cooker turkey a try, I hope you’ll let me know what you think!