Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to Cook a Turkey Breast in the Crockpot and Lower-Carb Turkey Gravy

Crockpot Turkey Breast
If you have  a small crowd for Thanksgiving, cooking a turkey breast in the crockpot is a great option.

Even though I'm posting this when everyone's thinking about Thanksgiving Recipes, truly this is a recipe that's easy enough for any time of year. I'm not sure why I never made a turkey breast in the crockpot before, but after Dianne did it, Alanna did it, and Stephanie did it, I just had to try it too. Completely delicious results with moist and flavorful turkey, and it gave me a chance to experiment with making gluten-free and South Beach Diet friendly turkey gravy using arrowroot starch, which was also a winner. If you don't manage to plan ahead and end up having to get a turkey at the last minute when there's no time to thaw (you know who you are!) this could also be a good option for Thanksgiving Day. In fact, if you cook your turkey using this method, there are enough crockpot Thanksgiving recipes to make the entire Thanksgiving dinner in the crockpot this year. (Okay, not the rolls, but still it's something to think about!)

I used a full turkey breast, about 5 pounds with bones and skin. I trimmed some of the extra skin, and then rubbed it on all sides and inside with dried thyme and sage. (I pulled out the pop-up timer, since I was going to use a meat thermometer.)

Then I browned the breast well on both sides and the top. Let it brown about 5 minutes per side, because no browning will happen in the crockpot.

Put the browned turkey breast in the crockpot with some pieces of carrot, celery, and onion. These vegetables will be discarded, but they add a lot of flavor to the liquid which will be used to make gravy. Pour over 2 cups chicken or turkey stock. (I used water with a generous tablespoon of Penzeys Turkey Soup Base.)

I cooked my turkey on high for 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is when the meat thermometer said 165F. When the turkey was done, there was a lot of delicious-looking broth in the bottom of the crock.

I used a fine-mesh skimmer to scoop out the vegetables and skim the broth, but you could use a fine strainer too. Then this broth was cooked down a bit and turned into the most delicious turkey gravy ever.

Crockpot Turkey Breast with Gluten-Free and South Beach Diet Friendly Gravy
(Makes about 4.5 pounds of cooked turkey and 2 cups gravy, about 6 servings. Recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from Dianne, Alanna, and Stephanie.)

1 (5 pound) turkey breast with skin and bones (thawed for a day in refrigerator, if frozen)
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage (rubbed sage)
1 large carrot, cut into pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
2 cups chicken or turkey stock or 2 cups water with 1 T Penzeys Turkey Soup Base
about 4 tsp. arrowroot starch for gravy (or can use cornstarch, but arrowroot is low in carbs and thickens with much less starch)

I used a 4.5 quart crockpot for this recipe.

Trim extra skin and fat from turkey breast, leaving the parts of skin that are directly covering the meat. If you have a meat thermometer, pull out the pop-up timer if desired. Rub breast all over and inside with thyme and sage. Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan, then brown turkey breast on both sides and top, about 5 minutes each side.

Put browned turkey breast in crockpot, then add carrots, onions, and celery. Pour turkey or chicken stock over. Cook on high until temperature in the thickest part of the meat reaches 165F; this was 2 hours and 45 minutes for me. (You can also cook on low for a longer time, probably about 5-6 hours. The temperature still needs to be 165F.)

Remove turkey breast and let rest while you make gravy. Use a fine-mesh skimmer to scoop out vegetables and skim the broth, or strain through fine strainer into small saucepan. You should have close to 2 1/2 cups broth. Bring to a boil and reduce by about 1/4, or until there is a strong turkey flavor. (I just kept tasting it as it cooked down, and stopped when it tasted good to me.)

Reduce heat so the liquid is barely at a simmer. Mix arrowroot starch with 2 T cold water, then stir gently into the simmering liquid and stop stirring once it's combined. Don't over whisk or continue to cook once it's thickened, or the gravy won't stay thick. Gravy can also be thickened with cornstarch mixed with water if you don't have arrowroot, but it will take about 1 T cornstarch per cup of liquid to get the same amount of thickness.

Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
Arrowroot starch (also called arrowroot flour) is a great thickener for the South Beach Diet because it only takes about half as much arrowroot as it does flour or cornstarch to get the same amount of thickness. It's also gluten-free. I did learn that arrowroot is often mixed with other types of starch, so check the label if you're buying it. It will lose it's thickening properties if stored too long, so buy a small amount at a time.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Turkey Cooked in the Crockpot
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Ten Amazing From-Scratch Blogger-Tested Recipes for Slow Cooker Turkey Breast ~ via Slow Cooker from Scratch
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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  1. Thank you so much for this recipe, especially the SB friendly gravy!

  2. Hi Kalyn
    I will try this, I'm always looking for new ideas on cooking and this sounds great. I love The South Beach diet food, it's got loads of mediterranean dishes in it, hardly feels like a diet!

  3. Thanks Kalyn - this looks and sounds really good. GF is right up my alley.
    Will have to try this later this winter as I love Turkey-already have on for Thanksgiving. Have a great Holiday. Eileen

  4. Fantastic -- I've been wanting to learn to use my slow cooker for more than just stew, and this is much more appealing to me than a roasting a whole turkey, especially when everyone at the table wants breast meat.

  5. Hilly you're welcome. Arrowroot can be tricky to work with (be careful not to overstir or cook too long) but it's wonderful for lower-carb gravy.

    Lesley, agree completely!

    Eileen, this is something I can see myself making often. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    Lydia, same thing here, no one really wants the dark meat. This turkey turned out so moist and flavorful, loved it!

  6. Terrific! I won't be doing this one for Thanksgiving, but since we won't have any leftovers (going to the In-Laws for the big day), it would be an easy, perfect way to get some turkey in after the holiday.

  7. This is great - I've been on the hunt for SB-friendly crockpot recipes. Thanks so much!

  8. Kalyn
    Just wanted to tell you I made this turkey in the crockpot this past weekend for the umpteenth time. Always so good!!

  9. Have you ever made this with boneless, skinless turkey breast? I am contemplating trying it but am worried it will be dry. Thoughts?

  10. I have made this with boneless, skinless turkey breast and it was still good. Be sure to use a meat thermometer and don't cook it too long.

  11. I'm making this tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I'll let you know how this works out. Looks yummy!

  12. Loved this idea, but for me the time was way off. Had to add almost an hour on high.

  13. Mecca, slow cookers are known for being highly variable in how hot they cook, so yours must cook a bit cooler than normal. I've made this in two different slow cookers through the years, and it was done in just under 3 hours for me in both of them.


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