My contribution for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner is usually the turkey. Last year I cooked the turkey sous vide, this year I am trying a recipe using the slow cooker. I am not usually a big fan of the slow cooker, but it fits into the day’s schedule and the recipe sounds promising. There won’t be that many turkey eaters at the gathering, a half turkey breast will be enough. This one is stuffed under the skin with a flavorful garlic herb butter and my garden will provide all the herbs needed. The original recipe for Garlic Herb Slow Cooker Turkey Breast can be found on the blog RecipeTinEats, written by a blogger out of Australia. I will post the results and pictures in time for you to consider it for Christmas dinner, sorry about Thanksgiving.
Our local market doesn’t sell half bone-in turkey breasts (unlike in Australia where I understand they are common), so I purchased a whole turkey and had the butcher cut it in half. I split up the rest myself. I separated the legs and thighs from the breast, they will be cooked sous vide for turkey confit,. You can find the recipe for crisply turkey legs confit from the food lab here. They turn out tender, juicy and flavorful, I’ve made the recipe before but don’t have any pictures. I will remedy that when I fish them out of the freezer and prepare them. The remaining half breast I boned and froze for future dinners. I have cooked it still frozen, by sous vide. You can see my post here, based on the recipe from the food lab. Cook it still frozen?! Yes it works. Just add an additional half of the time to the total cooking time. For example, if the recipe calls for 4 hours, cook it sous vide for 6 at the same temperature.
The butcher was kind enough to cut the turkey in half, the rest I did myself. I divided one 18 pound turkey into:
- 1 half-breast with wing (tip cut off) on the bone to cook for Thanksgiving in the slow cooker. It was just over 6 pounds.
- 1 half-breast, boned and put into a vacuum sealed with some lemon confit slices, sage, rosemary and thyme. Popped in the freezer to sous vide at some future time.
- 2 legs (leg and thigh) which I browned first in olive oil and vacuum sealed with lemon confit slices, sage, thyme, and rosemary. One leg per bag. I will cook them sous vide slowly over 24 hours in the manner of duck confit. I put those in the freezer as well.
- bones from the boned out breast, neck, and giblets frozen for stock.
I carefully labeled everything with the contents and the date. From experience we have had many meals of ‘mystery’ meat or soup. At the original time I put the package in the freezer I was sure I would remember what was in it; if it was vegetarian or regular chili. But frequently the answer was no.
And how did the thighs turn out, cooked 24 hours sous vide at 149 degrees F?
Is was juicy and tender, the juices were amazing. I used the meat in tacos and they were delicious, rivaling carnitas and much lower fat. I removed the skin but it could have been given a second crisping if you wanted.
That gave me at least 4 meals, probably more. The slow cooker breast will serve 6 people with leftovers. It weighed about 6 pounds with the bone.
The slow cooker turkey breast turned out tender but I thought it a little dry. It was easy and required little hands on time.
Would I do this recipe again? I am not sure. I liked the texture of the sous vide turkey better and it was moister than the slow cooker recipe. But, the slow cooker recipe may just need some tweaking. Cooking it a little less than the suggested 6 hours might make the difference. If you try it, check the internal temperature after 5 hours. Unfortunately I was busy with other things at the 5 hour mark. Slow cookers vary in their cooking temperature so your own could take more or less time. Also, next time I think I would stuff the butter and seasonings under the skin (per the recipe) and let it rest in the fridge for a day or so.
The important part is that it was received well by the carnivores at the gathering, the gravy made up for any dryness. That was delicious.
After the holidays, turkeys frequently go on sale. It’s worth picking one up for the future. Ask your butcher to split it down the middle. Depending on your store and the kindness of your butcher, perhaps he or she would even cut off the legs for you. Or, with a sharp knife, you can do it yourself. I found poultry shears the best way to cut through the joint at the thigh. A whole turkey can be overwhelming, and you are not as likely to get tired of the leftovers if they are in smaller portions.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The holidays are upon us!
Do you happen to know if one can seal a whole turkey or chicken with a chamber vacuum sealer? I’m (hopefully) getting one for Christmas. It would be much easier than cutting up the turkey first. But sous vide turkey is fabulous!!! Great post!
If you are sealing them to freeze, a whole chicken or smaller bird would be fine. I have a friend whose husband hunts and they use it all the time for game birds. A turkey might be too large but it would depend on the size of your sealer. The sous vide method of cooking a whole chicken involves poaching in a sealed bag (that way the temperature inside the bird would be the same as the outside). With the chamber sealer you could add the poaching liquid and freeze the chicken in the liquid. See the following link.
Ah, interesting! just add liquid!
I haven’t tried it but it would be interesting.
I will look forward to reading about your experiments.
The turkey looks so beautifully done Liz. Adding lemon and fresh herbs I am sure was a lovely idea.
Thank you so much! Congratulations on your anniversary. It was tasty but just a tad overcooked in my opinion. But I am very picky about turkey.
Thank you dear Liz😊
A great informative post Liz. Wow, didn’t realize you could cook a whole turkey breast that way in the slow cooker? Mind you I have tried cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker on top of a bed of veggies and it turned out great. I liked the idea of splitting it all up for future use. I too mark and date my frozen meals and meats if I’m buying or cooking in bulk or else it would be completely lost in there. Great that you added the herbs in the pouches too. Unfortunately I do not own a vaccum sealer, I’m sure they are worth the investment though.
Hi Loretta, It was actually half of a whole breast, cut down the center. I’ve done a chicken in the slow cooker as well, it does turn out well, I agree. It always makes me crazy if I don’t mark things, I never remember. Even though, at the time, I am convinced I will remember that this is a quart container of some favorite soup…or lamb rather than pork. It’s especially important right now because our daughter has turned vegetarian. I won’t remember which is the chili with meat and which is the vegetarian version. The dating is new, every once in a while I go through the freezer to decide on meals for the week.
Very organized you were with that bird. I’m not a big turkey fan, but the sous vide turkey leg with confit sounds very interesting. I might give that one a try, as I’m making Cassoulet for a crowd on Boxing Day and a confit turkey leg might make an interesting addition.
I am also not a huge fan, especially of the white meat (unless I am watching what I eat in January). But the legs cooked sous vide are entirely different and delicious.
I browned the skin side first and cooked them for 24 hours at 149 degrees F. You can crisp the skin again after they are done, in a pan or under the broiler.