Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perfect Turkey

I mean it. This is a 100% fool proof recipe. I have posted this before, a long time ago, lumped in with several other recipes in one post, but this is one that I get asked for frequently enough that it warrants it's own real post with pictures. Plus, I've learned a thing or two over the years after making it several dozen times. One of my versions of this was published in Taste of Home a few months ago, which resulted in a mildly unnerving phone call from a guy on the East Coast that had some questions about how to prepare it, and just wanted to let me know that he was making my recipe. TOH publishes first and last name as well as home town with each recipe, which I never saw as problematic before that phone call. Now it has honestly made me think twice about submitting more recipes. I'm sure he was just a nice old fella, but that was just a bit over the line. Anyway, on with the recipe.

First, select a nice bone in turkey breast. Boneless turkey breasts are just plain weird. They take all the meat hunks and press them into a lump and wrap mesh around it. Not terribly appetizing - take my word for it. I can fit up to an 8 pound breast in my 6 quart oval crock pot, though that is definitely pushing the limit. You'll definitely be safe with one around 7 pounds. Thaw it, either by putting it in the fridge a couple days in advance, or if you're like me and you decide that you've got a hankering for turkey dinner that morning, pull it out of the freezer and let it sit in a sink full of hot water for a couple hours. That size of a bird actually thaws relatively quickly. Remove the nasty gravy packet from the chest cavity and throw it away, then rinse the bird off and stick it in the crock pot, breast side down.

I used to remove the skin before cooking. It's a horrid job, and I've lately found that it slips off quite easily after cooking, plus lends better flavor to the broth if you leave it on. Since I hate to handle raw meat, I now leave it on.

Next, tuck 5-6 cloves of garlic in and around the breast, grind some freshly ground pepper over it all and sprinkle a generous pinch of kosher salt. Tuck 4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary in and around (you can use dried as well, but the flavor of fresh is really worth it), and last of all a tablespoon of brown sugar. For more savory flavor, you can toss a peeled whole shallot into the cavity.

Put the lid on. If you're like me and tend to choose bustier turkey bosoms than your crock pot can handle, you might wind up with a gap between the lid and the pot. Like this one. There was a centimeter gap. So I simply placed a towel over the lid, followed by a layer of tin foil, and then pulled out some old sacks of beans that have been pressed into service for this very thing a number of times, and weighted the lid down. Works like a charm, but I wouldn't push it any farther than I did.

Set it to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6. Walk away and let the pot do it's magic. When the cook time is up, pull the breast out and flip it upside down on a plate. Tent it loosely with foil and let the juices settle for at least 10 minutes before pulling the meat off. Usually, the meat literally just falls off the bones in two neat breasty hunks, which are super easy to slice for serving.
Now it's time to make gravy. Easy stuff, I promise. I slurp all of the juices out of the pot with a turkey baster and pour them into a pyrex cup. I usually get around 2 cups. (Notice that I did not have to add any water to the pot to achieve this - it's pure turkey magic.) Melt 2 T. of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, then whisk in 2 T. flour until it forms a thick paste. Slowly whisk in the turkey juices, bit by bit, making sure that you incorporate the flour well and smoothly. Once all the juices have been added, correct the seasoning as needed with a little more pepper (I have never needed to add more salt) and let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Done!
This is such moist and tender turkey that you may never cook a full bird again. I have hosted Thanksgiving before with only this kind of turkey. I lined up three pots in the garage, and voila! Not only did I have perfect turkey that everyone swooned over, but I also didn't have it competing for oven space.


small house plans said...

I tried this the first time you posted it. Although it was not that perfect, I like the taste!

Nurse Heidi said...

I have found that some brands are juicier than others. I usually use Jennie-O or Honeysuckle White. And also that cooking it longer and slower yields more tender results than trying to speed it up. Occasionally I get one that's not as tender, but I would say that 75% are very very moist and tender, far more than I get out of oven roasted meats, which for me are a little more haphazard and less fool proof.

Crystal said...

I tried this a few months ago. And realized as I was trying to squeeze my turkey into my crockpot, that it just wasn't going to fit. I don't have an oval crockpot, just a round, not sure the size. There was no way the turkey was even close to fitting. So I cooked it in the oven. While it didn't have the slow cooked juiciness. It was still super yummy. The flavors amazing! Now I want a bigger crockpot.

Nurse Heidi said...

Ah yes. I assume you could fit a really small turkey in a round pot, but this one really needs the big crock pot. In fact, this is one of the few things I do in mine, but it's worth every penny.

ejemory said...

We've taught the kids to respond to telemarketers and other unwanted callers that "He's/she's deceased. May I take a message?" The responses have been hilarious. I loved the one who offered to hold until Everett could come to the phone. Shay asked the caller exactly how long they intended to wait. Then she asked them if they understood the word "deceased". I'm sorry, I have such a warped sense of humor. Bet that gentleman would think twice about calling you for info again!

Sara said...

We're making this for the second time in as many months. Chad liked it so much the first time, he asked to have it for his Father's day meal! It's just finishing up now and we can't wait to eat. Our house smells divine!

Nurse Heidi said...

So glad you like it, Sara! And it's the perfect thing to make for dinner when you've got a baby prone to getting fussy at that time of the day :).

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to like this turkey, but it was very dry. I made the roasted sweet potatoes and they were heavenly {said in a singing voice} What could I have done wrong? I love, love using my crock pot and was looking forward to a nice, juicy turkey bosom!

Nurse Heidi said...

Well shoot!! I've had a couple of other people tell me this as well, so you're not the only one. I've never had one not turn out, so I'm not quite sure what to tell you. I have had good success with Honeysuckle White and Jennie-O brand breasts. I wonder if your pot cooks at a higher temperature and therefore doesn't need to go as long? If you have a meat thermometer, you may want to check it at 4 hours and see how it's going. Or cook it on low the whole time. Also, if you're using a smaller breast, 5-6 pounds, instead of 7-8 like I usually do, the cook time would obviously be decreased. Did you have much liquid leftover? I usually get 1 1/2-2 cups worth of juices to make gravy out of.

I'm glad that at least the sweet potatoes turned out :).

Nancy said...

I found your website on Pinterest and I have made this recipe 3 times!! I'm trying to change my mother in law's tradition for next thanksgiving... we could make this in 3 or 4 crock pots and have the rest of the oven and kitchen available for the rolls, potatoes, green beans etc... anyway, I wanted to tell you that this is by far the best turkey I have ever tasted! and the gravy!!!Wow! I am trying the recipe with a chicken for dinner.... I found a "lost" one in the freezer that I had no idea what to make with! I'm sure it will be just as good!!
thank you thank you!!!