Old-Fashioned Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy and Cranberry Orange Sauce

Sunday November 22, 2015

the traditional thanksgiving plate/bless the abundance

At the supermarket or butcher shop, the poultry is grouped by species: chicken, turkey, game hens.  Poultry can be bought fresh or frozen, and available as whole, pieces, ground, or boned into roasts. All are suitable for cooking in the slow cooker.

Cooking turkey in a slow cooker is so easy it is almost what we would call a no-brainer: load up the crock with the ingredients and turn it on.  Turkey is lean and tasty and no longer needs to be delegated to Thanksgiving. It has always been a problem keeping the breast moist, but no longer with the slow cooker method.  Here you cook the breast in a simple braising liquid and serve with a flavorful gravy made from the juices.  If you have a second slow cooker, consider making a stuffing for a festive meal. Don’t forget some cranberry sauce.

The Happy Cook is the late Dolores Kostelni and one of my favorite radio interviewers. She was telling me on the air about making cranberry sauce in the slow cooker and later left a message with the details so I could reproduce her recipe. It is so delise. Use bags of fresh cranberries within two weeks of purchase so that they won’t get mushy or shriveled.  If you use frozen cranberries, do not defrost, but plan on an extra 30 to 45 minutes in the cooker. If you only have one slow cooker, you can make it a day ahead.


Recommended Size: Large oval for turkey, medium round or oval for cranberry sauce

Machine Setting and Cook Time: High Heat: 4 1/2 to 6 hours for turkey; High Heat: 1 hour, then 2 to 3 hours for cranberry sauce

Serves 8 (or lots less for a few days of leftovers)


  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon favorite dried mixed herb seasoning, such as a salt-free blend like Mrs. Dash or McCormick Italian Herbs
  • One 5- to 6-pound bone-in whole turkey breast, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup instant flour, such as Wondra
  • 1/4 cup cold filtered water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Madeira, to your taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

a large oval slow cooker works best for turkey

The Happy Cook’s Cranberry Orange Sauce

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and picked over

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup water

Grated zest of 1 navel orange

1/4 to 1/2 cup combination of chopped dried apricots, candied ginger, and dried cranberries


this is what a whole bone-in turkey breast looks like

1. Combine the broth and water; bring to a boil stove top or in the microwave. Add the celery, onion, butter, and seasoning in the crock Add the turkey, breast side down and pour in the hot liquid.

2. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 1/2 to 6 hours. Turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 170ºto 180ºF on an instant read thermometer.

3. Meanwhile in a separate medium slow cooker, prepare the cranberry orange sauce. Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and water in the crock.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Crack the lid and prop open with the handle of a wooden spoon, then adjust to LOW for an additional 2 to 3 hours. When cooked, the cranberries will have popped open; stir in the zest into the hot sauce. The last hour, stir in the dried fruit. Remove the lid. Cool in the crock to room temperature. Serve or refrigerate. Scrape with a rubber spatula into a spring top glass jar.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  Serve chilled or room temperature.

4. When the turkey is cooked, transfer to a platter; tent with aluminum foil, and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.

5. Meanwhile, to prepare gravy, strain the reserved liquid left in the cooker through a

no-lumps turkey pan gravy/everyone loves gravy/photo courtesy of the Food Network kitchen

cheesecloth-lined colander; press to squeeze the juice from the vegetables and discard.  Skim off the fat with a spoon.  Pour the broth into a large nonstick skillet and bring to a boil.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cold water, and Madeira until the flour dissolves.  Pour the slurry into the hot broth, stirring constantly with a whisk until the gravy bubbles and thickens.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Serve the hot turkey and serve with plenty of gravy and cranberry sauce.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2009, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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