Two things happened this past week that led me to cook this for you. First, my coworker handed me an issue of Cook’s Country, and the first recipe inside the glossy pages was “Turkey in a Pot.” Second, I saw turkey breasts at Kroger for the first time this season.
That’s all it took for me to decide to cook a seven-pound turkey breast and share my experience with you.
But if you are in the comfort of your home or with family and are in need of a way to cook a turkey, this turkey breast recipe may be right for you.
According to Cook’s Country, “cooking a whole bird in a pot is a French technique in which poultry is cooked over low heat in a covered pot for an extended period of time; it produces very moistly, tender meat.” Since the turkey breast is enclosed inside the walls of the dutch oven, it allows the heat to stay concentrated, unlike how a turkey cooks in a large roasting pan where the oven is that enclosed area.
If you are only feeding 2-4 people, a turkey breast is a much simpler way to enjoy Thanksgiving. The condensed steps are:
- Brown the turkey breast in the pot
- Take it out and cook onions, celery, carrot, garlic, and seasonings until soft
- Put the turkey back in and place it in the oven, covered
- Turn the broiler up to crisp the skin
- Remove the turkey and begin making the gravy
Sounds simple, right? With the exception of browning the turkey, it is. More on that as you read on.
Side note: Since I purchased this turkey breast from the grocery store, I did not brine it. Brine your fresh from the farm turkeys with my simple turkey brine recipe, but if you are using a frozen turkey, it has already been brined with a solution, and likely the meat has been injected with some of the solutions.
For those of you who have never seen a bone-in turkey breast before, here you go. This is the top of the breast, often referred to as “skin side up.” The extra skin there is from the neck.
Place your largest Dutch oven over medium-high heat with two tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, gently place the turkey inside.
MAJOR TIP: You really need one of those giant tuning forks that you can press into the meat and use to turn the turkey breast so it can brown on all sides. Turning the meat to brown it in the pan is not easy. I struggled to use two wooden spoons and a fork to continuously move the turkey around the pan. It is heavy and awkward. The tuning fork may be the right tool to make it easier.
See how much room it takes up in the pot?
Add diced onions, celery, carrot, garlic, a bay leaf, a few juniper berries and fresh thyme to the oil and cook until vegetables are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. This is the base for the gravy that will change your life. Trust me, this is the best gravy I have ever made and I could drink it like soup.
Juniper berries were not called for in the recipe but I had them and decided to add a half teaspoon in. I purchased them for a homemade corned beef brine (which was great but not good enough for you readers, yet) but I only needed a small amount. Often added to rabbit, lamb, venison and wild turkey, juniper berries offer a piney taste similar to rosemary. Why not?
Set the turkey back into the pot and place it in a 250-degree oven, covered, until the meat reaches 155 degrees. Cooks Country said this would take 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours, however, mine took 2 1/2 hours. If you test the meat and it is not ready, try again in 15 minutes. Each turkey breast is different.
Brush the turkey with butter and kick up the heat to a broil to brown the skin, but watch the turkey closely or it could burn quickly. Remove it and set aside to cool before carving.
To make the gravy, heat the vegetables and drippings to a boil until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Whisk in flour to create a roux, then add four cups of chicken stock. Continue to boil and whisk until reduced, about 10 more minutes, then strain out the vegetables. By far the easiest part of the recipe but just as rewarding as the turkey itself.
Bon appetit for real.
This was an incredibly moist and tender turkey with great flavor, enhanced by the impeccable gravy. Rarely do I use the word impeccable but I thoroughly believe this gravy could not be any better. It’s so good, I’m going to make a turkey pot pie with the gravy as the creamy base. Just look at the gravy closely and you can see bits of carrot celery in it.
Aside from the taste, the turkey could have been cooked in an easier, more manageable way, such as in a large roasting pan with a rack so air could circulate around it. Instead of cooking the onions, carrots and celery and aromatics in the pan with the turkey, I’d scrape the drippings from the roasting pan into the pot and cook everything in that. But that’s the traditional way to make gravy with a whole turkey, and this experiment proved that a whole turkey breast can indeed be cooked to perfection inside a dutch oven.
Would you try this adapted recipe? Leave a note in the comments. I’d love to hear if you think this would work for a smaller Thanksgiving meal.
Turkey Breast in a Pot with Gravy
- 6-7 pound turkey breast
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 cups chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Prepare the turkey breast: Take it out of the package and pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt.
Brown it: Heats the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Before it begins to smoke, gently set the turkey breast into the pan. Allow to brown for 3-4 minutes per side, turning until all sides have been browned, about 20 minutes. Remove it and set aside.
Add the diced onion, carrot, celery, smashed garlic, bay leaf, fresh thyme and juniper berries to the pot. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes.
Bake it: Place the turkey breast back into the pot. Cover with foil and place in the oven. If your lid fits and is oven safe, then add the lid on top. Bake the turkey until the inner meat reaches 155 degrees. This could take between 1 3/4 and 2 1/2 hours depending on your turkey.
Once cooked, gently remove the turkey and set it aside on a carving board and cover with foil to rest for 15 minutes. Carve the breast meat on both sides of the breastbone. Save the bone in the refrigerator to make turkey stock later.
Make the gravy: Place the pot on the stove over high heat, bringing the vegetables and turkey drippings to a boil. Continue boiling until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook 3 more minutes, whisking constantly to keep from burning. Slowly pour in the chicken stock. Let the gravy come back to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Serve over the sliced turkey breast. Or, eat with a spoon. I’m not stopping you.