CrockPot Whole Turkey Recipe

Day 324.

I did it. A whole turkey in the crock.

I am officially turkeyed out.

I was able to fit a 9.5 lb turkey into a 6.5 quart crockpot. It was a tight squeeze, and this is the absolute largest turkey you should attempt to cook----even if you have a 7 quart crockpot

The meat needs to reach 140 degrees after 3 hours of cooking on high to keep it in the "safe zone" for consumption.

"hey Steph, how'd you learn that?"

I was hoping you'd ask! I learned this by participating in a live webchat hosted by Butterball, or you can call 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

The Ingredients.

  • turkey (9.5 lbs is the MAXIMUM to fit in a 6.5 quart crockpot)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • dried parsley
  • onion
  • apple (I used yellow)
  • meat thermometer (necessity, not a luxury. go get one if you need it)

The Directions.

Your turkey must be completely and totally thawed. Seriously. Call the Butterball hotline if you don't know how to do this safely.

I took a lot of the skin off. You don't have to, the skin seems to magically brown a bit in the crock, but I have weird skin issues.

Remove the neck and the bag of stuff they put inside the turkey. If you're going to use it to make stuffing or something, do that, but please don't tell me.

Pat the turkey with paper towels to dry it off.

 Rub a handful of olive oil all over the bird, inside and out. Sprinkle salt, pepper, dried parsley, and garlic powder all over and in it, and rub it around.

 If you have a secret family concoction of herbs, by all means, use it.

Peel an onion, quarter it, and shove inside. Core an apple and do the same.

Lower the bird into your crockpot. I wanted to put it in breast-side down, but Chris and Mary (from Butterball) said not to. 

So I put it right-side up.

Cover. Cook on high for 3 hours, then check the internal temperature. 

You need the turkey to register at least 140 degrees.

Cover again and cook on high for another few hours. 

I needed to leave the house, and this turkey cooked on high for a bit over 5 hours. 

Check the internal temp again in a few places. It should be 170 degrees or higher. 

You can certainly cook it longer if needed, or keep it on warm until you are ready to carve.

CAREFULLY remove turkey from crockpot

The edges will have browned nicely. If you'd like, you can broil the top for a few minutes in the oven--put the turkey in a roasting pan, don't use the crock. 

I tried this, and was pleased with how the turkey looked afterwards. I broiled for about 7 minutes.

Let sit for 15-20 minutes before carving.

The Verdict.

I'm so happy this worked. 

I feel.... relieved. Like my shoulders have lost a lot of tension, which is weird, but I must have been worrying about this sub-consciously for a while or something.

My kids didn't eat it. They had no interest. I gave them frozen corn and barbecued beans from a can.

My parents ate a bunch, and so did Adam.

I had a turkey sandwich around 9pm.
CrockPot Turkey Breast Recipe
CrockPot Creamed Corn
CrockPot Mashed Potatoes with Cream Cheese and Sour Cream
CrockPot Cornbread Stuffing
CrockPot Traditional Stuffing
lots more CrockPot Holiday(ish) Food

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at November 19, 2008

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What they say about this article

  1. Steph, What are you going to eat on Thanksgiving? You must be tired of all this holiday food. The turkey looks great Congratulations! Love your blog. Happy Thanksgiving, I am thankful for this blog.

  2. Do you think you could do this with just a turkey breast by reducing the cook time?

  3. Wow, very interesting. I think I'll try a turkey breast because the biggest crockpot I have is 5.5 quarts (and NO I do not need a bigger one! Most of the time I need a smaller one!)

  4. AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Im doing for christmas dinner.So great cause it frees up all that oven space. Im so excited.
    Thanks so much for trying this out and sharing.
    youre the best. :-)

    V x

  5. Was it more moist than cooking it in the oven????

  6. Anonymous11/19/2008

    Frozen corn and beans ... love it!

    I seriously don't know what I'm going to do when you reach Day 365. I'm currently rotisserie'ing (is that a word?) a chicken thanks to you.

  7. Interesting, thanks.

    I've yet to try roasting any kind of poultry in the slow cooker, but I'm sure I will soon!

  8. OK, now I have to ask this question, since you are turkeyed out.... What are YOU going to cook for Thanksgiving? A pork roast maybe?

  9. Molly, yes! Click on the holiday food link---I've done 2 turkey breasts. One cajun, and a traditional.

    Kalyn, I hear you. I saw that you're coveting a 3-quart, and I kind of am, too. :-)

    thethingswedo, it was more moist. After it sits out for a while, it begins to dry and is more like an oven-roasted turkey.

    Joanne and Denise, I'm secretly wishing for some Japanese take-out, but we're expecting a house full of people who are NOT turkeyed out. ;-0

    I plan on having Adam roast the turkey in the oven with my mom's "secret" recipe, and doing cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the sweet and sour carmelized onions in the crocks.

    gobble, gobble!

  10. Anonymous11/19/2008

    Yay! I have been waiting for this recipe! I am planning on using Alton Brown's recipe for this Thanksgiving because it's to-die-for, and my turkey is 12 pounds...But for Christmas, it is on!


  11. Anonymous11/19/2008

    bless your heart for the effort! I hope you know how much I appreciate all your hard work and blogging; I love this website and all the informational stuff that goes with the recipes, esp. the Verdict.


  12. Steph,
    I'm passing an award to you for "coolest blog". Love your dedication to your crockpot!
    Come get it at

    Ruta :)

  13. Anonymous11/19/2008

    I'm going to keep this in mind for Thanksgiving. My oven broke a few days ago and the part to fix it had to be ordered. Sears SAYS it will be in next Tuesday, but if something's either the crockpot or a pre-cooked chicken from Wal-Mart! Since I'm only cooking for two - and neither one of us cares that much for turkey - I was going to roast a chicken, but I can see it in the CP! Now how am I going to bake that sweet potato pie?....

  14. Anonymous11/19/2008

    Hmm... why can't you put it in breast side down?

  15. Rival also sells a roaster oven. Imagine an 18-quart counter top oven/crock pot combo. I know most of you don't care but my child is allergic to chicken so I am constantly making turkeys in the oven. I am seriously coveting a Rival roaster oven!

  16. Anonymous11/19/2008

    I just found your blog through shipfullofpirates. I just love it!!! I am writing a little bloggy post all about you! Thanks so much for sharing all of this info. Blessings

  17. Anonymous11/19/2008

    Thanks for this recipe! I had another crock pot recipe I was going to use this year but yours sounds better!
    And THANKS for the tips!! I didn't know half that stuff...

  18. I've done a breast, but not a whole turkey before. Thanks for all of the info! Now for my stupid question: did you take it out of the crock and put it in a pan before you broiled it?

  19. that is NOT a stupid question, and I'm going to add that to the directions. YES. I put it in a roasting pan first. :-)


  20. Oh, Stephanie...
    Yummy ! As to the internal temp of the turkey, I read it had to be 165 degrees the 140 degrees after it is out of the crockpot awhile ?

    As I said on my kitchen blog, you are the greatest !

  21. Now you've got me in the mood, I'll have to head out and see if I can find a turkey here in Australia that I can afford. Thank goodness you cooked a small one ! The last turkey I cooked here was a 22 pounder and it cost me... (wait for it)
    $103. from the butchers !!!!
    I may have to forget I'm an American and switch to lamb for Thanksgiving, eh?

  22. Anonymous11/19/2008

    I second Alton Browns recipe. it was because of him that I had the guts to make my first turkey. It is the best!!!!!!!! I am surprised to know you can do a turkey in a crock. It looked good. Good job! Maybe after day 365 you can start a new blog using the oven or microwave for 365 days.

  23. This comment is not about the turkey, but I am certainly glad it turned out well for you!

    I made your Moroccan Lentil Soup for dinner tonight and everyone loved it. Well, not the 2 and 3 year olds, but they only want to eat fruit and peanut butter lately.

    I had never eaten lentils before, but my husband kept asking me to try them. I found three different recipes for lentil soup, but decided to try yours first, in part because adding the chickpeas and pinto beans sounded interesting. It was so yummy! You were right that it makes a lot. We may have it again tomorrow night. I wonder if it would freeze well, or if everything would get too mushy.

    Oh, one more thing. I did not add the garam masala. In truth, I did not know what this was until I read about it on wikipedia. I could not find it at my grocery store and did not want to make another stop to look for it. The soup was still quite tasty.

    Just wanted to share. Thanks for this and all your other great recipes!


  24. Stephanie,

    You are just plain awesome. A whole turkey in the crockpot. Amazing.

  25. The turkey looks awesome! I might just have to steal that idea. :)

  26. Anonymous11/19/2008

    Question: Did Butterball give a reason for not cooking breast side down? Was this only when cooking a turkey in a crockpot? My Father has always cooked his turkeys breast side down, so have I, of course, these were in an oven. I do however, cook my chickens in the crockpot breast side down. So I am just curious if they gave a reason for cooking breast side up.
    Thanks and I love your blog and look forward to each day's new recipe.

  27. AlaKitty,

    honestly? I think it wasn't on their list of things to say. ;-) If I hadn't specifically asked, I would have done it breast down, but since I did ask and got that answer I felt sneaky going against advice.


  28. That turkey looks so delicious! I love seeing all the things that can be cooked in a crock pot. I think I want to try some crock pot stuffing sometime soon, I just love stuffing!

    I gave you an award, check it out! :-)

  29. Anonymous11/19/2008

    I use a bone in turkey breast. I place the turkey breast "meaty" side down and then dump in a can of chicken broth. I cook it on low about 8 hours. Adding the broth makes a lovely little steam bath. The turkey is so moist and juicy. I will never make a turkey any other way! As a bonus, you can use the broth to make gravy--yum!

  30. Anonymous11/20/2008

    That turkey looks a little beat up. I think I'll stick to turkey in the oven, but thanks for being the guinea pig for all of us....

  31. You officially rock. Just in case you didn't already rock before. Like a big rocking thing that rocks!
    I just read each and every comment because I wanted to know why they said not to put the breast side down. I ALWAYS bake a turkey and chicken breast down - it is moister because the juice collects there instead of running down into the back - meat that I hardly ever eat. My sister in law who is a 5 star chef in a 5 star restaraunt does the same thing. Then stick it under the broiler like you did. So I think in the crock pot I would do the same thing.
    so there.
    Thanks for this blog. What fun you have been having. I am happy for you and your success!

  32. Still can't believe you're doing this. You're amazing! You deserve medals. Trophies. Awards. Cheesecake. Big hugs. =)

  33. I've made 23-pound turkeys in my slow cooker/roaster oven. Every year, in fact! They are always moist and mine actually cooks way more quickly than it did in the oven! I love that it frees up my oven for all the other things and the roaster sits nicely on my washing maching. (I have a VERY SMALL KITCHEN!) It even browns in there, so no broiling has ever been necessary!

    I'm so glad you've shown everyone this. Thanksgiving doesn't have to be so complicated!

  34. Anonymous11/20/2008

    Thanks for anwering my unasked question of can a whole turkey be cooked in a crock pot? LOL

  35. Thanks Steph!

    You are almost to your 365 hat's off to you! :-)

  36. Anonymous11/30/2008

    I did this recipe for Thanksgiving and it was AWESOME!! I just did a whole turkey breast because it was only my husband and myself. The turkey browned up nice and looked like it belonged in a magazine (and I have the pictures to prove it)!! Thank you soooooooo much for posting this!! :) Just as an FYI, I cooked it for around 8 hours (5 on high, 3 on low). It was so moist, and not dry! The leftovers were fabulous!! :) Thank you again :)

  37. We cooked an 11.5 lb turkey in a 6.5 qt crock pot. We put herbs and butter under the skin and an onion and herbs inside. We started it breast up and covered it with heavy tin foil b/c the lid wouldn't fit on the pot. After about 3 hours on high we flipped the bird over. After 6 hours we had a very moist bird. Thanks for the idea!

  38. Anonymous12/25/2008

    I'm not a regular blog reader but I came upon your site after a quick Google search for "turkey in a crock pot." Thank you SO much! This is a total time/space/work/worry saver.

  39. I was also wondering about the breast-side up versus down thing. When I cook beef in the crockpot, I always try to keep the fat on top so it drips through the meat and keeps it moist and juicy (think brisket). In the oven, when I've roasted a whole chicken, I keep the breast side down for the same effect; In her whole turkey recipe, Elise of Simply Recipes also recommends cooking breast side down to prevent the white meat from drying out.

    Here, cooking a whole turkey in the crockpot, it seems unlikely that the the turkey would dry out - white meat or dark meat. However, the crockery itself is hottest at the bottom and sides; that's why I was always taught to put potatoes and root vegetables at the bottom and meat there. Maybe the Turkey Experts recommend the dark meat go against the crockery since dark meat needs to reach a higher internal temperature than light meat. But I don't know whether this would be necessary. If I cooked a whole turkey in a crockpot, I might consider cooking the turkey breast side down for the first 3/4s of the time (about 5 hours) and then flip it so the dark meat can cook a teeny bit hotter against the hot crockery.

  40. Anonymous11/24/2009

    Stephanie, you saved our dinner! We had ordered a new stove (my oven doesn't work at all) which was scheduled to be delivered yesterday (3 days before Thanksgiving). The night before, we got an email saying it was now back-ordered (was in stock when we ordered it ..Hmmm)
    I'm going to try either a turkey breast or small whole turkey in my 7 qt pot. I love your blog! My husband and kids say "Thanks!"

  41. I made this last night with our free grocery store turkey and it turned out delicious! Mine totally fell apart when I took it out though. I don't know how you got it out in one whole piece. Oh well, it wasn't for thanksgiving so it didn't need to be presentable.

  42. Hi Ellie,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the turkey! As for getting it out of the crock, it was tricky! We have one of those huge flat metal spatulas and Adam slid it under the bird, then I used a regular pancake spatula on each end and we lifted together. As it was, the wings and legs practically fell off, so I just laid them over the top for the picture.

    It's sure a nice moist turkey!

    xoxo steph

  43. Anonymous2/20/2010

    Actually, all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees in order to prevent food bourne illnesses such as samonella.

    I am a certified Culinary Chef graduated from The Culinary Institute of America.

  44. Stephanie,
    Did you get sick after eating this turkey? I know you cook gluten-free as much as possible, and my son is celiac, so I know a few things. One of the things we were taught is to never buy a Butterball because the self-basting has gluten. (there is a possibility that now that has changed, but back when you cooked this, I am pretty sure it was not) Anyway, were you and your family safe with this recipe?

  45. Hi Leese,
    no we did not. Butterball says on it's website that they declare *all* allergens, and they now are even carrying gf gravy packets!
    At the time, I participated in the online chat with Butterball and asked the gluten question and was thrilled with their response.

    Like *always* you need to trust your instincts and do your own research.
    here is their contact number:

    1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372)
    Weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST (Central Standard Time)

    xoxo steph

  46. Hey I know this is WAY late, but I have a crock pot that has the thermometer with it that you can stick inside the meat while it cooks and once it reaches its correct temperature, it puts it onto a simmer function and leaves it there for a few hours to cook. Do you think this is safe for this recipe?

  47. Hi Robin,
    Yup! That's what they are designed to do---if you're using it for the first time, check it with another thermometer to ease your mind.

  48. I just put a 12# turkey in a 6 quart crock pot. Thanks for the tips on this site. I put a sauce pan upside down over the top of the crock as the lid wouldn't fit, then wrapped it up with foil to seal the crack.

    Also, as it seems its important to kick the heat off to a good start, I did a trick I've done before to expedite the crock pot heating...I put the removable ceramic crock with a couple cups of water in it into the microwave to preheat the crockery. Also preheated the heavy sauce pan "lid" on the stove before setting the crock and "lid" to ccok the turkey. I did start a bit early as its 15 hours 'til dinner time!

  49. 11/11/11
    I did it....I cooked a 9lbs turkey in my crock pot and it turned out so beautiful. It is so moist and the taste is wonderful.

  50. 11/11/11

    I did it I cooked a 9 lb turkey in my crock pot...was a whole turkey. Turned out so moist and beautiful. I put the turkey in and left when I got home the house smelled just like Thanksgiving and the flavor is out of this world.


  51. Tonight I cooked my first turkey ever! I figured how can I go wrong if I do it in my crokpot! Thanks for your recipe suggestions; it turned out great!

  52. thanks for the info. I bought several whole turkeys cheap in the after christmas/new year sales, (half price, which is way below any other meat available) and want a way to cook them that does not include roasting - roast turkey is not one of my favourite things. I want to cook it whole, and use it other ways, the way you might use a cooked chicken from the deli. This is exactly the info I need. Thanks

  53. Thanks so much for posting this, I am about to attempt a whole turkey in my slow cooker today. I was worried that the skin would get all slimey... ick but I decided I will try to remove the skin first. Probably wont get a response in time so this question is more for my second attempt.

    What's the best way to remove the skin? is there anything that makes it come off easier. I will admit I really dislike dealing with a whole uncooked turkey and am not looking forward to taking the skin off.


  54. I'm curious, would it be possible to cook this turkey, same recipe, but in some form of turkey or chicken stock? How would this affect the cooking time/ temp?

  55. Hi Nikki, do you mean using a cup or so of broth as a cooking liquid? That would absolutely work. I'd still probably rub the bird down with some seasonings (if you'd prefer to omit the olive oil, you can, but I'd still prefer to use it) and then add 1 cup of broth.
    The turkey will give off a LOT of juice all on it's own, which is why I didn't include adding any broth.

    but if you'd like to, go for it. The cooking time will not change at all.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  56. I want to eat all your food!

  57. Anonymous11/28/2013

    Another bird successfully cooked with this great recipe! Our 3 kg bird took about 6.5 hours total to cook. I started it on high for 3 hours, then checked the temp. Then I left it on high for another 2 hours, and checked the temp. Since it was over 170F, I switched it to low for the last 1.5 hours. Stephanie was smart to remove the skin, as a lot of fat congealed in the bottom of the crock. The legs and wings fell right off, so be prepared with lots of spatulas! This recipe made a daunting task really simple and delicious-- thank you so much!

  58. Anonymous12/25/2013

    I know you posted this back in 2008, but I want you to know that I am following your guidelines on slow cooking my first turkey today, on Christmas, will let you know how it goes! So far, this is what it looks like: I had to cut off the legs and wings and 1/2 the spine, my 9 1/2 lb turkey just would NOT fit! LOL

  59. Did you cook it on high for 3 hrs and then an additional 5hrs for a total of 8hrs on high?

  60. Hi remily,
    yes. When your pot is this full, it's usually right around 8 hours -- that's a good rule of thumb to remember when slow cooking.
    be sure to use a meat thermometer!

  61. Anonymous2/19/2024

    Hi Stephanie ...... I have been a fan of your cookbook "Make it fast, Cook it slow" for many years (l think 20 years). I have made many, many of your recipes & love then. In fact my shower gift to young ladies is a oval crockpot & your cook book. I am making a 12 lb. turkey (cleaning out my freezer) in my 8 qt. crockpot as I am writing this. We will see how it turns out. My plan is turkey for dinner a couple nights & Turkey soup with the rest. I will be giving turkey soup to neighbors & friends since I am cooking for 1 ... !!!!! I know it will turn out GREAT. your recipes never disappoint.