A slow cooker, or crock pot, is a wonderful appliance for cooking and roasting just about any type of food. The USDA does not recommend cooking whole chicken, turkey or large portions of a turkey such as the breast in a slow cooker due to the lower temperatures that a slow cooker uses. If you are willing to cut the breast or the whole turkey into parts, it is safe to cook in a crock pot.
Crock Pots and Turkey
Crock pots need liquid to cook food properly. Some of the liquid is added when you put the turkey in to cook, and the rest is accumulated from the steam as the turkey cooks. To safely cook turkey parts in a crock pot, you should add 1/2 cup water or chicken stock to the pot before starting the cooking process.
Filling the Crock Pot
Place smaller turkey parts, such as wings, on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place drumsticks and thighs in the next layer. Split the breast of the turkey and place it on the top layer. The crock pot should be no more than 2/3 full to fully cook the turkey.
Cooking the Turkey
Start the slow cooker on "High" temperature for at least the first hour of cooking. Cooked on high, the turkey should reach 170 degrees F in approximately seven hours. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest portion of the breast, thigh and drumstick to make sure that all parts have this internal temperature. If you are cooking the turkey for dinner, turn the crock pot to low after the first hour and allow the turkey to cook for eight to nine hours before checking temperature. Again, the thermometer should read 170 degrees F.
Why Turkeys and Crock Pots are Risky
Crock pots, or slow cookers, rarely cook over 280 degrees F. Since turkeys are large and the meat is dense, this sets up an environment where bacteria can thrive. Whole turkey should be cooked at temperatures of no less than 325 degrees F to avoid bacteria growth. When using a crock pot for turkey, other than chopped up turkey for soup or stews, you should use a meat thermometer to ensure that the turkey is safe to eat.