A turkey tenderloin is the long strip of white meat tucked away under the turkey breast. Turkey tenderloins are often roasted whole or cut into strips and sautéed, but a turkey tenderloin slow cooker meal is another tasty option, provided you follow some simple rules for safe, succulent meat.
As the name suggests, tenderloin (or just loin) of turkey is very tender and can be butter soft if treated right. But like all white turkey meat, it is very low in fat, with just 1.26 grams in a 3-ounce (85 gram) serving, according to the USDA. This means it can dry out or toughen up if not cooked properly or if overcooked.
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As well as being low in fat, 3 ounces of white turkey meat provides a healthy dose (8.4 milligrams) of the B complex vitamin niacin, which Harvard Health Publishing explains helps convert food into energy and is essential for healthy skin and blood cells and a healthy brain and nervous system.
This size white turkey portion also provides 19.3 micrograms of the mineral selenium, important for reproduction, thyroid gland function and protecting the body from infection and damage caused by free radicals, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
Turkey Tenderloin Slow Cooker Method
Given that super lean turkey tenderloin can become toughened through overcooking, the best results for turkey tenderloin in a Crock-Pot will be obtained by cooking for the minimum time and temperature consistent with food safety rules.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends, if possible, turning the slow cooker onto the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low. Use the cooking time for turkey given in your recipe or slow cooker / Crock-Pot instruction guide (it will vary depending on the weight of the tenderloin used).
If you're leaving for work, for example, and preparation time is limited, the USDA says you can omit the hour on high if you need to. But it's vital that you check the internal temperature with a thermometer. USDA guidelines say that the safe cooking temperature for all poultry products is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Read more: How to Cook a 25-Pound Turkey
The simplest cooking fluid for your turkey tenderloin slow cooker meal is water — for 24 ounces of meat (two tenderloins), use half a cup. However, you'll get more interesting and flavorful results from using stock or other ingredients, such as honey, mustard, chili or citrus. This National Turkey Federation sriracha lime slow cooker turkey tenderloin recipe pulls together fabulous flavors while keeping the turkey loin nice and succulent.
The Benefits of Slow Cooking
Meat or poultry that is cooked using traditional dry heat methods like grilling, roasting, frying or baking can have high levels of chemicals called advanced glycation end products or AGEs, according to a February 2019 review in Nutrients.
On the other hand, an August 2019 review in Nutrients found AGE formation is reduced by heating in high-humidity conditions, such as boiling, poaching and steaming, and also at lower cooking temperatures for shorter times. Cooking in a Crock-Pot checks most of these boxes.
The August 2019 review outlines how AGEs may contribute to inflammatory and chronic diseases such as chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and nephropathy. Choosing methods of cooking meat and poultry that avoid creating excess AGEs is definitely desirable.
Read more: Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes to Try
More generally, slow cooking also gets the thumbs up from nutrition experts because it's a relatively fuss-free cooking method. "Placing all the ingredients in the slow cooker saves preparation time and cuts down on cleanup," registered dietitian Dori Owczarzak, MS, RD, says in an article for Penn State Extension.
Owczarzak adds that if you come home to a home-cooked slow cooker meal you've prepared earlier, it eliminates the temptation to order a takeout that is often less nutritious and more expensive.
- USDA: "Turkey Whole, Light Meat, Raw"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Listing of Vitamins"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Selenium"
- USDA: "Cooking Meat? Check the New Recommended Temperatures"
- National Turkey Federation: "Sriracha Lime Slow Cooker Turkey Tenderloin"
- Nutrients: "The Modern Western Diet Rich in Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs): An Overview of Its Impact on Obesity and Early Progression of Renal Pathology"
- Penn State Extension: "The Benefits of Slow Cooker Meals"
- Nutrients: "Dietary Advanced Glycation End Products: Digestion, Metabolism and Modulation of Gut Microbial Ecology"