It’s surprisingly quick and easy to make this Air Fryer Small Turkey Crown with Gravy! With a herby butter coating for extra flavour and instructions to make a simple gravy with the turkey juices, this might well be the best turkey dinner you’ve ever had.
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I admit that I really didn’t think that I was going to be able to air fry a whole turkey crown! Not that it wouldn’t work or taste great because that was a given. But I just didn’t think one would fit without touching the element at the top of the air fryer.
So off I popped to Tesco with my air fryer basket in my backpack and stood in the freezer section, putting frozen turkey crowns one by one into my fryer basket and looking quizzically at it from all angles. I got a few strange looks mixed in with the admiring glances but these are the lengths I must go to for you my dear reader.
The outcome was a great success! A “small” (1.6kg-1.9kg/3.5lb-4lb) turkey crown fitted perfectly with enough room at the top to ensure that the skin wouldn’t catch and burn on the hot element. And loads of room around the outside for air and heat to properly flow.
The size of your air fryer will of course be the biggest determining factor in whether this recipe will work for you. I test all my recipes in my 3.8l and 4.7l cosori basket fryers. I do this on the basis that if I can fit something in mine, the vast majority of you will also be able to. You can of course get even smaller air fryers but I think its clear that they’re not going to be suitable for cooking any large piece of meat.
More Air Fried Turkey Recipes
If you prefer dark meat or want to cook a smaller single turkey breast, I’ve got you covered:
How to Serve
Naturally most of us will either be thinking of Christmas or Thanksgiving when looking to cook a whole turkey or crown. You’ll need all the trimmings in that case and I’ve got recipes for the vast majority of traditional accompaniments.
For this recipe, I served up:
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Cauliflower cheese
- Cocktail pigs in blankets
- Air fried carrots and parsnips
- Simply boiled sprouts
- Homemade whole cranberry sauce
And of course the gravy that I include in this recipe.
Air Fryer Christmas Dinner Recipes: Turkey, Trimmings & More
For more air fried recipes to make the perfect Christmas dinner (or any roast dinner for that matter), check out this handy post where I’ve collected all my recipe in one easy place.
Everything is included from three different cuts of turkey – breast, crown and whole leg, three types of stuffing – regular packet stuffing, packet stuffing balls and balls with added sausage meat and vegetables like carrots, parsnips, carrots and parsnips(!) and of course sprouts to two types of pigs in blankets – chipolata sized and with cocktail sausages, roast potatoes and a few alternative ideas like bacon wrapped sprouts and roast pork loin.
What exactly is a turkey crown?! Basically it is the whole turkey with the legs, including the drumstick and thigh removed. Usually the back bone will also be removed and the wings taken off. This is especially true when buying a frozen crown.
If you buy from a butchers, the back bone and wings may be left on. For the purposes of air frying, it really is best if the back bone and wings are removed. This allows the crown to sit much more flat in the basket. And the wings can get caught on the sides. I don’t find turkey wings very pleasant to eat so I don’t think this is any great loss.
One of the things I learnt to look for is a nice evenly shaped crown. Many can be a bit bashed around when buying frozen and I don’t always find that they defrost back to their natural shape. I’m not bothered about the aesthetics of a wonky crown, but it can make air frying it more difficult.
Fresh or Frozen Turkey?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer to get a nice fresh Norfolk bronze turkey from a proper butchers at Christmas. But the prices can be astronomical and that is now very much a luxury purchase.
There is absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever with buying fresh turkeys from the supermarket or frozen turkeys. They can be just as good quality and the price is usually significantly less. For example, this small frozen crown was £16 from Tesco in November 2023.
Frozen crowns are generally available year round and if you can see some bargains after Christmas, make sure to grab and freeze them.
The butter is important in this recipe for three reasons. Firstly it is going to create a lovely golden crust on the turkey skin and help it to crisp up nicely. Secondly it is going to add much needed moisture and fat to what is otherwise a very lean piece of meat. And lastly, its going to be a big flavour component of the gravy!
I only use salted butter for baking and cooking. If you insist on using unsalted butter, make sure to add extra salt to the herby butter.
I’ve included a selection of dried herbs in the compound butter that is slathered all over the turkey. I’ve included exactly what I used in the recipe which was dried oregano, thyme and parsley. But you really can use whatever mix of herbs you prefer.
You can also include very finely chopped fresh herbs. Just remember that you will need more of fresh than dried.
If you don’t want to use herbs, just leave them out and use a straight up butter/oil/salt mix.
As a note, I specifically don’t include any garlic in the butter recipe. I don’t enjoy the taste of garlic with a roast turkey at all but if that is something you love, add some fresh garlic puree to the mix.
I use cornflour (corn-starch) to thicken the gravy. It is a very low faff option and it also means that the gravy is naturally gluten free. This can really make things easier if you’re dealing with an allergy in a group.
You must make sure to mix the cornflour with water before adding to the gravy or it will just clump. You should also add the slurry a little at a time and make sure the gravy boils to activate the thickening action.
Cornflour is a temperamental beast. One day it can take twice the amount to do the same job it did yesterday. And the next day it might only need half the amount. Trust your gut and make a gravy the thickness you enjoy.
This recipe is free from egg, gluten and nuts.
Dairy Free: To make a dairy free herby compound butter, simply use a dairy free butter alternative. Block type butter is best as well as something that claims to be buttery in flavour rather than just texture.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
How Long to Air Fry Small Turkey Crown
The cook time for a 1.6kg/3.5lb turkey crown is a surprisingly short 50 minutes.
I do flip the crown twice during cooking. Once after 30 minutes and then again after another 15 minutes.
This 15 minutes cooking time upside down gives the underside some direct heat and allows some of the juices in the meat to redistribute to the top of the breasts which are most at risk of becoming dry.
The final 5 minutes cooking time just ensures that the skin is lovely golden and crispy.
How to Air Fry A Small Turkey Crown From Frozen
Please don’t. The meat is simply too dense to cook through properly.
You should make sure your turkey crown is fully defrosted before cooking. You should also take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you intend to start cooking. This will give it chance to come to room temperature.
Leftovers – Storage & Reheating
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for around 5 days providing they are very well covered.
You can also slice and freeze turkey. Again, make sure it is well wrapped. I like to freeze in smaller portions so I can take out just enough for a sandwich etc.
I largely prefer to reheat turkey in the microwave. Covered and with a drop of water, this effectively steams the meat which keeps it lovely and moist.
If you only have the air fryer to reheat, I would recommend wrapping it in foil, adding a drop of water and then air frying. This will again steam the meat and prevent it from drying out.
Common Air Fryer Questions – A Brief Guide to Air Frying
- What exactly is an air fryer?
- What are the benefits of using an air fryer?
- Are all air fryers the same?
- Is an air fryer always better to use than an oven?
- Do air fryers need to be pre-heated?
- What is the best temperature to air fry at?
- Can food be cooked from frozen in an air fryer?
- Can I reheat food in an air fryer?
- Are air fryer liners a good idea?
What Exactly is an Air Fryer?
Very simply, an air fryer is a small convection (fan) oven. The benefit is that the hot air is circulated all around the food being cooked which speeds up the cooking time and cooks the food more evenly.
What are the Benefits of Using an Air Fryer?
Size, time and energy usage. Air fryers are ideal for cooking smaller quantities. Heating up a space that the food just fits into requires less energy and means that the heat source is much closer to the food. Combining these two things can speed up the cooking time.
Are all air fryers the same?
Nope! The term air fryer is now used very broadly. I consider there to be 4 main types:
Basket Air Fryers
These are what I would consider to be the most common, especially in the UK. A boxy type unit has a pull out drawer/basket. Food isn’t usually visible whilst cooking.
Some larger models have two drawers so different items can be cooked at different temperatures or for different times.
This is the type that you’ll see in the images in this recipe. I mostly use a Cosori Lite 3.8L (CAF-LI401S) with a 3.8 litre capacity. The square(ish) shaped basket is 21cm x 21cm and 24cm on the diagonal. It isn’t an overly expensive or fancy model.
I’ve also recommended to several friends and family the model with a slightly larger basket. This is the Cosori 4.7L (CAF-L501) with a 4.7 litre basket. The unit is no larger than the 3.8 litre model on the outside but does have a larger internal basket capacity. I’ve since bought this version to use for some recipes where my smaller model was just too small. I’ll always note this in the recipe.
Rotary Air Fryers
Round air fryers with a paddle in the centre that rotates to move the food. This is the type I used for years – the most common is a Tefal Actifry.
Rotary types are not usually good for recipes where the food is breaded, glazed, likely to break up or in a tray/container. They do however make the best chips and roasted veg.
My 2 in 1 version like the one I’ve linked also has a rotating tray for things that could be broken up by a paddle, but the height clearance with the lid isn’t deep enough to use it to cook some items like sausage rolls. I’ve now actually retired by Actifry in favour of having my two basket type fryers.
Mini Oven Air Fryers
These usually have a glass door, shelves and overall are really quite large. You can cook quite a decent quantity of food in them so are best if regularly cooking for multiple people. They often come with extra features like a rotisserie spit or kebab skewers.
Multicookers with Air Fryer Functions
Some like Ninja 11 in 1 and some of the earlier versions with a few less functions, have an air fryer option. They mostly operate the same as a basket fryer but the basket drops in the top rather than sliding in like a drawer.
Some electric pressure cookers like Instant Pots can also air fry when used with a specific lid.
Is an air fryer always better to use than an oven?
As much as I do love air frying, the honest answer to this is no. And the more detailed answer is that it will always depend on what you’re cooking, how much of it you’re cooking and what type and size of air fryer you have.
Once you need to cook in more than 2 batches, it often makes more sense to use an oven. If you already have the oven on to cook other items, it may make more sense to throw one more item in rather than using an additional appliance.
I don’t think either method is often necessarily better than the other. The important point to note is that there is absolutely no difference in the finished product.
Do Air Fryers Need to Be Pre-Heated?
The answer to this is rather annoying – it depends. It depends entirely on your model and type of air fryer. The best advice I can offer is to check your manual and follow their guidance. My Cosori models have a preheat function. I press a button and it heats at 205c/400f for 4 minutes.
It’s also worth noting that regardless of whether you are supposed to pre-heat or not, if you are cooking in batches, it is quite likely that anything after the first batch will cook a little quicker because of the retained heat. It is best to check on them before the cooking time is completed.
What is the best temperature to Air Fry at?
It will always depend on what you are cooking and from what state. All of my air fryer recipes don’t use temperatures above 200c/390f because many of the most common fryers in the UK don’t go above this. Mine goes to 230c/450f and I use this temperature a lot but it is no help for me to share recipes which many people can’t use.
Can Food Be Cooked From Frozen In An Air Fryer?
Absolutely! To cook from frozen you usually will need to reduce the cooking temperature and increase the time to make sure your food is cooked right through to the middle.
It is best to check my individual recipes for cooking from frozen advice as some items are a little different. And there are occasionally exceptions to the rule.
Can I Reheat Food In An Air Fryer?
Yes. As a general rule I reheat food for roughly 1/3 of the original cooking time at the same temperature. Or at 10 degrees lower for half the time for larger items.
Are Air Fryer Liners a Good Idea?
Unless otherwise stated, I do not use liners when air frying. Basket and rotary type air fryers are designed to be used without liners. Mini oven types will generally require some kind of tray like with a regular large oven although most come with crisper racks to use.
There are many air fryer liners available including quite thick silicone ones. These will affect the cooking times and possibly temperatures of your cooking/baking. I also don’t like how cooking juices are prevented from dripping through the basket rack. This can stop food from crisping all the way around.
When I do want to collect the juices, I mostly use some foil, or occasionally a foil tray which can be washed and reused.
If you do prefer to use them, once you have got a feel for how they affect your cooking and baking, you may need to make adjustments to the recipe accordingly.
More Air Fryer Recipes
All my recipes with instructions for how to cook or bake them in the air fryer can be found in my Air Fryer Recipe Index.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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Air Fryer Small Turkey Crown with Gravy Recipe
- 1.6 kg Turkey Crown - defrosted
For the Herb Butter
- 75 g Salted Butter
- 2 tsp Olive Oil
- ½ tsp Fresh or Dried Oregano
- ¼ tsp Dried Thyme
- ¼ tsp Dried Parsley
- ½ tsp Sea Salt Flakes
For the Turkey Gravy
- 700 ml Boiling Water - or chicken/turkey stock
- 4 tbsp Cornflour (Cornstarch)
- 4 tbsp Cold Water
- 1 tbsp Sea Salt Flakes
Make the Herb Butter
- Measure roughly 75g Salted Butter into a small bowl. Add 2 tsp Olive Oil, ½ tsp Oregano, ¼ tsp Dried Thyme, ¼ tsp Dried Parsley and ½ tsp Sea Salt Flakes.
- Mix until everything is thoroughly combined.
Prepare the Turkey Crown
- If your air fryer requires pre-heating, start this setting now.
- Take a 1.6kg Turkey Crown/adjustable] out of its packaging and make sure it is thoroughly dry.
- Spread roughly ⅓ of the herb butter over the underside of the crown.
- Spread the rest of the butter over the top of the turkey crown and sides. If you prefer, you can make a pocket under the skin and push the butter under the skin.
Air Fry the Turkey Crown
- Place the turkey crown into the air fryer basket skin side up. I use a spatula and a set of tongs to do this without getting covered in butter. Use two forks if you prefer.
- Air fry for 30 minutes at 180c/350f.
- Carefully remove the turkey crown to a plate and pour the juices into a pan ready to make the gravy or store. Be wary of the grill tray from the bottom on the air fryer basket falling out!
- Return the crown back to the air fryer basket, this time upside down.
- Air fry for a further 15 minutes at 180c/350f.
- Repeat the step of removing the turkey, draining the juices and then replace the crown back in the basket skin side up.
- Air fry for a final 5 minutes at 180c/350f.
- Check the turkey is cooked through, you can see this by making a cut and checking that the meat is white in the centre of the thickest part. The juices should be clear and not have any sign of blood. Once you see this, its good. You don't need to panic cook it for longer. This is how we end up with dry turkey.
- Move the turkey to a plate and drain any final juices.
- Wrap in foil and put in a warm place to rest for 15-20 minutes. You can also put a towel over the top for extra insulation.
Make the Turkey Gravy
- Put the kettle on to boil and then measure around 700ml Water into a jug. Or heat up the same amount of chicken/turkey stock.
- Pour the water/stock into the air fryer basket. Use a spatula to scrape of any bit of stuck or caramelised bits of turkey. This is flavour!
- Carefully remove the grill plate and continue scraping the basket to loosen any more tasty bits.
- Pour the water and all the juicy bits into the saucepan with the drippings that you've drained during the cooking process.
- Put the pan onto a high heat to come to the boil.
- Meanwhile, make a slurry by mixing 4 tbsp Cornflour with 4 tbsp Cold Water and mixing thoroughly.
- Once the stock is boiling, pour in the cornflour slurry whilst mixing. It can be a good idea to add half, allow to boil, see how thick the gravy is and then keep adding more until it is the right consistency for you.
- Add 1 tbsp Sea Salt Flakes. Again it is a good idea to add a little at a time and keep tasting the gravy until it is seasoned as you prefer.
- Slice the turkey using a large sharp knife.
- Pour the gravy into a jug and serve with the turkey and trimmings.
- Butter/Fat – If you don’t wish to use the herb butter, use plain salted butter or rub the crown generously all over with vegetable or olive oil and salt generously.
- This recipe has been tested and photographed in a 4.7 litre capacity Cosori 4.7L (CAF-L501). The square(ish) shaped basket is 23cm x 23cm and 27cm on the diagonal. The height is 11cm.
- I also use a Cosori Lite 3.8L (CAF-LI401S) air fryer. The square(ish) shaped basket is 21cm x 21cm and 24cm on the diagonal. The 1.6kg crown will just fit into this model but it is a tight squeeze and I don’t believe the air flow is enough to adequately cook the turkey.
- Not all models advise preheating is required. Please follow the recommended instructions for your model. Mine has a specific preheat setting which is 4 minutes at 205c.
- Required cooking times and temperatures can also vary between models and brands. If you know that your air fryer runs a little hotter than most recipes suggest, use a lower temperature. And vice versa. Equally if you find that food cooks more quickly in your machine than instructions usually state, reduce the cooking time (or check it earlier) and vice versa.
- I don’t recommend cooking turkey crowns from frozen. For the centre to be properly cooked, the outside will become overcooked.