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- A Crock Pot (or any slow cooker) can be an indispensable tool for Thanksgiving.
- We spoke with several cookbook authors and slow cooker experts for tips and trick on how to cook your entire Thanksgiving meal in a crock pot.
- For turkey, you’ll want to separate the breast from the dark meat so it fits.
- You can even slow-cook Thanksgiving cocktails like mulled wine or cider in a Crock Pot.
No matter how much you prepare ahead of time, cooking for Thanksgiving usually turns into a stressful hassle. But there’s one tool that can ease some of that holiday preparation-related worry: your slow cooker.
INSIDER spoke with several cookbook authors and slow cooker experts about their tips and tricks for cooking your entire Thanksgiving meal in a slow cooker. Turns out you actually can use your Crock Pot for practically every part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, from soup to nuts (or from turkey to mulled wine).
We have rounded up tips for every part of your Thanksgiving preparation, from separating the turkey breast from the legs so that it can actually fit into the Crock Pot, to Thanksgiving-themed slow cooker pumpkin cheesecake.
Separate the turkey breast from the legs and choose one to cook low and slow.
Unfortunately, your Crock Pot or slow cooker probably won’t hold an entire turkey, but if you separate the breast from the legs, it can work.
“If you have a 6 quart slow cooker or larger, you still probably won’t be able to fit a whole turkey in there, but you can fit a 3-4 pound turkey breast,” Kendra Bailey Morris, author of “The Southern Slow Cooker,” told INSIDER. “The beauty of the slow cooker is that it is inherently self basting. Slow cookers create a very moist environment with the condensation from the cooking process often rising to the top of the slow cooker and then dripping back down onto the meat, which helps to keep things moist.”
Her one very important tip? Make sure to inject some fat back into your turkey breast, since the meat is very lean. She suggests using an herbed butter.
Place your favorite stuffing recipe into your slow cooker instead of the turkey carcass.
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Stuffing is actually made for the Crock Pot and doesn’t require much tweaking at all for your slow cooker.
“I would say use just about any stuffing recipe you like, just make sure it contains eggs and a liquid, like stock,” Sarah DiGregorio, recipe developer and author of “Adventures in Slow Cooking: 120 Slow-Cooker Recipes for People Who Love Food,” said. “Prepare it as you normally would, but instead of baking it or stuffing it into the turkey cavity, spoon it into your slow cooker. Cover and cook for about 4 hours on low. The top won’t brown, but the sides and bottom will get nice and crisp and golden, while the center will stay pudding-like and moist.”
The slow cooker version of cranberry sauce or relish is simple and makes your house smell great.
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“Apple cranberry relish makes your house smell so good,” Sheana Davis said. “Equal parts apples, cranberries, and apple and cranberry juice. Add sugar to taste, a bit of orange zest and cinnamon. The house will smell wonderful and the relish is delicious.”
Try this version of slow cooker apple cranberry sauce from Betty Crocker.
Mashed potatoes in the slow cooker will free up your stove space.
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The secret to an easy Thanksgiving prep is preparing some dishes a day or two ahead of time.
“Mashed potatoes can be made the night before,” Sheana Davis said. “Place them in the Crock Pot, turn on low in the morning and keep warm until serving. It frees up your stove top. You can also thin the mixture with milk or cream if they get too thick from the heat.”
If you cook sweet potatoes is the slow cooker, be sure to season more generously than normal.
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“Sweet potatoes cook really well in the slow cooker,” Kendra Bailey Morris said. “Every time I adapt a recipe for the slow cooker that was originally designed for the oven, I season it more generously. The slow cooker has a tendency to dilute flavors due to condensation building up during the cooking process.”
Check out Bailey Morris’ recipe for slow cooker orange sorghum sweet potatoes with cornflake topping.
You can use the same green bean recipe as a stove top version.
When we think of slow cooker vegetables, we probably picture a puree like a mashed sweet potato. But Kendra Bailey-Morris says that green beans can (and should) be cooked in a slow cooker.
“I was raised in the South and grew up eating green beans that were cooked with some kind of seasoning meat (such as fatback, ham hocks or bacon grease),” Bailey Morris said. “I make green beans almost the exact same way as I do on the stove top in the slow cooker and it’s great because cooking the beans in the slow cooker frees up more space on my stove.”
Try this slow cooker green beans with bacon recipe from “Southern Living.”
You can easily make Thanksgiving cocktails such as mulled wine, cider, or cocoa in the Crock Pot.
This just may be the most surprising tip on this list. Did you know you can easily make mulled wine or cider in your crock pot?
“The Crock Pot is great for beverages like mulled wine, spiked cider, or hot chocolate,” Jenny Dorsey said. “This is ideal for smaller slow cookers so you can have hot beverages all night and less alcohol will burn off as you’re not bringing it to a boil.”
Try this easy slow cooker mulled wine recipe from Delish.
Try a pumpkin cheesecake — slow cookers and cheesecake recipes go hand in hand.
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Your Crock Pot is great for desserts too! While a pie might be difficult to make in a slow cooker, you can easily whip up a decadent Crock Pot cheesecake.
“Slow cooker cheesecake has always been a thing,” Jenny Dorsey said. “They’re really fun to jazz up with pumpkin puree for Thanksgiving. You are essentially using your slow cooker as a bain marie [cooking equipment that’s like a heated bath] by placing the cheesecake molds into the slow cooker and surrounding it with water. The slow cooker will keep the water at an even temp, so your cake cooks uniformly.”
Check out this slow cooker pumpkin cheesecake recipe from the Food Network.
Think ahead and use leftover stock to make turkey stew the next day.
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When it comes to better Thanksgiving leftovers, it’s best to think ahead of time so you aren’t stuck eating turkey sandwiches for a week.
“Before we put out the Thanksgiving meal, I place all the turkey drippings, some of the carved turkey trimming, potatoes, carrots, any side vegetables, a quart of Chicken Stock, and seasonings into the Crock Pot on low and we have the best Turkey stew for lunch the next day,” Sheana Davis, chef and founder of “The Epicurean Connection” told INSIDER.
New York City-based chef Jenny Dorsey also uses her leftover turkey the next day for slow cooker shredded turkey tacos or even a simple turkey broth in the Crock Pot “for a rainy day.”
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