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How to use a slow cooker to make your whole Thanksgiving meal

crock pot
It's easy to make your favorite stuffing recipe in a slow cooker instead of inside the turkey.
  • A Crock-Pot (or any slow cooker) can be an indispensable tool for Thanksgiving.
  • To make your turkey in a slow cooker, 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.
Separate the turkey breast from the legs and choose one to cook low and slow.
Turkey — Separate the breast from the legs and choose one to cook low and slow
Carved turkey breast.

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 herb butter. 

Mashed potatoes in the slow cooker will free up your stove space.
mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes.

The secret to an easy Thanksgiving prep is preparing some dishes a day or two ahead of time.

"Mashed potatoes are great in the slow cooker, though it does take a bit of time for the potatoes to soften, so plan ahead," Sarah Olson, the blogger behind "The Magical Slow Cooker," told Insider.

Sheana Davis, chef and founder of The Epicurean Connection, added, "Mashed potatoes can be made the night before. Place them in the Crock-Pot, turn on low in the morning, and keep warm until serving.  It frees up your stovetop.  You can also thin the mixture with milk or cream if they get too thick from the heat."

Make your favorite stuffing recipe in a slow cooker instead of cooking it inside the turkey.
stuffing thanksgiving
Stuffing.

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 four 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."

Sarah Olson said you can use either prepare store-bought boxed stuffing in the slow cooker or homemade stuffing, depending on your preference.

 

The slow-cooker version of cranberry sauce or relish is simple and makes your house smell great.
cranberry sauce in a pot with spoon
Cranberry sauce.

"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."

Sarah Olson's recipe for slow-cooked cranberry sauce requires only a few ingredients: fresh cranberries, marmalade, and brown sugar to taste.

If you cook sweet potatoes in the slow cooker, be sure to season more generously than normal.
sweet potato casserole
Sweet potatoes.

"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."

Sweet-potato casserole with marshmallows can also easily be made in a slow cooker.
sweet potatoes with cinnamon and marshmallows
Sweet potatoes with cinnamon and marshmallows.

Sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows is a Thanksgiving favorite, and there are multiple recipes out there explaining how to make it in a slow cooker.

One recipe by Damn Delicious explains that the residual heat from the slow cooker is the perfect method for achieving gooey, melted marshmallows on top of your casserole — without taking up any oven space.

Mac and cheese, a Thanksgiving tradition in the South, can also be made in a slow cooker.
mac and cheese
Mac and cheese.

Olson's recipe for slow cooker macaroni and cheese uses cream cheese, milk, sharp cheddar, and white sharp cheddar to make the noodles super creamy and flavorful.

You can make slow-cooked glazed carrots in a Crock-Pot as well.
glazed carrots
Glazed carrots.

To make, toss the carrots into the slow cooker with a little salt, brown sugar, and butter and let sit for four to five hours, until tender.

Use your normal stovetop recipe for green beans when making them in a slow cooker.
Green beans — You can use the same recipe as your stove top version
Blistered green beans for Thanksgiving.

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 stovetop in the slow cooker and it's great because cooking the beans in the slow cooker frees up more space on my stove."

Green-bean casserole, another holiday favorite, can be made in a slow cooker.
green bean casserole
Green-bean casserole.

"My family cannot go without the green-bean casserole. It's pretty much the best side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas," Olson said. 

This recipe for green-bean casserole is perfect for a group of guests.

Appetizers like meatballs or dips can be made in a Crock-Pot.
spinach artichoke dip
Spinach and artichoke dip.

From a slow-cooker Buffalo chicken dip that's ready to reheat and serve whenever you get peckish on Thanksgiving day to easy slow-cooker meatballs guests can snack on, making a couple of appetizers in Crock-Pots is a great way to save you tons of time.

Dinner rolls can also be made in a slow cooker or Crock-Pot.
dinner rolls
Dinner rolls.

A necessity on any Thanksgiving table, warm, fluffy dinner rolls in a slow cooker. One recipe from I Heart Eating teaches you how to make the perfect dinner roll dough, then bake them only using a slow cooker.

You can easily make warming Thanksgiving cocktails in the Crock-Pot.
mulled wine
Mulled wine.

"The Crock-Pot is great for beverages like mulled wine, spiked cider, or hot chocolate," New York City-based chef Jenny Dorsey told Insider. "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 a pumpkin cheesecake — slow cookers and cheesecake recipes go hand in hand.
pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin cheesecake.

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 cheesecake.

"Slow-cooker cheesecake has always been a thing," 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."

Think ahead and use leftover stock to make turkey stew the next day.
Turkey stew
Turkey stew.

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 said.

Dorsey also told Insider she 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."

Read the original article on Insider


How to use a slow cooker to make your whole Thanksgiving meal
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