Thanksgiving Dinner in a Slow Cooker
November 21, 2020 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I am thinking of making this dinner in a crockpot for Thaksgiving. Please help me make some adjustments.

1. If I can't find a turkey thigh, can I use some other turkey part? If so, how should I adjust the recipe?

2. What else is good for seasoning Brussels sprouts, besides salt and pepper?

3. I won't otherwise use brown sugar. So can I substitute honey for that?

Any other tips? This is only the second time I will have made a holiday dinner.
posted by NotLost to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
1. Turkey breast cutlets are pretty commonly available. In the oven, they'd take less time than thighs, but with a slow cooker I don't think it'll matter as much. Slow/pressure cookers add a lot of fudge factor as far as meats go, because extra time tends to just make it more tender (as compared to drying out with a conventional oven). There will be less fat than dark meat, so you might put some extra olive oil or butter in with it.

2. I like them with garlic, with balsamic, with a touch of hot pepper (preferably something like Aleppo peppers, that have some flavor in addition to heat).

3. Perfectly fine - it's just about adding some additional sugar.
posted by Candleman at 10:37 PM on November 21, 2020

If you have an oven, I wouldn’t do the Brussels sprouts in the slow cooker. Oven-roasted Brussels sprouts are amazing, but they’re best in a hot oven, and I’m worried that slow-cooked ones would be mushy. You’re going for crispy and caramelized, and that requires like a 400 degree oven, which is basically the opposite of slow cooking. I can vouch for this recipe for oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta and balsamic.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:03 AM on November 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Slow cookers are really only useful for foods that can be hammered through to extra well done and still taste okay. This works for turkey thigh, but turkey breast would turn out dry and tough (Candleman is incorrect that extended cooking in a slow cooker would just make it more tender). For extended cooking at simmering temperature you need “tough” meat with connective tissue that can be converted to gelatin over time. Turkey drumsticks would be second best, although drumstick meat is mealy compared to thigh meat (chop off the “knuckle” before cooking to improve the texture).

As ArbitraryAndCapricious points out, Brussels sprouts in a slow cooker will be soft. They will also be hammered through, which can turn them into little sulphur stinkbombs, and maybe a little mushy. Make sure you like thoroughly boiled/steamed B-sprouts before doing this.

Sweet potatoes should be fine. Any sugar source (or none at all) would work. Again, there will be no crispyness.

Dressing should also be fine although, again, it will tend to be pudding-like with no crispy bits.

Honestly the process outlined in this article seems gimmicky and unlikely to turn out very good. “Pack it up, turn it on and forget about it until you feel like eating” slow cooker recipes really only work with a very small number of foods, and those are ones that require very long cooking as a matter of course and/or are meant to be cooked to a mushy texture. If you’re looking for an easy holiday dinner for two that cooks all at the same time, I’d suggest searching for sheet pan thanksgiving.
posted by slkinsey at 6:42 AM on November 22, 2020 [11 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to ditch the slow cooker altogether and go with a sheet pan instead. Just as easy, faster, and more likely to yield better results.

More specific questions:

* If you still want to go with a slow cooker, I would go with a drumstick. It's also dark meat and would also have a bone, so it should cook similarly. (Although, you shouldn't have trouble finding a thigh - most people will be clamoring for the whole bird or a breast, so there should be thighs available.) If you switch to a sheet pan...that depends on whether you prefer light or dark meat.

* Seasoning brussels sprouts: Oh, man, what doesn't work?.... However, I would go with something that harmonizes with the meal itself - if you're going with more of a traditional sage-and-onion vibe on the turkey, similar "poultry" herbs would work well - a little thyme, a little rosemary, etc. If you want more of a "Mediterranean" feel, add a little oregano. And - garlic, absolutely.

* Honey in lieu of brown sugar: it'll be a subtly different flavor, but will still be fine. Brown sugar has a little bit of a molasses-y note, and honey has more of, honey note. But the recipe will work either way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:50 AM on November 22, 2020

Thanks for all your help.

I went to a different store and got a thigh. But I am planning to ditch the slow cooker for a sheet pan and this recipe.
posted by NotLost at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cool! I’d recommend some fresh (although dried will work) sage and rosemary for the dressing.
posted by slkinsey at 7:16 AM on November 23, 2020

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