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5 of the Best Slow Cooker Ideas for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving snuck up on us this year and if you’re not as prepared as you’d like to be, join the club. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to get a great meal out of it. In fact, this late in the game, you ought to do the opposite. The meal will be quick to throw together, slow and low to cook, and better still, you’ll get to hang out with your guests instead of juggling six courses in a stress-filled kitchen while you’re weird aunt requests more ice to go with her Chardonnay.

Enter the slow cooker, patron saint of the 11th hour. With this gadget, you can prep and jumpstart a meal over coffee and preserve the rest of the day for friends and family. Plus, it tends to be a forgiving piece of kitchen equipment, meaning that you don’t have to be exacting with your ingredients. Start with small additions and add more to taste.

Here are a few easy-peasy dishes to throw together day-of, whether it’s on the actual holiday itself or later in the long weekend when you can’t even bear the thought of more leftovers.

Pulled Pork

Man shredding pulled pork in a pan.
GMVozd/Getty Images

Most recipes call for the shoulder when it comes to pulled pork but go with tenderloin. The cut will produce better meat and usually less fat. Grab some pantry staples like ketchup, good mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt, and honey, and cover the meat in the mix. Throw it in the slow cooker on low for five to six hours and get out of the kitchen. After, put it on warm as you pull it apart with a fork. It does great on a roll as a sandwich or as the main event in a tasty pork taco. Sweet and tangy, it’s great with a good old-fashioned lager beer. Try this recipe from Delish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Coleslaw, for serving
  • Buns, for serving

Method:

  1. Combine onion, ketchup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and spices in the bowl of a slow cooker. Season pork shoulder all over with salt and pepper, then add to the slow cooker, covering it with ketchup mixture. Cover and cook until very tender (the meat should fall apart easily with a fork!), on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  2. Remove pork from slow cooker and transfer to bowl. Shred with two forks and toss with juices from the slow cooker. Serve on buns with coleslaw.

Honey-Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

honey garlic chicken thighs on a plate with snap peas and rice.
Allrecipes

Chicken thighs tend to be more flavorful than wings and drumsticks. Hit the chicken with some salt and pepper, a drizzle of honey, a touch of garlic, and some soy sauce (or Ponzu if you want some citrus notes). Given the smaller size of the thighs, it shouldn’t take more than two to three hours to cook. The chicken does great alongside rice and some green veggies, like beans, cabbage, or bok choy. Enjoy this chicken thigh recipe from Allrecipes with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Method:

  1. Lay chicken thighs into the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker.
  2. Whisk soy sauce, ketchup, honey, garlic, and basil together in a bowl; pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours.

Pork Roast

slow cooker pot roast with potatoes in a pot.
Grandriver/Getty Images

You can do no wrong with a pork sirloin roast. It’s big and meaty, meaning you can even pretend it’s a turkey and get your carve on. Rub the outside in a bit of salt, lemon pepper, cumin, and herbs de Provence (or Za’atar if you want to go in a slightly different direction). Throw the meat in the cooker, pour in a cup or so of chicken broth, and let it cook on low. If there’s leftover room in the cooker, throw in some diced potatoes and chopped onion for added flavor and a side dish that will soak up all the flavors.

It’s great that evening but stores well as lunch meat for the west of the week as well. And save the brothy goodness at the bottom of the slow cooker for dousing potatoes or veggies in the future. Pour yourself a glass of Pinot Blanc or Chardonnay for pairing. Check out this slow cooker pork roast recipe from Butter with a Side of Bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3- to 4-pound pork roast
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch

Method:

  1. Place pork roast in Instant Pot. Combine remaining ingredients (except cornstarch) in a small bowl, increasing broth from 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups. Whisk together and pour over roast.
  2. Lock lid on and set Instant Pot to Manual High Pressure for 65 minutes (for a 2-pound sirloin tip roast that was fall-apart tender). Add 10 minutes per additional pound of pork roast.
  3. When timer beeps, let it Natural Pressure Release.
  4. Remove lid and ladle out about 1/4 cup of the juice and strain into a measuring cup.
  5. Whisk in 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Add in additional juice to make 1 cup.
  6. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and whisk again. Drizzle sauce over meat prior to serving.

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

vegetarian stuffed peppers with garnish of parsley and sour cream.
Well Plated

You can go meatless and do so in style with stuffed peppers. You’ll capture the color spectrum of fall and earn a few presentation points when it comes time for plating. Fill the peppers with a pre-mixed helping of black beans and quinoa, along with some chili powder and store-bought enchilada sauce. Throw in some refried beans or guacamole as a tasty binding agent, if needed. A few hours on low ought to do the trick. Check out the full stuffed pepper recipe from Well Plated.

If you’re short on space, you can cook any remaining peppers in the oven. The toppings are unlimited, from avocado and sour cream to cheese and salsa verde. Try it with a heavier winter rosé.

Ingredients:

Peppers:

  • 6-8 large bell peppers any colors you like
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey or lean ground beef
  • 1 can reduced-sodium black beans (14 ounces), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (14 ounces), with juices
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa or swap 3 cups COOKED brown rice or 3 cups raw cauliflower rice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese divided; for a milder flavor, swap Monterey jack or cheddar

For Serving:

  • Sliced avocado
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice

Method:

  1. Slice the tops off of the bell peppers (cut as close to the top as you can so that you have max space for stuffing), then carefully remove the ribs and seeds so that you do not break the sides of the peppers. Set aside.
  2. Place the ground chicken into a large bowl. Add the black beans, tomatoes with their juices, quinoa, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and 3/4 cup of the cheese. With a fork or your fingers, stir to combine. Spoon the filling into the hollowed-out centers of the peppers, filling them all the way to the top. (The number of peppers you need for all of the filling will vary depending upon the size of the peppers.)
  3. Pour 1/2 cup water into an empty 5-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stand the peppers up on their bases in the water, arranging them so that they are evenly spread apart. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours, until the peppers are tender. Remove the lid, sprinkle the peppers with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then cover the slow cooker again and let heat for a few additional minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve hot with desired toppings.

Beer Can Chicken (Almost)

drunk chicken in a roasting pan with vegetables.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This meal couldn’t be easier to pull off. Before you put the chicken in, coat the skin in a generous mix of paprika (smoked is great), salt, pepper, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Pour in your favorite lager to infuse the flavors low and slow into the chicken. Four hours should be enough for a small chicken of about four pounds. Extend your cooking time according to the weight of the bird. Don’t forget to rotate the chicken occasionally for a more balanced flavor throughout. Try it with a racy red like Gamay Noir. Get the full drunken chicken recipe from Growing Up Gabel.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-5 pounds
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer
  • Spices for chicken rub
  • Aluminum foil

Method:

  1. Tear off four pieces of aluminum foil and make into balls. Place the foil balls in the bottom of the crock of a 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Pour the beer into the crock of slow cooker.
  3. Prepare chicken by removing the gizzards and innards and trimming any fat around openings. Season chicken as desired. Salt and pepper works great, but add any spices you like, such as lemon pepper, garlic, seasoned salt, and a chicken rub.
  4. Place the chicken on top of the foil so that it sits above the beer.
  5. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5-6 hours.
  6. The chicken can be served once it’s cooked or finish on the grill or under a broiler to crisp up the skin.
Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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