Slow Cooker Turkey Thighs with Beer and Onions


Did you get what you wanted for Christmas this year? I did! There was an All Clad deluxe slow cooker with nonstick aluminum insert under my tree.
*Hey, we can't all want an official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle for Christmas. And I'm much less likely to shoot my eye out.  But more likely to burn myself, so I guess that's a wash.

Turkey thighs are perfect for the slow cooker. They have enough fat and connective tissue to make them hard to overcook. Even better, turkey thighs have a big, meaty flavor to match the sweet beer and onion sauce.
*Hard to overcook is the key to slow cooking, because it means simmering for hours on end. I cringe when I see a slow cooker recipe with lean protien, like pork loin or chicken breasts. All I can think of is dry, dry meat.

I pull the skin off the thighs before cooking, a trick I learned from Cooks Illustrated. Turkey skin doesn't add anything to the recipe. Or at least, not anything good. After the long, slow cooking the skin comes out flabby and chewy. All it does is add extra fat to the sauce, which I don't want anyhow.

The final trick is to keep the liquid to a miniumum. There isn't much evaporation in slow cooking, so watery sauces are a real danger. I add a quarter cup of flour to thicken the sauce as it cooks, and only one bottle of beer for liquid. The turkey and onions give up more than enough liquid while they slow cook, and the result is a thick, creamy sauce of beer and onions.

If you are a dark meat fan (like me!), this recipe should be in your arsenal.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Turkey Thighs with Beer and Onions

Equipment:
  • 6 quart or larger slow cooker (Crock Pot brand is fine, but I like my fancy one from All-Clad)

Ingredients:
  • 4 pounds turkey thighs (about 4), skin removed
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 12 oz beer (Amber lager, brown ale, or porter work best)
  • 2 bay leaves


Directions:
1. Prep the turkey: Peel the skin from the turkey thighs, and put them in the slow cooker. Sprinkle them evenly with the salt and pepper, then rub with the Dijon mustard to coat.
Ready to smear the mustard on the turkey

2. Brown the onions: In a fry pan, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and 1 tsp kosher salt and cook until the onions are softened and starting to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the onions and paste are well browned, about five more minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and thyme, and stir until the flour is moist. Pour in the beer, add the bay leaves, and increase the heat to high. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits into the beer, and cook until the beer is simmering, about 3 more minutes. Pour the beer and onions over the turkey thighs in the slow cooker.


3. Slow cook the turkey: Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 4 hours.

4. Serve: Move the turkey thighs to a serving platter, and cover with 2 cups of the beer and onions from the pot. Serve, passing the rest of the beer and onions on the side.

Notes:
*You will want something to soak up this wonderful sauce; serve with a side of egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Dinner rolls are a good addition as well. I like to serve this with green vegetables; I chose peas and a green salad.

*Beer: What beer is best? Something with a lot of flavor, but not very bitter. I usually use Eliot Ness Amber Lager or Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Company. (They're my local brewery.  I like to support the home team, so I usually have them on hand.) I also recommend Ommegang Abbey Ale from Cooperstown, NY; this Belgian style ale has the perfect flavor combination for the recipe. As a bonus, the extra large Ommegang bottle leaves beer for the cook to drink.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Slow Cooker Pork Pot Roast
Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Pot Roast

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16 comments:

Rob Freundlich said...

Hey, Mike, congrats on your new slow cooker! I've had one of these (same brand/model) for a few years, and it's wonderful!

One tip - the insert can handle being used on the stovetop, so if you saute the onions and do all the rest of the prep right in it instead of in a separate pan, you've got all that wonderful fond and drippings right there, AND you don't have a second pan to clean.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Rob Freundlich:

Thanks, Rob! I'm in the middle of a slow cooker bolognese sauce right now, and I used the insert to saute and brown the ingredients. Unfortunately, I didn't have my new slow cooker when I was making this recipe...

Jeremy said...

All-Clad slow cooker that much better than other slow cookers? What makes it better?

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Jeremy:

The new one I got has a stovetop-safe crock, so you can brown in the crock then move it straight to the oven.

The old one, that I've been using for years...well, it just works. Every other slow cooker I've owned has broken; usually, the ceramic crock cracks on me. The All-Clad just keeps working. And, I like the electronics (countdown timer on cooking) and size. Sure, a slow cooker is a slow cooker...but I really like the All-Clad.

Thad said...

I stumbled across this looking for things to do with turkey thighs and my Crock Pot. Very tasty! It also works well when halving the recipe, though I used a bit less salt.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Thanks, Thaddeus!

Mike Kluznik said...

Best turkey I've ever cooked.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Thanks, Mike!

JackieLL said...

Imade this today. I only had stella artois and thus it was used. This dish is crazy, I mean crazy good!
Thanks for posting the recipe. Jackie

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You're welcome - glad you used the Stella instead of skipping it!

Amanda said...

All I have is Great Lakes Christmas ale......would that work?

The Fresh Chef said...

How can I adapt this recipe for a pressure cooker?

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Follow the recipe until step 3. Then, pressure cook the turkey thighs for 12 minutes on high (15 minutes in an electric PC), let the pressure come down naturally for 15 minutes, and quick release any remaining pressure.

charlene said...

I only have rickers red beer and i hope that works. I am going to try this today.

The MASTER CROCKPOT KING!!!!! said...

Ok - I never comment online. I mean NEVER. This is my first [and I'm not a young guy]. This recipe is fantastic, but can be outrageously fantastic with a handful of easy additions [that are worth it!!!!]. In the skillet, add about three tablespoons of minced garlic, a few cut up carrots [ 3 or 4], some celery [3 or 4], an additional tablespoon of tomato paste, some cut up mushrooms [1/2 cup], a pinch of 1/4 oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/8 teaspoon of fennel seed, 1/4 tsp of onion powder, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of red wine [in addition to the beer]. Make sure to cook it down for a good 3 minutes on high - stir a bunch. It should be pretty thick. For the mustard, use the spicy deli kind. Don't forget to add all other ingredients mentioned in original recipe. Once you pour this over the turkey, add a few cups of stock [turkey or chicken] if you want amazingly fantastic gravy. Don't add the salt from above if you add the stock. The depth of flavor will knock the socks off anyone eating it. Also, cook it an extra hour if you really like fall off the bone turkey.... Enjoy!!!!!! GREAT RECIPE!!!!!!!!!!! THHHAAAANNNKKKKK YYYOOOUUUU!!!!! You may want to eat over egg noodles - this is so good - the more gravy the better!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Glad you enjoyed it!

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