Making your Thanksgiving turkey in a slow cooker results in a wonderfully tender and flavorful bird. It also leaves your oven free to cook up more holiday sides at the same time.
Technique tip: A 7-quart oval slow cooker is the minimum size that can be used for this recipe.
Swap option: The weight of kosher salt weight varies by brand. If you prefer to use iodized table salt or fine sea salt, reduce the salt by half to 5 ounces by weight.
- 8 quarts water, divided
- 2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons allspice berries
- 1 handful fresh sage leaves
- 1 handful fresh rosemary sprigs
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
- One 10-pound turkey
To brine the turkey:
1. Add half (4 quarts or 1 gallon) of the water, along with the salt, sugar, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, sage, rosemary bay leaves and garlic, to a large stockpot.
2. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
3. Remove from the heat and let cool until the brine is no longer steaming. Cover pot of brine and refrigerate until liquid is cool.
4. Remove brine from fridge and add 4 quarts (1 gallon) of water.
5. Place the brining bag in a large roasting pan or baking pan to support the bottom of the bag.
6. Add the turkey to the brining bag and pour the brine over the turkey into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out as much excess air as possible.
7. Return to the refrigerator. Use a Dutch oven lid, cast iron pan or heavy casserole dish to weigh the turkey down so it remains submerged. Brine overnight or for up to 12 hours.
To prep the turkey:
1. Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Place the turkey on a large paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet.
2. Pat the turkey skin and cavity dry with paper towels and let sit for an hour at room temperature.
3. Preheat a 7-quart oval slow cooker for 30 minutes on low temperature.
4. Truss the turkey if desired while the slow cooker is preheating.
To truss the turkey (optional):
1. Cut a 4- to 5-foot piece of kitchen twine.
2. Place the turkey on a large cutting board or baking sheet breast-side up, with the legs facing away from you and the chest cavity closest to you.
3. Shimmy the twine under the turkey "butt" and bring both ends of the twine toward you, pulling the twine between the legs and up and over the creases where the turkey thighs meet the body.
4. Criss-cross the twine pieces tightly, nestling the X under the turkey's keel bone. Stretch the twine under the "ankles" of the turkey and then loop it back over the bones to bring the legs closer to the body.
5. Criss-cross the twine once more, again nestling the X under the keel bone and cinching the legs tight.
6. Pull the twine up towards you, once again pulling it into the crease where the thighs meet the body.
7. Tuck the wings close to the body and hold the twine tightly against the "elbow" of each wing with your hands.
8. Carefully flip the turkey over, using the twine to pull the wings close to the body.
9. Knot the twine tightly along the turkey's backbone and snip off any excess twine.
To cook the turkey:
1. Place the turkey in the slow cooker, tucking the wings underneath the body of the bird if needed to make sure the lid closes tightly.
2. Cook for 6½ hours on low, then check the turkey's temperature: it is done when a thermometer inserted into both the thickest part of the thigh and the breast registers 165°F (if the turkey hasn't yet reached temperature, continue to cook for 30 minutes more, then re-check for doneness).
3. Preheat the oven broiler.
4. Carefully transfer the turkey to a large rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish. Broil the turkey just until the skin begins to crisp and brown; timing will vary based on your broiler, so watch carefully.
5. Loosely tent the turkey with foil and rest for 30 minutes to redistribute the bird's juices before carving.