Are you interested in an easy way to have a home cooked meals without heating up your oven or standing over the grill? Using your slow cooker in the summer can help you do just that. You don’t have to store it away just because you no longer want to eat soups and stews. You can cook summertime recipes and take that cooking heat completely out of the kitchen!
Here are some ideas to get you started, and don’t miss the last tip for cooking small amounts in a large crock pot.
Get the heat out of the house
First, let’s deal with the heat issue. Although a slow cooker heats at a lower temperature than the oven, it still puts off heat and does it over a number of hours. So it can make the kitchen feel warm. But unlike a large oven, that slow cooker is portable! (If you don’t have one, there are plenty of models to choose from. Mine is Hamilton Beach brand.)
Your options include the garage, porches, and any outdoor outlet, but not all are good in every situation. Take it to the garage or a screened porch if you are going to be away from home. I don’t know any examples of it happening, but I wouldn’t want that food to attract animals. An uncovered area is okay in good weather when you will be home and can keep an eye on it. I like to use a covered deck area where I can place it up on a table and easily see it from my window.
I’m talking about slow cookers today, but Terri who is a regular reader also recommends taking a toaster oven or small convection oven outside. That’s a great idea too!
Cook summer foods
It’s true that many crock pot recipes are great in the fall, winter, and early spring, but they’re simply not appetizing when the weather is hot. There are still plenty of ways you can use your slow cooker, though.
Here are some suggestions, but if you think about your favorite summertime meals, you can probably come up with other ways to use it too.
Whole Chicken – Plop a whole fryer chicken in the slow cooker with a cup of water and some seasoning and let it cook for 6 – 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. It’s cheaper than buying a rotisserie chicken. You can slice it an eat it warm or let it cool and then chop the meat to have for chicken salad, topping a garden salad, or shred the meat and use it for tacos or other wraps. Chicken pieces also work if you don’t like dealing with a whole chicken.
Shredded Beef or Pulled Pork – Again, put the roast in the crock and add some water or broth and seasoning and let it cook until it is nice and tender. Then cool the meat and shred it (a stand mixer does it in a jiffy). Add barbecue sauce or taco seasoning and you have delicious summer food! Cook plenty so you can freeze some for easy meals.
Baked Beans – Want to take baked beans to a summer cookout? Make your grandma’s favorite recipe in the crock pot and people are sure to love it.
Spaghetti Sauce – Many gardeners have an over abundance of tomatoes at times, and homemade spaghetti sauce is a great way to use them.
Sloppy Joes – These sandwiches are good year round, and the slow cooker is a great way to prepare the meat mixture. They’re good for serving a crowd, too. I like to use these homemade gluten-free hamburger buns, but they do require you to use your oven.
Tip for cooking small amounts
Let’s say you want to cook about a quart of baked beans, but you have a 6 quart slow cooker. That’s not going to work well. Your crock should be at least half full.
Find a heat safe dish (like a Pyrex dish) or pan (like a bread pan) that will fit inside your crock and hold the amount of food that you need to cook. Put the food inside that dish or pan just like you would put it in the crock, cover the crock and cook. You should not need to add additional water to the crock, but keep an eye on it if you are doing it for the first time.
I haven’t done this a lot because I haven’t needed to. But with fewer mouths to feed at my house these days, I have tried it out, and I plan to use it more often. The above picture shows shredded chicken breasts with some salsa mixed in.
Other slow cooker recipes
These recipes are not typical summertime foods, but they’re not strictly cold weather foods either.
- Chicken Cacciatore
- Meatloaf and Potatoes
- Mexican Beef Short Ribs
- Italian Pot Roast
- Pork Chops
- Mexican Beef Bowls