When your slow cooker has an adorable blue-checkered design like mine does, it's always out on the counter, ready to cook up all manner of tasty dinners. That means using my Crock-Pot to meal-prep or to cook (i.e., dump ingredients, turn on, walk away), even in the sweltering heat of summer.
Especially in the sweltering heat of summer.
Because what's one thing you don't have to do when you're plugging in the good ol' Crock-Pot? Turn on the stove. Which means my tiny New York City apartment gets to stay cool as a cucumber while I set and forget my meals for the week, leaving me time and space to catch up on my latest Netflix obsession, or to spend a quiet day at the beach reading or rooftop happy-hour-ing with friends.
I can come home to a fully cooked meal — and all I have to do is tuck in.
Slow-cooking in the warmer months is also useful for when you're entertaining outdoors. You can cook your large-format dishes without batting an eye, freeing up the grill for burgers and steaks. Think: big batches of slow-cooker BBQ chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and smoky shredded beef tacos. Thanks to the Crock-Pot, your summer cookouts have never been easier.
The versatility of warm-weather slow-cooking is boundless. So whether you're feeding friends at a backyard barbecue or meal-prepping for the week just for you, these summer Crock-Pot recipes should have you covered.
Nothing says summer cookout like the sight of BBQ chicken drumsticks, i.e. little sweet-and-sour glazed meat lollipops. These beauts get slow-cooked with a few spices, then slathered in a homemade bourbon BBQ sauce.
"I challenge you to come up with a Crock-Pot chicken breast recipe that doesn't dry out," I prompted our test kitchen director Josh Cohen. He came up with this easy yet elegant weeknight dinner option — and yes, moist as can be, thanks to the luscious mustard-leek sauce that goes with it.
The main point of using your slow cooker is to cook a big batch of meat that you can mix and match in about a million ways. Here, tender, slow-cooked beef chuck roast gets thrown into tortillas and topped with lettuce, guac, and cheese. While they'd be great just about any night, these tacos are perfect for a party, as your guests can assemble their own meaty parcels.
Mediterranean food and summer go hand in hand. This slow-cooker chicken stew has those signature bright, briny flavors, thanks to feta, olives, and tomatoes.
If it's pulled pork you're after, then you'll want to try this Crock-Pot wonder. "This recipe gives you fork-tender pulled pork barbecue with just 10 minutes of effort," writes Ivy Manning. "It gets a slightly smoky flavor from smoked paprika."
These vegetable-packed lentils are just the thing you want to eat on hot summer nights when you're looking for sustenance without the heaviness.
Let your slow cooker do most of the work for these sweet and salty chicken wings — no deep fryer or hot oil required. Finished with an addictive hoisin and soy sauce glaze, they'll be the first thing to go at your backyard BBQ.
I'm never above a comforting bowl of vegetarian noodles, even in the summer. This hot and sour number relies on dried shiitake mushrooms, which reconstitute as they slow-cook with all of the other aromatic ingredients.
Did you know that you can steam artichokes in a Crock-Pot? The ultimate warm-weather food, these come out perfectly tender, flavored with garlic, lemon, and thyme with an optional anchovy dipping sauce.
For brunch, ditch the oven and make this bacon and corn–packed frittata in your slow cooker. Just be sure to use a soufflé or casserole dish that can fit into your Crock-Pot insert; the indirect heat will set your eggs and your kitchen will stay chill while you're at it.
Growing up in the South, my cousins and I would cook up huge shrimp boils on the beach: corn, shrimp, kielbasa, and lots of lemon. This slow-cooker version is a little tamer for quieter summer get-togethers — just dump, set, and forget.
I'll leave you with this über Crock-Pot dinner, for nights when you want classic pot roast comfort without the fuss. Don't forget to make the fresh chickpea salad; it really brightens up the rest.
This story was originally published on Food52.com: 12 easy slow-cooker recipes that let you turn off the stove.