The slow cooker may be most associated with hearty fall cooking, but as we've mentioned before, it's also a very handy summer tool for keeping your kitchen cool while you stay well-fed. Throw dinner in the pot, walk away, and come back later.
We've shared a few of our favorite slow-cooker summer meals with you, but we also asked you about your smartest ways to use this magic pot while it's still too hot to cook. Here are 11 of the best smart tips and good ideas that number among our readers' favorites.
1. Baked Potatoes
Baked potatoes are an easy, economical supper, but who wants to leave the oven on for an hour in the summer? Use the slow cooker instead and bake potatoes for eating, mashing, or chopping into potato salad.
2. Roasted Beets
Like baked potatoes, beets are usually roasted in the oven, but they can easily be cooked in the slow cooker instead and then refrigerated for salads and soups.
I used it recently to roast beets and it worked great! It doesn't caramelize in quite the same way the oven does, but they were still plenty yummy! You just wrap them in foil and set it on high for a few hours. - MaryWynn
Another delicious treat usually made in the oven. Skip it and make it in the slow cooker.
4. Fruit Butter
Lots of preserving projects like apple butter and jam need long, slow simmering. Try using the slow cooker instead of the stovetop to do the hot and steamy work.
I also love using the slow cooker in preserving — making ketchup, fruit butters and jams. - TheRunawaySpoon
Apple butter! I just freeze the results instead of canning. - MonW
5. Homemade Bread
Bread is another smart way that our readers like to put their slow cookers to work.
A beautifully easy way to cook vegetables in the slow cooker! (Get a base recipe here.)
Ratatouille. It only takes about four hours, so it's not a while-I'm-at-work choice. But it's great to come home from the farmers market, chop everything, throw it in, and go out to the park with the kiddo. (I don't add the fresh herbs until shortly before serving.) - cmcinnyc
7. Fresh Tomato Soup and Sauce
Tomatoes are one of the chief things we want to preserve in the summertime; again, use the slow cooker to do the slow work of simmering.
With loads of tomatoes in our CSA, big batches of simple tomato soup to freeze and enjoy when they're not in season. This can also serve as a base to speed up chilis or other stews; super flexible. - bsf
8. Chicken or Vegetable Broth
Chicken and vegetable broths come in handy in the summer as well as the winter. Make it in the slow cooker to keep the kitchen cool!
If I need chicken broth, the slow cooker is the way to go during the summer. I love homemade broth, and it is delightful to have a pot boiling on the stove in the winter, but summertime calls for the slow cooker. It's a great project to let cook overnight. - oohlookasquirrel
Yogurt needs a cozy incubation to develop from milk into the tangy thing we love for breakfast in the summers. The slow cooker is exceptionally well-suited to this.
10. Pulled Chicken or Pork for Tacos
Our readers love the slow cooker for easy meat for tacos and sandwiches. Just pop in a pork loin or some chicken and cook low and slow.
Shredded chicken! I just throw in two to three boneless chicken breasts, and top with a can of diced tomatoes. Simmer on low for six to eight hours. - kmoreno
Any sort of barbeque or pulled pork type thing is great, especially since you can serve it on a bun or in a taco shell, with cold side dishes, so your kitchen can stay nice and cool for as long as you have leftovers. - oohlookasquirrel
A staple of summer salads and easy meals — and so easy to make in the slow cooker!
How else do you use your slow cooker when it's hot out?
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)