News flash: Slow-cookers like chicken with 40 cloves of garlic or pot roast. They’re for every season and every weather. If your slow cooker has an adorable blue-checkered design like mine does, then you’ll get why mine’s always out on the counter. That means my Crock-Pot is always ready for meal-prepping (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 the latest season of Dead to Me on Netflix, or to spend a quiet day at the beach reading or hanging out on my rooftop.
I can come home to a fully cooked meal—and all I have to do is tuck in.
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Slow-cooking in the warmer months is useful, as well, 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:
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1. Bourbon BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
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.
2. Chicken Breasts With Creamy Mustard-Leek 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, the chicken is moist-as-can-be thanks to the accompanying mustard-leek sauce.
3. Smoky Shredded Beef Tacos
If you ask me, the best use of a slow cooker is cooking a big batch of meat that you can then 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, and any leftovers would be happy to be sandwiched.
4. Mediterranean Chicken Thigh Stew
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.
5. Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue
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 recipe developer Ivy Manning. “It gets a slightly smoky flavor from smoked paprika.”
6. Indian-Spiced Lentils With Spinach
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.
7. Hoisin-Glazed Chicken Wings
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 a sticky hoisin-and-soy-sauce glaze, they’ll be the first thing to go at your backyard BBQ.
8. Shiitake Noodle Hot & Sour Soup
I’m never above a comforting bowl of vegetarian noodles, even in the summer. This hot and sour number gets a boost of umami thanks to dried shiitake mushrooms, which reconstitute right in the slow-cooker.
9. Lemon-Thyme Steamed Artichokes
Did you know that you can steam artichokes in a Crockpot? The ultimate warm-weather food, these come out perfectly tender, flavored with garlic, lemon, and thyme with an optional anchovy dipping sauce.
10. Bacon, Corn & Cheese Frittata
For brunch, ditch the oven and make this bacon and corn 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 while your kitchen stays cool.
11. Low-Country Shrimp Boil
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 perfect for smaller summer get-togethers—just dump, set, and forget.
12. Pot Roast With Chickpea Salad
This über Crock-Pot dinner is 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.
13. Crockpot BBQ Ribs
Have fall-off-the-bone ribs at the ready—without having to fire up the grill or smoker. We highly recommend slathering them in the three-ingredient honey BBQ sauce made with the leftover cooking liquid.
14. Slow-Cooker Citrus Pulled Pork Tacos
Because you can never have too many delicious taco options, here’s a citrus-rubbed pulled pork that gets topped with a zingy coleslaw.
15. Spiced Dulce de Leche Banana Icebox Cake
This summer-ready icebox cake comes together with help from your slow cooker: Use it to make the silky spiced dulce de leche.
16. Banana Bread Sandwiches With Pulled Pork
If you’ve got leftover banana bread sitting around, toast and griddle it on the stovetop for these slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches.
17. Mom’s ‘Instant Party’ Chile con Queso
Say hello to your new favorite summer appetizer: a supremely creamy, dead-easy, two-ingredient queso dip you’ll want to make over and over again.
18. Slow-Cooker Chocolate Chip Cookie
There’s nothing particularly summer-y about this Crockpot chocolate chip cookie, other than that we always want to eat chocolate chip cookies. But here’s why we like it for the season: you don’t have to turn on your oven, which means you can avoid increasing the temperature of your home to a balmy 85℉. Furthermore, it serves 4 to 6 guests (depending on how big the slices are), so it’s the perfect picnic dessert. As for the ingredients, you’ve probably got it all already: flour, eggs, butter, two kinds of sugar (granulated and dark brown), vanilla extract, and bittersweet chocolate.
19. Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder With Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glaze
I dream of smoked meats, smothered with a sweet Kansas City-style barbecue sauce or dry rubbed with brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. But I don’t have a smoker—nor, frankly even, a backyard that could accommodate a smoker. So instead, I’ll turn to this Crockpot-friendly recipe that cooks 4 pounds of pork shoulder in five hours, complete with garlic, bay leaves, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce.
20. Slow-Cooker Tuna Confit
To confit anything means to cook it in oil slowly, but surely. The result is the most succulent treat—be it duck breasts, garlic cloves, or, in this case, canned tuna filets. Once the tuna is cooked, we like to toss it with a little bit of mayonnaise, lemon, capers, olives, and hard-boiled eggs for a light, protein-packed lunch that hits the spot on a hot summer’s day.