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A Slow Cooker in Summer

A winter convenience, or a summer necessity?

A winter convenience, or a summer necessity?

By Sarah Breckenridge, producer

July 8th, 2010

During the heat wave that gripped the East Coast this week, I barely wanted to eat, much less cook. Even grilling is painful when it's this hot; when the temperature's already in the triple digits, who wants to go near a 500-degree fire? But there are husbands to be fed and food threatening to go bad...

So that's why Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan's post on The Kitchn about breaking out her slow cooker during scorching heat was like a drink of cool water. I usually retire my slow cooker to the deepest recesses of my cabinets when winter ends, but it makes perfect sense for the hottest days of the year: it's hands-off, it doesn't heat up your kitchen. True, most of the things I'd make in it are better suited to January than July, but Sara Kate's Heatwave Carnitas may just be enough to bring back my appetite. So now that I've got the slow cooker out, any other ideas for summer-appropriate dishes?

posted in: Blogs, summer, slow cooker
Comments (13)

terryn1 writes: Some of the best summer bbq come straight from the slow cooker! Where else can you leave a hunk of meat for 8-10 hours without tending or heating everything up? Tacos, burritos, and sandwiches can all start with shredded meat. Perfect! Posted: 3:06 pm on July 27th

sbreckenridge writes: wow, NJD, I'm fascinated by the corn-steaming suggestion. It stays tender but doesn't get mushy? I'll definitely have to try this next time I make corn on the cob! Posted: 1:59 pm on July 23rd

njd777 writes: My absolute favorite use for my crockpot came as a fluke. I can't stand the way a big pot of water heats up the kitchen when you want to boil corn on the cob. I peel it and remove the silk, and stack it in the crock pot with maybe a half cup of water put it on high for maybe 1 1/2 -2 hours and it is the best corn I've ever tasted. No need to salt the water, no sugar needed and NO HOT KITCHEN!!! Posted: 11:01 pm on July 20th

crosbytrio writes: This makes perfect sense. Even here in the Rocky Mtns, conserving on utilities and not heating up the kitchen is a great idea. Chicken tortilla soup is a great meal and best prepared when the chicken can simmer. oh ya... Posted: 6:43 pm on July 20th

ditali writes: We just finished up (here on the sweltering east coast) a weeknight dinner of slow cooked pork and lentils used as taco meat. In my slow cooker:

1 1/2 - 2 lbs. cut up pork shoulder and/or pork butt
1 16 oz bag o'lentils
1 1/2 cups each chopped carrots, celery and onion
3 clove garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Brown pork chunks in olive oil sprinkling half the cumin on the meat. When browned on all sides transfer to slow cooker. Brown vegetables in the same pan until onions are translucent.
Transfer veggies to slow cooker, add 6 cups water and picked over rinsed lentils and cook until done (6 hours for me).

Pick out pork bones an use as taco filling. We used lettuce tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, salsa to top our tacos. My picky 13 year old ate three, so I did something right. Posted: 6:22 pm on July 20th

Chezchas writes: Heatwave Carnitas -- from the Fine Cooking website.

Here's my plug for slow-cooking in the heat: you can make a lot of food (I'm feeding my family of three all week on the stuff) without heating up the whole house with ovens, mixers, and your blood, sweat and tears. You can also do any grunt work — for these carnitas, garlic smashing was the only real work — in the morning when it's cool, and set the cooker to work during the day, or prep in the evening and set the cooker to work while you sleep.

You really don't need a recipe for cooking in a slow cooker. The basic formula is to place spices with the meat in a slow cooker and cover with liquid (broth, juice, wine, beer, etc.). Cook on LOW for the most tender meat. Chicken is done in as little as four hours. Darker meats like longer cooking times. Cooking on HIGH speeds up the cooking, but the meat is not as tender.

Here's an example, using my carnitas. Why the tomato juice? I didn't have a can of tomatoes and I wanted to use up the juice. Slow-cooking at its best.

Slow-Cooker Carnitas
makes 20-30 taco-sized servings

1 (6-8 pound) pork butt, also called pork shoulder
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
4 chipotle peppers (canned or dried)
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup orange juice

Trim excess fat from the meat and discard. Place all ingredients in the slow-cooker. Set to cook on LOW for 8 hours. Meat is done when it literally falls off the bone. When cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place in a large bowl. Remove the bone, then shred the meat.

Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat.

For carnitas tacos, reheat the meat and serve in corn tortillas with sour cream, cilantro, chopped red onion and lime wedges.
Posted: 3:55 pm on July 20th

Pielove writes: Thanks for the reminder on the slow cooker-- I have a batch of chicken soup simmering up right now. Posted: 3:33 pm on July 19th

sbreckenridge writes: DaisyMae,
Just click on the link above to TheKitchen--the recipe is right there in the post.
Posted: 9:27 am on July 19th

MissDaisyMae717 writes: I haven't been able to find this recipe either. Can someone please post it or give info to find it ? Thanks.... Posted: 7:12 pm on July 17th

ebarbour writes: @Mizmelly and Karena1: it's not a Fine Cooking recipe, but if you click on Sarah's link in the blog post above, you'll be directed to The Kitchn's website where it's posted. Posted: 1:45 pm on July 16th

Jaggs writes: I like to do chicken wings in my slow cooker. I made up a mixture of peaches, jalapeno and my favorite barbecue sauce and poured it over some chicken wings and cooked them on low in the slow cooker...what a change from the regular hot wings. Posted: 12:41 pm on July 15th

Mizmelly writes: I can't find the recipe either. I have logged in and searched and cannot find this recipe. Posted: 12:26 pm on July 15th

karena1 writes: I can't find the recipe for Heatwave Carnitas. Can you post it? Posted: 1:48 pm on July 14th

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