Come summer, I’m all for cooking as much food on the grill as possible. I love the slightly charred taste of grilled food and the way it cooks just a little bit unevenly — vegetables that are blackened at the edges but still al dente inside and meat with a charred crust and an almost-rare center. Plus, grilling outside keeps you from having to turn on the oven and add more heat to your already hot house.
The thing is, a grill can only fit so much food at once, so while it’s great for cooking up a main dish, there isn’t always room for sides. Plenty of summer side dishes don’t need to be cooked at all — think umami-packed tomato and burrata salads or crispy coleslaw with just enough mayo — but for those that do, I prefer to use a slow cooker.
If you think “summer slow cooker” is an oxymoron, I don’t blame you. One of the slow cooker’s best and most famous tricks is that it can turn inexpensive, tough cuts of meat into tender, pull-apart piles of wintry stews and braises. The results are pretty damn impressive, but not exactly the kind of thing you crave in warmer summer months.
The thing is: The slow cooker can do pretty much everything your oven does (except turn your kitchen into a midsummer sauna). Plus, the set-it-and-forget-it nature of the slow cooker means that it’s great for preparing party side dishes ahead of time and not having to think about them until it’s time to eat.
Whether you’re cooking for two minutes or 20, here are the 14 summer slow cooker side dishes you need to know about.
A version of this article was originally published July 2018.
Originally posted on StyleCaster.