Summer Slow-Cooking: How to Bake Without Heating Up the House

Who doesn’t love coming home to the aromas of a slow cooker filled with bubbling chili, steaming chicken and dumplings, or hearty beef stew on a cold day? The slow cooker is a staple for the busy person’s winter menu rotation. But after Memorial Day, many of us tuck the slow cooker away in the garage on top of a carton of wool mittens and mothballs, not to be seen before the first chill of Halloween.

I want to change that, one household at a time. I’d like to make the case for slow-cooking in summer. In fact, I think it is the most-underused companion to your summer outdoor barbecue. My hope is that you’ll try out my recipes to prove to yourself that barbecues and slow cookers are indeed (unlikely) BFFs, and then using my tips, you’ll start using your slow cooker regularly when you fire up that grill.

You Can Bake Without Heating Up Your House

The sun is shining; the weather is warm. You call the neighbors and light the grill to toss on hot dogs and hamburgers. You know what goes well with hamburgers and hot dogs? Your favorite baked beans. Or your grandma’s apple cobbler. Or maybe a vanilla cake topped with fresh berries. You know what doesn’t go well with a summer barbecue? Heating up your house even more with an oven to make those baked treats.

The solution: Your slow cooker

Let your slow cooker “bake” those beans (or cobbler or cake). Your house will be filled with all the tempting aromas of baking, without any of that extra heat.

There are, however, a few things to consider when baking in a slow cooker. First, note that baking takes far less time than the braising or simmering operations usually performed in your slow cooker — most baked goods are done in an hour or two on high, which means the “fix it and forget it all day” model of slow-cooking does not apply here. The best strategy I find is to flip the switch on slow-cooker baking about an hour before dinner if I’m baking a dessert.

Second, note that a slow cooker will have much more humidity than an oven, as it is tightly covered. Covering the insert with a thin cotton towel will absorb much of the condensation, and removing the lid immediately after cooking will also help. But if you have your heart set on an uber-crunchy apple crisp, better to stick with the oven.

A Recipe to Try

Cobbler is a summer favorite because it takes advantage of the gorgeous seasonal fruits so abundant this time of year. I use peaches and berries because they are so summery, but you can use any fruits you love! And here’s a secret: Frozen fruit works incredibly well too.

The trick to baking fruit desserts in the slow cooker is to cook on high for shorter periods of time — this will keep the fruit tasting freshest (even if it was frozen).

SUMMER SLOWCOOKERCOBBLERMelissa d’ArabianCooking ChannelButter, Peaches, Mixed Berries (Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries) Lemon Zest and Juice,Flour, Sugar, Oats, Pecans, Light Brown Sugar, Dried Buttermilk, Cinnamon, Salt, Cold Butter,Slowcooker

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Try my Summer Slow-Cooker Cobbler to start, then branch out to adapt your favorite recipes!

Doing It on Your Own

You will have to experiment a bit, because slow cookers vary in heat intensity. But start with the following formula for adapting your baking recipe to a slow-cooker recipe:

1: “Bake” in your slow cooker turned on high.

2: Double the original oven cooking time.

3: Place a thin kitchen towel over the slow-cooker insert before putting on the lid (to absorb condensation).

Related Links:

Keep Reading

Next Up

Summer Slow-Cooking: How to Up Your Grill Game

You can easily cook larger quantities of accompaniments that go well with whatever you have on the grill.

How to Use Your Slow Cooker All Summer Long

Call on your slow cooker all summer long to cook up tasty meals without heating up your kitchen.

How to Successfully Slow-Cook

The slow cooker is our friend in the test kitchen, and we’ve discovered some helpful tips to create the perfect dish every time. Get Food Network's tips.

Summer Slow-Cooking: Slow Cooker + Outdoor Grill = True Love

You can precook bone-in or tougher meats for better (and easier!) results on the grill.

How to Caramelize Garlic in a Slow Cooker

Use this earthy, sweet caramelized garlic in sauces and marinades, or spread it on crostini for a quick appetizer.

How to Caramelize Onions in a Slow Cooker

Use your slow cooker to make perfectly caramelized onions without spending hours at the stove.

Take 5: Summer Slow Cooker Dinners

Slow cooked meals with quick prep times will save your summer weeknight dinner rut.

How to Set Up a Summer Lemonade Stand

Setting up a lemonade stand is a creative way to keep little ones entertained during the dog days of summer, and provides a perfect way to educate them on the basics of cooking, team work, and handling money.

Cooking with Kids Without Going Insane

A nutritionist and kids' cooking teacher shares tips for cooking with little ones without losing your mind.

Caption It: Heating Up the Outdoors

We're challenging you, fans of The Kitchen, to write your best captions for this flare-up moment.