If you're entertaining this Fourth of July weekend, set-it-and-forget-it dishes can be a lifesaver.
From ribs to pulled pork, these slow-cooker recipes are perfect for summer gatherings.
You can also make sides like potato salad and delicious dips in a slow cooker.
Pulled pork sliders are a great way to use your slow cooker for a Fourth of July cookout.
One of the best ways to utilize braised and slow-cooked pork shoulder is to make pulled pork sliders with all that tender meat.
To take the dish to the next level, top your meat with barbecue sauce and slaw before sandwiching it between two fluffy brioche buns or potato rolls. Or, use the carnitas to make tacos.
For your Fourth of July cookout this year, try making the potato salad using your slow cooker.
You might not know that you can parboil potatoes in a slow cooker. To do so, chop and cover the potatoes with water, a little salt and pepper, and butter and cook them until they're fork-tender, usually about six hours on low.
Then, mix together the dressing for your potato salad as you normally would, such as mayonnaise, dill, whole grain mustard, and a splash of red wine vinegar.
You can also make a German-style potato salad with bacon, light dressing, and baby potatoes.
Dips, such as this spinach and artichoke dip, are also easily made in a slow cooker.
"You can just free up so much of your time by using a slow cooker and hang out with your guests instead of laboring in the kitchen," Rhee continued. "Especially for side dishes or dips. You put it all together, set the time and it comes out ready to go."
This set-it-and-forget-it corn and jalapeño dip is deliciously creamy and easy to make.
"Another favorite of mine is this corn and jalapeño dip," Rhee told Insider.
Buffalo chicken dip is another quick and easy favorite you can make in a slow cooker.
One of the benefits of making a slow-cooker Buffalo chicken dip — or any other side dish in a slow cooker — is that it can be prepared well ahead of time and reheated when you're ready to eat.
Rhee's advice for someone using a slow cooker for the first time this summer for entertaining is actually to start out with a dip or side dish.
"If for some reason it doesn't turn out, because we all know that can happen using an appliance for the first time, it's not detrimental to your dinner party being a success," she said.
Queso gets super creamy and serves a whole party when done in a slow cooker.
This super creamy and flavorful queso dip from Martha Stewart uses ingredients like American cheese and pepper jack cheese, a can of evaporated milk, diced tomatoes with chilies, sliced jalapeños, red onion, and cilantro.
Brisket is perfect for feeding a larger family and can easily be made in a slow cooker.
Laidlaw's recipe for slow-cooked braised brisket includes garlic, onion, dry red wine, carrot, and chicken or beef stock, with a chimichurri sauce.
You can also make barbecue ribs in a slow cooker.
Nothing screams a summer cookout like sauce-covered ribs. After cooking them in the slow cooker, place them on a baking sheet in your oven and broil them until they're slightly crispy.
You can also make slow-cooked sausages and beer brats that pack a ton of flavor and save space on your grill.
Brats with onions, peppers, and garlic simmered in the slow cooker along with beer are one way to utilize your slow cooker on the Fourth of July or throughout the summer.
Top your brats with a little sauerkraut and put them on buns for a delicious summer dish.
Mac and cheese can also easily be made in a slow cooker.
If you're looking to add some carbs to your menu, look no further than a piping hot pot of macaroni and cheese. Martha Stewart's recipe for macaroni and cheese in a slow cooker calls for evaporated milk, three kinds of cheese, and homemade breadcrumbs.
Garlic and herb mushrooms are a delicious side dish but can also be used as a burger topping.
"The recipe for slow cooker garlic herb mushrooms is divine and so easy," Chungah Rhee said. "Mushrooms made in a slow cooker are truly the best."
Shredded Buffalo chicken goes great on top of salads.
One of the best — and easiest — ways to use your Crock-Pot or slow cooker is by making shredded Buffalo chicken.
Add seasoned chicken breasts to the slow cooker and cover with your preferred Buffalo sauce. Then add a splash of ranch dressing and a cube of butter and toss your chicken breasts in the mixture to coat fully, and cook until the chicken is shreddable. You can use it for Buffalo chicken sliders, salads, or tacos.
You can even make Buffalo or barbecue chicken wings using a slow cooker.
You can make any style of wings in a slow cooker, from Asian-style to barbecue and Buffalo wings. Add your wings to the slow cooker, add in your sauce of choice, toss to combine, and let them cook for a couple of hours on high.
To make them crisp up, add a cornstarch and water mixture to your slow cooker after they're cooked through, mix, and broil them for a few minutes in the oven.
Meatballs make a great appetizer for guests and don't require cooking over a hot stove.
Meatballs make the perfect appetizer for parties big and small and are easy to make in a slow cooker.
Place your seasoned, raw meatballs into the slow cooker, top with sauce, and let the slow cooker finish them off, says one recipe by Spend With Pennies. Serve them on their own with toothpicks or stuff them inside toasted sub rolls for a meatball sandwich.
Best slow cookers
The Insider Reviews Team recommends the best slow cookers. Check out our top picks.
Best programmable slow cooker: Breville 6-Quart Fast Slow Pro, $279.95 on Amazon
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