Cool Summer Cooking Tips

It won’t be long before it gets too hot for us to cook using the oven and stove around here all the time. That’s why I asked our newsletter readers to share some of their best summer cooking tips. You can find them, and of course my own tips below. Enjoy!

I do a lot less baking in the summer, but when I do have to make a fresh batch of bread, some rolls etc, I do it as early in the morning as possible while it’s still somewhat cool outside. I keep the doors and window open and also leave the oven door slightly open (be sure there are no small kids or curious pets around that could get hurt), to get the heat back out of the house as fast as possible.

When I use my breadmaker (or my sow cooker for that matter), I stick it out on the porch whenever possible.

I use my small toaster oven instead of the oven whenever possible. It does a good job at reheating things and baking small flat things (like a small batch of brownies).Instead of making pizza, we make pizza toast in the toaster oven in the summer.

I use my slowcooker at lot during the summer to cook meats, veggies and beans. It takes a little more pre-planning, but is well worth the savings (because the air conditioning has to run a lot less).

We also tend to grill a lot outside. Just about any meat, fish and vegetable can be cooked outside. Cook veggies and fish that fall apart easily in aluminum foil, or stick your cast iron skillet on the grill. We’ve even made pizza on there!

Grilled Pizza

Prepare your favorite Pizza dough and roll it out. We like to do individual pizzas, but feel free to roll it out to whatever size is easy for you to manage on the grill.  Rub a little oil on the grill grate then add the pizza. Cook it for about 5 minutes, then flip it over. Add your toppings and cook and additional 5 minutes until the dough is done and the cheese is melted.

Now it’s time for our reader tips. I love the variety … you’ll find anything from solar oven to delicous no cook recipes. If you have a tip or idea, please leave a comment below.

I use my Dutch oven a lot in the summer. It’s very easy, you put whatever you want in the Dutch oven, like seasoned chicken and vegetables, a little oil in the bottom and sometimes a little water, depending on what I’m cooking. (We use our regular grill and take the grate off and put the Dutch oven inside. Or you can do the same thing in a campfire).

Then put the designated amount of hot coals, under and on top of the Dutch oven. Check as you would if you were baking in the regular oven. The number of coals you use is basically your timer. When the coals go out, your food should be done. Your nose will also tell you. The last chicken and vegetables I made was incredible, the vegetables were perfect and the meat fell off the bone. The best thing about the Dutch oven is that after you put it in the coals it pretty much hands off. Simple and delicious.

There are some great books out there for Dutch oven cooking; they will show you how to cook anything from chicken to cake and breads. Have fun!

Kathleen M.

We often make use of our tree branches from pruning or yard cleanup for
cooking outside. Of course there are the usual hot dogs, but we have also
cooked sausage or beef patties over the fire. We use an old barbeque grill
or oven rack to place our meat and potatoes on, using bbq utensils to turn
them. Large chunks of peppers can be brushed with oil or bacon drippings,
stuck on a stick and roasted over a fire too. To make the trip out to the
yard and clean up more efficient, fill up a big pot, like the canner or a
dish pan with food, cups, drinks, condiments, and anything else you might
need. Benefits are a cleaner house, because there is less dirt tracked in
after a day in the garden, and we just relax and visit a little more around
the fire.


One of my favorite Summer Cooking finds was a bread machine with a bake only
cycle. I use it year round for making bread, but it really shines for summer
baking. I put it on a small folding table OUTSIDE, plug it in and use it for
a small outside oven. It bakes in 10 minute intervals up to 40 minutes, and
keeps the heat outside. And yes, in the summer, I bake my bread outside,
too. It’s wonderful. I use my slow cooker and toaster that way, too, in the

~Chris, Texas/Idaho Snowbird, currently in Virginia

For hot weather cooking and living on a turkey ranch, my cooking revolved
around turkeys and turkey eggs….( I have been retired for almost 20 years
)….One thing that I have always done is to use turkey interchangeably
with chicken in any and all recipes…if you ever eat fried turkey breast you
won’t want chicken….. Crock pot and rotisserie turkey is great…. (One
undiscovered secret is in order to prevent that cold turkey taste, cook
your turkey with jalapeno’s….you don’t taste the hot….and the strong taste
isn’t there.)

I have been able to cook in the garage with the crockpot and

Here is a very Quick-Easy Cool Meal for the summer. No cooking required.

Make a tuna salad
2 cans Tuna (or Chicken)
Mayo( to taste)
Mustard (to taste)
Sweet Relish (to taste)
I have even added fresh green onion, fresh cucumbers, blk olives just what ever you like to change the taste.

Mix and put in the middle of the plate.

On the side around the plate add Fruits. Canned or fresh.
I use: Pineapple (our favorite) Pears, Apples, Strawberries, Cantaloupe, Peaches, Grapes. We eat this with club crackers.

My Children love this. It’s healthy, cool and most of all they get to eat it out on the picnic table, and what fruit is left on their plates they leave it for the butterflies and bees. They think it’s neat to feed the butterflies.

Another thing I do in the summer time is if I have a meal planned that requires the use of the oven is I will cook that meal early in the morning and then make everyone a plate and heat it up in the microwave at dinner time. Now dinner is done, dishes are few and we can enjoy the rest of the evening outdoors.


I saw your request for tips on summer cooking tips. My biggest one would be
solar cooking. My husband and I recently bought a Global Sun Oven, but you
can make your own. We’ve successfully cooked the basics with the sun (rice,
beans, potatoes, etc.) to full dinners. We still haven’t done any baking, but
I know it can be done. Also sprouting is a good, cool way to add food to the


Here’s a hot weather dish my family likes:

Asian Chicken Salad

Head of romaine lettuce, chopped or hand torn
3 or 4 scallions, snipped into bite-sized pieces
1 can of water chestnuts, drained
1 can of Mandarin oranges, drained
1 can chicken (or fresh chicken, cooked and cubed) (as much as you like)
1 small can Chinese rice noodles, or the larger crunchy noodles
Sliced almonds, toasted, a handful (or as many as you like)
Your favorite Asian salad dressing, sesame-ginger dressing, etc.

Just throw it together and toss.  It’s easy, delicious and cooling.  It is easily doubled or tripled for a large gathering.


Here’s my best tip for summer cooking…it’s using our outdoor grilling efforts more effectively.

When we know there’s going to be a beautiful afternoon coming up and that we’re going to have some time to be outdoors on our patio, I stock up on our favorite meats to grill. We start by grilling a batch of hamburger patties. We then grill several packages of wieners and package several of rope style sausages. Lastly, we then grill lots of chicken. I keep lots of heavy duty foil on hand to line my cookie sheets that I use to take the meat to the grill, so that after the meat is put on the grill, I simply take the foil off, throw it away, and have a clean tray to bring the meat in. When it cools, I package it in freezer bags that I label and then put in the freezer. Meal preparation is a snap using this delicious grilled meat. All I have to do is remember to thaw the meat out in the morning and then prepare a vegetable and a salad to go along with it, and I’m done. The meals are delicious and there’s no fuss and no heating the kitchen. My family loves being able to pull out a grilled hamburger patty and have a delicious hamburger whenever they want. I also keep hamburger buns in the freezer; they thaw out in just a few seconds in the microwave. It’s wonderful having my freezer stocked with meat that is ready to use!


In the summer, we use our slow cooker and toaster oven a lot more to keep down the heat in the kitchen.

Our kids love pizza so have 2 favorites done in the toaster oven.

Pizza Biscuits
1 tube of refrigerated pizza crust
Pizza sauce
cheese and toppings of choice

Roll out the dough and use a pizza cutter to slice into squares slightly larger than your muffin sections (we use a mini muffin pan and 1 tube of dough does 2 trays of 24).

Put 1 dough section into each muffin space, top with a spoon of sauce, cheese and whatever other toppings you want (on the mini muffin pans 1 piece of pepperoni is about all it will hold:).

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes (or according to your pizza crust directions).

English Muffin Pizzas

English muffins – split in two
Additional toppings of choice

Split open the English Muffins and put in toaster while you gather everything else (this stops the sauce from making the muffin soggy). Just a few minutes is fine.

Cover with sauce, cheese, and other toppings.

Heat until cheese is melted – about 10-15 minutes.


I have just read your newsletter and thought I would tell you I have discovered a way to make baked potatoes with hardly any heat at all. We love potatoes, fried, baked, mashed, cubed, roasted and whatever. We also love potato salad in the summer. I used to bake the potatoes in the oven for 1 1/2 hours to use in any of these ways, but the time and heat was just too much. I purchased an inexpensive pressure cooker and now it is done in 15 minutes! I put 1 1/4 cups water in the bottom of the pressure cooker, put my vegetable steamer in and top with up to 20 potatoes that have been washed and pricked. Put the top on and bring it up to pressure (about 5 min) then set the timer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and I have 20 perfectly baked potatoes! My husband likes his baked potatoes with a crispy skin, so you can put them on the bbq or in the oven for 5 min or so to crisp up. I put the left overs in the fridge for later use. They make really fast roast potatoes. No muss, no fuss and perfect every time!


“Smoked Turkey Pasta Salad”

1 pound smoked turkey
(I get what’s on sale in the deli and have them cut me a 1 inch slab or (2) 1/2″ slabs)
$2.99 #  (I bought on sale and stocked up)
1/2 C. Mayo (I used the OOmayo) about $ .44. I had it on hand, but I’m guessing about $3.49 for 30 oz.
1C. Apricot preserves  store brand $2.49 18oz
1/2  Red Onion  .79 #
1- 1 1/2 pound Red Seedless Grapes $1.37 #
1 can Mandarin Oranges 2 sm. cans .89 ea.
1 pound bag “Large” Shell macaroni $1.00
Cook macaroni according to directions.  While that’s cooking:
Dice “turkey” into smalls cubes
Dice red onion
Cut grapes in halves
Drain mandarin oranges and cut in half
Mix Mayo and Apricot preserves together for a dressing
Allow macaroni to cool  (I refrigerate for a bit if I’m in a hurry)
Add remaining ingredients and mix all together.
Serves 4-6 people
All ingredient measurements are according to taste.

*based on southern calif. sale prices.

My friend Catherine introduced me to a great no-cook spaghetti sauce
that is perfect for homegrown tomatoes.

4 tomatoes, chopped (you can peel if you like but I don’t)
1 clove garlic minced fine
4 tablespoons olive oil
about 1/2 cup fresh basil (or a mix of garden herbs. Thyme and parsley
are good if you have them.)

8oz spaghetti

Mix all ingredients in a large non-metal bowl. Let sit at room
temperature for at least one hour. Cook spaghetti according to
package directions. While noodles are very hot, pour sauce over and
mix well. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired and serve. Serves


Skillet Dinner over open fire or grill

Per serving you will need

A cast iron skillet big enough to hold all the servings or heavy aluminum foil to make packets per person.  Foil to cover the pan

margarine (butter burns too easily to use on an open flame)
1/8 – 1/4 cup meat – in bite size pieces (I prefer ground pork or sausage but anything will work)
1/2 of a medium potato, scrubbed and cubed or sliced
1/4 of a carrot, peeled and sliced
1/4 of an onion, peeled and sliced or diced
2 wide strips of bell pepper cut into chunks (I prefer red bells)
1/4 of a young zucchini (6-8 inch size) sliced
1 mushroom, sliced
salt and pepper (or garlic salt) to taste

Note – the vegetables can be changed to suit your taste.

Rub margarine on bottom and sides of skillet or cover a 12 inch piece of foil (I do this before the skillet is warmed so I can get a nice layer of margarine to prevent burning).  Place meat in bottom of pan (it will need the most heat to cook from raw) and then add other ingredients in order.  If using a skillet, cover it tightly with foil.  If using just foil,  fold the foil as if you were wrapping something in freezer paper (pull up 2 sides and fold together.  Continue folding until you reach the ingredients.  Then fold both ends like you would a paper lunch sack.).  Place skillet or packets right on the burning logs if you can.  Or put your cooking grid as low as possible.  If using your grill, put it on high heat or really hot charcoal.  Walk away for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and check for doneness.  If the potatoes are soft and meat is done, you can eat!!  If not, stir and return to the fire.  Foil packets must be opened
carefully to avoid tearing the foil and to avoid steam burns.  If they are not done, re-wrap tightly and turn over instead of stirring.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Smoothies

To serve my family of 5

1/2 ice cube tray of ice
1 cup yogurt
1-3 Tbl soy protein or 2 eggs (optional- note -the eggs will remain raw)
1or more cups fresh or frozen fruit (strawberries, pineapple, mango, blueberries, whatever)
1 banana
Honey to taste
Milk or milk substitute to make desired thinness

Combine all in blender.  Blend until smooth.  Serve in tall glass with a straw!


Our family uses solar ovens.  It has been a project for my son , Luke, 14 for the past 2 years.  He teaches workshops (through 4-H) on why to build them, how to build them and how they save lives, money, time and the environment.  My husband made a web page for him…but I can’t find it.

We have found the best material is car shade reflective material.  You can use 2 different designs.  Our favorite oven has gotten up to 275*F.  We use it all the time…as long as there is sunlight.

If you are interested, e-mail me back.  I’ll ask my husband what the web address is.  Luke has sent ovens to South Africa and taught over 300 people about this.  I am very proud of him.  He has earned the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, the President’s volunteer award and the April 2009 issue of Family Fun magazine’s Green Volunteering award.

He is trying to earn money for a 4-H leadership conferences and one way is by selling the ovens.  To get around the “legal” means, he charges the cost of the materials and the fee to mail it.  Donations are accepted above that.
If we can be of service, let me know.

Kelli H.
Elizabethtown, NC

From Susanne – if you are interested in having Luke build a solar oven for you, email me with “Luke – Solar Oven” in the subject line and I’ll be glad to forward your email to Kelly.

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

8-10 potatoes

Pierce potatoes and wrap with foil. Place in crock pot and cook for 8-10 hours on low or 2 1/2-4 hours on high.

Make a meal of it. We like ours with chopped onion, bell pepper, shredded cheese, ham, turkey and bacon bits. Use whatever your family likes.

I have three words for Summer Cooking; 1-grains 2-vegetables 3-grill.

1)I find it easy to cook up a variety of grains, be it pasta, brown rice, barley, cracked wheat. There are so many choices that you can cook ahead and place in the refrigerator.

2)Get all of the beautiful vegetables that are out now; We are lucky to live in an area in Florida where we have some local produce stands so we can get fresh vegetables at a great price. For twenty dollars I can walk out with more produce than I could possible carry by myself.

3)Get the outside grill going and grill up those vegetables. You could roast a bunch at one time and put them in the fridge. We prefer to light our little table top grill each time we want some roasted. If you need a protein you can throw a few “fingers” of chicken breast or fish on the grill.

The above items can be mixed and matched so many different ways. A cold salad could be made with dressing on them. You could also serve up a warm meal. For me this is ideal. Many times we also slice open some fresh fruit and grill it and then even have dessert.

I do a LOT of canning in the summer.  I don’t have a pressure cooker, so I have to rely on a water bath canner and a propane burner in the garage.  One pan and one burner take forever.  A friend told me she cans tomato products in the oven.  Fill jars as you normally would.  Put jars in cold oven.  Turn oven to 250 degrees.  Keep at 250 for 1 hour.  Turn oven off, leaving door closed.  Remove jars when oven is cool.  Can you imagine how many more jars you can do at one time?!  She has been doing this for 15+ years and has never lost a jar.  I haven’t tried it yet, but will this year.

The other day I was not in the mood to cook. I had laid out chicken tenders to make for supper. However wasn’t sure what to make. Well to make a long story short. I made a grilled chicken salad for supper. First I saute my tender in a frying pan with some Pam. Meanwhile I took out my bag of shredded lettuce (don’t use that much lettuce and the shredded is so cool (you can use it for taco and so much other stuff too like salads and sandwiches). Then took my grape tomatoes (love them I use them alot to make my tomato salad (grape tomatoes, bacon, and shredded cheese, (sometimes hubby and I don’t like lettuce alot)
and add salad dressing). added some green onions and took the chicken tenders and shredded them alittle and put them on the plate found some croutons and add the salad dressing. Hubby loved it and so did I. It was filling and just great. I get my meats at either 2 stores. I buy the 5 family packs of different meats (they must have a red sticker on them) for about $20.00. When the one store has them I usually get 10 packs for about $40.00. A better selection. I then plan meals that way.
Barbara J Snyder

You were asking for summer cooking ideas, I just wanted to mention something I purchased about a year and a half ago and just love it.  It is the Hamilton Beach countertop oven with convection.  I use it year round, it uses less energy than using the regular oven, it doesn’t heat up the whole kitchen.  (Although it does get hot around it).  I have “sold” it to several others because I love it so much and hardly ever use my full size oven anymore.  You can cook 2 full size frozen pizzas at the same time using the pans that come with it.  You can use the convection part that cooks faster.  It is also a rotisserie, I cook whole chicken or pork loin and it is delicious.  I bake cookies, muffins, brownies, I use it for anything and everything.  It costs about $80 most places, is about the size of a microwave oven.  I just cannot say enough good things about it!!  It’s great to have anytime of year, but those times that you need to use the oven when it is hot, this is a great option.

Melody B

One of my favorite ‘cheat the heat’ tricks for summer is to make fresh
baked chocolate chip cookies all summer long. Yep, warm, fresh cookies in
August. I cheat, by making a double batch of dough, and then scooping into
cookie sized portions. I place each little blob onto my parchment lined
cookie sheet, and freeze solid. Then I collect up all the frozen lumps into
a good freezer bag. In the summer, I use the little baking tray the toaster
oven came with (or even better, the mini baking sheet from Pampered Chef)
and cook one batch at a time, in the toaster oven.

No heat added to the kitchen. Fresh cookies and either ice cold milk, or a
small dish of ice cream. Mmmmmm.

A neat thing we have discovered with summer cooking is to put meat–small steak, chicken breast, etc.– on a piece of tin foil. Slice a small potato, some onion, carrots, (and one time I put in asparagus in mmmmmm…) etc, on top. Put a slice of butter or margarine on, salt and pepper to taste and wrap the foil nice and snug–so it won’t drip all over. Throw it on the grill–not too hot. Flip the foil packet now and then so it doesn’t burn. It really doesn’t take too long. You will begin to hear it sizzle and smell the wonderful smell!!! Enjoy!

Kathy in CO

this is another pie i make quite frequently in the summer. i
double the ingredients and make 2 pies so i can use the whole 8 oz. bowl
of cool whip.
this is my sons’ favorite pie. he asks for it every year for his b-day
instead of a cake. sharon w. garrity.


1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
8 oz. bowl cool whip (USE ONLY HALF OF COOL WHIP FOR this recipe, 1 pie.
if you are doubling the recipe to make 2 pies, then use the whole bowl.
chocolate coolwhip is really good in this, we also like the french
vanilla cool whip in this pie recipe)
1 TBS. vanilla extract
1 ready made graham cracker crust

In a rather large bowl, cream together the p-b, cream cheese, white sugar
and vanilla til well blended. fold in one half of the cool whip (for one
pie). pour this filling over into the pie crust, gently spread it evenly.
cover the pie and set in fridge to firm up.

i almost always make 2 pies when i make this recipe to use the whole 8
oz. bowl of cool whip and i double all the other ingredients above. this
pie keeps well for several days. i’ve not yet had it go runny on me. if
you don’t think the filling is sweet enough for your taste, you can add
more white sugar to sweeten it to your liking.

this pie is quick, easy, delicious and rather rich. i serve it in very
thin slices. hope you like it! p.s., if you are feeling fancy or want
to pretty up the top of the pie, i decorate mine with mini chocolate
chips into a design OR i use hershey’s chocolate syrup and make an allover squiggle design on top.
for halloween, i put the orange candy pumpkins on top to decorate it.
it’s all good! but not at one time!!

This is a MR. FOOD RECIPE. We 3 just enjoy it so much. it is
kept in refrigerator and is so cool and refreshing to eat on hot summer days.


1 store bought graham cracker crust
1 can crushed pineapple in its own juice, 15-16 oz. can
1 small box instant vanilla pudding (i like to use the sugar-free)
1 cup of sour cream

In a good sized bowl, empty can of pineapple AND juice. Open the box of
instant pudding, and pour it DRY over the pineapple and juice. Stir to
Then fold in one cup of sour cream (can use low fat sour cream).
Pour the pineapple mixture over into the graham cracker crust. Set it in
fridge to thicken. (the DRY pudding mix soaks up the pineapple juice).
You can garnish this with toasted coconut and/or maraschino cherries
when you
serve it, but it is good plain like it is. so refreshing on a hot day and
so easy to make.

Sharon W.

One of my favorite things is to grill zucchini or yellow summer squash. Just peel an seed the squash then cut into spears (like pickle spears) then marinate in Italian salad dressing several hours or longer. I have done up a lot of it and had it in the fridge for a week (using out of it as needed for a meal. Then just throw it on the grill until it just starts to turn a light gold on each side. IT IS REALLY YUMMY. Even people who do not like squash like it this way.

Hope you try it and like it as much as we do

Christal H

Pasta Salad – Cook the pasta in the morning when it’s not hot out. Put in
fridge. Then about an hour before
dinner time take it out and mix in some mayonnaise, vegetables, and anything
else you desire. You could
also do this recipe with potatoes.

Frozen Fruit makes a great snack and is a ton healthier than most of the
popsicles and fruit bard you get
at the star (it’s basically fruit – without high fructose corn syrup, sugar,
coloring, etc. – you know, fruit).

And if you’re fortunate to have a grill (I don’t) that can not only keep the
house nice and cool but lower your energy bill.

Another really good tip that I use every summer – on June 1st (or around
there) I whip up 15 freezer meals. But I only make
ones that can are already cooked. For example I’ll make a casserole but I
won’t cook it all the way through – only 3/4 of the
way. Then I take it out, defrost it (or just take it out) and then pop it in
the microwave.
No Name Given

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