Slow cooker dinners aren’t just for cold winter nights or crowd-sized soups and stews. Indeed, we used this versatile kitchen tool in a wildly innovative way to craft the best vacation dinner you’ll ever make.
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When I’m on vacation, I’m vacating. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to clean. I certainly don’t want to plan meals, grocery shop, and spend hours prepping at my beach house rental. I rarely take breaks and time away from my work, so when I do, I have to make it count.

That being said, I also don’t like going out to eat every day. (I know—I’m a walking contradiction.) Besides the mounting expensive of costly coastal restaurants, I prefer to avoid putting on any makeup when I’m on a beach vacation. Eating out doesn’t comply with my self-imposed makeup ban.

So what’s a hungry vacationer to eat when they find themselves seaside and starving?

Enter slow cooker dinners.

Yep, the weeknight time-saving supper tool is really the best way to put dinner on the table without putting in too many kitchen hours. Because we know you’ll want to reflect the flavors of your new temporary home, don’t bother to make chilis and braised meats. Instead, use it to simplify one of the beach’s simplest pleasures: a shrimp boil.

Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil image
Credit: Kelsey Hansen; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners

Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil: The Best Meal for Your Summer Beach Vacation

I can’t leave the beach without eating a shrimp boil. It’s one of the simplest dinners you can make, and with the freshest source of shrimp so close, I’d be a fool not to take advantage of the bounty.

What’s not so simple, however, is standing there and monitoring a hot stove while first the potatoes cook, then the corn, next the sausage and shrimp. The truth is, I’d rather spend that time outside, and I suspect you would, too.

So, do that.

With our Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil, you can start the evening meal at lunchtime, when you’ve come in from the sun’s streaming rays and made yourself a sandwich while you cool off. Fill a six-quart slow cooker with potatoes, onions, and seasonings. Cook for a few hours until almost tender—or to about the time you’ll be coming in from the beach to clean up and ready yourself and the family for dinner.

When you walk in, plop the corn and sausage into the slow cooker with the potatoes, and let them heat up and cook for a while as you’re showering (or, more likely, catching up on Facebook).

As it’s getting closer to time to eat, remove the corn from the slow cooker. Corn, unlike shrimp or sausage, retains heat for a while after coming out of the slow cooker, so it can sit covered in a bowl while the final ingredients finish cooking.

Add the shrimp last. You want to be careful to not let shrimp overcook, so saving those crustaceans for the final steps helps keep them succulent and tender.

Once everything is ready, it’s time to eat. Drain the slow cooker pot, dump the potatoes, shrimp, sausage, and corn onto a parchment paper-lined sheet pan or newspaper-covered table, and serve with a little drawn butter or spicy cocktail sauce.

It really couldn’t be more simple.

Yes, of course, you can stand over a beautiful stockpot and watch everything simmer and cook. Or, you can go outside, enjoy the beauty of the water, and let dinner make itself in a slow cooker.

I vote the latter option myself, which is why you’ll never catch me beach-bound without my trusty slow cooker again.

By Kimberly Holland and Kimberly Holland