Ask the Test Cooks

Ask Matthew: We’re Renovating Our Kitchen. Are There Any Fresh Dinners I Can Make Without a Stovetop?

This series answers all your cooking questions. And yes, by “all” we mean the wild, silly, and “stupid” ones, too.

Published Mar. 18, 2019.

Before Matthew Fairman joined Cook’s Country as a test cook, he cooked in many restaurants and taught college literature and writing. When hes not pitching a new take on fried rice to his editors or whispering to his slow cookers, Matthew is usually scaling plastic mountains at the climbing gym or running food experiments on his wife, Lauren, and cat, Daisy. He hopes to one day pay for climbing trips by selling fried rice from a food truck to hungry people stumbling out of bars after last call.

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Dear Matthew, We are renovating our kitchen and currently don’t have a stovetop. My husband would be happy with prefab microwavable meals for the next month, but that is not OK with me. And we can’t afford to eat out every night because—you guessed it—the new kitchen is costing a fortune. I need some ideas for home-cooked meals that are done entirely in the oven, microwave, or slow cooker. But I’m sick of stews and braises; I want something fresher and quicker. Can I get the freshness of something such as sautéed vegetables or poached chicken, but without a stovetop? How about pasta?

— Flameless in Frisco

Dear Flameless, 

I’m impressed with your initiative! In order to keep cooking in a kitchen that’s under construction, you’re going to need ideas. I mean, I have a hard enough time dredging up meal ideas as it is, and I’ve got stovetop burners out the wazoo; I don’t even want to imagine life without them.

Gladly, my team here at Cook’s Country is looking out for you. We’ve stored up treasures on our website with an easily searchable, seemingly infinite database of recipes for any cook in any situation. Confident that we stock the recipes you seek, I’ll go there now and see what I can find. Thanks in advance for your patience. *Sings “Whistle While You Work” while cheerfully surfing*

I’m back! Did you know that we’ve got a recipe—developed by the inimitable Christie Morrison—for perfectly steamed broccoli with three different dressingsanchovy-garlic dressing, lemon-oregano dressing, and sesame-miso dressing—that you can make in the microwave? (Trust me, I’ve tasted them.) I bet the lemon-oregano version would get along swimmingly with Alli Berkey’s Chicken Shawarma, which delivers beautifully browned, juicy chicken by broiling cumin-and-paprika-seasoned boneless thighs. That’d be the fresh, vibrant antidote to your braising and stewing woes.

Chicken Shawarma

This recipe offers you three steps to always ensure broiling success. 
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Now that I’m thinking about it, Cecelia Jenkins, our very own One-Pan Wonder Woman, has literally made a living developing foolproof, ultratasty sheet-pan dinners that would be perfect for you. A few of my favorites are her One-Pan Peruvian Chicken with Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes, her One-Pan Steak Fajitas, and her One-Pan Pork Tenderloin and Panzanella Salad. Each is boldly flavored and fresh-tasting, with no stovetop cooking and minimal dirty dishes.

But Ceej has done more than just sheet-pan dinners. If nuked-oatmeal mornings have left you pining for a full breakfast (you know, eggs and everything), you’ve gotta try her one-pan breakfasts. I think she’s made a deal with the devil in exchange for sheet-pan superpowers, because she not only conjured up a One-Pan Breakfast replete with runny-yolked eggs-in-a-hole, sausage links, and home fries but also developed a Breakfast Pizza! The recipe calls for crisping bacon on the stove, but you can simply bake the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet. You can also microwave the bacon between paper towels, buy fully cooked bacon, or even use bacon bits (although I recommend the oven method). Or you can make the delicious Smoked Salmon Breakfast Pizza variation.

One-Pan Peruvian Chicken with Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

Looking for a way to cook everything together with the least amount of fuss? One-pan dishes, always.
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Speaking of pizza, did you know that there are 576 million known varieties of pizza and that a new species is discovered every 7 seconds? [Editor’s note: This is false.] And we’ve got recipes for darn near every one of them on our site. We’re talking Detroit-Style Pizza, St. Louis–Style PizzaChicago Thin-Crust Pizza, and even Grandma Pizza, and none of them requires a stove. So make yourself some pizza!

And since I’ve tooted everyone else’s horn but my own, I’d like to recommend one of my slow-cooker recipes: Lentil and Chorizo Soup. Sure, I might be veering a little close to a stew or a braise, but here’s what’s great about this soup: The recipe is only one step, so it’s the quickest slow-cooker recipe there is; the combo of earthy lentils and rich, smoky, spiced chorizo is crazy delicious; and it all gets brightened up with a drizzle of tart yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. I think you’ll like it.

Finally, we need to talk about the pastas you asked for. I searched high and low—in ovens, slow cookers, and microwaves—for a pasta dish that didn’t require the stove, but I couldn’t find you one. For now, let me try to make it up to you with a sweet treat (devastatingly good and gooey Triple-Chocolate Sticky Buns). And I promise that we’re working on it. In fact, word has it that Senior Editor Morgan Bolling is cooking up a no-boil macaroni and cheese, and judging by first tastes, you’ve got a no-stovetop pasta that’s worth holding out for. It’s one you’ll want to make even after you get your stove back.

Triple-Chocolate Sticky Buns

These buns take about 4 hours to make but they're worth every second.
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Until then, may your glorious new stovetop arrive more quickly and more affordably than you expected, and may your oven, microwave, and slow cooker churn out fresh and easy delicacies until it does.

Matthew Fairman

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