Ideas for When it’s Too Hot to Cook

Welp, it’s about 100 degrees over my way now.  I used to keep my oven off from May through September. Except once, to be romantic, I made a special dish for my husband that required the oven and made it after 10pm. Our kitchen faced south and west and our house had one window unit swamp cooler. The house itself had oven-like qualities. So, I banned oven use during summer months. And this certainly does not mean we ate out for a third of the year!
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We made use of some of the staples of summer meals most of you already employ: Nice big salads with freshly grown greens and garden delicacies, cold soups with same said delicacies, and the trusty ‘ol grill (try pizza on the grill for a change of pace). Those can take you pretty far. But some folks can only take so much salad and others are concerned about cooking on the grill, especially very often. So how else can we keep the sweat to a minimum during summertime meal preparation?

Dipper Night. This is a favorite for the kids, but enjoyed by all. Think of an antipasto platter modified to fit your family. Slice up some veggies and add some dip. (My kids would eat anything if they could dip it!)  Crackers or bread with a special spread. Olives, pickles, fancy (or not so fancy) cheese, hummus, dolmas, perhaps cured meats. Tomatoes in season, radishes or anything else you’re lucky enough to have fresh. Lay it all out and dig in!

Alternative cooking appliances OR different timing.

  • If you have a toaster oven, use it instead of your oven. It uses less energy and won’t heat up the house as much, especially if used for a shorter time. I can actually cook a chicken in mine.
  • You can also use a rice cooker to cook whole meals. An example of the simplest way would be to cook your rice (or any other grain, really) and then lay sausages on top to cook toward the end. Add some lacto-fermented sauerkraut as a finishing touch. You can also heat up simple rice casseroles or reheat leftovers in a rice cooker.
  • If you DO need to use your oven, use it later in the evening, when our high desert breezes are cooling things down a bit. Perhaps bake some bread for cool sandwiches the next day.
  • Put your crockpot outside.  Cook your meal as usual, just outside to keep the house temperature down. OR try cook your chicken in it and use the shredded meat for chicken salad.
  • Use your pressure cooker/instant pot.  It really does not heat up the kitchen so you can make beans, meat, baked potatoes or anything you need.
  • Use a microwave steamer, if you’re good with microwave cooking.  It’s fast and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.  Grains, meat, veggies – you’d be surprised how versatile your steamer meals can be.  You can even bake in it, including brownies and BREAD!
  • Try a VitaClay, especially the MultiPurpose Cooker. The way it’s encased keeps the heat IN the clay pot, not your kitchen.  Plus, it slow cooks QUICKLY, so you don’t need it on as long as a slow cooker, while still getting the same tender results.
  • Or, if you don’t have any of the other cooking tools I mention, bake your meat or casserole at night or first thing in the morning for the upcoming day’s dinner.  Then just re-heat as quickly as possible so as not to heat the entire house. I will often cook my pasta early in the day while it’s still cool for a cool pasta salad for dinner. Or brown my meat early in the day for tacos with cool tomatoes, lettuce, onion and sour cream. Finally, I would boil eggs during cool times to use during hot times (plain, egg salad, maybe deviled eggs).


Consider a solar cooker. Cook your meals OUTSIDE and use the sun to your advantage. I was gifted a solar oven several years ago and am always impressed by how well it works. I’ve baked potatoes in it, grits, beans, chickens, and casseroles. You can also reheat in it I’ve always been an avid crockpot user, so I’ve found that anything I’ve made in a crockpot, I can make in the sun oven. Try a cobbler in the sun oven or crockpot for a summertime treat without the heat.
I’ll finish off with a few more ideas to get your own creativity kick started:
  • Tuna, egg or chicken salad are great ways to use up leftovers and don’t require extra cooking time. All are great inside a cool, hallowed out tomato.
  • Shrimp cocktail or ceviche
  • BLTs – highlight summer’s bounty. You can go beyond the B, L and T, too. Add some Ch(eese), A(vocado), or S(prouts).
  • While grilling for tonight, throw on items for the next meals. Add an eggplant for babaganoush. Or summer squash for a pasta salad. Even shrimp or chicken for cool tacos tomorrow.
  • Double up. Make a double batch so you sweat once and eat twice.
  • Beans. Either canned or already made and frozen. Use them in salads, quesadillas, black bean salsa, hummus and more.
  • Couscous or bulgar. Both cook up so quickly you’ll hardly heat up your kitchen. Boil the water or broth, throw in the couscous, turn off the heat and let sit. Add tomatoes, feta and mint for an easy gourmet meal. Voila!  

A whole foods lifestyle means you can’t escape cooking in the summer. But you can escape the heat. Try some of these productive ideas to start. Happy Summer Cooking!

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