I'm a Chef and These Are the Alternative Cookers I Use When It's Too Hot to Turn on My Oven
Cooking outside in the summer is idyllic. It's what most of my childhood memories are made of: grilled Long Island corn, piles of steamed clams, and bits of blackened marshmallow stuck all over my hands, face, and clothes. Cooking inside in the summertime is another story—one that is notably less idyllic as a professional cook who lives in an old house without central air conditioning. Making a full dinner in the summer without overheating my entire house is a feat I've only recently conquered; I had to learn the hard way that simply praying that the ceiling fan would keep my kitchen cool never seems to do the trick. Here's what I've learned:
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Not every dinner in the summer is an elaborate backyard barbecue. Sometimes, you just need to get a meal on the table quickly. Turning the oven to 350 degrees every time you want to roast some chicken thighs or bake a piece of salmon isn't feasible, especially when it's even hotter and muggier inside than it is outside. After too many years of screaming "out of the kitchen!" in an overheated stupor to anyone who crossed my path, wiping beads of sweat with the back of my chicken-covered hand, I decided to switch up my summertime cooking strategy.
Lately, I've been relying on some alternative methods of cooking, specifically countertop cookers that emit less heat than a regular oven. By utilizing other gadgets, I'm able to make a healthy and filling dinner without turning on my traditional oven. More importantly, I'm able to keep my kitchen (and my temper) a little cooler. If you run into the same issue every year, try employing one of my go-to gadgets for cooking indoors during the dog days of summer. I've rounded up four of my favorites to get you started.
Best for Cooking Casseroles: Balmuda The Toaster
This isn't your average toaster oven. Balmuda's heat control technology utilizes steam, rather than dry heat, to cook a variety of foods from pizza to pastries to gratins. The moisture in the air allows for better texture control by cooking foods thoroughly while ensuring a crispy outer layer. The steam also heats faster without giving off additional heat, making it the ideal resource when it's too hot to preheat a traditional oven.
Best for Cooking Sauces: Crock-Pot Cook and Carry Programmable Slow Cooker
Thankfully for me, slow-cookers manage to almost completely contain their heat while cooking a variety of foods. That makes them the perfect resource for making dinner without adding hot air to the kitchen. When it comes to emitting extra heat, this option from Crock-Pot keeps it to a minimum thanks to the locking lid and extra gasket. It ensures a tight seal that keeps hot air in the cooker, rather than in my kitchen.
Best for Cooking Proteins: Ninja Foodi 8-in-1 Flip Away Toaster Oven
Perhaps one of the most spatially efficient gadgets in my kitchen, this multi-use toaster oven and air fryer combo performs eight culinary tasks in one. It also flips up vertically against my backsplash when not in use, saving space on the countertop. I use it to roast chicken thighs, fry potatoes, and bake salmon. It performs all eight tasks efficiently while keeping (most) of the hot air completely inside the unit. Although it does give off a small amount of hot air, it's hardly noticeable compared to a traditional oven.
Best for Cooking Vegetables: Hamilton Beach Electric Indoor Searing Grill
Looking to grill up some portobello caps or a few ears of corn? This smokeless grill is a great way to do it. If you're too hot to stand over an open flame, this is an easy alternative that manages to achieve great flavor and blackened grill marks without smoking up the house.