The dog days of summer will soon be upon us, and if you don't have central air conditioning, it'll quickly become pretty difficult to cook without overheating your kitchen.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prepare a real meal without firing up your oven. They can range from the obvious (grilling) to the more creative (cold meals), but regardless of how you do it, you can still create a satisfying meal for yourself or the whole family.
Fire Up the Grill
This will be a no-brainer to some of you, but grilling is a great solution. You can grill just about anything, including pizzas and fruit, and pretty much everything tastes better grilled. And the best part? All the heat stays outside.
If you're not a grillmaster, LifeHacker has a handy infographic on how to grill all the major types of food. And if you don't already own one, you're in luck. We've reviewed the best gas grills, charcoal grills, and portable grills that you can get, with some of the best options costing less than $200.
Sadly, not everyone (myself included) can own a grill either due to the lack of a yard or municipal bans. But don't worry, you aren't out of luck—you just have to get more creative with your cooking methods.
Alternative Cooking Appliances
If both the oven and the grill are out of the question, you can turn to a number of other appliances for cooking, including the microwave, toaster oven, and slow cooker. Happy Herbivore also recommends using a pressure cooker, rice cooker, and even an electric steamer.
You might think the microwave limits you to bland, boring frozen foods, but you'd be wrong. You can make mac n' cheese and even pumpkin pie in a microwave. Just take a look at our feature on microwave mug meal recipes for inspiration.
As for the toaster oven, you can cook just about everything you make in a real oven. You can even cook most meats using the broil mode. Since toaster ovens are so much smaller than a traditional oven, they don't generate nearly as much heat, keeping your kitchen cooler.
You probably think of slow cookers as vessels for chili and stews, but you can make all sorts of different dishes in them—even desserts! You'll have to plan your dinner pretty far in advance, but the low heat and all-day cook time mean your slow cooker runs cool.
The same can be said of pressure cookers, rice cookers, and electric steamers. According to Happy Herbivore, these devices are great for preparing vegetables and grains. The Kitchn also endorses pressure cookers, adding that their design makes them very energy efficient—a boon in the heat of summer.
No-Cook Meals & Desserts
If you really don't want to generate any heat in your home, or lack the appliances discussed above, you can also make no-cook and no-bake meals.
We're not just talking about salads, either. There are hundreds of no-cook recipes online; all you need is a willingness to cook (or not) outside your comfort zone.
Need a little inspiration? You can make cold soups (gazpacho!), pastas, and desserts. Your salads also don't have to solely be of the leafy variety. You can make them heartier by using beans, quinoa, pre-cooked meats (like smoked salmon or rotisserie chicken), and more.
As for pastas, you might be wondering how you'd boil them. Well, it's technically cheating, but Serious Eats has a method for cooking pasta with minimal heat.
J. Kenji López-Alt writes that all you have to do is bring your water to a boil, throw in the pasta, stir it a little bit, shut off the heat, and cover the pot. After 10 to 12 minutes, your pasta should be perfectly al dente. Then you can combine it with vegetables, oils, cheeses, and meats to create a tasty cold pasta dish.
No dinner is complete without dessert, and luckily there are plenty of no-bake treats out there. You can even make egg-based desserts as long as you use pasteurized eggs, according to Capital Gazzette.
So forget about your oven this summer. There are plenty of fun, healthy, and delicious meals that you can make, both hot and cold. Just invest in a few alternative appliances or embrace cold dishes. After a few dinners, you won't even miss your oven.