With hit after hit of heat waves this summer, it’s more important than ever to have a few tricks up your sleeve for staying cool while cooking. Sure, no-cook recipes are often touted as the best solution for beating the heat and satisfying your appetite at the same time, but let’s be honest: There are only so many cold wraps and makeshift salads that one can eat before craving something heartier—even something, dare we say, cooked.
And you’re in luck, because it is possible to enjoy a delicious, cooked meal on the hottest days of the year without making your whole house feel completely stifling, Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, of Street Smart Nutrition, tells SELF. And she should know, since she’s been prepping tasty, satisfying dinners in a home with limited AC and windows.
There are two general things to keep in mind when cooking in the heat: the kitchen appliances or gadgets you choose to use, and the way in which you go about prepping and cooking. Choosing the right cooking tools can help prevent your kitchen from getting even hotter, and employing smart tricks can help you make the most of the time you do spend preparing your meals.
Here are 10 summer cooking tips that registered dietitians and chefs personally use to stay cool when cooking on hot days. From barbecuing on the regular to doubling up on recipes when they do turn on their ovens, there’s sure to be a tip in here that you can steal for yourself when the temperatures are sweltering.
1. Avoid turning on your oven with a few helpful gadgets.
Your oven throws off a lot of heat, so it’s no surprise that one of the most important things you can do to cool off your cooking is to avoid turning it on whenever possible.
Instead, there are a handful of appliances or tools that can cook food to perfection without increasing the temperature of your home, Rhyan Geiger, RDN, owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, tells SELF.
“Use your air-fryer, slow cooker, Instant Pot, or whatever you have that’s not the oven,” she says. Even her microwave is in frequent use during the summer months, whether she wants to simply steam frozen veggies or warm up a bowl of leftover rice. (For more inspiration, check out these recipes for air fryer, slow cooker, and Instant Pot meals.)
Harbstreet seconds the vote for the air fryer. In fact, she tells SELF that it’s the tool she uses most often on hot days, because it produces oven-fresh results without an actual oven.
Compared to other methods like stovetop cooking, “it’s quicker and more efficient,” she says. “We can quickly cook chicken, salmon, shrimp, or meatballs, as well as prepared options from the freezer like chicken tenders or dumplings.” Looking for more plant-based options? Geiger says that an air-fryer works great for making crispy tofu cubes, perfect for adding more protein to your grain bowls.