Like many folks for the past year, quarantine for me revolved around what I was eating or cooking. Most of the time it was the only way to differentiate between the days of the week: what did I do yesterday? Oh yeah! I made pizza.
And then in early November, Con Edison (every New Yorker’s least favorite company to hear from) swooped in and took away my oven and stove. My building’s gas regulations weren’t up to code and my landlord turned off the gas to every apartment. They were told to replace our current stoves for electric ones.
Little did I know that I’d have to wait almost 3 months for that to happen. So even though it was easy for me and my girlfriend to think to ourselves, well great, I guess we can’t cook anymore, there was actually a lot we could do to still make excellent meals. We just had to get creative.
While I hope nobody ever has to be in this situation, here are all of the equipment, tips, and recipe ideas I used to get through an oven and stoveless pandemic winter.
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Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart Slow Cooker
Why does it kind of feel like crockpots existed before stoves? While that’s clearly inaccurate, a slow cooker is a welcome staple in any kitchen. Prepping a meal to cook low and slow all day provides an extra thrilling thing waiting for you at the end of a workday - especially when a lot of us are working from home.
My personal philosophy is to throw a handful of vegetables that can hold up for a long time (cabbage, carrots, root vegetables, potatoes) in first, smash up a couple of garlic cloves, put whatever meat you have on top of that (pork shoulder and chicken thighs are favorites), season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs, then cover with water and let time work its wonders. Instead of meat, you can also add unsoaked beans.
Breville Smart Oven Air With Super Convection
Besides just getting the Rancho Gordo bean club of the month for Christmas, I was also lucky enough to receive this Breville Oven from my parents. While the thing costs $400, this was undoubtedly the MVP of the stove and ovenless era. Besides actually being able to bake and roast, this big-time toaster oven also has the capabilities to air-fry (a setting I used often with sweet potatoes and fingerlings), as well as a proof setting (which made my pizza and focaccia doughs come out perfect).
Sometimes when I went to town on a bunch of stewed bean leftovers for lunch, I would whip up a smoothie for dinner and call it a night. Besides some blended protein powder, almond milk, and frozen fruits, this Ninja is great for making soups, too. Go for a creamy asparagus soup or the winter-appropriate butternut squash soup. This specific blender is a solid option if you’re not trying to drop over $300 just to be able to pulverize some frozen blueberries.
Mortar And Pestle
Which one is the mortar and which one is the pestle? These are questions one spends a lot of time thinking about when they don’t have an oven. To make a very luxurious version of pesto, or any sauce that can upgrade and make a meal taste special, you’re going to need one of these tools. It’s a very satisfying way to make all different kinds of sauces (hello chimichurri), and as an added bonus you can take out your frustration you have for your landlords as you beat together cloves of garlic and leaves of basil.
Wüsthof Classic 8" Knife
This is really more of a plug that a good kitchen knife is an essential tool for cooking excellent meals. The last thing I’d want to have happen to you, me, or anybody is trying to hack through meat and vegetables with a dull knife on top of not having a stove or oven. There are many excellent brands out there, but one I’ve always turned to is Wüsthof. I love the feeling of the 8-inch chef knife - it’s not too big, not too small, and gives you enough control if you’re slicing anything from heads of romaine to hunks of pork shoulder.
OXO Good Grips Smart Seal Container Set
I found myself during this time also doing a lot of marinating and trying to stretch leftovers (of both foods and sauces). And some good quality glass containers are absolutely necessary here. I love the ones from OXO because they latch on and off so easily. Plus, they’re the perfect vessels for some marinated cucumbers in soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil, or if you really wanna go all out, you can whip up some poke or ceviche. You don’t just need a high temperature to cook fish - you can also just use some citrus.
Yes, I will say that I did cook rice in the microwave one time. And yes it did make me sad. However, I did manage to whip up some oatmeal concoctions in the microwave when eating cereal for lunch for the fourth day in a row was just too much. Follow this super-friendly video bursting with personality from Quaker Oats. Customize your oats how you like them, but mine are never complete without cinnamon, a pinch of Diaspora Co. turmeric, and a couple drizzles of agave.
Hot plates - No Way
These hot plates prevented me from cooking pasta because the water never quite boiled, so I instead had to rely on bread mostly for my starch intake. As a proud Italian-American, I just can’t go three months without cooking the fusilli myself. So as my good friend Mark “Cubes” Cuban would say, for those reasons I’m out. I mostly used these to heat up frozen dumplings or make simple quesadillas. I can’t wait to donate these things to Goodwill and hopefully never have to use hot plates ever again.