These one pot cooking tips will make your time in the kitchen a pleasure rather than a chore. From hearty casseroles to filling soups and delicious layered stews, these one pot meals are the closest thing to meals that seem to cook themselves.
It’s hard to decide what I like the most about one pot meals – the fabulous taste or the easy clean up after cooking. Whichever it is, these easy meals are a busy cooks life saver. They are easy to prepare, and with only one cooking vessel, clean up is a breeze.
Although one pot cooking may seem simple, it actually needs some preparation to ensure that things go smoothly. To get the most of one pot cooking, there are a few one pot cooking tips and tricks that will ensure success every time.
Does your kitchen look something like this when you normally cook? Sometimes I feel as though a bomb has hit in my home when I am done preparing a recipe. I thought I was done and now I have to clean up this mess!
With one pot cooking, you’ll have the same delicious meal with just one pot to clean up. Who doesn’t like that idea?
One Pot Cooking Tips
One pot meals have so many advantages other than just the easy clean up. There is only one pan to keep an eye on, and that means that you can really focus on the flavor. The food keeps more of their nutrients, color and flavor and this style of cooking also saves on energy costs, too. These tips for one pot meals show you how to make the perfect easy one pot recipe from start to finish.
The right ingredients are a must.
No style of cooking will give you a great meal if you use substandard ingredients. Choose a great brand of tomatoes and a good cut of meat. Pick the freshest vegetables, particularly those in season right now. You’ll get optimum flavor if you do this.
Assemble things before you start.
At the top of my list of one pot cooking tips is Organization. Getting out your ingredients from the very start of the meal preparation means that you can relax and enjoy the process of making a one pot meal. Doing this means that you won’t discover that you have run out of something at a crucial time in the cooking process and have to run to the store.
Clean as you go.
There is no point in having one pot at the end of the meal preparation if your counters are loaded with ingredient and your sink is full of tools.
I like to assemble everything and then also PUT AWAY everything as I cook each layer of flavor and am done with it. The recipe gets done, I have what I need and the kitchen gets cleaned as I go.
Brown Your Meat First.
Yes, a crock pot is a one pot meal cooker but I consider it a separate style of cooking. With a slow cooker, you set it and forget about it. With great one pot cooking, you start by browning your meat first. This step is so important to the flavor of a good one pot meal. It not only caramelizes the meat, but it leaves delicious “bits” in the bottom of the pot that get scraped in with the next layers to come.
This adds great flavor as the recipe continues to cook. You just don’t get this depth of flavor with a slow cooked meal that is done without having the meat browned first.
Build the flavors slowly.
This is actually my favorite part of one pot cooking. I love recipes that have short 20 or 30 minute cooking times between adding ingredients. This allows the layers of flavor to develop beautifully as the meal progresses. That beef from the hearty beef goulash that is browned in paprika leaves pan “bits” which flavor the vegetables to come. The vegetables give an earthiness to the broth, and so on.
The finished result is one amazing meal that has a depth of flavor that can’t be beat.
Add ingredients wisely.
This is one of the most important of the one pot cooking tips. Meats, vegetables, and grains have different cooking times. Add the ingredients in descending order of cooking times. Brown and partially cook the meat first, then the veggies. The quickest cooking time items should go in last.
Fresh herbs and many green vegetables should go in with just enough time to cook them to keep their green colors and make the meal more appetizing.
Use homemade stocks and broth.
Making homemade stock is easy and adds a super flavor that canned and packaged stock doesn’t have. Be careful if using stock cubes. They can be very salty and will make your recipe taste of too much salt if you add more to the ingredients.
More One pot Cooking Tips
Use the right tools
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There are many types of cookware that can be used for one pot cooking (see my list below). There are also many other tools and utensils that are helpful:
- A good timer. Since you will be having some short cooking time, be sure to use your kitchen timer to remind you when that step is done. Nothing is worse than coming back in two hours to what should have been a 20 minute simmer time because you forget.
- A steamer basket. Sometimes you will want more than just the ingredients that can be cooked in the pan. If you have a steamer basket that will fit over the top of it, you can cook vegetables in the same pan at the end of the cooking time.
- Meat Thermometers. You will be cooking for long slow periods for many one pot meals. Be safe by using a meat thermometer to test the final temperature of the meat.
- Long handled tools. A dutch oven is deep so long handled forks and spoons, as well as tongs and spatulas will be needed for best results.
- Trivets. One of the joys of a one pot meal is that you can bring it right to the table. Protect the finish of your furniture by using trivets or pot stands so that you won’t damage it from the heat of the pan.
Pantry Items for One pot meals
I never know when the urge to make a one pot meal will hit me. Many of them use very similar ingredients that are suited to long slow cooking, though. Keep these items on hand in the pantry and freezer and you’ll be able to make one pot meals in a hurry on a busy day without having to go out to shop.
- Grains. I keep rice, pasta and barley on hand all the time. When you add them to fresh spices and herbs, you have the base of great soups, stews and casseroles that can have protein added for a complete meal.
- Beans. Dried beans are jam packed with nutrients and add an earthy background to meals like chili and curries. Canned beans are also invaluable, since you won’t need the longer cooking time of the dried variety.
- Sauces and pastes. Chile sauce, red curry paste, and other bottled flavorings can add deep flavors in just minutes to a quick one pot meal. They also give your cooking an exotic feel that is a bit out of the ordinary.
- Spices and herbs. Many stores now stock fresh herbs all year round. Dried herbs can be used and most people have them on hand, but try to bring home a new packet of fresh herbs each week to use. You’ll be amazed at the taste difference. And during the warm months, try growing your own herbs for use in recipes.
Cooking Vessels for One Pot Meals
In addition to the one pot cooking tips, you’ll need to know what types of pots to actually use. There are many types of cookware that can be used for one pot meals. Each type lends itself to a different style of recipe. Knowing which to use is important for getting the most out of your meals.
I use flat bottomed stainless steel cookware and a Dutch Oven and high sided sauté pan are two that I use often in cooking one pot meals.
Dishes that can go from the stove top to the oven are ideal for one pot cooking. You can brown onions, and veggies, add a sauce and finish off with cream or cheese and bread crumbs all in one pot to end up with a tasty casserole recipe..
The conical shape of a wok and directions for continuous stirring mean that the food constantly falls back to the center of the pan where the heat is most intense. This type of pan is ideal for stir fries and skillet style cooking.
Large sided roasting pans will hold larger pieces of meat, whole chickens and turkeys, along with vegetables surrounding it. This type of pan is my favorite way of cooking chicken.
Tall sided dutch ovens are great for making delicious soups and stews. They come in various sizes and should have tight fitting lids.
High Sided Sauté Pans
This type of pan has a tight fitting lid and heavy bottom. It’s perfect for longer cooked rich dishes and for braising cuts like chicken quarters and chops. It has a wider surface area that ensures the meat will brown well.
You can cook a whole chicken dinner on a sheet pan. The big surface area allows you to spread out the ingredients so that the roast evenly.
One pot cooking is a relaxed and flexible style of cooking. Recipes can easily be adjusted to ingredients that you have on hand in the pantry and fridge and clean up is a breeze. This no-frills way of cooking is the ultimate in stress free meal preparation. Everything is ready at the same time. This makes it great for as a way of cooking for 1 and also the perfect way to feed a crowd. (Many one pot meals are idea for pot luck dinners.)
Put these one pot cooking tips to use as you make your meals and you’ll discover just why so many cooks love the art of making one pot meals.