It’s hot, you’re hungry: summertime cooking shortcuts

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My approach to warm-weather cuisine has always been to reduce use of indoor appliances or take the cooking method outside. That became more of a challenge when we moved to a compact rental unit, but new small-space, double-duty appliances make either easier.

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For indoor meals, Ninja has a double oven with two cavities that separately bake, broil, roast, reheat, keep warm, toast, air-fry/roast, and dehydrate.

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The feature has been emerging in conventional ovens for the past few years, but this sized-down version—about 13 inches high and 16 inches wide—saves even more counterspace and energy. Cook-time is trimmed too: its makers say it can produce an entire meal 65 per cent faster than a traditional oven.

Smells from dishes do not cross over. The unit comes with two sheet pans, wire racks, and an air-fry basket.

Even tinier, the Wonder Oven from online retailer Our Place contains air-fry, bake, roast, toast, reheat, and broil functions within about a square foot. A thimble-like water inlet makes steam—extremely excellent for baking crisp breads and moist roasts, or reviving a day-old baguette.

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Quick to preheat, the interior can accommodate a 4.5-pound chicken, while insertable trays allow multi-level cooking from 200° to 400°F. The machine’s rounded silhouette—available in grey, blue, and a limited-edition spicey clay—is pleasingly retro.

For outdoor cooking, Ninja also just launched an electric wood fire outdoor grill, smoker and air fryer. At about 19 inches wide and 33 inches high, it’s well-suited to a backyard, patio, apartment terrace, or recreational vehicle (RV).

The unit is powered by wood pellets, which have fuel grill, smoke and air-fry functions. It takes about ½ cup to get the distinctive aroma, and the unit comes with two blends. It’s sturdy enough, say the makers, that it can stay outdoors for year-round cooking.

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A home-made pizza with fresh tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella—served with a leafy salad and a glass of wine—is a simple and delicious summer meal. But because perfect pizza demands a piping hot oven, it’s not an obvious choice on a sizzling day.

The Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel oven takes the work outside, reaching 500°C/950°F in about 15 minutes with wood, charcoal, or a compatible gas burner that’s sold separately.

That kind of heat makes pizza in about 90 seconds, one that’s tasty enough that international pizza authority Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certified the Ooni 16 as the first oven they’ve recommended for domestic use. Sized at 33 by 32 by 20 inches, it’s a small-footprint investment in outdoor cooking.

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Homemade sodas
Homemade sodas lets users customize sugar and carbonization levels. Photo by Supplied

For healthy, hydrating summer beverages, consider a Drinkmate OmniFizz soda maker, which carbonates water, juice, iced tea/coffee, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic mixes. You can also use it to revive flat beer or soda. It was a top pick for the New York Times’ Wirecutter home tech reviews earlier this year.

My favorite to make are sparkling juices and cold herbal teas—sometimes in combinations like vervain, mint, and camomile—with or without a splash of lemon or a spoonful of honey. While the apple cider on its own is delicious, I’ve heard a splash of bourbon make it even more delightful. I’m not a fan, but I can see how bourbon’s smoky sweetness would work with apples.

Recipes include a refreshing take on orange soda, made from lemon and lime juice, honey and water. There’s even a hand-held portable option that fits in a kitchen drawer, glovebox, or RV drawer.

Remember that any carbonated drink in a container should not be exposed to extreme temperatures for long periods. That means not leaving it in the car on a baking day or deciding to cool one down quickly in the freezer. Because my other summer cooking rule is to avoid sticky—and possibly dangerous—messes to clean up.

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