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In a pickle: How to cook several dishes with one oven

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

Cooking with one oven

With the holidays in full bloom, most of us host a big meal at least once. When multiple dishes are involved, it can be stressful planning when to cook each dish when you only have one oven.
Woman cooking dinner in stove

We all wish we had a stainless steel double oven, paired with a fancy fridge and granite countertops. And while we're wishing, why not include a personal chef to prepare all this food? The reality for most of us is that we only have one oven, and it can get stressful when multiple dishes need to be cooked, warmed and ready to eat all at the same time.

Can you cook two or more dishes in the oven at once?

Yes. Most people fret when it comes to cooking two dishes at once, but it's your ovens' job to keep the internal temperature set to what you selected. It may have to work a little harder when two or more cold dishes are inserted, but trust that it will do its job. The dishes will typically take 15 percent longer to cook than if only one is cooking, so adjust the time accordingly. To ensure even cooking, make sure the oven is fully preheated before inserting dishes and rotate the dishes halfway through.

Check out our recipe for the perfect beef tenderloin >>

Can you cook one dish and bake another simultaneously?

Yes, but there are some guidelines you'll need to follow. First, baked goods are not flexible when it comes to temperature. Preheat the oven to what the baked good needs to be at. Most cooked dishes are flexible when it comes to temperature — this includes meats, veggies, casseroles, baked potatoes and the like. It may take a little less or more time for the cooked dish to be done, but it will turn out the same. Baked goods are more of a science and each variable needs to be precise. Second, make sure the meat (or main dish) doesn't have a strong flavor, such as garlic. If that's the case, it's best to cook the items separately so the flavors don't cross over.

Tips for cooking multiple dishes

  • Meat is the most flexible. Technically, meat can cook at any temperature until it's done. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take and the juicier it will be. If cooking multiple dishes, set the temperature to what the nonmeat dish requires.
  • Meat stays hot for a while. Large roasts, such as a ham or turkey, will stay hot for an hour after coming out of the oven. Plan on cooking smaller side dishes during this time.
  • Most ovens have a 25 degree variance. If one dish needs to be cooked at 350 degrees and another at 400 degrees, set the oven for 375. Most ovens are off by about 25 degrees anyway, so as long as it's set "around" the required temperature, the dish will turn out fine.
  • Arrange the dishes so there is enough space between them. Air should be able to circulate between all the dishes, so space them out accordingly.

More dinner hosting tips

Do you need double ovens?
How to organize for a large party
Tiny kitchen, big problems

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