7 ways to hack dinner that don't require a stove

As a food blogger, my stove gets a lot of action. I am constantly experimenting, and that means a lot of quality time for me and the oven. I love pulling a perfectly prepared enchilada bake or a dozen chocolate chip cookies from the warm oven, but cooking food from scratch in the oven can be a lot of work, not to mention time-consuming. For the nights when you're working late or just too tired to whip something up, try getting creative in the kitchen. You have so many other tools to help you make delicious, gourmet meals in a fraction of the time. Here are some of my favorite ways to hack dinner without a stove.

Slow cooker

My absolute favorite way to make dinner (with or without a stove) is in the slow cooker. There is just something magical about walking in the door after a long day and being greeted with the welcoming smell of a pot roast simmering away. The slow cooker is great for days when you don't have a lot of time. Simply toss in your ingredients in the morning and set it on low. Who among us wouldn't love a home-cooked meal with little to no effort required? Last year, I shared a free slow cooker challenge on my relatively small food blog. Within an hour, hundreds of participants signed up! While slow cookers are incredibly easy, there are still a few things to watch out for.

Cookbook author Kelli Foster shared some of her best slow cooker tips with The Kitchn. First, make sure you use the right kind of meat. Lean cuts like chicken breast tend to dry out quickly. Go for a fattier cut to seal in the flavor. "Slow cookers are ideal for tougher, fattier, and inexpensive cuts of meat, like stew meat and shoulder cuts," she explained. "The longer cook time breaks down the tough connective tissue, and you end up with tender, juicy meat."

Most importantly, once your meal is cooking, try to avoid opening the lid to check on it. You let out all the heat and make it take longer every time you lift the lid.

Foil packets

Cooking your dinner over an open flame isn't just for boy scouts at sleep-away camp. Foil packet meals may have started at the campsite, but thanks to chefs like the ones at Food Network, these campfire meals are getting an upgrade. Foil packet meals can be prepared a fire pit or simply thrown on the grill.

To prepare, start by layering two sheets of heavy duty foil squares on a flat surface. Place your ingredients in the center and roll the short ends of the foil inward. Fold them over twice, then fold in the sides to seal. Always leave a small slit open for steam to escape. And no need to stick with meat and potatoes. From garlic shrimp to spiced nuts, foil packet meals can be a treat for any night.

Raw foods

We often forget that dinner doesn't actually have to be cooked to be satisfying and delicious. The raw food enthusiasts prove that! Start with some of your favorite vegetables, then chop and toss them in a large salad. Certified clinical nutritionist Gena Hamshaw shared her experience of going to a raw diet with O Magazine. "Not only did I feel better," she shared, "but more importantly, I fell in love with the delicious taste of fresh food."

Some raw food advocates believe that cooking your food strips it of its vital nutrients. While cooking your food at high temperatures can start to break down the nutrients, that same phenomenon happens as soon as the food hits the acid in your stomach. It seems the benefits of a raw food diet are more related to the fact that eating raw food forces you to eat a lot of plants. Ready to try it? Hamshaw loves that switching to a raw diet is so simple. "Don't agonize over complicated recipes," she shared. "Just eat a big chopped salad and you're on your way."

On the grill

I'm not sure why, but I think we can all agree that food is just more delicious on the grill. A burger on the stovetop sounds okay, but a juicy burger dripping with cheese hot off the grill makes a night truly special.

According to Eating Well, it's best to preheat your grill at least 15-25 minutes before cooking your food. This should ensure that the grill is hot enough to cook your food quickly. It also kills any bacteria that's been brewing. "A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking," according to Eating Well.

It's also important to always marinate your meat before grilling it. According to Eating Well, marinating can reduce or eliminate potentially carcinogenic compounds formed during grilling.

Microwave meals

The microwave can do a lot more than heat up that store-bought frozen meal. For some gourmet microwave ideas, we went to the experts: college students. The online college magazine Her Campus shared some favorite tips for dinner in the microwave. From chili dogs to baked potato casserole, the microwave can offer some hearty treats. The trick is using some ready-made food to speed up the process. For the microwaveable chili dog, simply buy hot dogs, hot dog buns, canned chili, and cheddar cheese. Microwave the hot dogs and chili, then assemble everything. Voila! A delicious, college classic in just a couple minutes.

Fancy toast

Toast has been getting a major upgrade lately. Forget butter and jelly. Savory meals featuring toast are all the rage and make for a fun, easy dinner. Grab your favorite crusty bread and toss it in the toaster. Try topping with some mashed avocado, a little garlic salt, and sliced ham, then sprinkle some red pepper flakes or goat cheese over the top.

Bon Appetit featured its own version of fancy toast by topping theirs with tahini, thinly sliced cucumbers, and red pepper flakes. If you have a major sweet tooth, delight your dinner guests with this butterscotch, goat cheese, and cinnamon toast from The English Kitchen.

Brinner

Who doesn't secretly love breakfast for dinner? Sure, maybe not cold cereal and milk, but what what about a spread of fresh fruit and breads, cream cheese, scrambled eggs, and bacon? All of these brinner staples can easily be made without a stove. Start with a platter of your favorite fruits and bagels. I love a colorful display, so go for deeply colored berries and bright citrus like oranges and pineapple. Place a few paper towels on a microwave-safe plate and add your uncooked bacon. This works for traditional bacon or turkey bacon. Microwave for about a minute, then check for crispiness. To microwave scrambled eggs, spray a microwave-safe bowl with cooking spray and crack an egg in there. Whisk in a little milk, salt, and pepper and microwave for about a minute, until light and fluffy. Then just pour yourself a decaf coffee and a mimosa, and you're good to go!