Essential tips for keeping the kitchen from overheating during a sweltering summer spell.
David WatskySenior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's logged more than a decade writing about all things edible, including meal kits and meal delivery subscriptions, cooking, kitchen gear and commerce. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the eats business from slicing and dicing as a sous-chef in Rhode Island to leading complex marketing campaigns for major food brands in Manhattan. These days, he's likely somewhere trying the latest this or tasting the latest that - and reporting back, of course. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
ExpertiseKitchen tech, cookware, small appliances, food innovation, meal delivery and meal kits.
Another month, another string of blisteringly hot days. September is off to a downright balmy start with temperatures well into the 90s or even triple digits in many parts of the country. Heatwave or no heatwave, the kitchen is a central artery for most homes, but firing up the stovetop and oven during warm summer months can make things even more uncomfortable. If you're dealing with a case of hot box kitchen, there are ways to keep that essential room from overheating without abandoning it completely and ordering takeout.
In the midst of a summer heatwave, you may feel the urge to forgo cooking altogether. These tips for keeping the kitchen cool on particularly hot days will allow you to keep your breakfast, lunch and dinner routine intact.
Not only will manually regulating heat in the kitchen save you some sweat and sanity, but it'll save you some money on your air conditioning bill, since you won't have to crank it as much to counterbalance.
Here are nine simple ways to keep your kitchen cool during a summer heatwave.
1. Prepare instead of cook
Don't want to heat up your kitchen? Don't cook. But that doesn't mean you can't eat. Focus on no-cook, fresh foods, such as summer salads, ceviche, smoothies and cold noodles. Even slicing up fresh fruit or vegetables like cucumbers and melons can be a refreshing and healthy summer treat. And no-cook foods help beat the heat in two ways: By not heating up your kitchen -- or your body -- as you consume them.
And when you do cook, limit your time in the kitchen with a helpful meal kit (these are the best meal kits for 2023). While you'll likely still have to cook the food, you'll do far less prep, and spending less time in a sweltering kitchen is definitely a good thing. Most services offer lighter, no-cook meals during the summer, too.
If you're going to use your oven, make sure the exhaust fan is on full tilt whenever you do. Most people associate exhaust systems with limiting smoke, but these above-oven fans suck up a ton of heat, too.
3. Get yourself a good grill or pizza oven and cook outside
Take the heat out of the kitchen by cooking outdoors this summer. BBQ grilled chicken or steaks are classics for the grill but don't forget you can grill summer favorites like corn on the cob or watermelon, too. You might be hot while you're outside using a grill or smoker to heat foods, but your kitchen can stay cool.
Essential gear for grilling and outdoor cooking, all tested and reviewed.
Minimizing use of the oven and stove can help you avoid heating up your kitchen. Small appliances can cook your food just as well while emitting less heat than large appliances. Try using an air fryer instead of your wall oven, or a panini press instead of the stovetop. You'd be surprised how versatile small appliances can be. Your slow cooker and Instant Pot aren't just for winter soups and stews, either. Think of summer recipes you can achieve on your countertop, like Instant Pot pork carnitas. And don't turn your nose up at your microwave, which can zap rice, quinoa, vegetables and more while generating practically no heat.
If you're going to heat up your kitchen, make it worth it. If you do end up using your oven or stovetop, make larger quantities than normal. That way, you can use precooked leftovers, which means you have food ready to go without heating up your kitchen again.
But with the right kitchen appliances you can batch cook and keep the oven off. For example, make a whole bunch of pulled chicken in your Instant Pot (which gives off very little heat). Then you can use the leftovers to make tacos, chicken salad nachos, and other meals that don't require firing up your oven again.
Cooking in your kitchen when it's already hot outside (and maybe already hot in your home) means you'll only add to the heat. Plan ahead and strategize your cooking times for when it's not as hot. The best time to cook to avoid the heat is in the morning or later in the evening. That might appear easier said than done, but you could bake bread in the morning, or cook proteins and pasta dishes while you're making breakfast or an early lunch so they'll be ready to go for dinner.
Airflow can help cool down your kitchen. If you're using your stove, turn on the range hood vent. It's there to remove not just grease, fumes and odors but smoke, heat and steam that could get trapped and heat up your kitchen while you're cooking. Plus, you can keep a fan on in the kitchen to move air around and cool it down. You can also position your fan to move hot air out, or bring cold air in with a cool, wet towel.
Sunlight and even artificial interior light can generate heat, and when you're in the heat of summer, every degree counts. Dim the lights, shut any curtains, close your blinds and limit how many lights you turn on. You don't need to work in the dark but be wary of turning on lots of overhead lights.
This strategy won't lower the actual temperature in your kitchen but it will make the heat far more bearable. Hydration is the no. 1 rule for any summer activity, and cooking outdoors or in a warm kitchen is no exception. Drink lots of water -- it's recommended to drink between 11 and 15 cups per day -- and sip even more than you think you should when the mercury rises.
Want to punch it up a bit? Try water infusions for more flavor and refreshment. Planning to sweat? Add sea salt and lemon to boost electrolytes and flavor.