One month ago, we brought back recipe contests and asked you to submit your best hands-off dish. The crowd went wild, and the recipes poured in—almost 130 of them. Now, we have our five finalists. (Go, finalists, go!)
But first, let’s talk about the theme. Our past contests have focused on many things: ingredients (Your Best Recipe Made with Coffee); techniques (Your Best Recipe Cooked Over a Fire); seasons (Your Best Recipe for When You Want It to Feel like Fall); even situations (Your Best Recipe That Cleans Out the Fridge). This theme, Your Best Hands-Off Recipe, was a little of this, a little of that—open to interpretation or, better yet, inspiration. What do you do when you don’t want to do anything? Get something in the oven (or slow cooker, or Instant Pot) and
scroll bodega cats on Instagram go do something else. Here was the challenge:
We're looking for main dishes (or substantial sides) that cook without too much effort on your part (this is the Hands-Off part)—there can be some amount of prep, but this particular contest is really about set-it-and-forget-it cooking. The dish can cook in an appliance (like a slow or multi-cooker), but it doesn't have to. Perhaps your dish braises all day in the oven, bubbles away on the stovetop, or roasts on a sheet pan. We're into that, too.
We expected a lot of braises and sheet pans, slow-cookers and Instant Pots, maybe a few pizza delivery orders. Here’s what we got:
- Mostly oven-based recipes—over 40 percent. (Oh, oven—we knew you could never be replaced.) Stoves were trailing behind with 33 percent; then slow cookers with nearly 20 percent. Barely 5 percent of entries used the Instant Pot (has the queen been dethroned?). There were also a few grilling recipes and even a few no-cook ones.
- Mostly meat—roughly two-thirds of the entries! Beef, pork, and chicken occupied most of this space, leaving a little room for duck and rabbit.
- Hardly any seafood. Which makes sense, considering how many times we’ve been warned don’t overcook your fish. (This stat this might surprise you in a moment!)
This all brings us to the most important point: Thank you. Seriously. Thank you for sharing your recipes, your ideas, and your stories with us. We read every entry, considered how many times y’all favorited it and commented on it and what those comments said. We whittled the list down and divvied up those recipes around our team. Then, we slow-cooked and fast-ate and whittled down the list again, to these five beauties...
- Milk Braised Pork with Citrus and Bay by aargersi. Pork shoulder jumps in a milk jacuzzi with bay leaves and citrus zest, and emerges as its best self.
- Slow-Roasted Ginger Scallion Salmon by Joy Huang. Salmon becomes the tortoise, not the hare, and takes its sweet time in a low-temperature oven, atop a bed of gingered, soy saucey scallions.
- Crispy Peppered Pork Ribs and Sauerkraut by Kayla Richards. Two words: Four. Ingredients. And you already know three from the title.
- Halfsies Chicken by Mimi. But why halfsies? Because every ingredient (but the chicken) is a half. The biggest one is what caught our eye.
- Swiss Steak Redux by sdebrango. This old-school dish does not hail from Switzerland. Swiss rather refers to what you do to the steak (also known as, make it delicious).
This Monday, we’re testing these recipes again in the office. We will announce the two finalists on March 1—dressed up and all pretty, thanks to our test kitchen and food stylists and photographers and photo editors. Then, we’ll turn over this whole shebang to you—to vote for the winner.
Which of the five finalists would you want to cook first? Let us know in the comments below!