3, 2, 1...Go Vote for Your Best Hands-Off Recipe!

March  1, 2018

We started with well over 100 entries. These fierce, feisty competitors brought their Dutch ovens and Instant Pots, pork shoulders and beef briskets, revved up, ready for battle our recipe contest. The theme this time: Your Best Hands-Off Recipe. That is, we were looking for set it and forget it cooking, dinners that don’t ask much of you, but pat you on the back all the same.

A couple weeks ago, we announced the five finalists. We had tested all of these already—invited them into our homes, gotten to know them well. But, to narrow down to the top two, we wanted to test them again, and give y’all the opportunity to do the same.

Soon enough, the office turned into recipe contest land paradise. We turned on this oven, that oven, this stove, that stove, steak here, salmon there. And then we waited. Where’s the food? the staff wondered. Is that still happening? But that’s the thing with hands-off recipes. They...go...very...slowly... Eventually, they emerged. We tasted. We talked. Tasted more. Talked more. Contemplated. Considered community feedback. Add all this up and you get our two finalists. Drumroll, please:

The Finalists

Slow-Roasted Ginger Scallion Salmon

Those soy saucy scallions beneath the salmon are one of the best parts. Photo by Julia Gartland

Joy Huang is no stranger to Food52. She’s contributed recipes for years and even won two contests: Tofu and Thanksgiving Leftovers. For Your Best Hands-Off Recipe contest, she merged two favorite recipes. The first, Slow-Roasted Salmon from Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. The second, her own recipe, Grace’s Ginger Scallion Fish. Sally Schneider introduced us to slow-roasting salmon back in 2015 (we thought it was totally Genius). This recipe ups the ante—and by that we mean, drops the temperature, from 275° F to 225° F, yielding a buttery fish that is all but impossible to overcook. A few notes from our testing: The sauce is salty and intense. Serve with unseasoned rice or noodles, to slurp up all that goodness. As Joy notes, the fish will turn out quite translucent. It’s still cooked, though (trust us, we checked). We like the recipe best when the ginger and scallion greens are both chopped. We also opted to reserve the scallion whites, finely chop them, and sprinkle on top as a crunchy, fresh garnish. Head on over to the recipe to learn more.

Halfsies Chicken

Hello there, grill marks! This recipe's secret ingredient makes these extra pretty. Photo by Julia Gartland

It’s hard to say “Halfsies Chicken” without smiling, which is what caught our attention when we first met the recipe. That was also the first time we met its author, Mimi; Halfsies is her first recipe on the site! As she notes, the name comes from the marinade’s measurements—sugar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, all of which are half of something, a cup, a tablespoon, a teaspoon. And yes, that sugar also caught our attention. With chicken, really? It works. The result is ultra-tender, with a teriyaki-like savory-sweetness. A few notes from our testing: If you don’t have the real deal, a grill pan works great here. If you don’t have 10 to 20 hours to marinate, 6 will do. And if you happen to measure 1/2 tablespoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon cayenne—well, we might have done that, too, and it turned out delicious. Plus, it’s still Halfsies. Get the full details at the recipe.

What're you waiting for?

Get out there and vote! You might be wondering if you have to make them first. And you certainly could—just let us know when to come over and what kind of wine to bring. Or, you could simply vote for whichever recipe you can’t wait to make. We know, it’s hard, but you have to pick one. Voting ends on Thursday, March 8. The following day, we declare the winner. Who will it be? You tell us.

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.