Everyone knows cooking for yourself is superior to eating out. But at the end of a long day, the last thing you want to do is rush around the kitchen, spending hours on a meal that you’ll scarf down in minutes. That’s where we come in. We’ve collected the easiest meals that Popular Science staff members know how to make. Here are eight infallible recipes you can whip up in minutes.
Cooking just doesn’t get any easier than sheet-pan meals. You can customize the following recipes as much or as little as you’d like.
Fish and veggies: I’m lazy, so I cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil before I cook (I can throw it away instead of washing the tray). Spray cooking oil on the baking sheet, toss down a salmon filet and some vegetables like green beans, spray another layer of oil on top, and season to taste—I like salt, pepper, and dried rosemary. Cook everything in a 425°F oven. The timing will depend on how thick the salmon is—it needs about four to six minutes per half-inch. For maximum laziness, eat your meal directly off the sheet and then transfer any leftovers to Tupperware and throw away your aluminum foil—that way you don’t have to do dishes afterward. —Sophie Bushwick
Chicken with yogurt sauce: Put chicken thighs (skin on, bone-in) on a baking sheet with onions and root veggies of any kind (aim for as many colors as possible—carrots, parsnips, any variety of potato, etc.). Add salt, pepper, and olive oil; rub to coat. Roast at 425°F for roughly 30 to 40 minutes. Right when it comes out, top with arugula while it’s still hot. As the greens wilt, add a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. For a bonus, drizzle the whole with a simple garlicky yogurt sauce, made by combining plain yogurt and garlic (1 clove per 1/3 cup of yogurt), plus salt and pepper. —Sara Chodosh
Anyone can boil noodles (or a gluten-free substitute) and throw some butter on top. But you can also elevate your dish without adding too much to your workload.
Pasta with roasted veggies and goat cheese: Lightly coat asparagus and butternut squash (or any veggies of your choice) in olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (plus, optionally, red pepper flakes on the asparagus). Roast at 400°F for about 45 minutes, depending on your oven, until the squash is tender and the asparagus is crispy. Start boiling pasta about 7 to 10 minutes before the veggies are done, so they finish cooking at the same time. Put the cooked pasta and veggies in a bowl with a log of goat cheese and 2 to 3 ladles of pasta water to melt the cheese. Mix to make a sauce. To cut through the richness of the cheese, you can also add a little bit of balsamic as you mix. The dish will thicken as it cools. Season to preference. —Jason Lederman
Spaghetti carbonara: Carbonara is the easiest and most delicious meal in the world. Make a pound of spaghetti. Meanwhile, fry a few pieces of pancetta or bacon in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, throwing in 4 to 5 garlic cloves once it starts to crisp up (after 2 to 3 minutes). Scoop up a cup of pasta water before you drain it, then toss the pasta and oily stuff together. Now, beat 2 eggs and stir in a cup of parmesan or similar cheese (I often use asiago). Pour that mixture into the pasta, stirring it constantly (OFF THE HEAT) to prevent the eggs from scrambling as they thicken. Next, use a little bit of the starchy pasta water to thin the sauce until it reaches the thickness of your liking. Season it with salt and pepper, and you’re done. —Rachel Feltman
Peanut sauce: Take about 3/4 cup peanut butter and 1/4 cup soy sauce, along with 2 to 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar and a tablespoon or so of oil (sesame if you have it, but anything is fine). Level it up by adding fresh or powdered ginger, scallions, garlic, turmeric, chili flakes, or any combination that you desire. Blend that until it’s smooth. Add water as needed to reach your desired consistency. Honestly, eyeball all of this. Add more soy sauce. Add more rice vinegar. Follow your heart. Then put the result on everything—I personally recommend stir-frying all the veggies languishing in your fridge with some udon noodles. —Rachel Feltman
Okay, technically these three recipes aren’t designed to have minimal carbohydrates. But they’re all relatively low-carb-ish, and we just needed another category.
Tuna salad: Tuna in a bowl. Squirt mayo. Drown in Sriracha. Chop up some pickles. Add Chex Mix or hand-smashed pretzels for crunch. [Ed. note: Then put the whole shebang on a sandwich!] —Billy Cadden
Joe’s campfire meatloaf: You can pre-mix this recipe and pack it on your camping trip. All measurements are approximate. Mix 1 pound of ground beef (or turkey or whatever) with 1/2 cup of ketchup (Heinz. Period.), 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 chopped-up onion, and 1 half-cup breadcrumbs. Form a baguette-ish shape and wrap in 2 layers of aluminum foil. Freeze. [Ed. note: Or, you know, put it in an oven in the comfort of your home.] Put in your backpack or cooler or whatever, and then just toss it in your campfire coals to cook until it reaches 160°F. —Joe Brown
Roasted feta with honey: Based on this recipe. Take a block of Greek feta, blot dry, and put it in an oven-safe dish or pan. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top, and roast at 400°F for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the boiler on to low. Pour a tablespoon of warm honey on top of the cheese and broil until the top of the cheese is brown, watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Serve with warm pita. —Mary Beth Griggs