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Guide for One Pot Cooking - Tips for One Pan Meals, Dishes, Recipes

Updated on November 15, 2016
janderson99 profile image

John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

One-pot cooking is a way of preparing meals where you cook all the ingredients in a single one pot - be it a wok, crock pot, frying pan, saucepan, casserole dish, or even a shallow oven dish.

It’s not about saving on the washing up - its more about convenience and the style of cooking where the ingredients are combined into a single dish. Examples of a one-pot dish are a hearty stew, a Chinese stir-fry or a perfect paella.

My favourite pot is a modern stainless steel electric frying pan - broad and deep. It has a high wattage power element and a fine thermostat control. It can be used for a wide range of dishes ranging from wok-style Chinese meals to slow-cooked stews. Its high sides and broad base mean that it is versatile. It can even be put into the refrigerator and the food reheated later. Its large size means that large dishes can be cooked that can be used for two family meals. It can also be used as a serving dish. Discover all the tips and tricks for one pot cooking and some fabulous recipes to try.


What are the benefits of one-pot cooking?

► One of the best features of one-pot cooking is that the recipes often includes vegetables, peas, meat, rice and pasta, fresh herbs and spices added to the one pot, making it a great way to cook a convenient and nutritious meal the whole family will enjoy.

► Having all the ingredients in the same pot means the flavours are blended, but when cooked in the right way the individual items retain their own flavour and texture.

► Another benefit is slow cooking, which is well suited for using cheaper and tougher cuts of meat that are full of flavour but tough when fast cooked. Slow cooking is simple and convenient and saves time.

► Cooking everything together in one pot also allows all the flavours to blend into rice and vegetables, such as in the classic paella and similar dishes.

► It is perfect for developing natural cooking sauces that add to the appeal of the dish.

► A slow cooker, crock-pot, Slo-cooker or similar electric or stove pot are fabulous for one pot cooking, especially if you are busy all day doing other things. The ceramic lined or enamelled cast iron pots are the best for stove top cooking, as you can use them or frying onions and braising meat at the start. Just pop everything in first thing in the morning before you start your other activities. After several hours the aroma of the dish will develop - just in time for lunch or dinner.

► You can cook in bulk and reheat.This means that you devote more time to cook fabulous and complex dishes than you would if you had to cook for every meal. Generally the second serving tastes better than the first.

Tips and Tricks for One-Pot Cooking

► Timing is critical so cook components separately and the reassemble - isn't that cheating - not really as you are still are cooking everything in the one pot. Different elements need to be cooked for different lengths of time, so you need to add them at various time through the process. For Wok style meals, you need to stir-fry each item to perfection, remove and reassemble them back into the pot or frying pan for developing the sauces and the final cooking to blend the dish.

► For meat and vegetable curries and stews avoid the trap of just shoving everything in and cooking over the same time. Meat needs to be cooked slowly over a long time. Braised the meat on high heat with onions to brown the exterior slightly. Add the spices and cook briefly. Then turn down, add the liquid and cook for one or more hours. Potatoes, sweet potatoes carrots and other root vegetables need to be added about an hour before serving. Beans, snow peas and other green vegetables only require half an hour on slow heat. Peas, fresh herbs and other small items may only need fifteen minutes or so. The idea is that all the items in the dish are just cooked to perfection and retain their original texture and flavour.

► Search the internet for one pot recipes and other recipes you can adapt to the process. Don’t forget to add your own ideas as well.

► Steaming is a great way to cook as it maximizing the taste, texture and colour of the food items, while retaining all the nutrients in vegetables, meat and fish. Simple and healthy steaming can be done in one pot is you are careful about the timing. All you need is a suitable steaming basket than can be added to your pot with lid. Heat the water to boiling and then reduce the temperature to moderate and place your vegetables and items in the steamer basket in the order of the time they need to be cooked. Some steaming baskets have layers or chambers for the separate items.

The simplest method is to put the harder vegetables, which take longer to cook into the steamer basket first. Steam for about two to five minutes. Then add another layer of less dense vegetables such as beans and snow peas, that take less time to cook, and continue to cook using the steam. You can add several more layers.

The aim is to ensure that all items are just cooked when you are ready to serve the dish. It is all in the timing and after a while you will perfect it. Chopping all the items into small pieces helps to reduce steaming times.

You can easily combine vegetables with pieces of fish, prawns or chicken placed on top, or in a separate chamber in the steamer. Add herbs and spices for flavour.

This is a wonderful way to make a simple, convenient, tasty and healthy meals in one pot in a very short amount of time. You can make simple dressing or sauces to add flavour. Many people used to salty and fat laden fast foods may take a while to adapt and appreciate the subtle gentle tastes of streamed dishes.

Fabulous One-Pot Recipes to Try

Do you think one pot meals are satisfying and save time?

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© 2011 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • janderson99 profile image

    Dr. John Anderson 4 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

    Thanks for the feedback

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

    Steaming is my favorite to eat, but one pot slow cooking is my favorite to cook. :)

    Thanks for some great tips worth book marking. Voted up.

  • ThunderKeys profile image

    ThunderKeys 6 years ago

    I've been cooking a lot recently with a slow cook one-pot cooker. This is a great Hub! I might just try out one of your example recipes!


    - Duddy.

  • Nspeel profile image

    Nspeel 6 years ago from Myrtle Beach

    I always have a hard time at the grocery store. Great article voted up and awesome. Shared with my fellow followers as well, great job here.

  • elizabethmcgriff profile image

    elizabethmcgriff 6 years ago from South Alabama

    This is a very well written, informative hub. I totally agree with the one-pot idea. It helps blend flavors and once you learn when to add certain ingredients, it's not all mushed together. Thanks for writing.