This Is What Our Food Editors Pack to Cook on Vacation
The test kitchen's must-have vacation pantry ingredients, kitchen tools, and fuss-free recipes.
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Cooking in a vacation rental should be a pleasure, not a game of would-you-rather-as in, would you rather skip the pancakes, or risk trying the baking soda last summer's tenants left in the pantry? Copy our food editors' approach, and pack this hits-every-note spice kit. Don't forget your favorite skillet, along with a trusty knife wrapped in a good dish towel, and pop the bundle in the trunk before you hit the road. And if you need cooking inspiration once you arrive, the 42 Burners team has got you covered with super-satisfying, crowd-pleasing recipes that make the most out of summer.
- Kosher salt
- Flaky sea salt
- Black pepper
- Red-pepper flakes
- Dried oregano
- Dried thyme
- Ground cumin
- Ground turmeric
- Ground paprika
- Baking soda and baking powder
- Cast-iron skillet
- Chef's knife
- Dish towels
- Coffee grinder
Lauryn Tyrell, senior editor
My best advice for cooking on vacation is to keep it simple. It's always less stressful to pack light, and produce is at its best in the summer, so there's no need to adorn with too many extra ingredients. Also, grill while the grilling is good! This Smoky Grilled Chicken with Sweet Vinegar Sauce is one of my favorites. The sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce is the perfect sidekick to the spice-rubbed bird. Starting it in the oven and finishing on the grill take the guesswork out of the recipe (and give you more real estate to grill veggies alongside!), but you can definitely make the whole thing on the grill if you prefer.
If you'd rather keep cooking to a minimum, make Bacon-Lobster-Tomato Sandwiches. Ask your fishmonger to steam the lobster for you, and the only thing you need to turn on the stove for is the bacon.
PRO TIP: Pie is my go-to dessert on vacation. Make a few disks of Pate Brisee and freeze them before a trip. If you're driving, pack the dough in a cooler, and if you're flying, simply tuck into your suitcase-it'll stay plenty cold in the airplane cargo hold. All you have to do once you reach your destination is purchase some nice local fruit, add a little sugar, and bake something like this Double-Crust Berry Free-Form Pie-it's so much easier than starting from scratch!
Lindsay Strand, assistant food editor
Whenever you're entertaining, keep in mind that a relaxed hostess makes for a relaxed meal. Especially if you're on vacation, you don't want to overcomplicate the food. Shopping local ensures that you'll have the freshest, most vibrant produce-it won't need much more than acid, salt, and pepper. Be smart about menu planning and make as much ahead as possible (early mornings are wonderful for baking with a cup of coffee!). That way, when it's time for the main event, there's less last-minute prep, and everyone (including you!) can enjoy the meal.
One of my favorite summer menus is a rack of Tuscan Ribs, Corn on the Cob with butter and salt, and a string bean salad like this Tomato and Wax-Bean-Salad with Olive-Oil Croutons. For dessert, I love this Apricot Cobbler with tender, flaky biscuits on top.
Sarah Carey, food director
I approach vacation cooking the same way I approach cooking at home: I go to the farmers' market, buy a bunch of local ingredients, and get cooking. This time of year, tomatoes (try this no-cook Tomato Salad with Chile Yogurt!), cucumbers, corn, and peaches are at their peak. If I'm near the water, which I always try to be, I'll make Clam Chowder or boil or steam lobsters. And I of course cap everything off with a fruit dessert, like this Peach-Blueberry Cobbler.
Greg Lofts, deputy editor
I often bring a jar of Orange Marmalade or Apricot Preserves on vacation. Not only is it wonderful slathered on buttered toast or stirred into yogurt for breakfast, but it also makes a great marinade base for chicken or pork. A couple weeks ago I was up in Kingston, NY with friends, and we marinated a whole rabbit in a mixture of marmalade, rosemary, red-pepper flakes, cumin, olive oil, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper for a few hours, then barbecued it. It was so delicious served with grilled vegetables and rustic bread from the local farmers' market.
Kavita Thirupuvanam, test kitchen supervisor
I'm all about comfort on vacation! I like baking this Custard-Filled Cornbread in a cast-iron skillet for family reunions or even when I'm down at the beach. It uses almost all pantry staples and couldn't be easier.