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5 surprising things you can cook on your cooktop

No access to an oven? No worries.

cooktop with cake, chicken, french fries, pizza and bread
Last updated: 01 August 2022

Whether your oven's on the fritz, you're on a camping trip with limited cooking options, or you're simply up for a culinary challenge, here are five surprising foods you can cook on a cooktop. (And no, there's not a stir fry in sight.)

roast chicken

1. Roast chicken

Australians eat roughly 40kg of chicken per person per year, and for many, few meals beat a golden roast chook straight out of the oven.

But if you don't have access to a working oven, you can still get those roast chicken flavours using your cooktop and a cast iron pot. 

Season one whole chook (giblets and neck removed) with salt, pepper and any other herbs and spices you'd like. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil in your pot over a medium heat, then add the chicken and cook, breast side down, until golden brown.

Reduce heat to medium-low, turn chicken breast side up and add ¼ cup of water and ¼ cup of wine or stock to the pot. Cover with a lid and cook for around 1 hour, until a meat thermometer registers 75°C. (Insert the probe approximately 1.5cm deep into the meatiest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone.) 

If you're not confident cooking a roast, a meat thermometer can help ensure it's cooked to your liking. Find out which models we recommend in our meat thermometer reviews.

pizza slice

2. Pizza

Pizza purists may want to look away now, but you can cook a pizza using your cooktop and a cast iron, stainless steel or nonstick frypan.

First make your pizza dough and roll out to a thin base that's around 5cm smaller than your frypan. Heat your frypan over a medium-high heat and add 1–2 tsp of olive oil. Cook the pizza base for around one minute or until you start to see large bubbles forming on the top. Flip the base, then top with a few spoonfuls of pizza sauce, cheese and any other toppings you like. 

Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan with a lid and cook pizza another 5 mins. Adjust the heat as needed to stop the base from burning (you can lift it with a spatula to check). Once the cheese has melted, serve!

We review pizza ovens to see if they can create an authentic pizza.


3. Bread

Nothing quite beats a loaf of freshly baked bread. And believe it or not, you can actually bake the stuff on your cooktop. 

Make your bread dough by mixing 1½ cups of plain flour and ½ tsp salt. Make a well in the centre and add ½ cup plus 2 tbsp of warm water, then add ½ tsp instant yeast and 1 tbsp sugar. Mix until the ingredients just come together, then add 1 tbsp butter or olive oil and mix again. 

Transfer to your kitchen benchtop and knead for around 3 minutes until soft and smooth, then shape into a round. Brush over a little butter or olive oil, cover with a tea towel and leave for two hours until it's doubled in size.

Gently knead the dough into a round shape, then take a cast iron pan and grease with butter or olive oil. Add the dough, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise 15–20 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap the lid of your pan with a tea towel (this will stop any moisture from falling on the dough while it cooks).

Once the dough has risen, cut a cross into the top using a sharp knife, pop the tea-towel-covered lid onto the pot, and place it on your cooktop to cook over a low flame.

After 10 minutes, flip the dough using a spatula and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove bread from the pan, cool on a wire rack, then serve.

Find out which breadmakers are best at making bread from scratch or from a pre-mix with our expert breadmaker reviews.

french fries

4. French fries

Cooking frozen fries in the oven is a healthier (in comparison) alternative to deep frying. But if you don't have access to an oven, there is another way to make fries without reaching for the mega-sized bottle of oil (or ordering home delivery). Yep, you can cook them on your cooktop. 

It's as simple as heating a frying pan until medium-hot, adding enough vegetable or canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then adding your frozen fries in a single layer. Flip the fries every couple of minutes and cook until golden brown, season, then eat. 

If you cook a lot of frozen chips and chicken nuggets, an air fryer might be your new best friend. Here's what happened when CHOICE editorial director Marg spent a week using an air fryer.


5. Cake

You're pretty much guaranteed a moist cake with this cooktop steaming method. 

(Note: You'll need a lidded saucepan that's around 5cm wider than your cake tin, and deep enough for the cake to rise without hitting the lid.)

Make your favourite cake batter and pour into a greased and lined round cake tin. Lay a plate, upside down, at the bottom of your saucepan and add enough water so it almost reaches the top of the plate. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then place the cake on top of the plate. Cover with a lid and steam for around 30 minutes. Top up the saucepan with hot water if it starts to run low.

Once your cake has risen and is firm in the middle, carefully remove it from the tin. Leave to cool for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Looking for the perfect cake tin? You can find the perfect tin for your cooktop cake in our expert cake tin reviews

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.