Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cooking: Macaroni Salad Shortcut

Here's a common scenario for your consideration.

Telephone rings.

Friend/Neighbor:   Hey! What are you doing for dinner tonight?
Mrs. Farmer:   I dunno; just throwing something on the grill, I think. You?
Friend/Neighbor:  The same. Wanna do it together? At the lake?
Mrs. Farmer:  Sure. I have hot dogs. I don't have buns though.
Friend/Neighbor:  I have buns. I have cheese and crackers!
Mrs. Farmer:  I can make a salad. I have paper plates and Kool-Aid!
Friend/Neighbor:  I have ketchup and mustard. See you in a half hour?
Mrs. Farmer:  You bet!

In recent days it has become clear that this scenario is going to continue to play out again this summer, over and over, just as it has in years past. It is a blessing and a curse, all at the same time. Impromptu barbecues at the lake are a lot of fun. They are a relaxing way to get together with friends. The kids can eat quickly and then run off to enjoy a little fresh air (and NO video games!) with their buddies. There are no dishes to wash, except for the serving pieces. The only downsides are the sunburn, the bugs, and of course the rush to get a nice salad made in under an hour when the cooked pasta needs to chill.

I found a solution to the hot pasta issue that works just perfectly... a stainless steel mixing bowl. When I need a pasta or macaroni salad in a hurry, I cook the noodles, drain them, toss with a little oil, and place in a stainless steel bowl. Then I put the bowl into the freezer for a few minutes. The metal bowl transfers the cold so quickly, that I can usually have ice cold pasta in 15 minutes or so. I have found that I do need to stir/toss the macaroni a few times during the cooling, otherwise a few noodles on top freeze while the ones in the middle remain warm. I just leave the spoon in the bowl for ease.

Happy grilling season, everyone!

I was just barely able to make the bowl fit this time!


  1. I wonder... if you pre-chilled the bowl, would it cut down your time even more? Like with my ice cream maker drum... I put it in the freezer and stuff gets cold REALLY fast when it goes in! You could freeze just the bowl while you're cooking the pasta, then put the pasta in, and put the whole shebang back in the freezer. It might cut down your time so you won't have the pasta on the top freezing any more! Just a thought. Let me know if you decide to try it and if it works out!

  2. Great idea! I will absolutely try! Stay tuned for updates!

  3. UPDATE: I tried pre-chilling the bowl. It may have helped a little, but because stainless conducts heat/cold so well (and since it is so thin) it heated up almost instantly when I put the hot pasta into it. The bowl was warm on the bottom when I put it into the freezer. Nice thought, though!