The Basics of Cooking for Two

The Test Kitchen

The test kitchen has spent more than 20 years developing bulletproof recipes for dishes like meatloaf, lasagna, mashed potatoes, and chocolate cake. Like most recipes, ours typically serve four, six, and sometimes more. But we’ve realized that households change over time or through circumstance. Our readers started to echo this sentiment—whether they were single parents, empty nesters, or newlyweds, they wanted recipes for the dishes we’d been developing for years, but they wanted them scaled to serve just two.

We understood this challenge; many of our own test cooks cook for two at home. While occasional leftovers can be convenient, eating macaroni and cheese three nights in a row gets tiresome. And even in a household of four, a standard cheesecake often hits the trash before the last slice is eaten. This book is designed to be an all-purpose cookbook for today’s smaller households. We included a wide range of recipes—everything you might want to eat during the course of the year. With a clear goal in mind—scale down our favorite recipes to serve two—we headed into the test kitchen to start revamping.

But once we got cooking, we discovered that our mission wasn’t going to be so easy. Often there are amounts that don’t divide evenly (one egg, for example). And even if you cut a recipe down perfectly, the cooking times and temperatures require adjustment—a small roast cooks faster than a larger one. Sometimes, an entire dish needs to be re-engineered from the ground up. Just how do you make a lasagna for two? You certainly can’t use the standard 13 by 9-inch baking dish. In short, we discovered there are different rules and approaches when cooking for two. And because we have vetted every recipe in our test kitchen, they are just as reliable as our standard recipes—no need to scale recipes yourself and hope they work.

Because households of two can be as time-pressed as larger households, we also looked for new approaches to complicated recipes. We’ve included streamlined recipes like a Weeknight Beef Stew that relies on quick-cooking sirloin steak tips and an Easy Skillet Cheese Pizza made in a 12-inch skillet—no preheated baking stone required. More than 150 of the recipes in the book (labeled “Fast” throughout) can be on the table half an hour after you walk into the kitchen. For traditionalists, we also developed a classic, slow-simmered beef stew and from-scratch parlor-style pizza for those occasions when you want to make the ultimate versions. And we’ve developed a host of healthier recipes (labeled “Light” throughout the book).

This book doesn’t just include recipes—we also share what we’ve learned when cooking for two. For example, waste doesn’t just happen with leftovers, it starts with shopping for the ingredients themselves. Proper storage of ingredients is also paramount since a smaller household may take longer to make it through a block of cheese or a box of brown sugar. We share our shopping strategies, storage recommendations, and how best to outfit your kitchen. No, you don’t need all new equipment, but there are some specialty items we recommend that will make cooking for two easier. Above all, we aimed to make cooking for two foolproof.

A Taste of the Book: Smart Guides for the Kitchen