HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


"Baking" without an oven?

I have some family visiting from India and they have taken to a couple of little treats I've made for them, including banana bread. They've asked for the recipe, but they don't have an oven at home (not uncommon in Indian kitchens). Anyone know how to make banana bread (or an approximation) in an oven-less kitchen? They do have a microwave and a range. Any suggestions would be appreciated - thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You can bake in a microwave. A quick google came up with this and more:


    1. Perhaps you could send them home with one of these. It's quite versatile.


      1. You could steam it, though it would be a different consistency and you won't get the nice crunchy crust:


        Or you could do pancakes:


        With girl scouts, we lined a box w/ aluminum foil and baked a cake in that but it's probably more trouble than your friends want.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          +1 to steamed cakes. I've done this before a few times, and I'd actually aver that the texture of the finished product is often spongier, moister and more even than for one baked in the oven. I'd suggest reducing the total moisture in the mix very slightly to accommodate the lack of evaporative drying that will occur in the steamer, though, and don't forget to cover the cake (or else drips of water are likely to ruin it).

          1. re: chowser

            I've never commented on a recipe before, but today I made the banana bread pancakes, which are more of a flat cake than a banana bread, but still pretty good. They don't need syrup because of the large amount of sugar.

            1. re: GraydonCarter

              Especially when making the batter by the 'muffin method' (combine dry, combine dry, combine both), there's a lot of overlap between a quick bread batter and pancakes.

          2. I don't see a duplication happening without an oven. I say switch it up and come up with a pan banana naan recipe. I'm guessing it'd be close to the original recipe, with more of the type of fat you used to brush the dough and maybe a change in the hydration level.

            1. That is what Dutch ovens and their ilk are for! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_oven
              Here is a recipe for Banana bread http://papadutch.home.comcast.net/~pa...

              1. They don't have a toaster oven, by any chance, do they? If you preheat it until the coils stop being orange, it works very well.

                1. I had only a single propane burner to cook with for almost two years and found an article in an old issue of Mother Earth News on stove top baking to be very useful. Maybe their GORP Bread recipe technique can be adapted to make a stovetop banana bread. Here's the link to the article in the magazine archives: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-F...

                  Chinese-style steamed cakes are nice, too -- no crusty goodness, as Chowser points out -- but light and moist. Here's a recipe for steamed banana cake: http://bake-me-happy.blogspot.com/200...

                  Also, years ago, I used to see a number of infomercials for waterless induction cookware from companies like Healthcraft , 360 Stainless and AirCore, that claimed you could bake cakes in their pans on the stovetop. The pans are expensive -- about $150 - $250 ea -- but much less than an oven. I keep thinking of getting one for my cake-loving aunt in India who also doesn't have an oven in her home, but she's supposed to avoid sugar so I probably shouldn't make cakes any more accessible to her than they already are.

                  1. I used to bake all sorts of cakes and muffins on an alcohol stove -- I took the rubber gasket out of the lid of my pressure cooker, then put a small rack on the bottom of the cooker. I then found a small round cake pan that just fit into the pressure cooker -- I'd put that on top of the rack.

                    On goes the lid (no gasket and no regulator, please!) and I'd put it over a medium-high flame.

                    Perfect cakes -- as I'd essentially made a small oven for stovetop use.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      That's interesting. Do you put water in there?

                      1. re: jvanderh

                        No, I never did -- ran through it with my engineer dad, and he didn't see any glaring warnings with the idea, so we tried it, figuring the worst we could do would be to wreck the pressure cooker (which my mom wasn't so thrilled about). I used it that way for a year and a half -- far more often than we ever used it as a pressure cooker, and when we moved off the boat we'd been living aboard for 2 years and back to a landbased life, she used the pressure cooker as a pressure cooker for several more years -- she eventually got rid of it, but because she didn't use it any more rather than any problems.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Cool. I actually don't have a pressure cooker, but I wonder if that same system would work with a crock pot or on the stovetop.

                          1. re: jvanderh

                            My old crockpot came with a couple of cake recipes that called for something similar -- a rack, then a small pan that sits on the rack.

                            (sorry, gave it away when we moved overseas, so the recipe book went with it)

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              I've tried crockpot cakes and not had any turn out when they sit over boiling water on racks (mushy tops, too wet). But, my kids love this hot fudge pudding cake cooked in a crock pot--kind of like a comfort food molten chocolate cake/brownie, That cocoa/water/sugar on top turns to hot fudge on the bottom.


                            2. re: jvanderh


                              There is a banana bread in a slow cooker recipe on this website at the bottom of first page

                              1. re: ROCKLES

                                cool. I think I've seen that foil ball trick before. Looks like a pretty good way to go.

                        2. re: sunshine842

                          Idli are a popular steam-baked item in the southern India. They are little fly-saucer like cakes made with a fermented rice and bean batter. They are cooked in stacked trays with indentations, often in a pressure-less pressure cooker.

                          Other breads in India are mostly flat ones, fried or cooked on a griddle, or in the case of naan, in a very hot clay oven.

                          Quick breads can be 'baked' in a microwave, though they do no brown.

                          is a recipe for microwave steamed sponge pudding - a variation on a British favorite. In small sizes it works well.

                          Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka is the classic microwave cookbook. I believe she has some recipes for 'baked' items (I'd have to look at my copy to be sure).

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Thanks, Sunshine842. I've always wondered if this would work. I mean, if you put a rack or trivet in to keep the baking pan off the bottom, what's the big difference between a heavy, tightly lidded pot, and a small oven, right? I'm definitely going to try this some time.

                            PaulJ, I think baking soda and baking powder are pretty readily available in India. I remember, even as a little kid, hearing some ladies talking about how you could use "soda podi" (baking soda) as a subsititute for the fermented coconut water normally used for making appams and things like that. And even smaller towns now have at least one Western style bakery.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              That's pretty cool. I makes me think that a person who was so inclined could probably fashion a really nice 'stovetop oven' using a large cast iron casserole with a sturdy lid. I reckon that you could even go so far as to install a thermometer in, via a hole drilled through the lid and bolted in place (or even glued in place if you could get some heat-resistant silicon paste or a grommet).

                              1. re: benjamin23

                                Dutch ovens (as opposed to French ovens in designer colors) have legs so they can stand over coals, and a rim on the lid to take more coals. For many baking jobs you want more coals on top than below; this is especially true if you set the baking items directly on the bottom. But pots like this are heavy, and thus expensive to ship to India.

                                The folding Coleman oven is lighter and more compact, though it shouldn't be hard to find an Indian craftsman who could make a functional copy.

                              2. re: sunshine842

                                Great - they use pressure cookers a lot, so I know they have one at home. We'll try this one before they head back.. Did you need to adjust the cooking time? Will the pressure cooker tolerate being opened to check on whether the cake is done? Thanks!

                              3. When baking outside the USA, you need to consider the availability of baking powder, baking soda, and/or self rising flour. The question of how to find baking powder or a substitute comes up on various boards, including European ones.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: paulj

                                  baking powder is easily available in most Western European countries.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    though I have the impression that in France you have to look for single use envelopes rather than cans with plastic tops. So finding it may be more of a problem for an American looking for a familiar item.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      in France, look for "levure chimique" -- yes, usually in packets, which I cut open and dump into the empty Rumsford's can that moved with me. I also have found a brand called Royal baking powder in tin at the Portuguese grocery I frequent.

                                      But Levure Chimique is available anywhere that sells flour, sugar, and other baking ingredients.

                                      Only caveat would be that you still have to measure -- the packets come in a standard pre-measured amount, which someone NEVER seems to match up to the amount I need for my recipe, regardless of what language in which the recipe is written.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Royal dominates the Hispanic market, so it is almost the generic name for baking powder.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I come from the land of Goya and Badia -- but had never seen that one before.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            Now that brings back memories of my youth in Argentina 60-65 years ago. In Argentine-accented Spanish our word for baking powder was RO-jal.

                                    2. re: paulj

                                      Thanks for the tip - I'll be sure to send them home with cans of baking soda and powder.

                                      1. re: pamelak52

                                        They will probably need to substitute yogurt for buttermilk.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I've actually always had really good results with milk + lemon juice for baking. Bring milk to room temperature, add lemon juice and let it stand for five minutes.

                                    3. Try the Coleman Portable Camp Oven. It Folds flat and takes up little space. I have one I use in a small vacation place that has only a two burner gas ring and no oven.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        and small enough to potentially pack to take home with them...*bonus points*

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          they sell for about $35. My has been across the US, Canada, South America, South Africa and on a sailing vessel.

                                          Before I git this I used an old stove top domed potato baker that my mother got in the early 1950s. I remember most homes in our neighborhood had one. This allowed to to bake potatoes on the top of the stove when you didn;t want to heat up the kitchen with the oven in hot weather.

                                      2. Do they happen to have a rice cooker or be in the market for one? A lot of households in Japan, China and Taiwan do not have ovens either, and I have heard of people there successfully baking bread and cakes in their rice cookers.

                                        There are many dicussions online and this is one of them (in English):

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: vil

                                          And this page is in Japanese, but containing lots of pictures to show the different kinds of breads that could be made in a rice cooker.


                                        2. Here are few other baking devices intended for a camper

                                          I've used the Bake Packer, which is a fancy trivet. The grid is partially filled with water, the batter is placed in a plastic bag on top of the grid. The result is more a like a steamed or microwaved item, cooked but no browning.

                                          1. Nearly sixty years ago when we were first married we lived in a Married Students' Housing hovel that had only a two-burner hotplate, no oven. We bought an electric roaster and I baked exclusively in that for 3 1/2 years, everything from bread to cookies and lemon meringue pie. That is the old roaster that some will remember as a NESCO that people used to do the Thanksgiving turkey in (and I see that someone has sent you a link to NESCO). With a voltage converter this ought to work for your folks.

                                            1. TBH, I've not read through all the posts, so apologies for any repeats:
                                              1. you can find baking soda in India (bicarbonate of soda)
                                              2. from what I understand, there are commercial bakeries where indvidiuals can take their mix to be baked in their ovens

                                              Hope that helps!