What to Cook for National Men Make Dinner Day

There is something intrinsically appealing to women about men in the kitchen—whether it brings to mind images of well-trained chefs creating culinary masterpieces or just a night off from routine for a tired wife or mom. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that there is such a thing as National Men Make Dinner Day (November 5). I’m guessing there are some women at whatever agency decides such things, and apparently they want their men to cook more often.

Men making dinner is fairly commonplace in our house; with a husband and two teenage sons around, men make dinner whenever I’m travelling, taking a class or late home from work. And if you count barbecue (which frankly, I do), my husband cooks the meat for our dinner most nights in the summer. Even if most of their go-to meals revolve around ground meat, these guys are pretty capable cooks. So I asked what advice they had for men who might be less comfortable in the kitchen.

“Tacos,” answered my 13-year-old. “All you have to do is brown some ground meat like it says on the box [of taco shells]. You can use beef or turkey; both taste good but turkey is supposed to be healthier.” He also pointed out that once you’ve got your meat browned and seasoned, it’s easy for everyone to customize their shells and fillings—he recommends offering hard and soft shells and a variety of chopped vegetables, salsas and sauces on the table for everyone to top their own tacos.

Our older son is a tried-and-true pasta man. “Every guy should know how to boil pasta, even me. I like sauce from a jar, but the meatballs have to be homemade.”

His recipe for meatballs is simple and fairly quick:

  • 1  1/2 -2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • Italian spices to taste

Put the ground beef in a bowl. Add one egg, a handful of breadcrumbs, and a couple of good shakes from each of the Italian-type spices in the spice rack. I use basil, garlic, parsley, salt and red pepper. Squish everything through your fingers a bit to mix (but not too much or they’ll be tough). Then form them into balls—not too big—and put them on a large baking pan. Bake them for 25 minutes at 350°.

My husband, on the other hand, is a big fan of grilling, and believes it’s all about the watch:

My wife is the better cook overall, but like many men, I’ve always handled the grilling. I have fond memories of my father teaching me around a classic Weber charcoal kettle. Grilled hamburgers were a family favorite then, and they still are today. Grilling at our house wasn’t a matter of a lot of fancy gadgets. Dad taught me that there was only one really critical tool: a watch.

Today I have a gas grill, and the things my wife asks me to put on it are more varied—still including burgers and other meats, of course, but also potatoes, eggplants, avocados, and other vegetables—but my watch is still my most important tool. Before anything hits the grill, I always go back in my head to my first lessons, and my basic metric is the hamburger. In my head: “Mom’s hamburgers cooked five minutes per side to get to medium-rare. This chicken breast is thicker (mentally shifting up to seven minutes per side), and it can’t be left medium-rare (up again, to nine), but chicken cooks faster than beef (ratcheting back to eight).”

Having decided on a time, the only hard part is committing to it. Leave it alone, and let the fire do its job. Put it on, close the lid, wait two minutes. Open, flip, baste, close, wait eight minutes. Open, flip, baste, close, wait six minutes. Done. The only adjustments are if the fire is running hotter or cooler than I wanted it, but for the most part, heat + time + resist the urge to mess with it is the simple formula that’s put delicious food on our plates ever since I was a kid.

Including hamburgers. Thanks, Dad.

In the mood to give it a shot? We have delicious recipes on our Pinterest page. Simple or complex, I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments.

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Amy Snell

Written by Amy Snell

Amy Snell was formerly the OFJCC's Senior Communications Manager. When not engaged in social media blitzing, Amy enjoys spending time exhorting her two teenage sons to do their chores, shower and study. She also noodles about in sailboat races (motto: Don't break the boat), pretends to play the ukulele, and wants to be a karaoke star when she grows up.


  1. Harlan Freilicher says:

    As the go-to dinner maker in our household (my wife is a better cook but I’m the stay-at-home parent), I can offer a couple of other tips. 1) Chicken breasts, Beef roasts, and any number of other meats can be prepared remarkably easily by dumping pesto on them (the Costco store brand is cheap and tasty) and then putting them in the oven. I prefer to get more creative, but pesto is our default when time is short (most of the time). The oil in it keeps the meat moist and tender so that it’s hard to screw up.
    2) Frittatas are incredibly easy to make, and very satisfying.
    3) Omelettes aren’t just for breakfast. In fact, in our household they’re never for breakfast, as we don’t have time in the morning to make them. But with the right fillings, they make a healthy dinner once in a while.
    I could talk about some of the more impressive dishes I make, but they’re not for the once-a-year dinner maker. And frankly, the beef roast I make with the homemade marinade and the horseradish crust isn’t all that much better than when we dump pesto on it. It’s just a nice change, and one that lets me feel creative.

  2. Harlan Freilicher says:

    Also, salads are more of a pain in the neck to make than people want to admit. Not worth it for a single serving for two or three people. Worth it for larger groups, or if you can store the greens you’ve washed and the vegetables you’ve chopped so that for a few days you just need to throw the elements together.

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