What Do You Use Microwave For?
- sbp Oct 1, 2003 03:45 PM
A recent post about popcorn raised the issue. What do you use your microwave for? I go a little beyond the heating coffee and popcorn, but still pretty limited:
1. Defrosting Meat
2. Defrosting frozen pizza (then into toaster oven)
3. Defrosting frozen bagels -- again, just until cold, then into toaster oven.
4. Heating up soup
5. Melting Butter (this is a big plus -- but cover bowl with paper towel).
6. Steaming corn.
- Softening cream cheese for cheesecakes
- Softening ice cream
- Heating up side courses
- Heating up stuffing for turkey before inserting it into the cavity -- a Cook's Magazine recommended approach for food safety related issues.
I'm buying a larger microwave with carousel which will allow reheating dishes sized 9x14, so I could reheat a lasagna. My search for large is because the last microwave was such a dinky thing only a dinner plate could fit.
I agree on the oatmeal. Use it at 50% power for me and about 6 minutes for steel cut oats. I also agree with Tripeler about cooking fresh ears of corn. It's super convenient and from what I've read it retains more of the nutrients too. Here's one I didn't see. More of an asian thing, but it's great for heating up the mochi. Years ago they used to use an oven but it was slow and hard to time, but it's done in less than a minute with a microwave. You can easily monitor through the door window. Ask just about any Japanese person and if they eat mochi, they use a microwave.
Nothing. I don't have one. While my wife would like to get one, I have so far held firm against it. I really don't see the point. As the replies here seem to indicate, you can't do any real cooking with them. Defrosting things rapidly in nuker seems to me like a bad idea. I've tried it, and the center stays frozen. Keep going and you will start cooking the outside while the center still stays frozen.
You can reheat or stuff with them, but you can reheat things in a regular oven also, or on the stove, without making them all mushy the way microwaves do.
I'm particularly amazed by people who say they reheat coffee in a microwave. Now what true chowhound drinks reheated coffee?
Anyone else out there with me? Do you have domestic pressure to get one, and if so, how are you doing holding out?
I'm a holdout also. I had a roommate that had one so I had access for 6 months or so and I used it to reheat food. It was good because you didn't have to dirty a pan but when I moved out on my own I didn't really see any need.
The only thing that a microwave can do that you can't do otherwise is defrost foods. But if you plan ahead you won't need it.
I believe you when you say that you don't have a micro. All the arguments you use against it just prove you don't know how to use it. When used correctly you won't have the cited problems. You only run into those kind of situations on the type of micro that was put out years ago when you had little or no control over the power settings. Todays micro is a whole new machine.
I don't have one at home, but do have one at the office, and feel that's exactly as it should be. We don't have a real kitchen at work, but I do have one at home, hence no need for a mw 'coz I can heat stuff on the stovetop or in the oven.
I would say it's worth getting one if you have a real freezer, for defrosting alone a mw can be very useful. Mine is the size of a shoebox, and I store mainly ice cream and good butter in it. So won't be getting a nuker anytime soon.
Baking potatoes - all kinds
melting chocolat - no chance of water getting in to sieze up chocolat
only way to reheat, rice, potatoes & noodles without them becoming over cooked
used to cook a whole chicken in it with veggies that would get raves, haven't made it lately because I don't cook meals that big any more.
Heat up tortillas so they don't dry out
And most importantly I use it to heat up my rice filled heating pad!!
Warming cold wine from the fridge or cellar, warming frozen chocolate chip cookies, drying small pet animals after bathing...
no one believes me, but i swear you can make really good scrambled eggs in the microwave! use a pyrex bowl, just pop them in for a couple of minutes, stop once in the middle to stir/break them up, and voila. i guess they are more steamed than "scrambled"...but they're yummy.
Cooking vegetables. Artichokes cooked in the 'wave are the best. Trim them, rinse in water, shake off excess, wrap each in plastic wrap and nuke them about 5 mins. They steam in their own juice and are much more flavorful. When I'm in a hurry I will cook potatoes half way in the 'vave and then finish them off in the oven for crsipy skins and dry fluffy potatoes. If you cook them all the way in the microwave they are soggy because they just have been steamed.
I also defrost and reheat. Mine gets used daily. Polenta made in the 'wave is simple and very good. If you can get your hands on a copy of Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet you will find many terrific dishes that can be made in the micorwave.
Had a good look at Barbara Kafka's Microwave
Cookbook when it came out, but couldn't really see changing how I choose to normally cook and didn't trust that all microwaves were the same as to how long and how high to cook. But, do use microwave to melt chocolate, heat up leftovers, thaw homemade frozen soups, melt butter, boil water (to add to beans on a long simmer that need moistening), feel it is convenient but not necessary for my way of cooking.
Cooking vegetables. They retain their color beautifully. But the method is very important.
1. I use a covered dish (Pyrex, Corning-Ware) so as to retain the steam.
2. Cook at high power for a while, then (important) let the food rest for several minutes so it continues to steam. May need another minute or more on high power, or longer at lower power for dense vegetables.
3. Do not add water. Vegetables contain enough water on their own.
Here are some specifics for my 600-watt oven(YMMV):
One pound of prewashed (organic) baby spinach (Earthbound brand, comes in a bag from Safeway, $4.50): 5 minutes on high, rest for several minutes, shake the bowl around (without opening it) then 1 more minute, then rest for a few minutes. Dress with salt/pepper/oil/vinegar, or puree with some stock and milk for soup. Incredible bright jade-green color.
In plum season, we are given bags of ripe plums. I wash and dry them, put them in a covered container with a bit of sugar [no water]. Microwave for 10 minutes on full power (for several pounds of fruit). Let rest for five minutes at least (covered). The plums split and the pits can be easily removed. Then I freeze the resulting compote (often we eat a lot of it immediately -- good on goat-milk yogurt for example). The color is brilliant -- like jewels.
Works well for rhubarb, and for cranberry sauce too. No water + short cooking time = intense flavor and color.
Anything I want to heat or re-heat becuase I don't have a kitchen. Of course I really don't know how to cook anything except for boiling water so it's not much of a limitation for me.
It was a wonderful addition to my life when I finally got my microwave a few years ago, because I no longer had to descend two flights of stairs and head out to the house two doors down at 3am on a freezing January night to utilize the kitchen available to me when I wanted to cook some water.
Reheating take-out food easily on a paper plate, which is perfect for heating up one portion without messing up some bowls.
Frozen dinners (I like Amy's or Morningstar Farms sometimes).
Melting chocolate and/or butter for baking.
I like to warm slices of cake in there because I like warm, soft cake.
I like my ice cream a little soft and have no patience, so I warm it in there a bit. I have a new microwave and am still getting used to it, and lately I've been eating some boiling hot ice cream. Am working on the problem.
Microwave a lemon before you use it and you will get twice as much juice out of it.
I usually give it about 30 seconds, and let it sit a bit.
This also works for oranges and grapefruit; you get an unbelievable amount of juice after they are nuked.
There was an article in the NY Times last year disputing this, but the author used limes, which don't work as well.
I learned this back in 1987 from a TV show called Microwaves Are For Cooking. I also learned that you can leave a large spoon in what you are microwaving, and open the door and stir occasionally. Just don't use thin metal like wire. This is good when reheating.
Salmon is great in the microwave. Just add a very small amount of liquid to the dish, cover with waxed paper, and cook a few minutes, until it's the doneness you prefer. It's similar to poached.
Great for rice, also. I do it for one minute with no liquid, just a small amount of olive oil or butter to coat the kernels. Then I add the liquid - broth, water, whatever - and put it on 5 minutes at full power and 18 minutes at half power. For one cup rice, I use 2 and 1/2 cups liquid. You don't need to stir it; it comes out perfect.
The mike is indispensible if you have kids of a certain age in the house. We have a 10- and a 12-year old, both going through growth spurts, both eating us out of house and home on a daily basis. It's horrifying, except that with a microwave (which they somehow comprehend innately) they can happily cook and feed themselves anything they might find lying around.
I happily lived without one (the mike, but kids, too) for 13 years, but now I confess to using one for cooking large winter squash, quickly, and -- as another poster mentioned -- melting butter and chocolate for baking.
I recently purchased a Samsung Toast&Bake Microwave Oven. It combines a conventional oven with a fully capable Microwave (1000 Watts). It allowed us to get rid of the countertop toaster-oven and replace with a normal pop-up toaster, while still allowing the kids to cook their boboli pizza and nachos.
The microwave portion is every bit as good as our previous Sanyo. It has a turntable and all the appropriate modes. Defrost works very well, popcorn, potatoes, all the standard Microwave stuff.
The oven also works very well. The kid's boboli comes out delicious. It's larger than a standard toaster/oven - even more than a DeLonghi.
I was most interested in the combined cook mode (called speed cook), and have been playing with it. There are three speed-cook modes, but unfortunately, their manual doesn't get into any detail. Modes 1 and 2 invoke the lower heating element (they fold down from the side) while third mode keeps the lower elements off (if you're nuking/baking something in a bowl, for example). There must be a difference in the first 2 modes - probably having to do with the power equivalence of the Microwave and temp of the baking elements, since all you get to do is set the time.
I've been fooling with things that are hard to get right in just a nuker or just an oven - like heating up cold knishes. To get the center hot, you want to nuke it, but to get the outside crisp, you want to bake it - so I tried the SC mode (1 and 2) for both my square potato ones and the tasty meat ones from Joan and Ed's in Natick, MA. SC Mode 2 for 6 minutes works great for the square potato ones. The shell isn't dried out, but neither is it softened up. The insides are steaming hot - put a whole in them with a knife, squirt in the mustard, and yum. The meat ones have been a little harder to adjust. I'll get it soon.
And yet - the question remains... What is a microwave, even one with a conventional oven, good for? Heating knishes? I feel like the guy with the most powerful PC on the block looking for the killer app.
I was first introduced to the microwave when my grandmother was very proud that she could make a heated turkey sandwich in it. Her son, my first dad, had married for the second time to a woman that then worked for a utility company in Sacramento, California, in their Home Economics department. They did test cooking all day. (??? how wierd was that for me to think about our tax dollars at that early age of 10?)
Anyway, when I stayed there, I saw more microwave cooking than I had seen microwaves. I was still into learning Home Eco from home into the 7th grade and learning the scientific strategies and measurements of the whole cooking process. The four meals my mom knew how to make pretty much filled our bellies when I was growing up and were made in the regular oven or stovetop. I don't think she got a microwave until I'd graduated from high school and she moved to a new house.
Yet, I still experiment every once in a while. [parchment] Paper wrapped dishes are pretty cool in the micro. I hear you can also make a bread pudding. I have a microwave cookbook that has pictures and about 350 pages, but have only followed a few of the recipes.
Mostly, I just experiement with fusing liquids with flavors into chicken or fish,
et al. like chowhounds mentioned herein.
I made yams steeped in spice tea and was very pleased with the resulting flavor and texture, color, calories, and fat content. Yet, getting it passed the Thanksgiving crew was, well, . . . .suggested anyway. Adding butter was good. Then, vanilla powder, in later days.
In about 1997, I was at my first Dad's (divorced again, but cohabitating) and had some french bread from the night before. I cut it too thick or drenched it too much in egg when making breakfast, so thinking the fact that a microwave will cook from the inside out theory helped me in saving the dish to cook thoroughly without burning or toughening. I zapped it for a couple of minutes and then used the stovetop to complete cooking it in a buttered pan. Add a little cream cheese between two slices, top with some gooseberry jam and it was a pretty good breakfast for a dad who loves to eat pie for breakfast.
Saw this, thought it was interesting:
"Think back to Raytheon's introduction of the microwave oven in the 1960s. People everywhere were mystified by the new machine's ability to cook meals so quickly. Raytheon spokeswoman Betty Crocker was supposedly asked if the microwave would enable poor cooks to create gourmet meals. Crocker replied that the microwave would enable poor cooks to ruin a meal in the quarter of the time it took to ruin it before."
Whatever. Que sera.
Frankly, I don't spend the time or the money to learn how to make complee gourmet meals in the microwave every day.
What I find is that I rarely use full power any more. Microwaves' special gift is in defrosting and reheatin at low power. It makes a huge difference.
Many of the same things that other posters have mentioned, I also:
1. melt butter, and no it does not explode if you know the proper time to set it
2. heat water for bread baking, which requires exact temperatures.
1. My morning oatmeal
2. Defrosting meat
3. Melting butter (oh, yeah.)
4. Reheating anything, but I agree with the post-toaster oven necessity.
I've read repeatedly that it's important to sanitize sponges (and towels) regularly becuase they're perfect environments for growing and spreading bacteria.
This page about disease prevention recommends microwaving or boiling sponges or saturating them in bleach. (I've also read that running the sponges through the dishwasher works.)
There were a few posts about this, and they started several debates about the necessity of a microwave oven. I find microwave ovens to be very useful. I don't use them to cook anything, but I use them to reheat many meals. This effectively has great impacts in how I cook, and how I use other cookware.
Because microwave ovens are so fast, I am not afraid to cook larger meals to have leftover. I am also able to defrost many items like my chicken stock.
Finally, because we microwave ovens at work, we are able to bring food from home and not use one of those vacuum seal lunch boxes.
Therefore, it is a "must to have" and not a "nice to have" item. On the other hand, an automatic dish washer is no where near my "nice to have", let's alone "must to have".
Heating up Soup
If I don't have time to put the kettle on I boil tea in it.
Leftover Mexican Burritos -
heating up leftover pizza sauce or marinara
warming up a brownie or cookie
Smores - I did this when I was craving them and we were having a heavy thunderstorm. Not as good as the right way but a quick fix
Especially at work I use it to heat up leftovers such as
Italian Beef for my sandwich
Spaghetti / Ravioli
Heat up a leftover burger while I'm toasting my bun
I'll take a piece of parchment paper and add my ham and cheese. Heat it up while I'm toasting my bread assemble with lettuce tomato onion and pickle and then add the hot ham and cheese.
and not food related I have a spa neck heat pad that is microwaveable.
I use it as a proof box when baking bread. It stays warm and draft free. I also make quick homemade bean and cheese burritos and quesadillas sometimes. I've been doing that since about 1987 when my mom got one. I also use it for oatmeal, melting butter, reheating leftovers, and making hot cocoa and tea for my 6 year old son. It's easier to control the temperature than boiling water in the kettle.
I tried to find the other thread on this topic but my google-fu is failing.
I use my microwave a lot for all the reason noted but I laso use it for much, much more.. My biggest success items are recipes like Sichuan green beens, risotto, baked apples, melting chocolate and my families favorite- steamed chocolate pudding. All are from Barbara Kafka's "Microwave Gourmet" and "The Health style Microwave Gourmet".
These two books changes how I use my microwave. Not only that she has a A-Z directory at the back that is invaluable to me. With the tricks in the book I have learned to make amazing eggs bakes in the microwave, easy steamed fish in parchment, great veggies dishes full of flavor.
Interesting back and forth between Barbara and Mark Bittman.
Try the green beans. It will change how you use your microwave. They are amazing. They are great both hot and cold. Very low cal too, so a good "fill you up" snack.
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 quarter-size slices fresh ginger, peeled
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp hot red-pepper flakes
1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (I've used balsamic in pinch and it works fine
)1 pound green beans, tipped and tailed
In a food processor finely chop the garlic, ginger and scallions. In a bowl large enough to hold the green beans, add the vegetable mixture with the oil and red pepper flakes. Cook on high for 3 minutes
Take bowl out of oven and stir in the soy sauce and vinegar. Add green beans a handful at time, mixing well to distribute the sauce over the beans.
Microwave on high, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring 3-4 times during the cooking time.
Popcorn, heating tortillas, heating milk for hot cocoa, reheating leftovers, making oatmeal, melting butter,
I wish i knew how to defrost stuff and actually use it for cooking. Would love to cook stuff in it, mine is a microwave / grill combo i think, but i really don't know. I just bought it recently.
I rarely use it for anything other than reheating leftovers. I rarely use it to "cook" anything. Defrosting is done either in the frig or on the counter. Once in a great while I'll melt chocolate but I prefer to do that in a double boiler.
I don't have one at home (and other than two years of roommates in graduate school have not had one). I don't feel I miss it, but I suppose maybe I don't know what I'm missing. I defrost longer term, or speed it up in water baths, or just change my plans. Microwave popcorn is vile to me (the store bought kind; I haven't tried the brown bag popcorn). The stove works fine for me for heating up most things.
I do use the microwave at work once or twice a week to heat up leftovers. I would do that stove top at home (or in a toaster oven when I had one of those, depending on the dish). I don't have a stove top handy at work, so microwave it is.
If I had more space in my kitchen, I'd go with a nice toaster oven over a microwave.
The best thing to use the microwave for is for fresh ears of corn, still in the husk. Put them in and microwave for about 3 to 4 minutes each, then under running cold water, husk the ear of corn. the cob will hold plenty of heat, so don't worry about the corn cooling off, but do it as quickly as possible. Seems to cook the corn perfectly, while the husk keeps in all the flavor.
- Warming up my coffee
- Reheating leftovers
- Defrosting soft pretzels
- Frozen veggies
- Heating up/cooking packages of veggies from the produce department (peapods, broc/cauli/carrot mix, cabbage slaw mix)
...and the kids love it when I make the "chocolate cake in a mug" thing...
I've seen the comments in this thread about how "you can't really cook in a microwave."
Not true. For example, Barbara Kafka's magisterial "Vegetable Love" includes countless methods and recipes for cooking vegetables in the microwave (she pioneered microwaving with an earlier book). I now cook certain vegetables no other way (asparagus, broccoli, for example).
I have a pot I bought at a NC gallery called a "yum yum pot", and we've enjoyed a number of snack cakes microwaved in it.
I have a recipe for a cornmeal / cornflour / corn cake in the microwave that is quite good.
I used it to reheat leftovers, melt butter, melt chocolate (very carefully -- don't want it to burn).
Jacques Pepin says in one of his "Fast Food" books that he wouldn't cook bacon any other way.
It's very useful for us.
Primarily reheating a cup of coffee and occasionally defrosting broth from the freezer to use in cooking.
I used to occasionally cook pop corn, but about a year ago went back to stove-top popping when I "discovered" coconut oil.
Years ago, we'd steam (microwave) potatoes for my mother-in-law when she lived with us for a while (her preference), but I've never understood why anyone would steam a potato when a baked potato can be so much more flavorful. Guess the time factor is important for some.
Along that line, I hate it when a restaurant has "baked potato with butter" on their menu and you get served a steamed potato wrapped in aluminum foil with a gob of margarine.
Otherwise, in recent years, our microwave unit primarily just takes up counter space.
Occasionally frozen veggies in a little water in a covered crock, but I usually use the stovetop for that;
Whole potatoes. They usually come out fluffy and in my estimation as good as baked and take a lot less time;
A lot of snack food improves after a quick microwave. Kettle chips and tortilla chips taste almost like fresh-fried if you microwave them until the oil just starts to sizzle.
Hamburger and hot dog buns steam up well in the microwave. Sprinkle a little water on them and heat for 10 seconds in their own plastic bag and they get soft and pliant.
We also make Chinese steamed fish in the microwave. Sprinkle cod fillets with sesame oil and xiaoxing wine, and cover with a layer of sliced scallions, shiitakes and fermented black bean. Cover the fish platter with another platter and microwave in 1 minute intervals, turning 90 degrees between intervals until fish is done.
Finally, the microwave is a good emergency potato cooking device. It spits out a cooked, somewhat dry potato in no time which can be a lifesaver when a dish turns out too runny. If your mashed potatoes are too liquid, for example, just nuke a couple more potatoes and mash them in to firm up the texture.
I made a cheese sauce in it the other day, and it wasn't that bad. The recipe for it is on the Argo Corn Starch web site.
I've cooked pasta in it, when my gas wasn't working. I was pretty surprised at how well it worked - not perfect, but much better than I was expecting.
I know most people like to use it to defrost, but I generally don't - I will put my food in a zip loc bag, push all the air out, and submerge it in a bowl of hot water for about 10 min or so. I hate it when the microwave starts to cook the meat and leaves tough chewy spots on it.
Warming up quickbreads or biscuits for breakfast.
Reheating rice (steaming it in a bowl with a lid on top). Reheating many leftovers.
Cooking whole beets.
Making small-batch jam, cooking down fruit juices for pies/tarts.
Heating up a small quantity of orange juice, sherry, etc. in which to plump dried fruit.
Making bacon (on a plastic device designed for that).
Warming citrus before juicing.
Heating ears of corn in the husk, either briefly to make them easier to shuck, or longer to cook.
Once I did risotto with shrimp and peas per Barbara Kafka; it was great, something to have in the back pocket for a very quick meal.
Plan someday to experiment with making lemon curd, polenta, and sweet potato chips -- and quick-drying herbs.
My regular uses of the wave include nuking a half cup of milk (then frothing it with an Aerolatte and using the Bialetti coffee to make a cheapo wannabe latte); wave burritos (spread frijoles and sour cream on a tortilla, drizzle with salsa, add cheese, and heat); 15 seconds to heat a baguette; and thawing tubs of frozen stock when I forgot to put them in the fridge the night before. I also use it to heat a Pyrex pitcher of milk when making Bechamel. Those bags of haricots vert are also pretty good if you do them in the wave and then toss them in a bowl with salt, pepper, and butter.
1. Melting butter
2. Heating milk
3. Warming coffee
4. Heating a very few "bagged" meals
5. Doing crisp bacon
That is it, but will add a new mic to wife's kitchen remodel, just in case. Luckily, it's a combo with convection too, and might get used a bit more.
PS - and sometimes white rice, though we have three "gourmet" steamers...