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Jul 2, 2008 11:49 PM

How to survive with only a microwave?

Okay, so I'm stuck all summer in a place where they won't permit any cooking equipment (not even a toaster) other than a microwave. Lame I know, but anyway I've gotten to the point where eating out all the time is straining my budget and getting to be a little tiring.

So I've decided to give the microwave a chance, and I'm wondering what suggestions everyone has for preparing good food with a microwave. You know, like real dishes, not the various comfort foods and TV dinners that microwaves are usually used for. Any techniques to share? I can't even get fish from the freezer aisle to cook properly in a microwave, because it either ends up overcooking or part of it is left raw.

Also, a long time ago I saw an infomerical for Brown & Crisp on TV. Does anyone actually use those, and do they work well? Thanks!

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  1. Mark Bittman had an article in the New York Times (April 2) about discovering the uses of the microwave, which he had previously scoffed. Loads of readers posted comments with things they cook in the microwave, everything from eggs to fish. Sorry I don't really have techniques to offer. Part of the problem is that microwaves vary enough that you need to experiment with yours a little before finding the right times and settings for things. I cook vegetables in mine. It's an acceptable (if not ideal) way to bake a potato. It melts cheese, so I use it to make nachos and lazy tuna melts. Etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: weem

      Yeah, my family usually microwaved vegetables when I was growing up, so I'm not as worried about that. I'm more worried about cooking main dishes, particularly those that are meat-based.

    2. Not even a blender? With a blender you could make all sorts of chilled soups and smoothies. Summer is a great time for fresh fruit and veggies. Salads are quick to prepare. I'd leave the microwave for popping popcorn,making quesadillas, heating up water or some Amy's Kitchen or Trader Joes frozen goodies. I also "bake" sweet potatos in the microwave. A quick filling snack with complex carbs- great for breakfast.

      1 Reply
      1. re: drmimi

        Yes, I can have a blender. Don't have one right now, but I do plan on getting one. But I also do want cooked meals as I need some meat in my diet.

      2. When we built a new house upstate, I was holding out for a professional stove, so I cooked everything in a microwave for about a year. Well I did have a bunsen burner kind of thing too but you can boil things in the microwave just as easy. The thing was, someone at work was selling a convection microwave really cheap: I didn't even know what that meant but it was the greatest.Can't explain the technical end, but I'm really sorry the real estate people talked me into leaving it behind. It cooked just like an oven. Think it was GE. That's if you're allowed to get your own microwave? If you do, take it with you when you leave!

        2 Replies
        1. re: coll

          Convection microwave? Hmm...that's still technically a microwave, right? I might have to look into it...if it's not too expensive I might get one, but I can't run astray of the law around here...because getting a real oven or even a rice cooker would get me evicted.

          1. re: markml

            A convection microwave (or a 110v GE Advantium, which adds halogen lights) has both a magnetron (to generate microwaves) and a heating coil (to make hot air). When the heating coil is on it's a "real" oven; it browns the food, which is one thing a microwave can't really do. But it looks just like a microwave, so unless your landlord is really gunning for you...

        2. Here's a really great link to the episode of Ham on the Street where Duran focused on intresting microwaved creations:

          I've been dying to try the curry but i dont own a microwave, lol...

          1. I had some of the silver-coated paper for the micro, and it's junk.

            Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet cookbook has tons of recipes. Tell me what you eat, and I'll paraphrase some recipes for you. But for basic techniques, she makes a standard meatloaf recipe and bakes it in either a 9" loaf pan (100% power, 12 mins, let stand 10 mins, pour off grease; or in 5x3" ovals spaced around a platter (100% power, 4 mins). Mussels, 16-18/pound, in a 2-qt souffle dish, hinged end down, standing up, cover tightly with platic wrap (add garlic, oil) 100% power 3-1/2 to 5 mins, depending on the power of your unit. She's got a chicken curry that sounds good. She's got sections on stuffed veggies, fish, and soups as well.

            You can boil water and make couscous and mix in chopped fresh veggies for a salad. Kafka recommends stovetop for boiling pasta, but I think you could do one serving of something small like orzo or angel hair. Just use a big container and watch for boil-over.

            Weem is right, it's great at melting cheese! I use a double ply of plastic wrap, then slide it off on to a nice roll or some bread and make a BLT (bacon in the micro between paper towels).

            English muffin pizzas. Heat the sauce and melt the cheese separately, warm muffin, assemble. The microwave Uncle Ben's brown rice bag isn't too bad.

            2 Replies
            1. re: nemo

              Hi nemo, thanks. I love a BLT. I'll have to try your method.

              And for a snack, wrap sliced cheese (your choice, but something meltable like cheddar or jack) in a tortilla, and microwave it until it's melted. Add whatever ingredients you want to make it some sort of chowhound experience, or just enjoy the simple, comforting goodness of melted cheese in a tortilla.

              1. re: nemo

                I guess I'll try to get a copy of that book when I get a chance. So you say the Brown & Crisp doesn't work at all. That's unfortunate.