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Jan 9, 2010 02:50 PM

What do you cook in your microwave?

So, I recently joined the 21st century and got a microwave. It's main purpose (ie the reason I got it) is for reheating leftovers and defrosting and warming plates, but maybe there are other things I could use it for?

I bet you've all got some great ideas, so please help a microwave virgin use her new gadget to its full potential....

PS I know from another thread that some of you rave about bacon cooked in the microwave, but British bacon is different from the super-thin American type.

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  1. I use my microwave for everything except meat and baked goods. If you use it to warm plates, make sure you have a cup of water in with the plates. It should be the heat from the water than warms the plates, not the microwave energy. If your plates get hot all by themselves they shouldn't be used in the microwave. I sometimes bring a half cup of water to a boil in the microwave and, with the microwave turned off, put my bread dough in with the hot cup of water to create a proofing oven. Works very well.

    10 Replies
    1. re: todao

      That's a great tip. I currently use my regular oven with just the light turned on which works well but I might give your method a try too. It's too cold in my kitchen overnight at the moment for breadmaking!

      1. re: todao

        I just throw a little water on the plate, shake any excess off and nuke them for 30-40 seconds.

        1. re: todao

          I heat plates one to three times a day in the MW. I just put them in and MW for 30 seconds. No need for water. I've done this for 10 or 15 years.

          1. re: c oliver

            Depends on the composition of the plates. Friend of mine did that with some of my Dansk plates and when I went to wash them they cracked right in half. Not a problem, obviously, if your plates are microwave safe. But if you don't know for sure, better to use the water than ruin good dinnerware.

            1. re: JoanN

              if the plates are microwave safe they shouldn;t heat up......

              1. re: thew

                I don't think that can be true. I bought some Corningware labeled as microwave safe specifically for use in the microwave and I can't take those casseroles out of the oven without potholders. I don't understand the science of this and don't pretend to. I can just tell you what happens to my two microwave safe dishes.

                1. re: JoanN

                  perhaps i was misinformed, but my understanding was that in MW safe dishes only the food gets hot - the food can heat the dish, but the MW ought not

                  1. re: thew

                    Oh. I see. I'd buy that, that it was the food in the dish that was making the dish hot.

              2. re: JoanN

                So if water is added then that takes care of the issue? I didn't know that. My everyday dishes are plain white and I have one that's almost identical that's left from my mother's. It would be about 50 y.o. and if I forget and MW on it, it's get REAL hot. We were staying at someone's house recently and there were a couple of coffee mugs that got really hot even with water in them.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I see to remember that if there is metal in the glaze or finish of the plate, the plate can indeed get very hot. Someone here will know the details of this. Generally, food cooks and heats the vessel.

          2. It's great for oatmeal/porridge in the morning, but make sure you add plenty of milk or water and don't use full power. I use 1/2 cup regular oats, 1 cup milk, and 1/4 cup water, along with whatever I'm flavoring it with (fruit, nuts, squash, etc) and set it for 7 minutes at 70% power. It's not stovetop groats but it works for every day.

            Also, I discovered that it's great for steaming vegetables, I just cut them up and microwave them for 3-5 minutes depending on what it is.

            Another use is to defrost meat, but that's not cooking.

            And if you have some stale bread, wrap it in a paper towel and microwave it for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then toast it briefly, and it's almost as good as new.

            1 Reply
            1. re: AllaSiciliana

              Excellent point about not using full power. Also, don't expect to simply put something in the microwave and cook it until it's done. Microwave energy is more focused than ovens using other types of energy and you'll find that your food cooks more rapidly (higher energy absorption) in some spots than it does in others. The amount of moisture variances in the food will also contribute to that. Cook your food in stages, stirring it several times at each stage until it is completely cooked. Of course, if you're only boiling a cup of water, you don't need to use that method. One caution, however. If you're boiling liquids, remove them when the come to a boil. Microwave energy has the ability to superheat your foods and create steam pockets that will blow and make a mess of the inside of your microwave. Even a cup of boiling water can super heat and blow (as in expand very rapidly) all over the inside of your oven. I've even had the super heated steam blow the microwave door open. That's a real shocker.

            2. Polenta, popcorn (not the bagged stuff with nasty flavorings; real popcorn popped in this: ), fish en papillote, steamed vegetables, etc.

              It's also ideal for melting butter or chocolate.

              8 Replies
              1. re: alanbarnes

                Steaming vegetables in the microwave... how does one do that?

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Put cut-up vegetables in a microwave safe dish or bowl. Add some water (depends on the amount of vegetables you are microwaving). Cover with a plate or microwave-safe wrap. Then nuke (amount of time also depends on the vegetable, how large the pieces are, whether you want them very soft or with some kind of bite). You might have to experiment with times, because microwaves have different wattages.

                  1. re: nofunlatte

                    Add some water ...

                    I respectfully disagree. Most veggies have enough water in them to steam them. I have done my veggies in the MW for years with no added water. Less than two minutes are normally needed for one to two servings.

                    1. re: al b. darned

                      I agree with not adding water part. I was never satisfied with steaming vegetables according to the traditional directions which always added water. I found in covered dish that they came out unevenly cooked and partly soggy - yech!

                      I now use microwave steamer bags, and the only water added is from having washed the vegetables, but with something like pre-washed spinach no water at all. This might be most of the trick although I think the venting on the steamer bags is what makes them cook so evenly with no sogginess at all.

                    2. re: nofunlatte

                      I don't add water either.

                      I usually nuke them for 1.5 mins, take it out, stir around, add seasonings, nuke for another 1.5 - 2mins, mix in a pat of butter. Yum.

                      1. re: cutipie721

                        ha ha, I've recently started playing w/ veggies with seasoning instead of waterr, recently cut up bunch of peppers, lil soy sauce = awesome (surprised). I too don't use micro as much as I could so thanks for this thread

                    3. re: greedygirl

                      I fill a dinner size plate with broccoli cook it in the microwave for 4 minutes and it comes out perfect. Another great trick- cook fresh corn in microwave 3 minutes an ear (peeled first).

                      1. re: Alica

                        Just wanted to note that timing is very dependent on the power if the individual MW

                  2. If you heat a mug of water, before you add anything to it, touch the surface with a spoon. If the water has superheated, it will bubble around the spoon, releasing the turbulence. That way, no dangerous geysers when you add tea or instant coffee.

                    Most people use the MW mostly for popcorn, defrosting, melting, and reheating. It does a good job cooking fruits and vegetables, but proteins are trickier and unless you are cooking a large piece of meat, it will cook through without browning. You can buy a MW browning skillet which will allow you to make a hamburger but it still won't get much browning, and the meat will taste steamed .

                    27 Replies
                    1. re: greygarious

                      >>"before you add anything to it, touch the surface with a spoon"<<

                      Ack. No. If the water is superheated and you touch the surface with a spoon, it will erupt, potentially causing serious injury. Better to leave a spoon or a chopstick in the water while it's heating; that will disrupt surface tension and prevent superheating.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Not unless you have a wooden spoon.... if I think the water may be overheated I hold the spoon at the end and stand back. I've never been splashed that way. Or, I pour in my Splenda packet from about 6" above the cup. It bubbles up but does not erupt . I imagine sugar would do the same. Basically, once you get used to your MW you will know when to be careful. For example, I press 222 (2 min 22 sec) for my mug of water. If I realize several minutes later that I pressed 2222, or 555, the surface of the water won't be boiling but I know it has superheated and needs extra caution. Don't want the OP to be needlessly scared of her new appliance!

                        1. re: greygarious

                          Water that's slightly superheated might boil over, making a mess. Water that's extremely superheated can boil explosively, throwing hot stuff quite a way.

                          The odds of tap water getting superheated are pretty slim; the impurities in it give bubbles a surface to form on. And the notion that it's unsafe to boil water in the microwave is just silly. But there's no harm in putting a metal spoon in the oven, and it will prevent any potential problems.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            You put metal spoons in the microwave?

                            1. re: the_MU

                              All the time. For the last 35+ years. I learned that it was okay back in the days when the purchase of a microwave oven included an instructional class on how to use the new-fangled thing. The Amana rep specifically noted that spoons aren't a problem.

                              The "no metal" rule is an oversimplification. If you put a spoon in the microwave alongside a cup of water, the water comes to a boil and the spoon stays cool. Replace the spoon with a piece of steel wool, and you get lots of sparks and smoke. Not good.

                              Basically, metal is no problem so long as it doesn't offer points between which arcs of electricity can jump. So something like a spoon or a table knife is fine. A fork is okay, but only if you bury the tines in the food you're heating. And a gold pattern embossed on the side of a mug or a twist-tie that's holding a bag shut will give you a fireworks show.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  i take it your microwave is plastic lined. mine's been known to arc to the sides while roasting...

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    My current microwave is lined with stainless steel. But like I said, I've been doing this for most of my life, in dozens of different microwave ovens. And I've never seen any arcing between metal in the oven and its sides.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      Does anyone know if I can safely put a temperature probe in the microwave (the kind that is made for the oven)? I'd like to try that fish in parchment thing.

                        2. re: greygarious

                          Yep, heating a mug of water in m/w is a good thing. Now, I WILL say that in the summers here in SWFL, when I do NOT want to use my oven because it heats up the house so much while I'm runnning the a/c--baked potatoes in the microwave are really really great...alternatively in summers, I can do them in the crockpot without a problem, 4 or 5 at a time standing on end, and then I have them all week long. But in a pinch, the microwave for one baked potato is fine...and there are only 2 of us right now and we usually split a baker. Works very nicely!!!!

                          1. re: Val

                            Baked potatoes is one of the other reasons I got it. I intend to finish them off in the regular oven though to get a crispy skin.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              This is what I do. I find that the micro decreases baking time a great deal. Note: poke holes in the potatoes before you nuke.
                              Oh, and as I overlooked recently-if you are doing this with sweet potatoes, they cook through much quicker, and you need to place them on a baking sheet when they go into the oven.
                              They drip juices...a lot.
                              Oh yeah, burnt sweet potato juices in my oven..not good.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Been doing that for years, they taste like they've been in a hot oven the entire time. Do the same with sweet potatoes.

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  I do sweet potatoes. You do have to pierce them otherwise they might explode. They don't have quite the texture of doing them in the oven, so the finishing off in the oven sounds like a great idea if you have the time. This is probably one of those things I should try to do the combination cooking in my convection-microwave, but I haven't gotten around to exploring those possibilities.

                              2. re: greygarious

                                The heating a mug of water thing that people suggest has been puzzling me. Why would you use a microwave to heat water, I was thinking. And then I realised that it's a transatlantic thing - everyone, and I mean everyone, in Britain has a kettle which is presumably not the case in the States.

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Exactly--I have no kettle. I used to, but it just got in the way and was a single-use piece of equipment, so when it fell and broke, I never replaced it.

                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                    Not having a kettle is unthinkable in a British home - I don't know anyone who doesn't have one. It may be a single use piece of equipment, but when you drink lots of tea it's essential, imho.

                                  2. re: greedygirl

                                    It's not the lack of a kettle, which I have. Microwaves heat faster with less electricity, you heat just the amount you need, there's no danger of forgetting (as there is with a non-whistling kettle), and it doesn't add steam and residual heat to a hot-weather house.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      My kettle is electric, made by Porsche (I know, but it came free with my oven years ago) and heats water very quickly and efficiently. I do sometimes reheat a cup of tea that's gone cold in the microwave, but it never tastes quite the same.

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        Electric kettles are somewhat less useful in the US. Our residential power supplies are usually 110 volts and 15amps, whereas in Britain the power ring is generally 230 volts and 30amps.

                                        So in the UK, you can have a 3000 watt kettle that will bring water to a boil in a hurry. But its power requirements are about double what an outlet in the typical American kitchen can deliver.

                                        I've got an electric kettle, but it's only 1000 watts. It's slower than the stovetop for bringing a quart of water to boil, and slower than the microwave for heating up a mugful.

                                        That said, boiling water is boiling water. While reheating tea or coffee generally causes the quality to deteriorate, beverages made with water boiled in the microwave are indistinguishable from those made with water boiled in an electric kettle or on the hob.

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          I have an electric kettle but its minimum is 2 cups so I use the microwave for single mugs of water.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            alanbarnes, thanks for the technical information here (and about microwaving spoons, above).

                                            I'm an American with lots of Chinese friends. The Chinese are like the British about having a tea kettle. But indeed, it takes forever for those little tea kettles to heat up.

                                            When alanbarnes described the difference in available volts/amps that explained a lot, including why the coffee machine in our old restaurant heated the water ever-so-fast (it was commercial and ran on "3-phase" or high-voltage power).

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Wattage will always be the same, so if in the USA it is 15 AMPs, in the UK it will be 7.5 AMPs. Wattage = Power and for the most part all electrical appliances are the same, a 30 Watt light bulb in the US will be the same in the UK it is the amount of current that it uses (it will be directly proportional to the AC used, that doesn't mean you can use the appliance for both 110/220, although many companies allow that with certain products such as computer.

                                              So a kettle in the UK will use the same power as a kettle in the USA. A good example would be a hair dryer, they usually measure in wattage and voltage, the only thing that will change is the amps that is drawn.
                                              P (power) = Energy (voltage) times Current. It will be the same world wide. and the inverse will be I (current) = P / E I do agree that 220 V is more efficient than what we run here in the USA. Doesn't change Ohms law though. The amount of power going to the kettle will be the same and thus be warmed/heated at the same rate.

                                              1. re: ufisher

                                                Wattage is always the same, but residential electrical systems vary greatly from country to country. In the US, a typical residential electrical outlet can deliver up to 1650 watts (110 x 15). A typical outlet in Britain can deliver more than four times as much power (230 x 30 = 6900).

                                                So 3000 watt kettles are common in the UK. See, eg, But just try getting one of those kettles to work in the US. Plug it in, turn it on, and - pop - goes the breaker. The appliance draws more power than the circuit can supply, leading to an overload.

                                                That's why the typical kettle sold in the US is about half the power of the typical kettle sold in the UK. And at half the power, it's gonna take a lot longer to boil water.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  Good point, I was looking at it from a different angle, now I understand.

                                                  1. re: ufisher

                                                    I can't argue with the numbers, but my (American) kettle heats up half a liter of water in just over 2 minutes, which is faster than most microwaves.

                                      2. re: greygarious

                                        Superheating is most likely to happen with new pyrex or dishes that still have a super-smooth surface. Over time, they get etched in the dishwasher and this possibility decreases. The thing to watch for is any substance in a new dish that isn't showing any signs of boiling, despite having been in the microwave for awhile. Handle this very carefully---best to let it sit for 5 minutes w/out touching it, then throw something in from a distance.

                                      3. The steaming vegetables suggestion is a good one (also nice when you have to steam multiple vegetables with differening times and you only have 4 burners!) I use mine to melt butter (be careful, doesn't take long!), liquefy honey, melt chocolate, and yes, boil water (read this: I use it for oatmeal, although unlike some of the other posters, I do use full power (for about a minute, then I let the oatmeal stand--I like a more solid oatmeal as opposed to a creamy one).