The microwave sometimes gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a very useful appliance and a seriously under-appreciated kitchen tool. Sure, you probably won’t want to forgo the grill to cook your $100 prime rib roast in the microwave, but even chefs at fancy New York restaurants cop to nuking dinners at home — including delicate entrees like fish en papillote. Who would have thought?
Aside from the usual reheating of last night’s leftovers, there are a lot of ways to take advantage of the microwave and its quick-cooking abilities. Did you know you can use it to toast nuts and roast garlic? No? Here’s what else you didn’t know you could cook in the microwave.
Bacon without the spatter
As good as bacon is, the hassle of frying it on the stove, with all its greasy spatter, is sometimes enough to convince you to go vegetarian for this morning’s breakfast. Sure, you can cook it in the oven, but if you’re trying to satisfy a craving now, that’s not going to work either. Enter the microwave. Line a plate with paper towels, lay your bacon down, cover with another paper towel, and cook on high for about five minutes. Depending on the thickness, cooking time will vary, so keep an eye on it. You definitely don’t want to ruin a plate of bacon by over-cooking it.
Popcorn minus the iffy ingredients
Remember when that guy ate so much microwaveable popcorn (containing the chemical diacetyl) that he got "popcorn lung"? If that horror story scared you off the stuff, the good news is that DIY microwave popcorn is just as easy as the pre-packaged version. Orville Redenbacher wouldn’t want you to know this, but all you really need is a brown paper lunch bag. Just dump in a quarter cup of kernels, fold the bag over a few times, and microwave it on high until the popping slows. (Since microwaves vary, the cook time will vary, but it’s typically around two minutes.) Add in a little olive oil or melted butter, salt or other seasonings, shake, and voila! It might not be neon yellow, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Sunday isn’t the only time you can satisfy your craving for brunch fare. A frittata is easy enough to make on a busy work day, thanks to the microwave. Grab a mug, spray it with cooking spray, and crack an egg into it. Whisk it up with a little milk, salt, and pepper, top it with whatever veggies and cooked breakfast meats that strike your fancy, and nuke it for one minute. It doesn’t get much easier than that, and think of all the money you’ll save on that Starbucks sous vide egg situation.
Steamed milk for a genius latte hack
As long as we’re saving money by skipping the Starbucks eats, we might as well talk drink hacks, too. The daily $4 coffee habit can be a hit to the wallet, but you can use your microwave to make a latte at home, complete with "steamed" milk and foam. Start with a shot of espresso or strong coffee. Fill a mason jar halfway with two percent milk, put the lid on, and shake vigorously until foamy, about one minute. Remove the lid, then microwave until warm. Pour the milk into the espresso, then top with foam. Super cheap homemade latte, for the win!
Toasted nuts without the risk of burning
How many times have you ruined a skillet full of nuts by walking away from the stove and completely forgetting about it until you smell that telltale burnt nut smell? If your answer is "always," then this trick’s for you. Avoid the whole possibility of burning nuts by microwaving them instead. Just cook them on a microwave-safe plate at one-minute intervals, stirring after each minute, to desired doneness. While you could technically still burn them this way, you’d have to work pretty hard at it.
Eggs all the ways
Okay, maybe microwaved eggs aren’t your first choice, but they sure can save the day if you’re short on time (or if you’ve never been able to successfully poach an egg ever in your entire life). Whether it’s scrambled, sunny side-up, or poached, the microwave can do them all.
- For scrambled, spray a bowl with cooking spray, then add eggs, a little milk, salt, and pepper, and whisk. Microwave for one minute, then stir to break up the eggs. If not cooked to desired doneness, cook at 30 second intervals until done.
- For sunny-side up, microwave a plate for two minutes, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of butter and let it melt. Break the egg onto the buttered plate, pierce the yolk, then microwave for about 45 seconds, or until the white is set.
- For poached, crack an egg into a bowl filled halfway with water. Cover the bowl with a plate, then microwave for one minute. If the white isn’t set, cook at 15 second intervals until it’s done.
Toasted coconut the less tedious way
Toasting coconut in the oven can seem like an endless project, and you can typically expect it to take way longer than the recipe says. Next time, turn to your trusty microwave to make a tedious task go much quicker. Just spread the shredded coconut evenly on a microwave-safe plate and zap it at 30-second intervals, tossing it each time to ensure even cooking. Do this until the coconut reaches your desired level of toastiness, then try to restrain yourself from eating it all before you use it for your recipe.
Super-speedy roasted garlic
Nobody will argue the fact that it’s super easy to roast garlic in an oven — it’s just a head of garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper — set it and forget it, Ronco-style. But it does take a good amount of time, and sometimes we don’t have the better part of an hour to spend on that one component of a recipe. Here’s where your microwave comes in. Just slice off the top, season with salt and pepper, and add to a bowl with a little olive oil and water. Cover and microwave for about seven minutes. It’s the same process as oven-roasting, but your garlic is done so much faster. Who’s suddenly adding roasted garlic to a lot more meals?
Corn on the cob without the grill
If you’re having a cookout and already have the grill fired up, roasting corn on the cob is no big deal. But if the craving strikes and there’s no grill in sight, it’s the microwave to the rescue. The best part of this method is that you don’t even have to remove the husk or silk — just toss the whole thing in and cook it for 3-4 minutes. The corn steams in its own nature-provided package for a perfectly cooked cob. Add butter, or not, and you’re done. (You should definitely add butter though. Salt, too.)
Dried herbs in seconds
An overabundant herb garden isn’t the worst problem to have, but you can only use so much rosemary in any given recipe. What to do? Dry it in the microwave. This technique works especially well with heartier herbs, like thyme, oregano, and rosemary, which retain their flavor well. You can dry more delicate varieties like basil and parsley, but expect a more dramatic loss of flavor. Just line a plate with paper towels, arrange the herbs in a single layer, then top with another paper towel. Start with one minute on high, then check to see if they are dry and brittle. If not, continue microwaving at 20-30 second intervals until completely dry. Then pat yourself on the back for not throwing away yet more unused herbs.
Fruit and veggie chips without the dehydrator
Finding room for all those small appliances can be a pain, but the microwave can do the work of a food dehydrator when it comes to homemade chips. All you need is a knife (a mandoline works wonders here, if you’ve got one), and you’re on your way to any kind of chips you crave. Thinly slice the fruit or veggies (try apples, zucchini, beets, or sweet potatoes), then place the slices on a plate lined with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Start with 2-3 minutes, then continue at one-minute intervals until done. (For best results, cook one thing at a time as different veggies dehydrate at different times.) Score one for healthy homemade snacks in minutes.