Nifty Microwave Uses (Besides Cooking)

A few decades ago, the microwave was still considered a luxurious kitchen gadget, but now we can find it in almost every home, dorm room, office breakroom and cafeteria. It is an affordable cooking device that is both space and time saving. Better yet, many manufacturers now offer "greener" microwave ovens that can cook food faster while using much less energy. According to Energy Star, cooking a small portion of food in an eco-friendly microwave can save up to 80% of energy, compared to a traditional oven. Is micro-cooking the best way to prepare food? Every professional chef would likely say no. But is a microwave capable of doing much more than just defrosting and warming up food? Absolutely. In my previous article, Microwave Cooking Tips, I discussed some simple microwave techniques and tricks, such as baking, steaming, browning and frying. Guess what? That's not all a microwave can do. Its function is not limited to only getting food done! Today I'm going to talk about some easy and surprisingly nifty microwave uses that many people are totally unaware of.

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Drying Fresh Herbs in a Microwave

Don't you hate to see your basil and thyme slowly wither in your refrigerator's bottom compartment? Buying fresh herbs can cause a little dilemma for a lot of home chefs, especially those with a smaller household. Say you're making dinner for two and need only 1 tablespoon of chopped dill for your salmon fillets, but of course, the supermarket will make you buy at least a small bunch of dill rather than just a couple sprigs. It is the same story with those who would love to have an herb garden in their backyard but are not sure what to do with all the herbs. This is when a microwave comes in handy. You can feel free to buy or grow as many fresh herbs as you'd like and don't have to worry you might end up wasting some of them. Just dry those leftovers in your microwave oven before they go bad! Their natural colors and aromas will be nicely retained, and the process works fine for all types of herbs from basil and rosemary to sage and lemon balm.

How to dry herbs in a microwave

  • Rinse the herbs and pat them dry with paper towels.
  • Once they're completely dry, carefully pick the leaves off the stems.
  • Measure the leaves in a measuring cup or on a small food scale. You should dry no more than 1 cup or 1 ounce of herbs at a time.
  • Spread the leaves on a double layer of paper towels. Try not to make them overlap one another too much. Cover the leaves with another double layer of paper towels.
  • Place the herb-filled paper towels in a microwave. For sturdy herbs, such as rosemary and lavender, cook on HIGH for about 2 minutes before checking for dryness. For more delicate herbs, such as dill and basil, cook on HIGH for just about a minute and check to see how dry they are. When the leaves are brittle, it means they're done.
  • Remove from the microwave and allow the leaves to cool in the paper towels.
  • Once they're cool, crush them coarsely with your fingers and place them in a clean, dry jar with a screw-top lid. Keep the jar in a cool and dry place. Your homemade dried herbs should be good for up to a year.

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Ripening Avocados in a Microwave

There are many old-school tips on how to ripen avocados quickly. My grandmother's favorite trick is to bury them in a bag of uncooked rice overnight. Keeping avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple is another quick-ripening trick I've learned. Neither of these strategies, however, can beat the almighty power of the microwave. If you need to make some guacamole in ten minutes but your avocados are still as hard as granite rocks, you don't have time to wait for the rice or apple and paper bag to work their wonders. Instead, just go straight to your microwave and ripen your avocados in 3 minutes!

How to ripen avocados in a microwave

  • Prick the skin of the avocado a few times with a fork or knife.
  • Place it on a paper towel and microcook on DEFROST for about 1 - 2 minutes.
  • Turn it over and cook on DEFROST for about 30 seconds longer. Check the softness of the avocado. If it's still not soft enough, continue to cook on DEFROST for another 30 seconds.

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Disinfecting a Sponge in a Microwave

There is one universal truth most people tend to agree on: kitchen sponges are yucky gross! Yes, tons of bacteria from raw meat, uncooked eggs and vegetables can sneak their way into most kitchen tools and containers, but damp sponges and scrubbing pads are the most ideal breeding ground for those germs. The high temperature of a dishwasher can make your sponges look and smell much cleaner, but it can't really zap all the dangerous bacteria the way a microwave does. According to WebMD, the microwave can kill about 99% of all the germs and bacterial spores in the sponges, including E. Coli, a harmful bacterium that can make you very sick. So if you thought the microwave was only good for warming food, now you should know how wrong you were!

How to disinfect a sponge in a microwave

  • Soak the sponge with water.
  • Place it in the microwave and process on HIGH for 2 minutes.
  • When it's done, the sponge will be very hot, so don't try to grab it with your bare hand right away. Instead, let it stand in the microwave for a few minutes before taking it out.

Safety Tips

  • Don't put your sponge or scrubbing pad in the microwave if it contains steel or other metals.
  • Always make sure your sponge is wet before disinfecting it in the microwave. A dry sponge may catch fire during the process.

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Comments 37 comments

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

Great hub, really useful. I am lost without my microwave, and some of these tips are good - like disinfecting your washing up sponge. I did use my microwave to ripen a banana this morning. I didn't know that other people ripened fruit this way, but glad to know it's a great idea :)


ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States

I'm so glad you shared this since I have fresh oregano that I want to preserve.Thanks for the drying herbs tip. Also, I had no idea you could ripen an avocado in the microwave; how useful! Voted up and sharing. :)


TattooKitty profile image

TattooKitty 4 years ago from Hawaii

Interesting info! I'm so glad I won't have to wait to eat avocados anymore ;) Thanks for sharing! Voted up, useful & interesting!


shea duane profile image

shea duane 4 years ago from new jersey

I had no idea that I could ripen an avocado in the microwave. great hub


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Great helpful hub. Thank's for sharing all the info.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago

I didn't know you can do so much with a microwave--from drying herbs to ripening avocadoes. Well, now, I've no excuse when my husband complains about my rotting herbs in the fridge. As for ripening avocadoes, pure genius--now, every day can be a guacomole day. Thank you, sunshine--your hub rocks way more!


prektjr.dc profile image

prektjr.dc 4 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

o my - you ARE my new best friend!!! I love avocados but trying to get a ripe one here is practically impossible. By the time it ripens, I have forgotten it and then when I discover the rotten avocado, I am disappointed! Your tip works like a charm! I tested it! AWESOME!!! Voted up and awesome!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

Great tips and info. The avocado tip has to be the best since timing the ripening of them is so difficult. Voted up and useful.


jenubouka 4 years ago

This is genius! The avocado and sponge are ones I will use on the daily. In fact I am doing the sponge one right now.


rsusan profile image

rsusan 4 years ago from South Africa

Very helpful hub, Om! I didn't know about the avocado tip. That is one to remember. Thanks!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

Waaah! I had no idea about the herbs or avocado microwave tricks! SO COOL!


Teddletonmr profile image

Teddletonmr 4 years ago from Midwest USA

Look out microwave popcorn I have a avocado to ripen. Outstanding idea. As for the sponge thing who would have thunk it. Enjoy your insightful article. Best wishes Mike


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wow, these are all awesome tips! I had no idea that any of these uses for microwaves existed. Thank you!


Raymond Tremain profile image

Raymond Tremain 4 years ago from Metro Manila Philippines

That is not the only thing they can be used for, if you get very wet from rain like your underwear and you need to wear that clothing in a hurry just pop it into the micro oven set it on low for a few minutes, it will dry off the wetness let cool then put it back on also put it between cooking papoer so it wont burn.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@Emma Harvey - Ah yes! The microwave can ripen bananas as well!

@ThePracticalMommy - Thanks a lot for your vote. Glad you won't have to waste your oregano.

@Tattookitty - Yep, now you can buy unripe avocados and eat them the same day!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@shea duane - Thanks, Shea! Glad you found these microwave tricks useful.

@writer20 - You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

@anglnwu - haha your husband complains about that? I've never met him but have learned quite a few funny things about him already. First, he used to collect goth stuff. Second, he thinks he knows directions better than GPS. And third, he cares so much about the herbs in the refrigerator! LOL


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@prektjr - hehehe I'm so glad to be your new best friend. Thanks for the read and positive feedback.

@Tracy Lynn Conway - Yep, sounds like many people agree with you! They seem to like the avocado ripening tip, too!

@jenubouka - Yay! Now your sponge is sparkling clean!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@rsusan - Thanks a lot for the read and comment, Susan.

@Simone - haha Glad you like these tricks!

@Teddletonmr - Oh, you're right! Microwave popcorn might get a little jealous. LOL

@randomcreative - Thanks. Glad you stopped by.

@Raymond - Hmmm...I had never thought of that. Thanks for sharing the trick.


UniqueVanities profile image

UniqueVanities 4 years ago from Ohio

Posting a link to this on our FB and Twitter today!! As usual, YOU ROCK! :)Up, useful, awesome!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub and I really love your tips about how to use microwave. I am glad to share this with my mom. My brother, you are so genius and always come up with interesting topic like this one. I'll press all buttons here, except funny. Have a nice weekend!

Prasetio


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@UniqueVanities - Hello, my friend. Thanks so much for Facebooking and tweeting. :)

@prasetio - Great! Hope your mom likes these microwave tricks. And hope you have a lovely weekend as well. :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is terrific information to know. Can't wait to try out an avocado! Thanks!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Thanks for the read, Peggy. So good to see you!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country

A useful and up hub. Like so many others I had no idea you could dry herbs and microwave avocado. I knew about the sponges-- usually rinse them in a little lemon water before the micro.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Ah, I didn't know about the lemon water. That will probably help get rid of the unwanted smell, right? Thanks for sharing the trick, Rochelle. :)


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 4 years ago from USA

I use my microwave oven because of its convenience in speed (to warm up food, or to warm water), but every time I am doing it, I feel guilty that I am doing it. Being pretty health-conscious I am not sure that microwaving food is good for us. There's a reason why it is NOT advised to stand in front of a microwave while it is working, or why there's a special protective (which is not completely protective) glass on the door. Some sources try to prove that use of radiation and other harmful gamma rays does not mutate the food, while other say they do. I don't know if there are any really scientific researches in this field. However, my gut feeling is that microwaved food is dead or mutated food. Still, I use my microwave oven because of convenience.....

Probably, the best use of it would be to disinfect dish-washing sponges, that's all.

P.S. To preserve the bulk of fresh herbs, I chop them, mix with some salt and freeze in small quantities. Works great.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@ReuVera - Yes, I totally agree that it's healthier and tastier to prepare food on the stove or in the traditional oven. But I don't think you need to feel so guilty for using your microwave every once in a while. Here's some information from the World Health Organization website regarding microwave food safety:

- "When used according to manufacturers' instructions, microwave ovens are safe and convenient for heating and cooking a variety of foods"

- "To dispel some misconceptions, it is important to realize that food cooked in a microwave oven does not become "radioactive". Nor does any microwave energy remain in the cavity or the food after the microwave oven is switched off."

Hope you won't feel so bad next time you use your mcrowave. By the way, thanks for the herb-preserving tip. :)


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 4 years ago from USA

Thank you too. The only tip for frozen herbs- they should not be thawed. From the freezer to a dish (frozen herbs break apart easy). :-)

Still, I am not sure we can trust manufactures, after all, they are interested in their sales...... I don't think that food becomes radioactive, most surely it does not. It's just that any fast processing is never good for nutrition.

Otherwise, your hub is great (as well as the rest of them, btw!)


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Thanks. :)


Keeley Shea profile image

Keeley Shea 4 years ago from Norwich, CT

You write a lot of interesting hubs and I am amazed that a microwave can do these things. I wonder if my friends and family know this? I hope I'm not the only one who didn't know about these great ideas!! Thanks!


itops profile image

itops 4 years ago from the sea

I never knew that we can use the microwave for ripening avocados. Will definitely try this some time. :)


RicardoE profile image

RicardoE 4 years ago from Guatemala City

OMG!!! I have to try the avocado thing!!! :D thanks for the tip


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@Keeley Shea - haha...No, I don't think you're the only one. Lots of my readers obviously didn't know about these microwave tricks.

@itops & RicardoE - I hope both of you enjoy your avocados!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Wonderful tip about ripening avocados. I'm often tempted to buy bags of avocados when they are on sale, but the timing of using them puts me off, since most tend to be rock hard. Now I can take advantage of those sales and eat the fruits when I want them. Up and useful!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Exactly! You can save some money that way. Thanks so much for the vote and comment, Sally. Glad you stopped by. :)


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 4 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

Great! I always feel everything we bring in the home should earn its keep and have multiple purposes including the microwave which can take up quite a bit of space.

I'm wondering - if I can disinfect sponges, how many other things can I also disinfect. When I went to a gym in S. Korea there was something that looked like a microwave and people would put their sneakers in it - I assumed to disinfect it. Hmmmmm.

Rated up!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Hmmmm.....now I'm wondering the same thing. So far I have only used this trick with sponges. Thanks for stopping by and rating!

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