- Food and Cooking
Microwave Tips and Tricks
Use Your Microwave to the Fullest
Did you know that a microwave can be used for more than popcorn? People tend to take microwaves for granted, which is real shame, since they are a powerful tool. Sure, they can make your vegetables soggy, but only if you don't use them the right way.
You can do almost everything in a microwave that you can in a conventional oven, and more. Keep reading to find some tips and tricks to getting the most out of your microwave.
Tip One: Zap That Sponge!
WARNING: Do not do this with dry cloths. Make sure the sponge or cloth is wet and make sure you watch it the whole time it's in the microwave. It is possible for it to catch fire if you aren't careful. Don't put your family at risk.
You can zap your kitchen sponges, dish cloths and anything else that's small, made of fabric and needs to be de-germed in the microwave. Soak them in water and cook them in the microwave for two minutes.
You might consider zapping your dog's favorite chew toy or bedding, if it's small enough (and not made of something that will melt. If you aren't sure, then don't try it).
Of course, putting anything in the microwave isn't a complete substitute for a proper wash, but it only takes a couple of minutes and will kill anything on the fabric, so you can use it for everyday cleaning.
Zap That Sponge!
Tip Two: Make Cake (and Cookies and Slices...)
Did you know it's possible to bake almost anything in your microwave? The only thing a microwave cannot do is brown your cakes or cookies or make a crystallized (crunchy) surface since there's no heat in the air of a microwave to cause this reaction.
Using your microwave to bake, however, reduces the time needed by so much it is perfect for making single servings, or cooking your traditional creations and then finishing them in a conventional oven.
There are plenty of quick and easy recipes online for baking with a microwave, with many popular recipes using either silicon bakeware or other microwave-safe containers.
My favorite way to use a microwave has always been to reheat cookies. This might sound strange, but if you put a couple of cookies in the microwave for about 20 seconds (possibly sprinkling a drop or two of water on them first) they will soften and taste almost the same as just-baked cookies. It's a wonderful, fast dessert if you add a bit of whipped cream or ice cream.
Tip Three: It's the Little Things...
Your microwave can make a hundred little tasks easier to do in the kitchen. You probably already know that it can soften butter and ice cream, but there are many other things it can do to grease your kitchen wheels.
If you have any other small tips or tricks for the microwave, please tell us in the comments below!
- Your microwave can get the lumps out of sugar. Either put a couple of drops directly on the sugar, or moisten a paper towel and put it on top of the sugar then zap it for 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can heat the sugar in the microwave along with a cup of water.
- You can also put onions in the microwave for a few seconds to make them easier to peel. This can take off the edge of the flavor of raw onions (which might be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your preference).
- You can zap raw, chopped veges from the fridge for 30 seconds in order to take off the chill and enhance the flavor without actually cooking them. Perfect for crudités.
- You can warm up citrus, like lemons or oranges, and other fruits briefly in the microwave before you juice them in order to make the juice flow more easily from the fruit (it also helps to roll the fruit firmly between your palms).
- Like coconut? An easy way to get the shell off your coconut is to pop it into the microwave. First pierce the "eyes" of the coconut and drain out the juice. If you prefer you can crack the coconut with a hammer at this point, although it's not strictly necessary (you absolutely have to pierce the eyes though, as the coconut will burst if there's no way for the steam to escape)
Put the coconut into a microwave safe bag and zap it for about 6-7 minutes. After you take it from the bag, the flesh should slip right off the shell.
A Very Small Microwave
Don't think you have enough space for a microwave? Think again...
Tip Four: Snuggle Up
Microwaves can be used to heat up quite a few different things for your comfort. There are thermal mittens and hats and socks and slippers out there, specially made so that you can heat them up in a few seconds and then pop them on for the blissful warmth.
There are also microwavable sacks and toys that can be used like a hot water bottle, to apply heat when you're feeling sore, or to provide a snuggly heat source for your child (making sure, of course, that you don't overheat the toy).
Alternatively, if you like arts and crafts, you can make your own reheatable pad (see below for the video) which can also be put in the freezer so you can use it as a cold compress. As a bonus, if you do this, you can add spices or flowers or essential oils to create a favorite scent every time you heat the pad.
Make Your Own Microwavable Heat Pack
Tip Five: Now You're Really Cooking
Obviously, you know you can use your microwave for cooking, but here are a few tips that will help you make the best of your meals. Some of these might surprise you!
Got any other tips? Let us know in the comments below.
- Cook fish in the microwave. Wrap it in microwavable plastic, perhaps put a little butter or lemon and spices on it and cook for two minutes (monitoring it to save it from being overcooked). You won't get the crisp edge some people prefer but it will be healthy and much quicker to cook.
- Cook bacon in the microwave. Place it between paper towels and cook until crisp (again, keep an eye on it!)
- Make potato chips in the microwave. They'll be much healthier than store bought ones.
- If you're cooking lots of different vegetables at the same time, arrange them so that the ones that take longer to cook are on the outside of the dish as vegetables in this area will cook faster.
- Don't forget to prick the skins of potatoes and other root vegetables before cooking them, as this allows the steam to escape and prevents them from bursting.
You can make bacon in a microwave with paper towels, but it can get messy. If you want perfectly cooked microwave bacon, try one of these accessories.
Step Six: Dehydrate
Do you grow your own herbs? Mine are always either in feast or famine mode, so I've either got too much or too few.
Using the (you guessed it!) microwave you can dry your herbs in record time. Put them in a single layer on a paper towel and cook them at 30 minute intervals, checking until they are dry (it takes a different amount of time depending on the kind of herb). Then, store them in airtight containers.
Another craft idea is to dry and press flowers in your microwave.
Tip Seven: Sterilize
You're already sterilizing your rags and sponges in the microwave. Why not try sterilizing something else?
You can, for example, sterilize garden soil in your microwave so that it is more suitable for seedlings and possibly for mushroom spores as well. This will get rid of any competing seeds or spores as well as killing any bacteria in the soil. Do remember that healthy soil has a lot of little creepy crawlies in it, so don't try to sterilize all the soil in your garden!
You can also sterilize jars for jam or pickles (remember to remove any metal lids or tags first).
Don't forget Baby. You can sterilize microwave-safe bottles and nipples in the microwave as well, before you pour in the milk.
This goes for microwave-safe eyedroppers, makeup applicators, neti pots and so forth. Anything that isn't going to melt or spark and that you think might be germy can be safely sterilized in a microwave (once again, keep an eye on everything you put in the microwave to make sure it isn't going to catch on fire or burst. Use common sense and be safe.)
Tip Eight: Melt
Got a lot of little soaps you don't know how to use? You can melt them together with a microwave. Or you can make your own personalized soap.
You can use the same technique to melt crayons together. If you've got a lot of little ends of crayons you can melt them to form big swirly rainbow crayons, or try to keep the colors the same. Either way, you just need some microwave safe moulds (like silicon moulds) and you're away.
Finally, you can make your own candles with the same technique. Pour wax into a seashell for a romantic twist on candlelight, or mix and match colors and scents for your own special gift to someone.
Tip Nine: Keeping the Heat
When I was a student I really loved fresh, live yogurt, but it was usually out of my price range at the store. So I tried to make it myself. Unfortunately, I had no way of keeping it warm while the fermentation process took place, so my poor little cultures never took off.
If only I had realized that I could have kept my yogurt in the microwave and it would have stayed nice and toasty. Now, don't use the microwave to heat the yogurt, as that will definitely kill the culture. You'll have to do that the old fashioned way.
But, afterwards, when you're trying to keep the culture warm, cover it, pop it into the microwave, close the door and leave it in there, perhaps with a jar of hot water. Check on it every now and then to make sure it's keeping warm, but this will work almost as well as a hotplate.
You can do the same thing when you're letting bread dough rise (particularly in the winter when you don't have a sunny spot handy.)
Likewise, in a pinch, a microwave is a good place to put something that needs to be kept cold. It won't be quite as efficient as a cold box, but it's better than nothing.
Tip Ten: Arts and Crafts
Microwaves can be an art-and-crafter's best friend. I've already mentioned a few tips you can use in your crafting, but there is more the humble microwave can offer.
You can get a special kiln that will fit in your microwave and can be used with it to fire some of the less demanding kinds of glazes and porcelain. The temperatures won't get high enough to do anything heavy duty, but it could suit a home potter quite well.
It can also be used to dry clay, at a pinch, if it's too wet.
With this kind of kiln, you can also make fused glass jeweler and work with precious metal clay.
You can use a microwave to help set certain fabric dyes.
Want to try it yourself? Buy a kiln for your own projects! Just be aware of their limitations... you aren't going to get the power of a real kiln with these products, but they are great for beginners.