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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.