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The microwave oven has been known as the kitchen appliance to go to for reheating food. However, the microwave oven can be used for more than just that. This appliance can be used to:
- Sanitize sponges and cutting boards used in the kitchens
- Steam vegetables for dinner
- Poach and scramble eggs for breakfast
- Decrystallize honey
A microwave oven uses electromagnetic radiation in order to heat up and cook different types of food. Compared to a traditional oven, microwave ovens are easier to use and can heat up or cook food in 10 minutes or less without having to pre-heat the appliance. This is because medium and large microwaves have higher wattage that will range from 850 watts to 1650 watts and can reheat food in 2 minutes.
There is a microwave oven was in almost every American home in the 1990s with about 90% of households in possession of one in their kitchen. This can be because not only can microwave ovens effectively heat up food, but research has shown that compared to other heating methods, this appliance does not affect the nutrient content of food. You can also check out our guide on the best convection oven for you.
Aside from cooking food from the outside and then inwards, microwaves can be used to make crispy bacon. Also, beauty products can be heated in this appliance for easier application or to get rid of clumps that have formed over time. Your microwave oven can also be used to soften hardened brown sugar but there are ways to use your appliance for more than just re-heating leftovers:
A microwave oven can be used as a crisper when you need crunchy bacon quickly. Instead of waiting for the bacon to fry, wrap your slices in kitchen towels before microwaving them for 2 minutes to 3 minutes. Your bacon will have that delicious crunch because your kitchen towels will soak up all of the moisture from your meat.
Use your microwave oven to soak your beans in about an hour instead of leaving them in water overnight. Dry beans will usually need 4 hours to 12 hours to soak well before being soft enough to cook and consume. However, if you are pressed for time, put your black beans or lentils into a bowl and fill it with enough water to submerge the beans completely. Add 1 pinch of baking soda into the bowl and mix it lightly. Microwave the bowl full of beans for 10 minutes and let it rest in the microwave oven for 40 minutes. Your beans should be tender afterwards.
Beauty Product Heater
Beauty products like hair oil, wax, and mascara can harden over time or have clumps that make them difficult to use. For hair oil and wax, you can reheat these products for 20 seconds. As for mascara that has dried up, microwave it for 40 seconds then let it cool down before application.
Another use of the microwave oven is to heat up citrus fruits to make them easier to squeeze. Heat up your lemons and limes in the microwave oven for 30 seconds to 1 minute then easily squeeze all of the juice out of your fruit.
The microwave oven can also be used as a proofer. The yeast in your bread needs a warm and moist environment to rise. Bring a cup of water to boil for 2 minutes to 3 minutes then place the cup of boiling water into the microwave oven. Put your dough into the microwave oven as well and leave it there for about 15 minutes. This is a time saver because yeast dough will usually take about an hour or so to rise at room temperature.
You can also use the microwave oven to poach your eggs perfectly every single time. Using a bowl that is safe to use inside your microwave oven, pour boiling water along with ½ teaspoon of white vinegar into it. Carefully crack your egg into the bowl and use a toothpick to prick the egg yolk. Cover your microwave-safe bowl with cling film and microwave your egg for 30 seconds. Afterwards, turn over the egg and microwave the bowl for another 20 seconds.
Use the microwave oven to tie-dye your clothes or plain fabric. In order to set the colored dye, wrap your dyed piece of clothing or fabric in cling film and make sure to seal the edges to prevent leakage. Before putting your wrapped fabric into the microwave oven, wrap it in a layer of paper towels and heat it for 1 minute to 2 minutes. The heat will cause the plastic wrap to puff up which creates a heat chamber that will bond your colored dye with your fabric of choice. Remove your clothing or fabric from the paper towels and plastic wrap and rinse it.
Fruit and Vegetable Baker
You can also use the microwave oven to bake your produce in less time compared to a traditional oven. For baked potatoes, prepare them by scrubbing them clean of dirt and pricking holes into the potatoes using a fork for the steam to cook the vegetable thoroughly. Microwave your potato for 7 minutes or 8 minutes making sure to flip the potato halfway through. If you are cooking two potatoes at a time, let them bake in the microwave oven for 10 minutes to 12 minutes.
If you’re going to bake your apples, wash, peel, and remove the apple’s core before slicing it into smaller pieces. In a microwave-safe bowl, add 1 tablespoon of butter and other spices that you would like to season your apples with. Cover the bowl with wax paper before letting it bake in the microwave oven for 2 minutes to 3 minutes. Uncover the apples, mix them around in your seasoning, and let cool before consuming.
The microwave oven can be used to make peeling garlic cloves easier and less time-consuming. To do this, place your garlic cloves on a paper towel and put them into the microwave for 10 seconds. If you are in need of a whole head of garlic, microwave it for 20 seconds. The paper towel will absorb the moisture of the garlic cloves which will make peeling them much easier.
Use the microwave oven to dry herbs to refill your pantry or use up the fresh herbs before they start to wilt. Wash and pat your herbs with a paper towel to dry them before picking the leaves off of the stems. Put your fresh herbs in between paper towels and place this on a microwave-safe plate. Heat up the herbs in the microwave oven for 1 minute and continue to use 30-second bursts if they have not dried completely. You can grind up your dried herbs afterwards and store them in jars or other air-tight containers.
An alternative use to the microwave oven is to de-crystalize honey. Honey can harden over time and you can liquify your sweetener again by microwaving it without its lid for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Your honey should be liquified and back to its typical consistency afterwards.
A microwave oven can also be used as a rehydrator. Instead of throwing out hard and stale bread, place the bread into a microwave-safe bowl and cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel. You can microwave your bread for about 10 seconds if it is a slice or a small loaf. If your stale bread is bigger than this, you will need to continue to use 10-seconds intervals until your bread is hydrated.
An alternative use of the microwave oven is as a sanitizer for your chopping boards and sponges. Disinfecting your plastic chopping boards is a great way to make sure that you are getting rid of any bacteria that has accumulated into its grooves. To use the microwave oven as a sanitizer, wash your chopping board with soap and water. Rub down the side of the chopping board that you use and put it in the microwave for 1 minute on high.
To deodorize your kitchen sponges after a few uses, soak the sponge in a bowl of water. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into the bowl and heat it in the microwave oven for 1 minute on high.
The microwave is also a great kitchen appliance to use when you need to soften your brown sugar. This type of sugar has the tendency to form solid clumps which make it difficult to use when you need certain amounts of sugar. Place your lumpy sugar into a microwave-safe bowl and add 4 to 5 drops of water into it. Heat it for 10 seconds to 20 seconds.
You can also soften your brown sugar by placing a wet kitchen towel on top of the microwave-safe bowl and heating it for 30 seconds.
The microwave oven can also be used as a toaster for your nuts and seeds instead of the traditional oven or on a stovetop. To bring out the flavor of your nuts and seeds quickly, evenly spread them out on a microwave-safe plate and heat it for 2 minutes to 3 minutes. Every minute or so, mix the nuts and seeds around to toast them evenly.
You can also use the microwave oven to steam vegetables to minimize the nutrients lost during cooking and to save time. To steam your vegetables in the microwave oven, prick them with a fork to let the steam cook the vegetables thoroughly. Place them in a microwave-safe bowl or spread them out on a microwave-safe plate and steam heat them for 3 minutes to 4 minutes.
What are the common mistakes for usage of a microwave oven?
When you are learning how to use a microwave oven, there is certain food you should avoid and other common mistakes that include:
- Cooking peppers in the microwave. Hot peppers, when heated, can emit capsaicin which is what will cause your eyes to water while your nose and throat will sting. Avoid heating peppers in the microwave oven so that you are not exposed to this extract as soon as you open your appliance’s door.
- Disregarding the turntable. You may be prone to removing your turntable because it seems like an extra part to clean. However, the turntable is part of your microwave oven so that your food will heat up evenly.
- Forgetting to stir or mix your food around. Microwave ovens can heat up the surface of your food fairly quickly but it will need more time to thoroughly heat food. In order to help heat move towards the center of your food, stir, mix, and flip your food every once in a while by using the Pause button.
- Heating your food without a lid or cover. If you’re not covering your food with a cover or lid, you may already know that this will lead to your food exploding or splattering. By placing a lid or cover on your food, you will keep your microwave oven clean, help your food retain moisture, and evenly distribute heat around your food.
- Keeping food in styrofoam containers when you heat it. Using your takeout styrofoam container as a container for your food in the microwave oven can be a health hazard. Styrofoam can leak toxins into your food when it is heated which you will consume directly so it is best to use another microwave-safe container to heat your food in.
- Leaving your food to heat in the microwave oven unattended. If you are used to walking away after choosing your settings and hitting Start you might have already experienced coming back and finding that your food has overheated or even caught on fire. It is a good habit to stay close and be able to check in on your food.
- Microwaving eggs in their shells, hotdogs, spinach, carrots, and squash. The high moisture content of these foods will cause them to heat up, build up steam, and explode. Avoid heating these specific foods in the microwave.
- Not checking if your dishes are ceramic. Ceramics, by nature, are made out of clay and can soak up moisture well. This can be dangerous because the moisture in your ceramic dishes will heat up and can cause the plate or bowl to blow up.
- Not cleaning the microwave oven regularly. The splatter build-up of food that you have previously heated in your microwave oven can go bad and become a breeding ground for bacteria that will contaminate your food. Leftover residue can also lead to bad odors and can hamper performance and lead to your microwave oven malfunctioning. Clean your microwave oven every week.
- Only using the high microwave setting. High heat may be your go-to setting because you think that it will heat up your food much faster. However, there are usually three settings for a reason and just using the High setting can actually cause uneven heat distribution. Utilise the Medium heat setting for even heating.
- Putting plastic containers in the microwave oven. The heat of the microwave oven can cause the plastic to heat up, release chemicals that are harmful to your health, or melt. Use microwave-safe plates and containers for your safety.
- Using metal utensils. Anything metal can damage your microwave oven and can cause your appliance to catch fire. Make sure to remove your metal utensils before hitting Start.
Before using your microwave oven, go through this list to avoid certain food or materials that can be hazardous to your health and compromise the integrity of your kitchen appliance.
What is the history of usage of microwave ovens?
What is a microwave oven and how was it discovered? This kitchen appliance was an accidental invention that a self-taught engineer who worked for Raytheon named Percy LeBaron Spencer was responsible for. While working on the vacuum tubes that are responsible for producing microwave radiation in 1945, also known as magnetrons, he noticed that the chocolate bar that was in his pocket had melted. Intrigued by this phenomenon, he started testing other food like popcorn kernels and an egg that shook and exploded. Realizing that the food was exposed to microwave energy that was low-density, he built a metal box in order to feed microwave power into it. This invention was then patented after Spencer discovered that food would be cooked faster in this appliance than in a convection oven.
In 1947, the first microwave oven for commercial use was tested in a restaurant in Boston. Later on, in the same year, Raytheon put the Radarange 1161 on the market but it took years before the public accepted this new technology with only 4% of the population investing in this appliance during this time. As the years went on, microwave ovens became more popular than dishwashers, became smaller in size, and more affordable.
Do the use cases of a microwave oven change based on type?
Yes, the use cases of a microwave oven will change based on the type of microwave oven it is. Over-the-range microwaves vary in size but are known to offer ventilation. For those who are looking to save space, low profile and built-in microwaves offer various settings but may not be able to heat up large volumes of food.
There are also countertop microwave ovens that will take up more space but be more affordable. On the other hand, under-counter microwaves are meant to be more discrete in location and will be more expensive than counter-top or built-in microwave ovens. Convection microwave ovens are a hybrid that can be used for the use cases above as well as baking and roasting. Finally, there are smart microwaves which are usually Wi-Fi enabled or remote-controlled which combine all of the previous microwave ovens’ features.
Which microwave oven is best for pizza?
The best microwave oven for pizza is a convection microwave. You can find countertop convection microwave ovens on the market that will have racks that can heat up or cook 2 pizzas at a time.
Does a microwave oven have more use cases than a convection oven?
When talking about the microwave oven vs. convection oven, the convection oven has more use cases. A convection oven is an all-around appliance that can be used for all of the use cases above but also is used to bake, roast, and grill food.
What are the other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to a microwave oven?
Other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to a microwave oven include:
- Convection Oven: A convection oven is designed with an exhaust system and fan that will evenly heat up and cook food by blowing hot air around the food.
- Stovetop: A stovetop is a cooking surface that will cook food in pots and pans by heating them and is usually powered by electricity or connected to a gas line.
- Crock-Pot: This kitchen tool uses moist heat in order to cook food over a lengthy period of time and is made up of a pot, a lid made out of glass, and a heating element.
- Toaster Oven: This countertop oven is powered by electricity and can function as a miniature oven or toaster to heat up or cook food.
- Dutch Oven: A Dutch oven is a wide, heavy pot that has a tight lid and is used to slow-cook, braise, or simmer food by retaining heat for long periods of time.
These kitchen appliances have similar uses to a microwave oven but have use cases specific to themselves. You can learn more about the 5 other uses of these 5 kitchen tools here.