Stop using the microwave for reheating and use it for cooking, instead.
By Michelle Kiefer, TheDailyMeal.com Special Contributor
If there was a kitchen appliance that was more misunderstood than the microwave, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. To give you an example of what we mean, The Joy of Cooking, a go-to cookbook for American cuisine, calls the experience of cooking in a microwave an “inadequate response to great expectations.” While the microwave will never replace the stove or oven in terms of bringing out a depth of flavor in foods, believe it or not, it’s capable of a lot more than heating up TV dinners. It’s a lifesaver for college students and a space-hogging leftover warmer for home cooks, but neither of these groups really appreciates the microwave’s full potential. Used properly, a microwave can act as a shortcut to time-consuming dishes, and it can cook many foods from scratch just as well as, or better than, the stovetop can.
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In order to get satisfying results from your microwave, you have to learn the rules of the game. First, understand your microwave’s heat settings. The higher a microwave’s wattage, the faster it cooks. At a lower setting, such as 500 watts, your microwave is like a dehydrator, but at a higher setting, such as 800 watts, a microwave’s capabilities are akin to steaming or frying (all recipes in this story assume a default “high” setting). Foods high in water content — such as vegetables, fruits, greens, and fish — cook best in the microwave. Almost any vegetable steams to perfection in a microwave, cooked in a covered bowl with a little bit of water. Finally, learn to take it slow. Keep close tabs on the food you cook in a microwave, because it’s much easier to add on time than make up for a tough, overcooked dish.
The microwave may never live up to a gourmet cook’s high expectations, but its potential can certainly surprise even the most seasoned gourmand. Beyond steamed vegetables, foods such as cake, eggs, jam, and even potato chips, are all within the microwave’s range. To boot, the microwave can cook all of these foods in record time: none of these dishes takes more than 20 minutes to complete, start to finish. In a world where we are all hard-pressed to find time in the day to get a homemade meal on the table, that may be the best reason of all to give your microwave a second look.
Think that homemade pickles are a specialty confined to your grandmother’s kitchen? Use your microwave and you can make your own in a matter of minutes. Click here to see the Microwave Pickles Recipe
2. Potato Chips
Store-bought potato chips contain loads of additives and preservatives, but you can make your own healthier version in a microwave. The whole process takes only a few minutes longer than the time it takes to open a bag. Click here to see the Microwaveable Potato Chips Recipe
A simple enchilada recipe can be easily converted for the microwave. Use this vegetarian enchilada recipe as a guide and do the following:
Place chopped onion in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap; microwave for one minute until tender. In a separate bowl, microwave sliced mushrooms, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 minutes until tender, stirring halfway through. Mix onion, mushrooms, canned corn, beans, and half the jar of enchilada sauce. Scoop into tortillas, roll and place in a microwave-safe pan. Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas, and microwave uncovered for six minutes or until heated through. Add the cheese and microwave until melted, about two minutes. Click here to see the Vegetarian Enchiladas Recipe
Lasagna your nonna would be proud of doesn’t have to be a time-consuming affair. Use this vegetarian lasagna recipe as a starting point, but replace the lasagna noodles with no-boil lasagna noodles. Mix the vegetables with the ricotta and 1 /14 cup of the mozzarella. Assemble in a microwave-safe dish according to the recipe instructions, cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap, and microwave for 15-20 minutes, until the noodles are tender. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Click here to see the Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna Recipe
Perfectly sweet, sticky mochi can take hours to make by hand. This microwave recipe delivers the same flavor with a fraction of the effort. Click here to see the Microwaveable Peanut-Covered Mochi Dessert Recipe