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On the usefulness of a microwave - Helen's journal and online home
In which an old dog attempts to learn new tricks.
On the usefulness of a microwave
This was prompted by seaivy's advice to her son about never owning a microwave.

I try to cook as much from scratch as possible, but I do cheat sometimes, for instance using a curry sauce from a jar to add to fresh meat and veg. However, I wouldn't be without my microwave because it is brilliant for:

  • making porridge and custard and thickened sauces without burning them or having them stick to the pan. Porridge can be made in the bowl you're going to eat it from and a sauce can be made in a microwavable jug so it's ready to serve. Cuts down on the washing up too.

  • stewing fresh fruit. A microwave stews things beautifully because you don't have to add any extra liquid and the fruit just stews gently in its own juice.

  • cooking small portions of vegetables in virtually no liquid and for minimal time, so you don't lose all the vitamins. Ideal for a couple or person living alone.

  • re-heating your own home cooked food that you froze. Especially now there's just the two of us and packs of meat are too large to eat at a single sitting, I freeze the leftovers in single portions and then every so often I can have a no cooking night and still be eating home cooked food.

  • thawing slices of bread. Because we eat bread so slowly, a loaf kept in the kitchen goes mouldy before we can use it all. To cut down on waste, for years I've kept bread in the freezer. Once a loaf has cooled, I slice it and freeze it. Then, using a technique similar to slate splitting, I can separate just the right number of slices and thaw them in the microwave when needed.

  • speedy baked potatoes. OK, baked potatoes are probably best done slowly in the oven, but if microwaved (stab them all over before you do this!) and then rubbed with butter and popped into a hot oven for a few minutes to brown the skin, you end up with a decent replica of a real baked potato in a fraction of the time and in the summer you don't need the oven on for ages when it's hot.

So basically, don't assume that because someone has a microwave, it's just used to zap ready meals. It's another mode of cooking that has it's own particular strengths and weaknesses. If there are lots of you living in the household, a microwave isn't so useful. The way the cooking times work, by the time you've microwaved enough potatoes for 6 people, you would be better off doing them the traditional way in the oven, but for a small household, they are brilliant.

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

17 comments or Leave a comment
From: arkessian Date: August 28th, 2014 09:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Definitely all of the above -- except the porridge (and I must try it for custard and sauces -- I'm hopeless at them by the traditional method). A microwave is a godsend in a small household when coupled with a freezer.

khiemtran From: khiemtran Date: August 28th, 2014 09:48 am (UTC) (Link)
We use ours almost every night for reheating leftovers. It's also a handy timesaver when I'm cooking with the wok, because I can microwave vegetables like beans or eggplant first and then quickly throw them into the wok when their turn comes around.

Edited at 2014-08-28 09:48 am (UTC)
readthisandweep From: readthisandweep Date: August 28th, 2014 10:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't have room for a microwave in my small kitchen & have never been tempted. I must have a user-friendly saucepans - they're extremely old but so easy to clean it's barely a chore. And as I'm mostly Irish - porridge in a microwave would feel like... nylon knickers!

And I like rituals. Making porridge is a ritual. I eat it every day, from a special bowl & with a hand-carved, long-handled spoon my son made for me.

I mostly steam vegetables - in the same pan - quick & easy.

I know this is contentious (what have you started, Helen?) but jacket potatoes just have to be cooked in a real oven! My cooker is a small one - an up-to-date version of the old Baby Belling, so the oven is far more economical than a conventional one.

I would never assume microwave lovers can't or don't cook from scratch - my own mother was a marvellous cook but in her older years grew to love hers - for defrosting leftovers & bread. She used to warm up her coffee in it too! Ugh!

I can see they have their uses - I'm still not convinced enough to buy one!

heleninwales From: heleninwales Date: August 28th, 2014 10:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not saying you should buy one, just that one shouldn't make assumptions based on someone owning one. Also, rituals are fine, but when you don't have time a microwave is quick and reliable

Regarding the baked potatoes, I totally agree that they are better done in a traditional oven, but when you need a meal quickly because you have been out all day at work, it makes a nice change from rice/pasta and my husband won't eat boiled potatoes, though I enjoy them, especially new potatoes with a bit of butter.
readthisandweep From: readthisandweep Date: August 28th, 2014 10:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I know you weren't suggesting I buy one! And as I said, I would never assume anything. :)

It's easy for me - I'm retired & making food rarely needs to be done when I'm tired & would rather not.

Oh yes! Pass the butter for the new potatoes! (These are two of the reasons why I couldn't eat a Paleo diet - even though I suspect it would be very good for me.)
From: arkessian Date: August 28th, 2014 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I actually have a combi-microwave, where I can cook the baked potatoes completely and get the skins crisp-ish, but I much prefer the proper oven method if I've got time and it isn't the height of summer (and I'm not fretting about the gas bill).
seaivy From: seaivy Date: August 28th, 2014 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
in the old days when i was coming home at 6 pm an cooking i had a "modern oven" that I could set to turn itself on before I got home.

This was often a life saver as sometimes I had to go to an evening meeting and would be gone before my husband got home . There were some casseroles that I could make up. all the ingredients would be "pre cooked I would put it in the oven and depending on my husband's schedule he could turn it on to warm it or the oven would turn itself on

LOL there were ways before microwaves : )
paragraphs From: paragraphs Date: August 28th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I only use my microwave these days for the quick zap - like melting butter for instance. I prefer cooking on the stove, or my little convection oven I bought after my big oven died at an untimely time - and now I love my convection oven and don't feel moved to replace the big one! But, Microwave just mostly sits there.

I also freeze bread. If I leave it out, I eat it too fast. :)
trenton22 From: trenton22 Date: August 28th, 2014 12:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Melting butter for air-popped popcorn
and reheating foods, though I am enjoying time in a microwave-free space currently.
hairmonger From: hairmonger Date: August 28th, 2014 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
You have mentioned all the reasons I have a microwave. (Except that I've never liked baked potatoes; I'm a pot-roast-with-potatoes person.) As a household of one (and one with many food allergies!) I cook things, and then reheat them until they're gone. I also freeze things to reheat for later meals.
For years I couldn't see the point to having a microwave, and then, in Raleigh, North Carolina, I moved into an apartment with a kitchen with no air-conditioning and one small window that hardly opened at all. Not letting the kitchen get hot became very important!

Mary Anne in Kentucky
From: joycemocha Date: August 28th, 2014 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Grump. I am sick and tired of purist insistence that microwaves r evil. It's elitist and arrogant and...sorry, no intention to rant about it. Leftover reheating or quick warming is a microwave strength, especially on extremely hot days when you don't want to heat up the house by using an oven, or you don't want to consume that much energy to reheat something small.
seaivy From: seaivy Date: August 28th, 2014 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
not sure if i'm elitist or just old
you get used to your own habits - they seem "right"
asakiyume From: asakiyume Date: August 28th, 2014 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep, I have a microwave, and I use it almost exclusively for heating leftovers or making porridge. It's a great money saver because it uses less electricity than the stove (our stove is electric).
queenoftheskies From: queenoftheskies Date: August 28th, 2014 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those are some great points.

I rarely use it to cook with. My kids do. I use it mostly for warming up leftover items I've cooked using the stove/oven.

Oh, and making tea. :)
julesjones From: julesjones Date: August 28th, 2014 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
All of the above. For eample, tonight's meal was home-cooked risotto made with home-made chicken stock and the remains of the roast chicken that also contributed to the stock, followed by blakcberries I picked along the railway line, served with clotted cream. All from the freezer, reheated in the microwave.

And one more reason. I didn't have a microwave for years, because I had a small kitchen. I finally got my first one, an expensive programmable one, 6 months before I completely lost my short term memory thanks to medication side-effects. Without that microwave I would have had very few hot meals over the following six months, because it was almost impossible for me to cook safely with the stove. When you can turn away from the stove to get something out of the drawer *and forget that you were cooking* in the few seconds it takes to open the drawer, the stove isn't safe. I could just about manage one cooking session at the weekend, and then reheat portions during the week, in the microwave I could programme and know it would turn itself off without burning the food or boiling it dry.
seaivy From: seaivy Date: August 29th, 2014 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
uuuummmm yummy dinner!

microwaves can be a handy supplement
(and a life saver)

but they really shouldn't be a substitute for basic cooking skills
kaishin108 From: kaishin108 Date: August 29th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)
We freeze bread too, but I usually just toast it when I take it out of the freezer.
The microwave has helped me loose weight lately as I use it for my tortilla wraps and it keeps me frome sauteing food which is close to frying food for me.
17 comments or Leave a comment