Cooking Tips

20 Tiny Ways Your Microwave Can Make You a Better Cook

With these techniques, you’ll promote your microwave to sous chef. 

Published Mar. 29, 2023.

Microwaves do more than just reheat food. At America’s Test Kitchen, we’ve made dozens of microwave discoveries. They can fry, dry, toast, poach . . . even bake.

Truth is, your microwave will help you become a better cook. Here are 20 surprising ways to treat your microwave like a sous chef.

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1. Forget the large pot and waiting for water to boil: Microwave your corn on the cob. Start by husking the corn and then place it on a large plate. Cover tightly and microwave on high power for 10 minutes. Leave the plate covered and let the corn stand for 3 to 4 minutes before slathering with butter.

2. Make a S’mores Mug Cake without turning on the oven.

3. Beets take forever to cook. Cut the time in half by cooking them in the microwave. (Two pounds of beets takes about 25 minutes.)

4. If you need to soften some hardened brown sugar, add a slice of bread to the bowl with the sugar and microwave it, covered, until soft, about 20 seconds.

5. Impress your guests with crispy microwaved garnishes such as capers, shallots, and olives.

6. Dry your own herbs. Place herbs on a paper towel–lined plate and microwave for 1 to 3 minutes. It’s better than the jarred stuff.

7. Adorn your dish with cheese crisps. (Or just eat them as a snack.) 

8. Afraid of using raw eggs for DIY mayonnaise? Zap your eggs in the microwave for 20 seconds to bring them to a food-safe temp before making your mayo.

9. For super crispy (not spongy or oily) eggplant, place the salted eggplant pieces on some coffee filters and dehydrate them for 10 minutes in the microwave. This dramatically reduces salting time and helps it brown better.

10. Sandwich bacon between two paper towels and microwave for 4 to 6 minutes. The result is crispy, not flabby. (And splatter-free.)

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11. Make a sophisticated, luxurious microwaved mashed butternut squash side dish in 20 minutes. 

12. Coleslaw usually takes an hour or more to make because you have to wait for the cabbage to release its liquid. Speed up that step by tossing the cabbage with some salt and sugar and microwaving it until it just starts to wilt, about 3 minutes. Let it cool slightly and then wring out the excess moisture and add the rest of your ingredients.

13. Poach an egg. Seriously. 

14. Grill potatoes in half the time by jump–starting them in the microwave for 6 minutes. 

15. Make smoked salt by microwaving kosher salt with some liquid smoke.

16. Extract the most juice (and flavor) from frozen strawberries to make a delicious Strawberry Cake

17. Don’t waste time standing over your skillet. Toast nuts in the microwave instead. 

18. Temper chocolate with ease: Microwave ¾ cup of chopped fine chocolate at 50% power until melted and then stir in an additional ¼ cup finely grated chocolate until smooth.  

19. If making caramel on the stovetop makes you nervous, use your microwave.

20. Dehydrating mushrooms in the microwave is a shortcut to savory flavor in recipes such as Mushroom Bisque. After about 12 minutes in the microwave, the shriveled mushrooms brown more efficiently in the pot, lending the soup woodsy depth more quickly. (Bonus: Because mushrooms will exude moisture even without being cut, you can microwave them whole. No prep work required.)

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