Matthew Fairman is a longtime Cook's Country test cook who has cooked in many restaurants and taught college literature and writing. Have a food-related question for Matthew? Fill out this form.
Ask Matthew: Do I Need a Microwave?
A lot of your recipes call for a microwave, but I don't have one; any strategies for getting around that?
– Mike Roe, Waveland, Mississippi
My dear, Mike.
I’ll get to your question about strategies for circumventing a microwave shortly; I promise. But first, I just need to step onto this big soapbox of mine.
While I’m up here, I’m reminded of a story. I won’t name names, but I’ve got a couple editors here who often ask me this very question (so you’re in good company, because they are legitimate food experts).
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Like when I was developing my just-published Salmon Teriyaki Poke recipe and called for making a quick teriyaki sauce in the microwave. It’s unbearably fast and easy; you just stir together a mixture of mainly soy sauce with smaller amounts of mirin, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a bowl (the one you were already going to use for the poke) and zap it until steaming, 30 to 60 seconds. That’s it. Voila! Teriyaki sauce. Not only delicious on that salmon poke but great for your favorite cut of meat destined for the grill.
But the (perfectly reasonable) question from my editors came nonetheless: “What if I don’t have a microwave?”
To them I say this: Buy yourself a microwave already! Lay down your burden of toil and embrace the easy life that awaits you. Microwaves are extraordinarily efficient, completely safe (as long as you heat your food in microwave-safe containers), and they have a never-ending list of uses. That said, as an enterprising cook you could put the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat for a few minutes.
Want to dehydrate lemon zest in minutes for homemade Lemon Pepper Wings? Easy; just spread it on a plate in that microwave and stir once over 2 to 3 minutes! Without a microwave, you could dehydrate the lemon zest by spreading it out on parchment paper in a low oven for about 20 minutes.
Do you have pebbly, leftover rice in need of instant revitalization? Spritz it with water, lay over a damp paper towel, and two minutes of microwaving later, that rice is alive again. Sans nuke box, you could put your leftover rice and a splash of water in a tightly covered pot (preferably nonstick) and heat it slowly on the stove.
Would you like to make fast, one-bowl, bright green, crisp-tender steamed broccoli to go with that batch of Orange Chicken you’re going to whip up? The microwave makes quick work of this, yes, but so does a steamer basket set over some boiling water in a pot.
Bottom line: If you cook often and value efficiency, the microwave deserves a spot in your basic kitchen tool kit. But smart cooks can usually find a workaround.
So take care of yourself, Mike, and get yourself a microwave. Happy cooking!