10 Unexpected Ways to Use Your Microwave

Turn off your stove and turn on your microwave to melt chocolate, toast nuts, fry shallots, and more.

Published June 17, 2019.

A microwave can do so much more than reheat leftovers. It can save time and prevent messes, all without heating up your kitchen.

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1. Toast Nuts, Coconut, Whole Spices, or Bread Crumbs

Place ingredient in shallow bowl or glass pie plate in thin, even layer. Microwave, stirring and checking color every minute. When ingredient starts to color, microwave in 30-second increments until golden brown.

2. Melt or Temper Chocolate

To melt 4 ounces chocolate: Microwave finely chopped chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes.

To temper chocolate: Place three-quarters of chocolate, chopped fine, in bowl. Microwave at 50 percent power, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted but not much warmer than body temperature, about 93 degrees. Add remaining one-quarter of chocolate, grated, and stir until smooth, microwaving for no more than 5 seconds at a time, if necessary, to finish melting.

3. Mellow Raw Garlic

Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small bowl. Microwave at full power for 15 seconds or until cloves are warm to touch but not cooked. Warming garlic prevents formation of allicin (a sulfur compound that gives raw garlic its bite). Mince or otherwise prep garlic as called for in cooked applications such as pesto, hummus, and dressings. Bonus: The quick spin in the microwave makes the cloves a cinch to peel.

4. Shuck Corn

Cut off stalk end of cob just above first row of kernels. Place up to 4 ears at a time on plate. Microwave at full power for 1 to 2 minutes or until warm to touch. Hold each ear by uncut end in 1 hand. Shake ear up and down until cob slips free. If cob doesn't slide out easily, continue microwaving in 30-second increments.

5. Dry Fresh Herbs

Place hardy herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, or marjoram) in single layer between 2 paper towels on microwave turntable. Microwave at full power for 1 to 3 minutes until leaves turn brittle and fall easily from stems—sure signs of dryness.

Not all inks used on printed paper towels are food-safe. We recommend plain paper towels without any printing for use in the microwave.

6. Dehydrate Citrus Zest

Use a vegetable peeler to remove strips of citrus zest, avoiding bitter pith. Place strips on paper towel–lined plate. Microwave at full power for 2 to 3 minutes, let cool, then store in airtight container. Steep in tea, pan sauces, custards, or cooking water for grains to add subtle citrus flavor.

7. Caramelize Sugar

Stir 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup (prevents crystallization), 2 tablespoons water, and ⅛ teaspoon lemon juice together in 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Microwave at full power until mixture is just starting to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from microwave and let measuring cup sit on dry surface until caramel darkens to rich honey brown, about 5 minutes.

To make caramel sauce: Stir ½ cup hot heavy cream into caramel a few tablespoons at a time, followed by 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and pinch salt.

8. Make an Emergency Roux

Mix 2 tablespoons flour with 2 tablespoons oil. Microwave at full power for 1½ minutes. Stir, then microwave for 45 seconds. Stir, microwave for another 45 seconds, and stir again. For darker roux, continue microwaving and stirring in 15-second increments. Stir roux, 1 tablespoon at a time, into hot stew or gravy base until desired consistency is reached.

9. Fry Shallots

Place 3 shallots, peeled and sliced thin, in medium bowl with ½ cup vegetable oil. Microwave at full power for 5 minutes. Stir, then microwave for 2 minutes. Repeat stirring and microwaving in 2-minute increments until shallots begin to brown (4 to 6 minutes), then stir and microwave in 30-second increments until shallots are deep golden (30 seconds to 2 minutes). Using slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper towel–lined plate; season with salt. Let drain and turn crisp, about 5 minutes, before serving. Sprinkle on salads and sandwiches; use cooked oil in dressing.

10. Dry Eggplant for Frying or Sautéing

This technique eliminates much of eggplant's air and moisture, allowing it to easily brown and absorb less oil during cooking. Toss cubed eggplant with salt in bowl. Line large plate with double layer of paper towels and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer on paper towels. Microwave until dry and shriveled to about one-third of original size, 8 to 15 minutes (it should not brown). Transfer immediately to paper towel–lined plate. 

Millionaire's Shortbread

We made marked improvements to each layer of Britain's triple-decker combo with a quick pat-in-pan shortbread, a caramel layer guaranteed not to break, and a shiny, snappy chocolate layer that's gently heated in the microwave to temper. 
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Crispy Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes, Herbs, and Fried Shallots

To achieve the ultimate crispy eggplant and fried shallot topping, we utilize our microwave. 
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Mexican-Style Charcoal-Grilled Corn

We grill husked corn directly on the grates over a very hot fire to achieve maximum charring without drying out the corn. To make quicker work of shucking corn, we recommend using the microwave.
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Lentil Salad with Spinach, Walnuts, and Parmesan Cheese

Creamy but firm lentils pair well with a tart vinaigrette and a bold variety of mix-ins like wilted spinach and toasted walnuts (both of which are prepared in the microwave) as well as coarsely grated Parmesan cheese.
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