save time and energy on food prep with a microwave oven

A collection of time-saving uses for a microwave for food preparation

Tip: when you have more stuff to heat, or the food is on a plate, give it a further blast of microwave.

warm your plates in the microwave

Take the chill off a couple of plates by giving them 60 seconds in the microwave. Cook for a further minute to get the plates hot.  

freshen up a slice of bread, a bagel, scone, Stollen slice, waffle or doughnut

No need for a plate: microwave a bagel or doughnut for 5 or 10 seconds and if it’s not too old it will become moist and lovely again. Optionally let it cool and it’ll be great in few minutes – but eat it soon.

Microwave a ready-made waffle for 20 seconds, then pour over some maple syrup or sprinkle some sugar as it cools. Eat soon.

The same trick works for Krispy Kreme doughnuts – as by midnight these doughnuts are past their best. For longer storage I’ll wrap a Krispy Kreme doughnut in foil and freeze it. When needed allow the doughnut to thaw and then microwave it for 10 seconds and let it cool for 5 minutes.

soften a lemon or soften garlic to squeeze or peel it

microwave a lemon for 20 seconds to make it easier to squeeze. microwave garlic for 20 seconds to make it easier to remove the outer peel.

soften butter or ice cream or chocolate

microwave butter for 10 seconds to make it easier to spread. microwave ice cream for 10 seconds to make it easier to spoon from the container. For smaller portions 5 seconds microwaving may be enough. 

defrost a frozen slice of bread (~100g or 4oz)

Panasonic microwave ovens have a Chaos Defrost feature which does a great job with frozen food. The procedure is press Chaos Defrost > press down / up arrow once (to set the weight to 100g) > Press Start and a time of ~45 seconds will show. Defrosting will begin and stop; turn the roll over and press start again. Allow to cool. Read the manual to see how to use Chaos Defrost with some frozen food item you use a lot.

roast a bulb of garlic

wrap a garlic bulb and a sprinkle of salt with cling film and microwave for 8 minutes. 

dissolve honey that has crystallised

if your honey is no longer runny, open the container and microwave the honey for a minute – do this in 30 second blasts if the container is plastic.

poach an egg

crack an egg into a cereal bowl containing boiling water. Lightly prick the yolk with a fork and then cover with film to reduce the chance of an egg explosion. Microwave for 30 seconds. Flip the egg over and microwave for 20 seconds more.

fry a rasher of bacon for a BLT sandwich

place the bacon on a plate, cover with piece of paper towel and microwave for 90 to 120 seconds.

faster soak lentils, chickpeas and red beans

tip pulses into a pyrex bowl and cover with hot or cold water. Microwave for 10 minutes* and then leave in the oven – ie forget about them as they cook through. *Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda and/or salt at the start to help soften the beans (it helps to break down the pectin coat in the beans). 

fast cook rice

for 2-3 portions of rice, tip one mugful of rice and a teaspoon of salt into a pyrex bowl and cover with two mugs of hot or boiling water. Microwave for 10 minutes and then leave in the oven – ie forget about it as it cooks through. For pilau-style colour add a drop each of red and yellow colouring on the cooked rice – leave and use a fork to mix the coloured rice. 

no saucepan mess quick porridge

for one portion of porridge, tip one teacup* of porridge, and a pinch of salt into a bowl – use one with a wide brim to catch any bubbling over. Cover with two teacups of hot or boiling water and microwave for 5 minutes. Leave for a couple of minutes to cook through.

*One portion in a small teacup is about 40g porridge. Use a mug as a measure for two portions.

add crunch to soggy potato crisps

microwave potato crisps, covered with a paper towel to remove moisture, for 30 seconds. The crisps will crisp up when cool – or blast them once more.

toast nuts, seeds and spices

If a recipe suggests roasting nuts or coriander seeds in a skillet before using them – instead nuke them in a microwave for 30 seconds or so to bring out their flavour.  

save energy making baked potatoes

prick the potato with a fork and microwave on the turntable for 4 minutes. Test and turn the potato over and microwave for 4 minutes more. 

remove a sticky label or stamps from an envelope or container

microwave an envelope for 10 to 30 seconds and the glue should soften enough to peel off a sticky label or stamp. If that doesn’t work it sprinkle some water on the stamp and then microwave it. 

BTW: You can blacken your address on an Amazon label by heating it for a few seconds over a flame (heat with gas hob, cigarette lighter or microwave).

fast melted cheese on toast

Toast a slice of bread in the toaster. Meanwhile cut as much cheese as you’d use to cover the bread, put that in a very small bowl and microwave it for 20-30 seconds or until it’s mostly melted. Stir and spread the melted cheese on the toast. Watch here:

make a chocolate cake in a mug

This recipe is as yet untried. First mix the dry ingredients together in a large mug and then mix in the oil, vanilla and milk. Microwave for 90 seconds and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Some recipes include an egg but try without. 

  • 3 tablespoons self raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 3 tablespoons milk 
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • If desired include a pinch of salt + drops of vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 egg (optional as it’s not specified in the recipe I selected)

tip: to help find the cooking time from ready meal instructions, find your microwave power rating and write this inside the door

peanut butter & jam brownie

This recipe is as yet untried by me. Microwave butter and peanut butter for 30 secs to melt. Stir and cool before stirring in an egg. Line a dish (15cm wide and greased) with cling film. Tip in the peanut butter mix then add cocoa powder, flour and sugar. Mix to a thick paste and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.

Use a teaspoon, to make holes in the brownie mixture and overfill each hole with jam. Microwave for 3-4 mins and allow to cool for 15 mins. See peanut butter & jam brownies

  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 50g peanut butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • a teaspoon or more of jam

coffee & walnut cake

This recipe is as yet untried by me. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Continue beating as you add the eggs, flour and instant coffee powder. Add walnuts to the batter and transfer to a dish and microwave for 2 mins. Reduce the power and cook for 2 more mins. Check to see if the cake has risen and springs back when touched. If not, zap for 1 min at a time until the cake is cooked. Allow to cool. See coffee and walnut cake

  • 85g butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee 
  • walnut pieces (optional)

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