This post is a companion to the article: 10 Reasons to Get Rid of Your Microwave. In this second article I offer you alternatives to microwave cooking. You can live without a microwave. I encourage you to read on to find better ways of preparing your food.
The Tough Love
- Buy real food and cook it the old-fashioned way in a conventional oven or on the stovetop. Reheat food using the same conventional methods. Just do it.
- If you really don’t have time to spare, try a convection oven. They are usually gas or electric ovens that are equipped with a fan that circulates and intensifies the heat. They cut normal cooking time down tremendously and save you time.
- Go the opposite route and try a slow-cooker. Set the meal up early in the day and let the slow cooker do its magic. By dinner you have a luscious slow-cooked meal.
Many people like the convenience of defrosting foods in the microwave. While they are quick, microwave ovens usually defrost foods unevenly. Oftentimes, you will end up with part of the food cooking around the edges and the rest still cold or frozen.
For example, have you ever tried to defrost a frozen chicken breast and found the edges turning white because the thin parts cook faster? Yet the thicker middle remains frozen.
In a perfect world you would plan ahead and defrost your chicken in the refrigerator overnight. But I know how easy it is to forget to do this. I found an alternative method that is very effective. You can defrost food easily in a bowl of room-temperature water.
For example, when I want to make chicken for dinner but realize I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer, I put the package of chicken (in a zip-lock baggie) into a pot filled with room-temperature water (not warm, not cold) and it thaws in anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on the size of the chicken. You may have to swap out the water a couple of times as the frozen chicken will make the water cold. But you don’t have to think up an alternative dinner just because you forgot to remove the chicken or steak or pork or whatever meat from the freezer.
Microwave popcorn is easy and convenient, but we’ve already told you the dangers that lurk within the lining of the bag. It’s easy to make your own popcorn on the stovetop. It takes 2 minutes longer than the microwave method. You have 2 minutes, don’t you?
Simply put dry popcorn kernels into a pot with a little canola oil, avocado oil, or olive oil. Heat on the stovetop on high. Cover the pot and wait for it to pop. Try it. Take a 1/4 cup of kernels and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil for a single serving.
I used to put butter in the microwave on defrost for 15 seconds to soften it and make it easier to spread onto toast. Without a microwave, I realized you only have to leave butter out for a few minutes to get the same effect. If you are baking and need to soften a whole stick of butter, you can leave it out overnight. It won’t spoil.
Some refrigerators are equipped with compartments that keep butter soft always. If you don’t have that, all it really takes is a little preplanning.
If you need to melt butter, you can do it in a pan on the stovetop. It melts more evenly than in the microwave. It’s very easy to boil butter in a microwave and that spoils it.
I never knew how to cook vegetables, so my default was always to pop them in the microwave to “steam” them. But as we discussed, this zaps the vegetables of their nutrition. But then I watched an old Julia Child video where she cooked green beans. She put the beans in a small amount of water to boil them for a few minutes, and then she plunged them into ice-cold water. This stops the cooking process and keeps their bright green color.
You can do this in advance. When you are ready to use them, put them into a frying pan with a little butter and salt, perhaps some garlic, and voila you have professional-quality green beans like in a French restaurant.
For vegetables like broccoli, you can buy a steamer insert that fits into a pot. Add a small amount of water in the bottom of the pot, put a lid on top, and the steamer keeps the vegetables out of the water but allows the steam to cook them.
Another tasty and super-quick way to cook broccoli is to cut a head into florets, toss with a little olive oil, and spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Add salt, pepper, some garlic powder, and sprinkle on some hot red pepper flakes, or whatever is your favorite seasoning. Cook in the oven on high heat, about 400 degrees F. They’ll be done in just a few minutes, so keep your eye on them. This works well for cauliflower too.
My point is that vegetables don’t take long to cook, just a few minutes. There is no need to make them in a microwave oven.
I encourage you to seek out vegetable recipes online or in my cookbook, The Big Book of Mediterranean Diet Cooking, to learn the best ways to bring out their flavors while benefitting from their full nutrition.
I hope you enjoyed this list of alternatives to microwave cooking. To read part one of this microwave series, click here: 10 Reasons to Get Rid of Your Microwave.