In the era of Slow Food and de-cluttered kitchens, the humble microwave oven has been rendered somewhat déclassé and is being phased out in many households. This isn’t to say that microwaves are at risk of going the way of the Walkman anytime soon, but many folks seem to be getting along just fine without them.
If you haven’t prepared a Hungry-Man dinner in more than 15 years, you pop popcorn the “old-fashioned” way and are considering pawning off a seldom-used microwave on a friend, you might want to think twice. There are numerous ways to get the most out of your microwave — which, by the way, are significantly more efficient and cost-effective than traditional full-sized ovens. Here are six of them:
1. Bread, fresh from the microwave: MNN food blogger Robin Shreeves has an idea for those who enjoy fresh bakery bread and rolls with dinner but don’t have the countertop space for a proper breadbox: just stash it in the microwave until you’re ready to eat it. When the door is closed, a microwave is airtight so your baked goods will stay nice and fresh … just don’t forget them in there. This microwave-as-a-breadbox trick can also be applied to foods that need to kept fresh, don’t need refrigeration and that you don’t want cluttering your countertop.
2. The mighty germ-killing sponge-saver: Many of us have a tendency to go through kitchen sponges and scrubbers somewhat frequently — given that after several uses they can start looking/smelling a bit funky as they mutate from useful cleaning tool into filthy germ hotel. Instead of tossing a perfectly good sponge that still has some life in it — doing this can be a burden on both the environment and your pocketbook — simply wet it so it doesn’t become a fire hazard and toss it in the microwave for a minute or two. “Sponge Zapping,” as its known, will sanitize the sponge, killing 99 percent of bacteria living on it.
3. A home spa accessory … in the kitchen: Long considered a must-have tool for those who enjoy luxurious at-home pampering, a microwave can be used to warm facial masks, wraps, creams, lotions, hot oil conditioning packs and waxes. And if you’re looking for quick relief from what ails you, there’s no better (or faster) way to heat up a gel pack than popping it in the microwave.
4. A citrus squeezer’s best friend: Squeezing a lemon or lime for cooking or cocktail purposes can often provide lackluster results, especially if it’s been sitting in a refrigerator. Warm citrus fruits in a microwave for 20 seconds for more juicy results and a nice little blast of natural, citrus-y air in your kitchen.
5. Crafty Crayola creations: Households with artistically inclined children tend to go through a fair number of crayons. When crayons are broken, mostly used up or neglected, they usually meet an untimely end in the garbage can. However, after a quick reheating in the microwave (be sure to strip crayons of paper and place them in a microwave-safe container) melted crayon wax can live on in the form of recycled crayon creations. After melting, pour the wax into candy molds or ice cube trays and pop in the freezer. “Chunky” homemade crayon-making is a great way to get kids hooked on DIY, but just make sure you’re around to supervise and operate “the melter” as the wax can get very hot.
6. Non-reheated culinary delights: In many households, microwaves are primarily dedicated to reheating leftovers and making nachos. However, there are myriad ways to put a microwave to good use and create delicious, healthy meals. Some of these creations might surprise even the most jaded foodies: Steamed vegetables, toasted nuts and breadcrumbs, cooked bacon, roasted garlic, poached fish and baked potatoes can all be enjoyed in dramatically less time than it would take to prepare them by firing up the oven or boiling water.