Microwaves—almost every household has one, but we’d venture to say that most haven’t tapped into the full potential of this commonplace kitchen appliance. If your microwave is only tasked with heating up leftovers and premade dinners, then you’re missing out.
How do microwave ovens work?
Before we get into all the neat things your microwave is capable of, let’s first explain how it works. The magnetron is the driving force behind the microwave. The magnetron, which is made of a vacuum tube and two magnets, emits the microwaves that reheat your leftovers for you. Every time you press start, the waves enter the oven’s inner chamber and travel across your food. As they pass, they make the water molecules present in the food vibrate, and the movement releases energy in the form of heat, cooking what’s inside from the inside out.
Tips to get the most out of your microwave oven
Dry some herbs
If you have an abundance of fresh herbs in your garden, then you can preserve them by drying them in the microwave. Wash them thoroughly and pat them dry. Then, take a few sprigs, place them between two sheets of paper towels, and heat them in the microwave for two to three minutes on high power. If you think they need more drying, then add 30 seconds to the time. Once they’re done and you’ve let them cool down, break the leaves with your fingers and store them in an airtight container.
Get up to the last drop of citrus juice
Zapping your oranges or lemons in the microwave for 20 seconds will help soften the juice-holding membranes, so you’ll get more juice when you squeeze them compared with room-temperature fruit.
There’s no need to shed tears over a cutting board of chopped onions. Just pop your onions in the microwave for 45 seconds and the chemical irritant that onions release (called syn-propanethial-S-oxide) will be neutralized.
No knife needed
Instead of smashing garlic cloves with the side of a knife to peel them, just throw them in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds and the steam produced from the heat will help separate the skin from the flesh of the clove.
You can also do this with tomatoes. First, wash them and cut an X shape with the tip of a sharp knife on the non-stem side of the fruit. Microwave for 3 to 5 seconds and the skin will fall off easily when you pull on the corners of the X.
Solo dining experiences
If you live alone, then you don’t need to bake a full cake if you’re craving something sweet. Microwave mug cakes are just the right amount for one and have much less prep time than making a conventional cake in a conventional oven.
If you’re not much of a sweet tooth, then make a tasty potato snack. First, poke the potatoes with a fork to prevent them from exploding, then place them in a microwave-safe glass bowl with some olive oil, salt, some dried herbs (perhaps from the batch you made in the microwave beforehand), and whatever else you want to add. Then, heat them up for five minutes on high power and turn them over and do another five-minute round. Just be careful when handling the bowl, because it’ll definitely be hot!
Double-duty paper towel
This trick serves the purpose of keeping your microwave clean and keeping your food from drying out. First, dampen a paper towel with water and then cover your dish with it before heating it up. This will keep the food from splattering all over the inside of the microwave oven, and the dampness will allow the food to cook more evenly.
Keep your microwave oven clean
We’ve probably all been disgusted by the inside of a microwave that hasn’t been wiped down in a while. The good news is that you don’t need to put too much effort into scrubbing down the gross food splatters if you know the right trick.
Simply slice a lemon in half and squirt the juice into a microwave-safe bowl with an inch of water in it. Then place the lemon halves in the bowl, ensuring they’re not submerged in water, and microwave them for three minutes on high power, or until you notice the water boiling. When the microwave beeps, leave the bowl inside so the lemon-infused steam can get to every nook and cranny of your microwave, loosening any food gunk. After five minutes, remove the bowl and use a clean cloth to easily wipe the inside clean.