Zap your garlic.

By Clarissa Buch
Updated February 12, 2020
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Most chefs will never admit to using a microwave, especially when they're cooking professionally. In fact, almost every chef we reached out to for this story made a point to say that their restaurants don’t even have microwaves on-site. But what goes on inside their homes is a different story.

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We asked some of our favorite chefs, including Judy Joo, Vijayudu Veena, and Richard Hales, about which foods they zap. Below, find all the unexpected items, from garlic to fresh herbs, that chefs always put in their home microwaves.

Fresh herbs

If you throw fresh herbs in the microwave, they dry up fairly quickly. They can be blended into herb powders and sprinkled on dishes.” — Brian Nasajon, chef and restaurateur

Garlic

“I use the microwave to roast garlic. It makes the process so much quicker. I also use the microwave to juice lemons and limes as well. Two minutes in the microwave and they juice like crazy!” — Deborah VanTrece, chef-owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours

Grilled cheese sandwiches

"The microwave can really be a great tool in the kitchen, especially when it comes to one of my favorite things on Earth: a classic grilled cheese. I’m not talking about a fancy brie and apple sandwich. I mean white bread, butter, and American cheese. I make that sandwich and microwave just until the cheese melts and then cook it in butter in a hot pan. You get a grilled cheese sandwich in a matter of two minutes that would normally take much longer." — Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef, restaurateur, and Chopped winner

Old pasta 

To recreate the way we execute pasta in a restaurant, I microwave old, cooked pasta while I heat tomato sauce in a pan with butter. There’s something about hot pasta being tossed in a pan with a warm sauce that makes all the difference.” — Christopher Li, executive chef at Scarpetta by Scott Conant

Asparagus

“I always microwave my asparagus with a touch of water olive oil and sea salt lightly sprinkled. The taste is extra special. No mess and zero nutrients lost because you didn’t steam or boil them.” — Geoffrey Zakarian, chef/partner of Point Royal and The Lambs Club

Milk 

“Milk for my cereal. I've been doing it for about ten years now. My son, Jonathan, always use to do it when he was little and as much as I hated it then, I find myself doing it now.” — Eddie Donoso, chef at 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen

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Cheese

"I don’t really use a microwave, but I do think they work well for melting cheeses for queso and those kinds of things." — Anne Burrell, chef and television personality

Birthday cake

“I reheat tea or coffee, and occasionally birthday cake. Otherwise I have no idea how to use the microwave.” — Hedy Goldsmith, executive chef of Verde at the Perez Art Museum Miami

Artichokes

“Trim a jumbo artichoke, wrap it in about three to four layers of plastic wrap, then nuke on high for 10 minutes. Rest for five minutes, then serve with the best butter you can find, barely melted with fresh lemon juice and sea salt. Pick the leaves, dip, and scrape. When you are done with the leaves, cut out the heart and smash it with the leftover lemon butter and serve spooned on crackers.  Delicious and a party favorite. Also, it saves 45 minutes of steaming time and the results are always perfect.” — Anthony Carron, chef and founder of 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen

Bacon 

“The only time I use the microwave is for bacon during breakfast while I cook eggs or assemble other things, such as popcorn or cheese dip for snacking, or leftovers when I get home after a long shift. We don't have a microwave at the restaurant, but one of the most interesting things I've seen microwaved are herbs for dehydrating and making into powders.” — Christopher Hathcock, executive chef at Husk Savannah

Basically any vegetable

“I really like to steam vegetables in the microwave because it keeps their shape, flavor, color, and nutrients intact (versus steaming with water).” — Vijayudu Veena, executive chef at Jaya at The Setai 

Sponge cake 

“I don’t really use the microwave to cook often, but I do use it to make this sponge cake. I learned how to make it when I was working at the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires. We used to serve a 'deconstructed tiramisu,' which was amazing. We would make a vanilla microwave sponge cake, instead of the traditional ladyfingers, and serve it with a coffee crème anglaise. It was delicious.” — Pablo Lamon, Top Chef alum and executive chef at Nativo Kitchen & Bar

Oatmeal

“Microwavable oatmeal in the morning for sure is my favorite way to start the morning. I add some peanut butter to it and call it a day.” — Jean Delgado, executive chef at Toro Toro Miami  

Blinis and parsley

“We microwave blinis for caviar service. It’s the best way to heat them up quick while still keeping them moist and fluffy. We also play around with frying up herbs, such as parsley, for garnishes in the microwave. For example, parsley leaves will stay completely flat, crispy, and almost translucent when microwaved.” — Edgar Beas, executive chef at DUNE at Auberge Beach

Starchy root vegetables, like potatoes or carrots

“When I am in a cooking competition, the microwave is a time saver.  Starchy root vegetables that typically take up to an hour to get soft take about 15 minutes or less in the microwave. Put a cup or so of water in a bowl, add the starchy vegetable, and cover in plastic wrap. Once done, throw in the pan, fryer, grill, or oven to crisp and you are good to go.” — Richard Hales, chef and restaurateur  

Spinach

“I like to cook spinach in the microwave. The leaves only wilt slightly, and they don’t give off water. It tastes much fresher than traditional wilted spinach.” — Bruce Moffett, founder-chef of Barrington's, Good Food on Montford, NC + Red, Bao and Broth, and Stagioni

Bread pudding

“I try to limit microwave usage as much as possible, especially at our restaurants. The only things that we really microwave are dessert items such as our white chocolate bread pudding because let’s face it — who doesn’t love a warm dessert?  We also warm up our sticky toffee pudding in the microwave and then top it off with smoked whipped cream.” — Ed Geyfman, executive chef at Longboat Key Club

Brown sugar

“Microwaving chocolate is good for gentle, even melting. And hardened brown sugar can be softened quickly in the microwave — just about 30 seconds and it’s restored.” — Judy Joo, chef, author, and television personality