5 Unexpected Dishes to Make in the Microwave

Plus, three tips for simple microwave cooking.

Microwave cooking is on the rise. From snacks to sticky rice, you can make just about anything in the microwave. The release of smarter, slicker appliances and chic microwave-friendly dishware prove that microwaves can do more than just reheat yesterday's meal.

While steamed vegetables and perfectly cooked rice might already be on your radar, below are some brave new options to try at home.

opening microwave door
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Sarah Long, the author of the new book College Cooking 101: Fast Food Without a Kitchen, loves using the microwave to make small portions of meatloaf, by placing meatloaf mixture in a microwave-safe mug and covering it with wax paper. Long starts to check for doneness around the 2.5-minute mark. "I take a knife and slice the middle so I can see if it's pink, and when I think it's done I will slice it all the way through to make sure it's completely cooked," she says. "Watching it closely helps you to not under or overcook it, but the 'babysitting' is worth it. It's still way quicker than the oven!"

Recipe: Mom's Meatloaf


Let the pandemic-purchased bread machine rest for a minute, and try making bread in the microwave instead. Seema Shenoy, the founder of the microwave-friendly Omnipan, suggests using a low-protein flour, such as bleached flour for this mission, "Bleached flour contains less protein, which works well for microwave-baked bread," Shenoy says, adding that the final product might not have the crust or coloration of a traditional loaf, but its airy and fluffy texture will win you over. "You can use a regular bread recipe, but replace oil with butter for better flavor," she says. "Add the butter, yeast, sugar, and salt to warm water before combining it with flour. And use a microwave-safe container."

According to Shenoy, bread can be baked in the microwave on high for four minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread is 200°F. To check for readiness, you can insert a knife into the middle; if it doesn't doesn't come out clean, continue to microwave further in 30-second intervals.

Recipe: Basic Bread Dough

Beef Jerky

Using the microwave to make beef jerky helps cut marinating and drying time to about three hours.

Recipe: Microwaved Chile-Lime-Ginger Beef Jerky

Poached eggs

"Most people would never think to poach eggs in the microwave, but it's the fastest, easiest, most consistent way to cook them," says Steph Chen, the founder of the microwave cooking brand Anyday. '"Once you find the perfect cook time for your microwave wattage, your poached egg will come out that way every single time, and you might never poach eggs on the stove again." Chen suggests putting a 1/2 cup of water in a microwave-safe mug or bowl and cracking in one egg, making sure that the egg is fully submerged. Microwave for 40 seconds to one minute or until the egg yolk is done to your liking.

Recipe: Parmesan Asparagus with Poached Eggs

Sponge Cakes

Rather than using traditional leavening agents to make his microwaved sponge cake, Richard Blais employs a siphon to add air to batter. Once the batter is squirted into paper cups, the cake takes just 45 seconds to cook inside the microwave.

Recipe: Brown Butter Sponge Cakes

And some general tips for microwave cooking:

Adjust for size

"Most microwave recipes use cook times with a standard 1000-1200 watt unit," says Long. "A smaller microwave will mean lower wattage and may take longer to cook. Add cooking time in 15-20 second intervals to make sure it is cooked thoroughly."

Master the steam

According to Chen, "you want to keep as much steam as possible inside the dish, while allowing the excess steam to release, so pressure doesn't build." This can be done by using a lid that comes with vents.

Study your microwave

Microwave cooking does need some getting used to, so make sure to pay close attention to your microwave's cooking times and power levels. "Every microwave has the ability to change power levels, and you should spend some time getting to know yours." says Chen.

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