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Or, "What is a microwave actually GOOD at cooking?"

Edit: This is not about saving labour. It's about a microwave being a unique and interesting cooking method, that has to be good for something.

I'm not interested in "Almost as good" I'm interested in indistinguishable or better.

Part of that indistinguishable could, of course, be labour saving, as in pre-cooking a baked potato.

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closed as not constructive by derobert, Mien, SAJ14SAJ, Jefromi, mfg Feb 22 '13 at 3:12

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

How 'bout a 1 food per answer limitation so it's easy to see the top few? –  Tim Lytle Sep 3 '10 at 16:00
@Tim: The whole 1 per answer is actually discouraged. This site isn't meant for polls. In particular it doesn't scale well. –  hobodave Sep 3 '10 at 16:08
I would be interested in attempting to salvage this question; it seems somewhat answerable without endless lists, in terms of "what kinds of cooking techniques is the microwave good for." I'm not sure how to deal with the existing plethora of answers, though, so maybe we can just post a reformulated version instead. –  Jefromi Feb 21 '13 at 17:46
@Jefromi I suggest that if you can figure out how to word the better version, go ahead and ask it (and answer it if possible). Then this one can be closed as a duplicate of the better version. Maybe Modernist Cuisine has some suggestions, wouldn't be surprised. –  derobert Feb 21 '13 at 20:45
@derobert I've posted an attempt at a better formulation: What kinds of cooking can be done in a microwave? - please feel free to edit and improve. The existing close votes are all "not constructive", unfortunately including mine, so I'm not sure how to actually close this as a duplicate, though. –  Jefromi Feb 21 '13 at 22:52

12 Answers 12

Melting chocolate and butter.

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Much, much easier than a double boiler. –  Adele C Jul 31 '12 at 2:15
If you have a reasonably subtle hob, you can just do it in a pan over the hob. If you haven't got one, its worth investing. –  Francis Davey Jul 31 '12 at 9:54

I use a microwave to:

  • steam some vegetables (broccoli, for instance)
  • heat water
  • start a potato so that baking is considerably faster
  • reheat already prepared food

But that's about it. The microwave is definitely the least used item in our kitchen.

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It actually is pretty good at steaming vegetables. –  Chris Cudmore Sep 3 '10 at 15:13
+1 for 'start a potato...'- the one thing I miss in not having a microwave. –  Tom Boardman Sep 4 '10 at 16:41
+1 for steaming vegetables. It also works really well on cauliflower. –  Taeraresh Sep 5 '10 at 13:58

A lot of people in England like steam puddings (like spotted dick and christmas pudding). Before the microwave, you had to steam them which was a real fuss. They're just as good in a microwave (and a lot less messy).

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It is certainly true that the kind of tinned steamed puddings you could buy in shops were much easier to cook in a microwave and with absolutely no detectable change in quality. In my experience quality was more reliable and so the microwave was better. I'm less sure about spotted dick etc, but I very rarely have time to steam nowadays so can't compare. –  Francis Davey Jul 30 '12 at 20:19
They're not quite as good as old fashioned steaming, but not bad. –  5arx Jul 31 '12 at 1:01

One of the great advantages of the microwave is that it doesn't heat up your kitchen while it's heating up your food. It's wonderful for defrosting frozen food and basic steam-cooking. (As I mentioned above, I use it for corn on the cob, and also for hot dogs sometimes.) It doesn't add flavor in the same way that other methods of cooking do, but it can change the texture of the cooked food. I wouldn't use it as a replacement for other cooking methods, but it's a good expansion of your tools since it's very good at what it does do.

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Microwave cooking is very similar to steaming, so anything that you would otherwise steam (like vegetables) is a good candidate.

I haven't tried it yet (in the microwave, anyway), but I've heard that cooking fish in cartoccio (in a parchment paper pouch) works well in a microwave, as the normal cooking process is mostly steaming.

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+1 for steaming –  David Norman Sep 3 '10 at 20:18
  • Scrambled eggs can be quite quick, just putting it in for 30 second increments, and stirring a lot in the mean time. Saves messing up a pan.-
  • Baked-beans.

That's about all I can think of.

I haven't owned one in a couple of years, and don't miss it.

Basically, I wouldn't cook anything in one. For reheating, they're pretty handy.

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I tried scrambled eggs a few times. The texture made me gag though. –  Shog9 Sep 3 '10 at 18:30

Any food where the texture is unimportant or cannot possibly get any worse than it already is. Porridge and lutfisk/lutefisk comes to mind.

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It can be very good for some kinds of rice cookery. Obviously rice is complicated and can be cooked in a number of ways, but I have had a lot of success with various pilaus cooked in a microwave. One great advantage is that the cooking is still fairly slow (so heat can properly conduct) and everything is very wet and uniform, so the absorption of the microwaves should be uniform.

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I like to use it for small portions of rice - put it in a bowl with 2x water, cover with cling film (with a small hole or two poked in it) for 10-12 minutes on defrost (or half power). You'll have to experiment to get the power level and time right for your microwave, but it's worth it if you frequently make small portions of rice. –  Steve Jul 31 '12 at 2:53

I will cook my potato chucks for gnocchi in the micro. No water added, no water to deal with. The dry result makes a better product.

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Had some corn on the cob the other night that was pretty good in the microwave. I beleive - I didn't make it - it was just covered with cling wrap then cooked for a few minutes.

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I make corn on the cob in the microwave all the time -- the texture is almost as good as boiled, and it's a lot less work. –  Martha F. Sep 3 '10 at 17:20

Ramen noodles :) 2 minutes, flip, 2 minutes gets me perfect ramen noodles every time.

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For steaming, making easy, quick but brilliant mashed potatoes and rice.

I buzz whole spuds in the microwave (skins on, just a quick rinse if they've got earth on them, no need to peel or cut). Once done I put them, whole, into a ricer and after hot milk and butter is added, have the best, fluffy mash on God's earth.

For rice, wash it and add double the volume of cold water and buzz uncovered. As Uncle Ben used to say 'perfect results every time'.

I rather like chinese style steamed chicken this way too, slices of it with ginger, soy and chilli buzzed produce together a wonderful moist texture with minimal fat (you have to skin the chicken first).

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