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We are swearing off our microwave for our own personal reasons. Aside from running the oven to warm up leftovers are there other appliances or cookware that use less energy to warm food up? We use a toaster oven for some things but it's not practical for everything.

Example: I want to warm up leftover roast and potatoes. The large oven seems like overkill to me. The toaster oven seems to re-cook things and overdo it, or might just be too small. What else could be used to warm that up?

  • I have trouble understanding the question. A microwave is in itself a substitute for more traditional ways of heating food, and does a worse job of it, with one trump: convenience (e.g. you don't need a separate pot to warm your milk, you can warm it in the mug). What would count as a substitute for you? Are you looking for something with the same level of convenience (I don't think it exists at all)? If not, why is not the standard method the substitute? – rumtscho Mar 6 '16 at 13:07
  • @rumtscho I realize that I wont find a one size fits all. We will warm soups in a pot. But things like leftover roast can't be done that way and warming the oven seems like a huge waste of energy. Do they make smaller more efficient countertop ovens for warming smaller amounts of food or something else that would accomplish this? I realize I'll have extra dishes. – NKY Homesteading Mar 6 '16 at 13:13
  • I suggest planning around leftovers that can be stirred while reheating on the hob (anything in sauce really). This might mean cutting up the leftover roast to make a curry, for example. This sort of thing (also pies) was traditional before microwaves. In fact tracking down some books from before microwaves are commonplace might be helpful. – Chris H Mar 6 '16 at 14:56
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    Can you give examples of things that aren't practical in the toaster oven or in a pot on the stove? You say the toaster oven isn't practical for everything, but your given example (roast and potatoes) seems like a perfect use for it. And then in a comment you ask "do they make smaller more efficient countertop ovens" which kind of suggests you don't actually have a toaster oven? – Cascabel Mar 6 '16 at 19:41
  • @Jefromi The toaster oven I have might just be too small. It also seems to re-cook things and over do it. I like the idea from one of the answers below about a bamboo steamer though. We bought about 7 acres of woodland and are going back to an simpler way of life. Funny how you forget how to do things when you've been raised on modern conveniences. – NKY Homesteading Mar 7 '16 at 13:54
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We are in a similar situation, while the house gets remodelled we didn't want to buy another one. The microwave we have is the combination microwave and exhaust fan model that's 10 years old, which can't be moved out without a lot of thought.

But we find that it is a rather indispensable modern workhorse for reheating leftovers. As long as the foods you are reheating have some kind of water/moisture it will reheat in the microwave very well.

This being said, we have gone to using a pot and some bamboo steamers on the stove top to reheat most if not all of our leftovers. The steamer is pretty quick if you have an induction cooktop, which boils water extremely fast. We can reheat several things at a time, by adding more steamer baskets. The bamboo keeps excess water condensation from dripping on your food, so no need to really cover it with anything. It reconstitutes dried out food more moist and it doesn't overheat it.

But it doesn't work well when you want something crisp and warm. For this we use a convection toaster over, with the door slightly open. We find that our particular oven gets really hot even with the convection fan running it tends to just burn things. So having the door slightly open keeps the food from burning but still heats up.

We might also heat up a pizza slice on a cast iron grill or pan with a lid or a sheet of aluminium foil on top to keep the heat in. Also keeps any splatters inside.

As for your particular foods, roast and potatoes. I might try cutting it into smaller pieces and start with the steamer and then putting it in the toaster over just to crisp up the skin. As for the potatoes I guess it would depend on how they are prepared. But I think the combination of wet heat and dry heat will reheat nearly anything you got.

But I do think that the microwave is a pretty ingenious way to reheat food.

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When you don't have a microwave, it might actually be easier to convert a given meal into something else -- for instance, your example of a roast and potatoes:

  • If you cut it up, added a liquid and some other vegetables (carrots, onions, green beans), you could very easily turn that into a soup or stew by simmering it on the stovetop.
  • Cut it up, and add it to a pan with onions, bell peppers and maybe a few eggs and you have a hash.
  • Depending on the state of the potatoes, you could turn them into a potato salad that wouldn't need reheating ... and then serve it as a side with roast beef sandwiches.

Many things can be converted in casseroles and baked. Quiche and frittatas are well known ways to use up whatever leftovers you might have in your fridge.

... so don't think you of your food as leftovers that must stay in that same state to be served (as you would with microwaving) -- consider how they could be an ingredient to make something else.

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Nothing is going to replace the speed and convenience of a microwave. You will just have to plan your life a little differently. The oven and toaster oven that you mention will be best (what did people do before the microwave?), but a couple of ideas come to mind...though neither will be as practical as the microwave. There are various models of solar oven, which, of course would save on energy, but would be less reliable and could only be used at certain times. Secondly, you could use an immersion circulator and water bath (sous vide), which does a nice job of warming leftovers, but I am not sure how it compares to a microwave for energy efficiency, especially because you would have to run it longer. Finally, there are a variety of combi-ovens on the market...some home counter top models, though most are quite expensive.

  • OK. Not worried about speed. Just looking for alternatives to cranking up a huge oven. This is helpful. – NKY Homesteading Mar 6 '16 at 13:16
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I would get a counter top convection oven. They can come as large as your microwave, so it can do tasks the toaster oven cannot. Or, if you're in the mood for an entire new range: some have convections as well.

Convection ovens use less energy, cook faster and result in great product (the swirling air browns nicely, and baked products all brown at the same rate).

Side note: if you were using microwave popcorn, check this out: Alton Brown Stove Popcorn. It's very good.

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Just place your food in pan, add a bit of water, low heat and cover it with lid. Depending on the food - this may take 3-5 min. You may need to add bit more water but with time you will get the right amount each time. It is the fastest way without burning food. Good luck! ;)

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