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Microwaves aren’t just for reheating food. In fact, there are some pretty useful microwave hacks that can save time during your everyday tasks. How about some cooking shortcuts or a quick way to disinfect kitchen sponges?
Before we rattle off our best microwave hacks, there are a few items that should NEVER go in the microwave. First, metal and radiation aren’t friends. My young daughter learned the hard way when she forgot to take a spoon out of a bowl of soup that she wanted to heat up. You could hear the sparks before an actual fire started. Those fancy holiday plates with metal engravings shouldn’t be nuked either. The heat of the appliance combined with the reflective properties of metal could cause a fire.
Foil is obvious, but plastic should be forbidden because it can release chemicals into your food. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common chemical compound used in reusable beverage and food containers. And styrofoam can melt, which is just gross. If you have to microwave a takeout container, look for one with #5 stamped on it. This means it’s deemed safe for reheating.
Ok, enough of what not to do, here’s what to use your microwave for to make your life a tad bit easier. If you’re way overdue for a new microwave, browse our kitchen appliance deals or download the The Krazy Coupon Lady app to stay abreast of the latest sales to drop.
1. Microwave a potato for a quick “baked” one.
Baked potatoes typically take at least an hour in the oven, but a microwave can get the job done in less than 15 minutes (depending on your microwave’s strength). Thoroughly wash the potato and prick it three to four times on each side with a fork. Place it on a microwave-safe plate or bowl and cook. Most modern microwave ovens have a potato setting. Mine has a “baked potato” setting that lasts six minutes. If yours doesn’t, test tenderness at the 6-minute mark, and if it’s still firm, cook for an additional three to four minutes.
2. Toast nuts or coconut flakes in the microwave.
Zap whole, unshelled nuts in a single layer on a plate in 1-minute intervals. Toasted nuts are often needed for recipes, but I like the flavor just for snacking. In my experience, coconut flakes need more attention. Opt for 15-second intervals so it doesn’t burn.
3. Dry leftover herbs in the microwave for one minute.
Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and marjoram work best. Spread fresh herbs on a plate lined with two paper towels and cover the herbs with a towel. Zap on high for one minute, then continue microwaving in 20-second increments until the herbs are dry. Completely dried herbs will crumble when you try to bend them.
4. Heat sea salt for three minutes to use it as a compress.
When you need a DIY compress, heat coarse sea salt in a microwave-safe dish for about three minutes (longer if the salt isn’t hot after that amount of time). Fill a large white sock with the hot salt, and tie a knot with the loose end (or use a rubber band). Test the temperature of the sock by placing it on your inner wrist, then apply it to sore areas or use it as a heated ear compress. Sea salt is naturally antibacterial, and the heated salt will help draw moisture and toxins out of an infected ear.
5. Microwave soil for 90 seconds to create a sterilized environment for seedlings.
Spread soil onto a flat dish and heat on high for 60 – 90 seconds or until the soil starts to steam. You can also place the soil in a microwave-safe plastic bag with the top open. The soil should be moist, starting with two cups. Be sure there’s no metal in the soil.
So why would you microwave soil? It’s useful if you want to repurpose it from another plant, so we’re not talking about fresh soil from a home improvement store. In this sterilization method, soil-borne plant pathogens and gnats are killed, so it’s like getting a clean slate for your next plant.
6. Make it easier to remove the skin from garlic by microwaving it for 15 seconds.
Peeling garlic isn’t my favorite task, but one hack to get the skin off easily is using a microwave. Heat cloves on a microwave-safe plate for 15 seconds, then carefully peel the skin (it will be hot). The heat from the microwave causes the garlic to release steam, which helps break down the bond between the clove and the skin.
You can stick an entire bulb in the microwave if you need more garlic (or want to prep cloves ahead of time). Cut both ends of the bulb off and squeeze one side until the cloves slip out of the peel.
7. Microwave uncut citrus for 10 – 15 seconds to get more fruit juice.
Citrus fruits are a hit or miss when it comes to its juice worthiness. Zap whole oranges, limes, and lemons for 10 – 20 seconds. The heat will make it easier to squeeze out more juice.
8. Stale bread gets a second chance when you microwave it for 20 seconds.
If you have stale bagels or breads that are too chewy to enjoy, wrap pieces in a moist paper towel and microwave. The moisture will soak into the bread.
9. Microwave bacon for crispy (and quick) goodness.
If you’re in a hurry and want bacon, forget the frying pan or oven. Line a microwave-safe plate with a paper towel, lay three to four slices of bacon, then top with another paper towel. I’ve found that three minutes is the sweet spot, especially for turkey bacon. It may be blasphemous in the chef world, but it tastes mighty good and is quick.
10. Disinfect a damp sponge for one minute in the microwave.
Got a funky sponge and no backups? Kill the bacteria by microwaving the sponges for one minute. Make sure they’re wet, otherwise the radiation could set them on fire.
11. Make an easy poached egg.
Want to change up your breakfast routine but don’t have time to poach an egg? Combine one teaspoon of white vinegar and one cup of cold water in a glass measuring cup. Crack the egg and microwave it for 30 – 60 seconds. Carefully remove (it will be hot!), and use a slotted spoon to retrieve. Easy peasy.
Note: Make sure the egg is covered with water or it could explode. Also, the time variation depends on your microwave’s strength and how well you prefer the egg white to solidify.
12. Microwave a honey jar to decrystallize it.
Don’t throw that expensive honey away just because you haven’t used it in a while — unless it’s been over a year. Use a microwave to soften it again. First remove the cap from the honey, and then heat it for 30 seconds until you can see it turn into liquid again.
13. Cut the soaking time on dried beans with 15 minutes in the microwave.
Soaking dried beans can take hours. Significantly decrease the soaking time by covering the beans in water (make sure there’s about two inches of water over the beans), then microwave them on high for 15 minutes. Allow the beans to stand covered in the microwave for another 15 minutes. Cook the beans immediately after.
14. Microwave peaches and tomatoes for 25 – 30 seconds to easily peel the skin.
Blanching in boiling water is the go-to method to peel fruit, but if you’re busy, let the microwave do the work. Place whole peaches or tomatoes on a safe plate and cook for 25 – 30 seconds. Before peeling, let them rest until cool enough to handle.