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Microwaves have come a long way since their early days or high prices and only cooking one side of your food. Modern microwaves cook more evenly and their reasonably affordable depending on which kind you get. Check the section below about choosing the right microwave for helpful tips on how to get the right one for your needs.
In the past, microwave recipes didn’t offer much variety. You can reheat almost anything in them and bake a potato, and that’s the sum of it all. However, you can do much more with modern microwaves like back cookies or even roast a chicken if you get a convection microwave. We compiled a list of some of the best microwave recipes to help you get started cooking more elaborate meals.
You may cook even more elaborate dishes than the ones we included on this list. However, we wanted the recipes on this list to be available to everyone, and some microwave recipes require a convection microwave. Since most people don’t own a convection microwave, we tried to keep the recipes simple enough for any microwave with 1,000 or more watts of power.
We chose our recipes for flavor and how well they might turn out if cooked in a microwave. You can cook nearly anything in a microwave, but some things don’t always turn out as you expect. Things that need to brown end up being the trickiest items to pull off when using a microwave to cook your food. So, we avoided those things and chose microwave recipes that we know cook well.
We didn’t focus on cooking times or the cost of ingredients. We made an effort to find recipes that you can get prepared and cooked in a short time, but it wasn’t a primary concern since most microwave meals cook quickly anyway. The cost was ignored entirely since your options end up being that either buy the ingredients, or you choose a different recipe.
That said, most of the recipes ended up being quick microwave recipes. A few might require several steps and longer cooking times, but they’re all well worth the time and effort. Recipes that need extra pans or tools include a link to help you find the right stuff like a microwave rice cooker or some other handy device. So, let’s get to the food.
Best Microwave Recipes
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Much of this article talks about preparing meals in your microwave. Our list of recipes might fall outside the scope of meals and into some desserts and other treats. However, you’ll find plenty of recipes on the list that may surprise you since they revolve around a microwave. For instance, our first recipe is a cookie which many people may not know they can prepare it in almost any microwave.
Chocolate Chip Cookie In A Cup
Shamelessly, this might be one of our favorite recipes. It takes around five minutes to put it all together, and it cooks in 60 seconds. This recipe only makes one cookie, but you could easily make four in most microwaves and add some ice cream after it’s cooked for an excellent dessert or treat. Swap out or mix the chocolate chips with peanut butter chips or caramel chips for a new twist.
You’ll need to make sure the ingredients you buy don’t contain gluten for this to remain gluten-free, but that’s pretty easy to do these days. It takes about ten minutes to put this dish together and cook it. This one cheats a bit since it recommends that you make the sauce in a saucepan on your stove. However, we suggest just buying the sauce already made and substituting it for the homemade sauce.
This one takes almost an hour to prepare and cook, but it’s worth the time. You can save time and keep this a recipe 100 percent microwave friendly if you get a rice cooker for your microwave. It doesn’t matter if the rice cools a bit before this meal is ready since you’ll cover it with hot ropa vieja anyway. We snuck a few extended time recipes like this one into the list because we know you’ll love them.
Microwave Scrambled Eggs
If your microwave produces less than 1,000 watts or power, it may be best not to attempt this recipe. The eggs need to cook evenly for this to turn out right. That said, it takes about two minutes to make this dish, and you could make several at once if you needed to feed the family. Add some cheese or Italian seasoning to give it a little twist.
Microwave Mason Jar Pancakes
Mix up a batch of your favorite pancake mix and fill up roughly one-third of a mason jar with it. Pop it in the microwave for about 90 seconds to make a chubby pancake quickly. These easily qualify as breakfast or a quick dessert. Make sure you test them before serving to make sure the pancake gets cooked. You can make several in the microwave at once as long as the jars don’t touch.
Microwave Macaroni And Cheese
This recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare and cook, but you can serve it in the same dish you cooked it in for easy cleanup. Even if you’re not using your microwave for the entire meal, this is an easy way to get some side dishes going with minimal effort. It also works as a snack or an after-school treat for the kids. Yes, we put macaroni and cheese in the treat category.
With this microwave recipe, you’re only about five minutes away from monkey bread. You’ll need a silicone or another type of microwave-safe Bundt pan for this one, but it’s worth the few dollars you’ll spend on the pan. Make sure you follow the directions well and don’t overcook this one, or it’ll turn into a sugary brick.
Loaded Baked Potato
It may seem elementary since everyone knows you can bake potatoes in a microwave, but no list of the best microwave recipes can be complete without a loaded baked potato. It’s quick and makes an excellent side dish or just eat it as a meal. Add your favorite topping to the potato if you don’t like the topping in the recipe. Baked potatoes tend to be a versatile dish.
You can’t have a loaded baked potato with the option to cook to a steak to go with it, and it’s easier than you think. Don’t use any oil and make sure you let the steak stand until it reaches room temperature before you cook it. Season it lightly on both sides and pop it in the microwave for three minutes. Flip it over and cook it for another three minutes for a medium rare steak.
This is a great meal by itself. You can make it in less than 20 minutes, and the kids will love it too. If you make the lasagna in glass dishes with lids, you can store it in the refrigerator for a few days or take it to work for lunch. Actually, you could do that with almost any of the recipes on this list including some of the dessert recipes.
Cooking any kind of fish or meat in a microwave is tricky, so pay close attention to your cooking times to avoid turning your salmon into leather. You can spice up this dish any way you want or leave it alone. For a twist, place a strip or two of bacon on top of the salmon along with a lemon or orange and wrap it on parchment paper before microwaving it. You may need to adjust the cooking time as well.
Meatloaf In A Mug
You can swap out the onion soup mix for your favorite meatloaf mix. Try it with a mushroom soup mix or keep the onion mix and add a teaspoon of ranch dressing mix for a big flavor boost. Like many of the microwave recipes on this list, you can make these in glass bowls with lids to store them for later or to carry with you for a quick lunch.
This fajita recipe is perfect alone or with some refried beans. Add some cheese to it immediately after cooking, and it instantly becomes cheesy chicken fajitas. It’s a very versatile dish that almost anyone will enjoy. Feel free to swap out the seasoning mix for any other blend. Seriously, you can add any seasoning mix to this dish, and it’ll still turn out great.
This microwave recipe pairs well with loaded baked potato or the macaroni and cheese recipes on this list. That said, you can eat it alone or warm up something else like a simple can of black beans or the next recipe on this list. Make sure you’re using a microwave with 1,000 or more watts of power anytime you cook meat to avoid rubbery meats.
Microwave Fettuccine Alfredo
This microwave recipe goes great with the previous recipe for parmesan chicken. However, you can eat it alone or add some salad shrimp to it as well. It’s the perfect companion for microwave fish or chicken recipes if you’re new to cooking in the microwave since it helps combat dry food. It’s easy to dry out meat in the microwave until you get better at judging cooking times.
How Microwaves Work And Are They Safe?
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Despite years of testing and proof that microwaves won’t cause you to grow a third arm, many people hang on to their notions that microwaves may not be safe. A microwave is just as safe as any other kitchen appliance from your refrigerator to your blender. Well, provided you don’t somehow get in the microwave and turn it on.
Let’s look at the short version of how a microwave cooks food to clear up any misconceptions about how they work. First, microwaves cook your food by exciting molecules, mostly water, in the food which causes them to move faster and create heat. It does this using energy waves similar to radio waves except for the energy waves your microwave uses tend to be shorter than radio waves.
We won’t get into the details beyond those facts or other than to say that energy waves like radio and similar waves surround you almost always, yet you still haven’t grown a new limb. All jokes aside, cooking in a microwave is safe, and it saves you money and time. However, there might be a few drawbacks to using a microwave for cooking everything.
The Cons Of Cooking In A Microwave
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Some of the healthiest foods available to us like vegetables lose some of their nutritional value when you cook them in water or fry them. It’s safe to assume that frying anything in oil is not ideal health wise. However, boiling some vegetables in water removes a portion of the vitamins or minerals that make the vegetable a healthy choice.
The best ways to retain all the nutritional value possible when cooking any food is to use the least amount of water possible and cook the food quickly. A microwave does both of these things very well. However, it may leave meat chewy and a bit dry. The same is true for some vegetables that require longer cooking times. Overcooking something in a microwave leaves you with a leathery mess usually.
It’s hard to fit a lot of food in a microwave. Unless you buy and use three or four microwaves at once, the first round of food might cool off too much while the next batch is cooking. You could offset this cooling process by setting your oven to warm and putting the food in there until you finish cooking. Still, a stove lets you cook multiple items at once, and it all comes away hot if you plan it right.
Choosing The Right Microwave
If you do a quick search on Amazon, you’ll find dozens of microwaves that make a lot of promises about how they cook or what they can do for your kitchen. It might be tricky choosing the right one for your needs. The key things to consider before you buy one include:
- The size of the microwave
- The bonus perks
- The type of controls
- The variety of sensors
- The wattage
- The color
Obviously, you want a brand you’re familiar with and trust. That said, you need to make sure all the other things you want get included in or with the microwave. Choose a size that fits your kitchen and don’t just eyeball it. Measure the space you have and find a microwave that fits the hole. It may not end up being the fanciest one available, but it’ll be less frustrating than fighting a microwave for counter space.
The perks, controls, and sensors may fall into the same category. For instance, some microwaves come with a dial to set the cooking time while others use a keypad. We suggest going with a keypad, or you’ll wish you had after using the dial for a while. We also recommend getting a microwave with sensors to help you manage cooking times. Some microwaves may be smart enough to know you’re overcooking things.
Consider getting a microwave that offers a convection function like this one from Toshiba. You can roast and bake in it similar to a traditional oven or convection oven. At less than $$$, it’s easily affordable and might make the food you prepare in it more enjoyable. That said, you can opt for a cheaper microwave like this one from BLACK+DECKER and still make great meals in it.
Color is a personal choice, but stainless-steel and white might be easier to clean while black microwaves fit in with most kitchen color themes. Once you decide on the other factors, make sure you get a powerful microwave. You want one that packs 1,000 or more watts of power. Cheaper, lower power models work but it’s hard to heat things evenly, and you risk producing more rubbery foods.
Put all of these things together, and you’ll end up with a microwave that fits your kitchen and your needs. If you don’t have much counter space, consider an over-the-stove microwave like this one from Frigidaire. It mounts over your stove and includes a vent fan. However, these types of microwaves may require a slight cabinet remodeling job to make them fit.
Whether you’re shopping locally or online, make sure you do your homework and have all the information we mentioned above ready before you buy one. We all want an affordable appliance, but microwaves save money and time which lead to savings. It’s worth the extra money to go ahead and buy a microwave you know will serve you well for a long time.
Some Final Notes
Cooking in a microwave is a time saver plus it might save you a little money on power bills. It’s safe and, in most cases, the food retains more nutritional value than traditional cooking methods using a stove or grill. However, keep our comments about flavor in mind before you commit to using a microwave all the time. That said, try the recipes on our list to improve your microwave cooking skills.