Everyone Uses Their Microwave Incorrectly


Microwaves are fancy space-magic technology, but they usually get a bad rap in the kitchen.  Let’s not mince words; you are probably using your microwave incorrectly.

Microwaves are pretty cool, even if you aren’t using it in the best way possible.  It’s arguably the best popcorn machine ever, it can reheat those last 8 sips of your coffee, and can heat Totino’s Pizza Rolls to a temperature that can melt through the fabric of spacetime.  Any of your ancestors that didn’t live long enough to see it become a staple in household kitchens would be absolutely blown away by this amazing appliance.  Don’t even get me started about industrial microwaves… the TurboChef oven makes me salivate uncontrollably.

But I bet, dollars to donuts, that most people are doing the microwave thing wrong.


Simple, just put your leftover buffalo chicken dip in the microwave and blast it for 3 minutes, right?  Nope.  Wrong.  The problem with microwaves is that they are marketed as FAST cooking appliances.  When you need that TV dinner (shudder) you need it NOW.  Because of this obsession with speed, microwaves are usually used when you just don’t care and want something fast.

The right way to use a microwave is to tone down the speed aspect a little and let the space-magic really stretch its legs.  I feel that the best use for a microwave is to efficiently and quickly re-heat leftovers, without damaging them, so that’s what we’ll be doing here.  How do you do this?  It’s that power level button that you ignore.  I could get into how microwaves work, but suffice it to say that they heat the food on the outside first, then that heat transfers into the center of the food.  To get it hot at full power FAST means that you are pretty much required to overcook some parts so that the less-cooked parts still heat up properly.  Simply put, microwaving something at 50% power for 4 minutes with produce a ridiculously better outcome than microwaving it on high for 2 minutes.  Every time.

But we can do even better than that.  Want to know how to use a microwave like a pro?  It’s all about adding in some resting time.


Let’s take an example of reheating a bowl of chili:

  • fill up the bowl with the cold chili
  • COVER WITH PLASTIC WRAP (keep that microwave from getting yucky!)
  • microwave at 50% power for 3 minutes
  • rest for 5 minutes
  • microwave at 50% power for 3 minutes
  • pat yourself on the back because your soup didn’t explode and is evenly heated throughout.

This basic method is what I do for most any microwave re-heat.  Obviously the times would need to be adjusted for the volume of food you are re-heating, but the 50% power -> 5 minute rest -> 50% power rule applies.   It’s a nice, gentle heating method that ensures you aren’t overcooking the food that you slaved away making the night before.

Ta-da!  Nice, hot, properly cooked food in 11 minutes with minimal effort.  No artillery explosions in the microwave.  No overflowing mess.  No ice-cold-in-the-center and lava-hot-on-the-outside food.  I’ll be signing autographs after the show.

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