Chef Wendy

20 Brilliant Microwave Tips

Are you making the most of your microwave oven? We’d like to share some great tips for making it work harder in your kitchen.

Microwave ovens are great for reheating food in a hurry, but they’re also hugely versatile appliances that can save you a lot of time and effort.  Read on for our top tricks!

1. Most vegetables cook beautifully in a microwave, retaining their colour and crunch. It’s usually not necessary to add any water: put the veggies, cut into even-sized pieces, in a microwave-proof dish, cover lightly, and microwave on high for three-minute blasts, checking now and then to see whether they are done. Drain and serve immediately.

2. Prepare veggies in advance.  Put the sliced veggies into a microwave-safe dish and cook on high for 2-3 minutes, so they are half cooked. Plunge the vegetables into iced water, and when they are cold place them in a colander to drain. When you’re ready to serve them, toss them for a few minutes in a hot pan with olive oil or margarine, until just cooked through. For extra flavour, add half a Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

3. Make perfect microwave popcorn: put a handful of popcorn in plain white or brown paper bag. Loosely fold the top of the bag over twice. Put the bag on its side and microwave on high for 2-4 minutes, or until you stop hearing popping noises. Season and serve immediately!

4. Use your microwave to heat plates. Flick a little water over the plates, place them in a stack and microwave for 2-4 minutes, or until they are hot. 

5. Sterilise your dishcloths in the microwave. Place 2-3 damp crumpled dishcloths in a circle on the turntable, then microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, or until they are steaming and very hot.

6. Get more juice out a lemon! Cut your lemon in half and microwave it on high for 30-60 seconds, depending on the size of the fruit.  This will slightly soften the fruit and make it easier to squeeze.

7. Make your own hot pack to soothe aching muscles or tummies! Fill a large old cotton sock with barley or rice and tie a knot at the top end.  Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of the sock) or until the pack is hot. You can reuse this hot pack again and again. 

8. Get rid of odours! To fill the kitchen with a lovely scent, put a teaspoon of vanilla essence in a mug of hot water and microwave on high for 90 seconds.

9. To freshen and clean the inside of your oven, put two teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl of water, add a slice of lemon and cook on high for two minutes. Leave to stand for five minutes, then wipe down the inside surfaces of your oven. 

10. Use your microwave to melt chocolate. Usually chocolate is melted in a bowl set over boiling water, but this method is risky as the steam from the boiling water can cause the chocolate to ‘seize’ (thicken and become grainy). Break up the chocolate into small pieces, place in a bowl and microwave on 30 per cent power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well between every ‘blast’.  

11. Do you know that you can dry herbs in a microwave oven? Place a smallish quantity of herb leaves or sprigs in a single layer on a paper towel and top with another paper towel. Microwave on 75 per cent power for 30 seconds at a time, checking them between each ‘blast’.  When the herbs are completely dry, crumble them into a jar and seal tightly.  You can also dry rose petals and rose buds this way! 

12. If you’re baking and your butter or margarine is too cold to cream together with sugar, cut it into cubes, place on a plate,  set the power to 20 per cent, and blast for ten seconds at a time, or until the fat has softened. 

13. When you’re reheating leftovers in a microwave, arrange the food in a circle around the perimeter of the plate. This will allow it to heat through evenly.  And when you’re reheating soup, be sure to open the oven and stir it every two minutes. 

14. Sterilise potting soil in a microwave. If you’re a keen gardener using seeds to grow veggies or herbs, you’ll appreciate this tip, which kills pathogens and weed seeds in the soil.  Spread two cups of potting soil on a paper towel set over a round plastic tray. Microwave on high for 90-120 seconds, or until you see the soil steaming. Allow to cool.

15. Make honey runny! If your honey has crystallised in its jar or plastic bottle, take off the lid (or pop the plastic lid open) and microwave on 50 per cent power for 30 seconds at a time, or until the honey is liquid again. 

16. If you’re making jams, pickles or chutneys, you can sterilise glass jars in a microwave (but the metal lids must be boiled separately).  Fill 3-4 glass jars to a depth of 1 cm with water, and place in a circle on your turntable.  Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, or until the water is boiling fast, and the jars are extremely hot.  Remove them (with an oven glove on!), drain the water and place upside down on several sheets of newspaper to dry out.  Fill the jars while they are still warm. 

17. To peel a butternut easily, cut it in half lengthways and place the two halves on the turntable. Cook for three minutes on high, then peel. 

18. If your bread rolls or scones are a little stale, put them in a cooking bag, add a few drops of water and cook on high for a minute to freshen and soften them.   

19. Wrap a mielie in greaseproof paper to make a ‘Christmas cracker’, adding a knob of butter or margarine plus a pinch of salt and pepper. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, or until your corn cob is cooked right through.

20. Melt butter or margarine quickly! Place the cubed margarine or butter in a microwave-proof dish and cook on high for 30 seconds at a time, or until the fat has melted. To make lemon and garlic butter for serving with shellfish, add the crushed garlic halfway though, and the lemon juice at the end.