Microwave, Microwave, Microwave Slideshow
1. Residual Heat
As with any type of cooking, carry-over cooking is a significant factor (think of what happens to microwaved popcorn after you take it out of the microwave, for example). Food will keep cooking after you remove it from the microwave, so for most foods (meat, poultry, and eggs are exceptions, of course), it's probably a good idea to stop the cooking process a little earlier.
2. Take Off the Chill
Just like when you're grilling, meat will cook more evenly in the microwave if you don't cook it straight out of the refrigerator, but instead leave it out for a bit at room temperature (unless you're cooking a prepackaged meal, in which case you should follow the package directions).
3. Avoid a Facial
Perry says, "Be safe! Always open or remove covers away from your face to prevent steam burns!"
4. Plate Like a Donut
Perry says, "When placing foods onto a plate or dish for microwaving, pretend the plate is a donut with a whole in the middle and place the foods around the hole. This will promote more even cooking. Also, put the thickest and dense parts of the food toward the outside of the donut."
5. Make a Hard-Boiled Egg
Break the egg into a microwave-safe custard cup or small bowl and poke the yolk with a fork, but don't stir it. Wrap with a non-printed paper towel without touching the egg and zap on high for 45 seconds. Keep cooking for 20 seconds at a time until cooked through.
6. Cook Chicken Tenders
Cut the chicken into equal, small, thin pieces to promote rapid cooking. Arrange in a circle on a microwave-safe plate. Avoid stacking the pieces since they won't cook evenly. Cover without touching the chicken and cook on high for one to two minutes. Stand back when uncovering to avoid escaping steam. Keep batches of cooked chicken tenders in the refrigerator or freezer for fast and simple meals, says Perry.
7. Microwaved Chicken Salad
Chop up microwaved chicken tenders and eggs and combine with some mayonnaise, chopped celery, pickle relish, a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper, and you have an easy meal for one in 15 minutes or less that you can make at the office break room.
8. Fresh Microwaved Applesauce
Peel, core, and slice apples into wedges. (Perry says, "If you like a little 'chew' to yours, leave the peel on.") Put them on a microwave-safe plate, cover without touching the apples, and cook on high for approximately eight minutes. Additional cooking time may be needed depending on the number of apples, how big the wedges are, and the apple variety. (The best varieties to use are Gala, Fuji, McIntosh, red, or Golden Delicious — try a combination as well.) You can leave as is for a chunkier texture, or mash for a smoother texture.
9. Toast Sesame Seeds
Save a burner on the stove. Arrange sesame seeds evenly on a non-printed paper towel or microwave-safe plate and zap on high for one minute. Mix around using a fork and keep "toasting" 30 seconds at a time. Perry says, "There is a fine line between 'just right' and burnt, so short bursts of time are essential to prevent overcooking." Try the same method for pine nuts and coconut.
10. Thaw Frozen Foods in a Jiffy
It's easier than it sounds, but results aren't guaranteed. Place on a microwave-safe plate, and heat on high in bursts, making sure to turn the food each time. Perry says, "Depending on the food and how it will be used, it may be OK that a bit of cooking starts on the edges… When freezing foods, keep the size, shape, and density in mind for this quick-thaw method. Thicker packages of food will surely take longer to thaw and do not work well with this method in the microwave. Thinner packages, with space in the center when possible, will work best!"
11. Oh Sugar Pie, Oh Honey
If your honey has crystallized, try popping it into the microwave for 30 seconds at a time to fix it up.
12. Melt Chocolate
Place chocolate pieces into a microwave-safe bowl and heat in quick bursts, stirring each time. Perry advises cooks to use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula so that you can just leave it in the microwave, making this task a bit easier.
13. Better Mashed Potatoes
Peel the potatoes, chop them up into even chunks, and transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Scatter a few drops of water over the top. Cover without touching the potatoes and heat in the microwave until tender. Drain thoroughly, add milk and butter, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mash and serve. Perry says that by effectively steaming the potatoes instead of boiling them, they'll retain more nutrients.
14. Brownies, Cake, and Muffins, Fast
Take batter straight out of the refrigerator and transfer to a microwave-safe custard cup. Heat for one and a half minutes for a hot brownie and less for a "pudding-like" brownie. Try this method also with cake mix or when making muffins.
15. Popcorn, Cheaper
As much as everyone loves the convenience of bagged popcorn, this method isn't that much harder and can save you some dough. Purchase bulk popcorn instead and brown paper bags, and you've pretty much got the same thing.
16. Jump Start on Grilling
Try this while the grill's heating up. Give chicken or other meats a head start by zapping them in the microwave until hot, and then immediately place on the grill (immediately is key, to prevent foodborne illness).
17. Dude, It's a Dud Avocado
You want guacamole, bad. You've got avocados — good. But, they're unripe — great. Who would have thought that a microwave could be the solution to life's greatest woe? Perry emphasizes that this is a last resort, but hey, sometimes, you just have to have some guac. Wrap the fruit in a kitchen or paper towel. Zap on medium for 30 seconds at a time until soft.
18. Meringue, Faster
Perry says, "When making meringue, egg whites will whip to larger volume at room temperature. If you need to warm faster, heat about 15 seconds in the microwave for two whites."