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Kitchen tool of the day – microwave

Yeah yeah, I know – microwaves are cheating. Good cooks don’t microwave. Microwaves are the devil.

Well, I consider the microwave an essential cooking tool, even if I rarely use it.

First of all, how would I cook popcorn? I’m kidding about this, of course, but I actually do microwave popcorn on occasion. Clean, easy and quick for those lazy moments.

I also use the microwave to revive frozen bread and rolls that I save from the trash at work when we have a lot left over. I freeze them right in their bags. Then, when it’s time, I microwave them for about 30 seconds to get them warmed up from the middle and then toast them. Rolls come out perfect when you use the microwave to preheat them. Frozen sliced bread doesn’t really need to be microwaved first though.

I use the microwave to thaw out frozen stock, which I pack in gallon freezer bags. I don’t fill them up but I pour enough stock in them to freeze flat and not in a thick brick. They look like a 12’X12″ slab. This makes for quick rethawing in the microwave and helps save space in the freezer, where I can stack a bunch of perfectly portioned packages.

My most frequent use for the microwave seems to be reheating frozen pulled pork barbecue. Works great if you don’t just nuke it. I usually cook a bag for about a minute. Then I stop, break it up a bit, add some BBQ sauce and then cook for another minute or so. The goal isn’t to cook it more but to simply bring the temperature back up to where it was when I pulled it initially.

I know some people use it to cook rice, but I’ve never bothered. From what I’ve read, it really doesn’t save that much time and I have my stove top method down to a foolproof method.

Microwaves aren’t very efficient for boiling water either.

I really don’t use it for much cooking, per se. I might use it to reheat frozen food if I had a lot of frozen food that I put away, but BBQ and stock is about the only thing I ever put away that would be appropriate (and I only nuke stock if I’m going to use it for some quick soup).

I’m sure that people have some favorite uses for the microwave. These are mine.

Since I don’t use a microwave very often, I sprung for a cheap one. I got a Goldstar at the local pawn shop for around $25. It looks very similar to this one, only not as tall:

I’m guessing that mine is about 1.5 cubic feet at most. Perfect for the small tasks that I use it for. It sits right under my tabletop convention oven/toaster (previously raved about in this post of mine: http://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/kitchen-tool-of-the-day-tabletop-convection-overtoaster/ )

So, if you don’t have a microwave because you’re a foodie snob, you should reevaluate. There are some good uses of the device that don’t compromise cooking quality and, in some cases, might actually be the best solution to a cooking problem. Do yourself a favor, get a no-frills microwave from your local pawn shop. They’re cheap and plentiful. And if you already are using a microwave for things like cooking meat from the raw state, shame on ya! Learn to cook, ya slob!

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