Question: To microwave or not to microwave

Published on Wednesday, 3 September 2014 02:30 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

Recently, I made a difficult choice that I thought I would regret. I chose not to replace my microwave.

Since my mother received her first microwave for Christmas in 1978, there has been a microwave everywhere I lived. But recently, microwaves have been giving me some trouble and in the past six months I’ve experienced three tragic microwave deaths.

Feeling a bit gun shy, I decided to forego a fourth attempt and, surprisingly, I have not regretted the decision.

The three microwaves that died did not go quietly. Number one was a small older model that started smoking occasionally during use. I feared the worst —fire — and decided to be safe rather than sorry.

The next microwave came from a sympathetic friend who had an extra after moving into a new house. She could not understand how I could live without a microwave and took pity on me. She also said the Food Editor has to have a microwave. I wasn’t sure why she had that idea, but I conceded to her pity and took her hand-me-down microwave.

Not a good decision because this one didn’t have long to live either.

After a couple of months, the wheel in the middle that holds the rotating glass tray began to malfunction. On its final day, the wheel started smoking and there was a lot of popping, cracking and sparking.

After that demise, I politely declined my mother’s offer to take another used microwave. If I was going to have one, it would be brand new. I didn’t want to spend much or sacrifice a lot of counter space, so I decided to get a small one. Plus, I don’t really use it for a lot of cooking. It’s nice to have for reheating or defrosting, but otherwise I usually do things in the oven or on the stove.

I bought a new one, unpacked the box and got it ready to use. That night I wanted to reheat some spaghetti. I put the bowl in the microwave, set the timer for one minute and hit start. After about 30 seconds I heard a pop, but it kept running.

When the timer went off, I took the food out and it was still cold. I put it back in for another minute and the same thing happened. Motor was running, food was turning, but no heat.

So I went out to the trash, retrieved the box and took it back to the store. When the cashier asked if I wanted an exchange, I paused for a moment and wasn’t sure how to answer.

I decided to say no, admit defeat and try to live without a microwave. I have to admit, I enjoy the extra counter space. I don’t have the type of kitchen that could accommodate a mounted version, so one of the drawbacks was always how much space it occupied.

To be honest, I don’t really miss it. I’ve had to train myself to think differently about how to do some things, but generally it’s been a painless transition.

Some of the adjustments include:

Reheating coffee: Drink it faster or reheat in a small pan on the stove.

Defrosting meat: Think about thawing things sooner. The fastest way without a microwave is put the meat in a plastic bag and place it in a bowl of water. Most things are thawed in a minute or two.

Cooking rice: I am forced to do it the old-fashioned way, which is fine. It always boiled over when I made it in the microwave and made a mess.

Reheating leftovers: This is one of the biggest adjustments. Pasta, macaroni and meat don’t reheat well on the stove because of moisture. With pasta I will put it in a pan with some water. Once the water is stirred into the food, any extra liquid evaporates when the food is reheated. With leftover meat, I put it in the oven in a small amount of broth.

Boiling water: I have a tea kettle so that is the fastest way to boil water.

Whole Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes: Start cooking earlier and use the oven. Not an ideal solution.

Popcorn: This is what I miss the most. I gave up microwave popcorn a few years ago when all of the horror stories came out about how bad it was for you. But I was still making it in the microwave in a brown paper bag. It’s very easy and you don’t have to add oil. Just put two tablespoons of kernels in the bag. Fold over the top to close. Place the bag on it’s side and microwave for about two minutes or when popping begins to slow. You can then add salt, butter, seasoning or, as I like to use, the grapeseed oil in a spray mist can.

Melting chocolate: I prefer the microwave method because I am less likely to burn the chocolate.

Melting butter: There is no other good way to melt just a small amount of butter. When doing it in a pan it tends to coat the pan and won’t pour out unless you melt more than half a stick.

Eventually, I may change my mind and invest in another microwave. It is inconvenient, especially in the summer, to reheat something on the stove or in the oven. Also, a ten second zap in the microwave takes the chill off a leftover slice of apple pie, the popcorn now has to be cooked stovetop with oil, the frozen peas take too long on the stove and some are still cold and leftover mashed potatoes are better from the microwave and too stiff when reheated on the stove.

Oh no, here I go again. Maybe I have already changed my mind.