The microwave is quite possibly the most derided appliance in any kitchen, especially be self-styled foodies. Consigned to reheating leftovers or melting chocolate, it’s commonly held the microwave isn’t for serious cooks. I’ve tended to roll my eyes at that kind of snobbery, especially as those very same people gush over sous vide setups and pressure cookery, but I must admit I’ve never really put my own magnetron oven through the paces.
Helen Rosner wants you to learn to love the microwave.
It took the upheaval of the past year to bring me back to the old idea that my microwave might be a cabinet of wonders. Through the window of my iPhone screen, I watched friends and cooks and colleagues admit to their own microwave love. At Eater, the recipe writer Aaron Hutcherson wrote a piece titled “The Time Has Come to Embrace Your Microwave,” in which he describes reheating leftovers, of course, but also crisping bacon, poaching fish, and (as suggested by the chef Preeti Mistry) effortlessly crisping up pappadam. The chef David Chang, a longtime evangelist for the appliance, solidified his position as the high priest of the Church of Microwave with dozens of photos and videos, posted to Instagram, that display techniques both straightforward—reheating rice, par-cooking vegetables—and mind-expanding. In one revelatory post, he explained how he nuked some onions and garlic in olive oil, added crumbled sausage to the mix and microwaved again until the meat was cooked through, then tossed the result with greens and cooked pasta. “Doesn’t matter if the sausage doesn’t brown,” he explained in the comments. “It’s getting wet anyway.”
Like any kitchen tool (or any tool at all), the microwave is exactly as useful as you make it. Rosner, for example, keys in on what I’ve long thought is an under-appreciated secret — simply setting the power level to finesse your cooking, rather than simply “nuking” your food at full strength.
I don’t know that I’ll be serving that microwaved scallop mousse any time soon but I’m certainly going to try some more ambitious microwave recipes soon.