20 Microwave Cheats to Make Your Life Easier
Don’t look at us like that – we’re not ashamed to admit we love our microwaves as much as the next person. Why? Because they come in handy for so much more than re-heating food. Here’s our round up of the 20 best tips and tricks you might not have known you could use your microwave for.
1. Poach an Egg
Devour the perfect poached egg in 50 seconds with this clever microwave method: pour boiling water from the kettle into a microwave-safe bowl until 3/4 of the way full. At this point, it’s a good idea to add a dash of white vinegar – this will keep the egg white together. Crack the egg into the bowl and lightly pierce the yolk with a toothpick (this will stop it exploding). Cover the bowl with cling film and microwave on full power for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and very gently turn the egg (for even cooking). Cover with cling film again and cook on full power for a further 20 seconds. Remember the egg will continue to cook in the hot water so remove it quickly!
2. Make Fudge
Using the trusty microwave, you can make this moreish chocolate fudge in 10 minutes flat (plus chilling time). And everybody knows that chilling time means chilling out time so kick back, relax and enjoy this Pandan, Coconut and Chocolate Burfi at the push of a button (or two).
You can make this in 10 minutes flat (plus chilling time). And everybody knows that chilling time = chilling out time so kick back, relax and enjoy this Pandan, Coconut and Chocolate Burfi at the push of a button (or two).
Pandan, Coconut and Chocolate Burfi (yields 25 pieces)
Ingredients for the pandan layer
If you’re not sure what pandan is then you can read up on it here.
3 cups whole milk powder
1 cup condensed milk
1 ½ tsp pandan extract
Ingredients for the coconut layer
1 ½ cups whole milk powder
½ cup condensed milk
¼ cup coconut (dessicated or fresh)
½ tsp cardamom powder
1 small pinch saffron
Ingredients for the chocolate layer
1 cup milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces
¼ cup butter
Oil to grease the tray
1. For the pandan layer combine the pandan extract with the condensed milk. In a microwave-proof mix the green condensed milk with the milk powder and microwave on high power for one minute at a time for four minutes. Remove from the microwave in between these one minute intervals and stir.
2. Grease a 6X8 metal tray or thali with plenty of any flavourless oil (I used groundnut).
3. Press the pandan layer into the metal tray with the back of a spoon, making sure it’s even all over. Set aside and allow to cool.
4. For the coconut layer combine the milk powder, condensed milk and coconut in a microwave-proof dish. Repeat the microwave process as in step one, but for three minutes this time. Remember to stir at one minute intervals so it doesn’t burn. Add the cardamom and saffron and combine quickly.
5. Place the coconut mixture on top of the pandan layer and press in tightly and evenly. Set aside and allow to cool.
6. Place the chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave on high for 30 second bursts until it has melted. Remove from the microwave and add the butter. Fold the mixture with a spoon until silky. Don’t overwork the chocolate.
7. Pour the chocolate over the cooled coconut layer and allow to set at room temperature. When the burfi has set, cut it into pieces with a sharp knife.
3. Soften Ice Cream
Ever have the urgency to dig in to a tub of ice cream but hate waiting for it to soften? Pop the tub in the microwave and zap on high power in 10 second bursts, checking it each time until soft. It should take around 30 seconds per litre. Scoop into bowls – or if you can’t wait, grab a spoon and eat it straight from the tub. We won’t tell.
4. Make Quick Caramel Sauce
Knock up the world’s quickest caramel sauce using your microwave. Grab a few handfuls of soft caramels, unwrap and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a tiny splash of milk and microwave on medium power for one or two minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals until silky smooth. Pour over your favourite ice cream (the one you just softened in the microwave), sundae or sponge cake.
5. ‘Soak’ Lentils and Beans
For pulse-lovers, there’s nothing more annoying than reading a recipe that uses beans or lentils and seeing they require soaking overnight. So here’s a cunning method for faking it using your microwave. To soak dried beans, place the beans in a microwave-safe bowl, add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and cover with water until they’re totally submerged. Microwave on high power for 10 minutes, and then allow to rest for 30-40 minutes. Use as directed in your recipe.
To soak lentils, repeat the same process as you would for beans but this time, you only need to microwave for two minutes and rest for five before using in your recipe.
6. Bring Crystallised Honey Back to Life
Remove the lid of your glass jar and any metal. Microwave on medium power for 50 seconds and stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice. Be careful as it will be really hot.
7. Melt Chocolate
Attention all chocoholics, you probably knew you could melt chocolate in the microwave, but here’s how to do it without creating a grainy, lumpy mess. Chop the chocolate into little pieces, the smaller the better and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power in 15 second bursts, waiting 15 seconds between each burst. This will give the chocolate a few moments to melt gently in the heat of the microwave. Stir lightly only after you’ve repeated this twice. Repeat this process until the chocolate has completely melted.
8. Cook Vegetable Rice
Here’s how to make a fragrant Indian pilau in the microwave: in a large, microwavable bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter (15-20 seconds on high). Remove from the microwave and add 2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds, a bay leaf and a stick of cinnamon. Microwave on high power again for 20 seconds. Remove from the microwave and mix in 100g washed Basmati rice, a handful of peas and four quartered new potatoes. Season with salt. Cover with boiling water from the kettle until the water reaches about 2cm above the rice. Cover with a microwave-safe lid and cook on high power for 12 minutes. Leave the rice to sit in its own steam for 5 minutes. Use a pair of oven gloves to remove the bowl from the microwave and fluff up the grains with a fork.
9. Chocolate Mug Cake
Craving cake in the middle of the night hasn’t been a problem since we discovered the power of cream-topped chocolate mug cakes. Now a speciality of students all over the globe, the basic principles of cake making are chucked out of the window, yet the results can hit the spot in ways you’ve never imagined. Word of warning: not all mug cakes are foolproof – we’ve seen bricks less bricky than some of the creations produced in our microwaves.
10. Soften Butter for Baking
Don’t you just feel like kicking yourself every time you intend to bake, but forget you need butter at room temperature for creaming? Don’t worry, here are a few tricks to softening butter perfectly using your microwave: cut the butter into small cubes and place into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in on low power for 15 seconds. Remove from the microwave to check its progress. If the butter needs more softening, repeat for as long as required. The key is to microwave in short bursts to avoid the butter melting completely – if in doubt, less is definitely more.
11. DIY Cheese
Bet you didn’t know you could make fresh cheese in the microwave. Simply fill a large microwavable dish with full-fat milk. Microwave on full power until boiling quite vigorously but don’t let it overflow. Quickly and carefully add the juice of two whole lemons and stir for a moment. Return to the microwave for another minute to allow the curds to separate from the whey. Drain everything through a cheesecloth-lined colander; then rinse the curds in cold water. Tie and hang for an hour or two. This kind of cottage cheese is perfect for Indian curries, stir fries and salads because, like Halloumi, it doesn't melt.
12. Get More Squeeze Out Of Lemons and Limes
Zap a whole lemon or lime on high power for 20-30 seconds to make it super juicy and easy to squeeze.
13. Dry Herbs and Citrus Peels
This works perfectly with robust herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme, or any citrus peel. Simply wash your herbs or peels, then dry in between pieces of kitchen paper to remove all moisture. Place them on a microwavable plate and cook on high power in bursts of 30 seconds, turning after each session until they're completely dry – this usually takes about five 30 second sessions. It will also make your kitchen smell glorious. Store in airtight jars or containers.
14. Proof Dough
Attention all baking fanatics; gone are the days you had to dash to the airing cupboard to proof your bread dough for hours. Speed up the process by putting the dough into large microwave-safe bowl, covering it with a wet towel and placing a dry towel on top of the wet one. Microwave on high power for 20 seconds and allow to rest for five minutes. Repeat, then allow the dough to rest for a further 35 minutes before baking.
15. Quick Steam Bag Curry
Fill a zip lock steam bag with a handful of frozen mixed vegetables (such as peas, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots), add two teaspoons of curry paste (we use Thai green or red but you can use Indian pastes too), 140ml coconut milk and fully seal the bag. Shake for a minute until all the ingredients are fully combined, lay flat on a microwavable plate and cook on high power for five minutes for a fresh, creamy curry. Serve with rice or noodles.
16. Microwave Crisps
You heard us right! All you need to make crisps in your microwave is a potato – and a few bits of equipment; here’s how. Slice your potato as thinly as possible using a mandolin, wash in cold water until the water runs clear and dry the slices completely using kitchen paper. Arrange the potato slices on a paper towel-lined microwavable plate, ensuring the slices don’t touch (or you risk them sticking together!) Microwave on full power for two to three minutes, remove from the microwave and turn the potato slices over. Cook again for another 3 minutes. Any remaining undercooked slices can be returned to the microwave to crisp up a bit more if necessary. Repeat with the remaining potato slices. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Tip: you can also try this with sweet potatoes!
17. Toast Nuts and Spices
Make nuts, seeds and spices beautifully aromatic with just a few moments inside the microwave. Whole spices can be placed in a microwavable bowl and zapped on full power in 15 second bursts until aromatic. Nuts and seeds can be done in the same way in 30 second bursts (they will take a little while longer) – you know they’re done when they’re a light golden colour.
18. Peel Garlic in a Flash
Never worry about garlic fingers again with this effortless peeling trick for even the driest of cloves. For a single clove, zap on full power for 15 seconds (be careful taking it out as it will be hot). For a whole bulb, put the garlic on a microwave-safe plate and again, cook on full power for 20 seconds. Next, turn the bulb upside down and cook again for a further 25 seconds. The garlic skin will slip off easily, the theory being that the heat draws out moisture out of the clove, which gets trapped between skin, which in turn, loosens it. It’s a bit unorthodox but much cheaper than buying a fancy garlic-peeling gadget.
19. Un-stale Your Bread
Has your loaf gone a bit stale? This easy tip will revive any kind of bread to freshness again. Wrap the bread in a completely damp kitchen towel (you can use water or milk for this) and microwave on high power in 10 second bursts. Repeat as necessary, checking the bread each time until it's moist enough. Ta da!
20. Zap Jacket Potatoes
We’re yet to meet someone who hasn’t tried the speedy half microwave, half oven-cooked jacket spud method. If you’re one of these people, here’s how it’s done: scrub a large baking potato under cold water to remove any dirt and prick all over with a fork. Place the potato in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a splatter-proof lid. Microwave on high power for seven minutes. Once half cooked, carefully remove the potato from the microwave (there will be lots of steam!) Place the potato on a baking tray and rub with olive oil and sea salt. Bake in the oven at 200°C for 25 minutes for a perfect jacket potato that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.