/ Food & Drink, Home & Energy

Could you live without your microwave?

For years microwaves have been seen as the essential kitchen short-cut appliance that will make your life easier. Now as they become even more advanced cooking machines, I want to ask whether we actually need one?

My microwave was affectionately dubbed ‘the nuclear reactor’ by my housemate. It was old, loud, big and ugly, but like all hand-me-down appliances it did the job until it reached its natural expiration date two months ago. It is yet to be replaced and I am growing more confident that it doesn’t even need to be.

Reheating is being done on the stove and in the oven. Cold pizza is warmed under the grill. Veggies are steamed over boiling water. Defrosting is my main problem as I can never think ahead, but wrapping the meat in plastic and putting it in water is definitely getting the job done.

So here I am living happily ever after without a microwave, and I can’t help but think that I actually don’t need one!

Splashing out on a microwave

Our recent microwave survey discovered that 69% of people would be willing to spend between £50 and £199 on a new microwave, with the average being £143. And having just had a quick look through the microwaves we’ve reviewed at Which?, it seems that the top end of this scale will get you a microwave with grill and oven features.

After chatting about this at work, people can’t believe that I’m living life in sin without a microwave. Since this revelation broke, my cohorts are coming to me at regular intervals and telling me of their wonderful world of full microwave use:

  • Jonathan Richardson does an amazing croque-monsieur in there.
  • Patrick Steen microwaves his prawn crackers.
  • Florence Buswell uses it for a full scrambled eggs breakfast
  • And Tom Roberts does a complete tuna pasta bake. That’s impressive!

So, now I wish to put the question out there to the greater masses: do I need to invest in a microwave once more and how are you using your microwave in ways I don’t know about? If I can be convinced I will surely purchase a brand new one.

Do we really need a microwave?

Yes - I use my microwave all the time (65%, 643 Votes)

I'm not sure - I own a microwave but hardly use it (24%, 240 Votes)

No - I don't own or want a microwave (10%, 103 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,008

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Comments
Bob says:
27 July 2012

I agree that the temps are in degrees F. It is an American defrosting guide.
I am a British trained chef and worked with the American military in war zones as a civilian food service contractor.
Their standards of food safety and hygiene are above ours and we are taking their lead in these areas.
Any kitchen whether at home or retail that doesn’t have and use a calibrated food thermometer is taking chances for possible food poisoning.

??????

I appreciate the reason for giving temperatures in Fahrenheit but I believe it is poor advice to cook food from frozen. At least our Food Standards Agency recommends complete defrosting before starting to cook food.

I regard a fridge thermometer as more important than a food thermometer. It’s ridiculous that every fridge and fridge freezer does not include an accurate thermometer.

Wavechange

I’m sorry – I’m 82 and been using a microwave since they were available – I have found nothing wrong with cooking from frozen – I usually do – never been ill. It is poor cooking overall by some that is the problem – not cooking from frozen.

I defrost food in the microwave too. It is best to ensure that the food is properly thawed before starting cooking to avoid the danger that the inside of the food does not get hot enough. I should have made it clear that I was criticising the USDA information sheet. There is a place for both information and for common sense.

Bob says:
27 July 2012

I agree/disagree with your comment re: fridge/freezer thermometers.
They also require independant calibrated thermometers be placed in the warmest part of both appliances, i.e.top shelf next to the door opening.
The days of prodding or spiking food for juice colour or texture are gone.

Be realistic Bob. No home user is going to have their fridge thermometer calibrated. They are not very accurate in the first place and the accuracy will not change unless the thermometer becomes loose in its casing.

In my experience the warmest part of a fridge or freezer depends on the design. My recommendation is to keep a fridge as cold as possible without actually freezing anything. I use a maximum/minimum thermometer in my fridge and that has been checked against a BS calibrated laboratory thermometer.

To say something relevant to the discussion, a microwave oven is an efficient way of defrosting frozen food before cooking. The defrost setting on some microwaves is too high and can result in the outside of food starting to cook before the inside is defrosted, so it can be best to use a lower power setting.

Rosamund Allen says:
27 July 2012

My microwave went phut while I was on a long phone call discussing the service for my husband’s funeral. It’s probably just a fuse but as my kitchen was put together by a firm, happily defunct, who were Heath Robinson admirers, I simply can’t find the right plug and socket (probably behind or under the oven or the fridge). So I have lived happily without a microwave for three months and was quite chuffed to read an article recently claiming that water heated in a microwave when used to water a plant actually killed it. Hmm.

I hope that the article was not claiming that water heated in a microwave oven still contained microwaves or radiation. It’s probably not a good idea to water plants with hot water, heated in any way. 🙂

Oops. This was supposed to be a reply to Bob’s message.

Bob says:
27 July 2012

You are so correct…neither would I calibrate or trust built in thermometers,I did write independant!
No harm with defrosting in a microwave oven as long as it’s contiuous cooking i.e. Part of a cooking process that is not interupted .

donald goodge says:
28 July 2012

I can cook using a candle as in my Boy Scout days but that is a Luddite attidude. HAVE TWO MICROWAVE units from Tesco, cost £50 each with grill, easy to understand instructionbook. Dont have adequate kitchen ventilation in my retirement flat so microwave cooking tends to keep the fumes under control. Hopefully I will celebrate my 86th birthday in Ddcdmber

Bob says:
28 July 2012

Hi Richard…I’m pleased to see that somebody else is not concerned about cooking from frozen!
As long as the ‘core temperature’ is correctly reached and maintained, where’s the problem?
It’s when food is defrosted in a microwave oven, completely or not and left on the side without a continuous cooking process that the ‘danger zone’ becomes critical.
Wavechange…it appears that you have knowledge in the catering world but as originally noted, I am a British certified trained chef but realised after working with the American FS industry that we are lacking but getting there!
Please have a look at this link which is now being adopted in the UK…time to end this but I’m sure you’ll finish it? Take care and happy eating.
http://foodsafetyexam.com/services.html

Bob – I have no knowledge of the catering industry, other than what is public knowledge and what I have seen as a customer. I have discussed some of the issues with scientists who are much better informed. I’m a retired scientist with some knowledge of microbiology, microbial physiology and the common forms of food poisoning. It worries me that many do not appreciate the difference between heat-labile and heat-stable toxins and that manufacturers of domestic fridges are still allowed to put salad chillers at the bottom, ready to catch juices from raw meat. 🙁
Keep up the good work.

Hi Bob – I have long experience in camp and survival cooking – when the food was moving due to maggots – it was cooked well – and no-one became ill – and taught food technology. Found that many problems are caused by lack of antibodies as people are now too sanitised. – and insufficient cooking – not because it was cooked from frozen.. I repeat I cook from frozen without ill effects and have done for many years.

Interesting I haven’t found meat juices in the salad chiller – but then I put meat in the plastic packages Sainsbury supply with chicken pieces (exactly the right size to stack two high to fit my Berco Fridge Freezer shelves as I dislike meat juices running anywhere loose.- which they need to be if they fall in the chiller.

Nomtha says:
28 July 2012

A microwave isn’t a “need” item – we can all manage without but having done it both ways, I wouldn’t give up my microwave and use it for all sorts of cooking – particularly cooking potatoes and veg courses. My son uses the convection oven for pizzas – which it cooks far better than our conventional oven (and quicker).
Oddly, though, I rarely use it for defrosting. Mostly just out of preference – it actually defrosts very well.

Bob says:
28 July 2012

Hi Richard
I too remember ‘those days’ from an overseas posting shortly after catering school.
‘Hey chef this pork stinks’…”Don’t worry about it, wash it in vinegar and water, it’ll be ok”.

Hi Bob

But the point was – It was OK! 🙂

I used to run camps for more than 100 Scouts in the 50s – the quality of cleanliness and freshness was low both food and boys – Yet they always asked for MORE – not a sick person among them. The only sick boy ever was once with a freshly picked and cooked blackberry tart – the rest scoffed it down – interesting though noticed that the more recent lads are cleaner but sicker. It is all this disinfectant used.

David says:
28 July 2012

Off course they’re essential; how else would I repetitively reheat my cold cups of tea?

Apart from ordinary uses, I like to heat my coffee milk and the instant coffee granules in the cup prior to adding the hot water – it makes it so easy to get the much better heated milk flavour without a coffee machine or a dirty saucepan. I use three revolutions of the table for my two cups with circa 15 mm of milk in the bottom of each cup. You will need to test the revolutions for your machine unless you have digital timing as my old microwave is clockwork so the revs are the only way to get it accurate enough. It works time and again and apart from fancy coffee machines it’s a green and cheap way to heat the milk to get a great tasting cup to start the day.

Maureen says:
30 July 2012

I guess you don’t have a baby? Since our little new arrival we’ve been using the microwave all the time!

We don’t have a microwave and we’ve never had one. Elderly parents do have one.

I’m worried that we are not teaching children to cook and that when elderly I will have to live on sandwiches (as that is what hospitals and carers seem to expect to feed the elderly for supper).

It is difficult to find microwaves that are simple to use if your sight and hearing is failing. All you want to do is heat soup – good nutritious filling soup not just powdered snack soup – or something for one from the freezer. What you need is knobs with a pointer or that click and/or bumpons. I haven’t got around to customising one yet as this does not seem to be available. (I contacted Bosch but they said they didn’t have an alternative knob that could replace the existing one – which would have been a simple part of the alteration.)

Aren’t meals on wheels often delivered frozen?

Graham says:
1 August 2012

My mum got a Toshiba Deltawave microwave in 1985 from a late relative. Never been without one since. It was updated in 1989 with a Belling Triplette which was used heavily until it’s demise in 2002.
The combi features are fantastic. Speed of a microwave and finished off decently. I tend to find those who find the combi features pointless are those who have never owned one.
On a Sharp Combi now which at 10 years old is showing its age but it has worked hard for it’s keep. Much quicker and cleaner than a full size oven and for me on my own far more economical. I have bought a back up one last weekend. Its a Prestige from Comet. Build quality is so-so but at £59 for a combi, Alot less than the £350 paid for the old Belling or £200 for the Sharp.
I would never be without one as I work very long hours and need the speed of a microwave/convection combi to keep me from buying take away food!
Jacket Potatoes with a crisp skinand fluffy filling in 20 mins? That’s a combi microwave for you 🙂
Grill is also great with such even cooking.

Kathryn Wyatt says:
1 March 2021

I haven’t found one person who has taken into consideration the effect of all these microwaves on the planet when their use is over. Roughly 16 million a year 8n the USA aline are thrown into garbage dumps. How sad we are, humanity.

Phil says:
1 March 2021

Probably a similar amount of conventional cookers plus fridges, freezers, dishwashers etc. They ought to be re-used or re-cycled if no longer serviceable but the way kitchens have become fashion items which need to be replaced every five years isn’t helping.

There is no question that the kitchen is today’s status symbol. There is often considerable over-provision, and therefore over-capacity, of hobs and ovens, sinks, taps, sockets, cupboards, and gadgets. Islands with six bar stools, taps of a type I have only previously seen in a mortuary, hanging lights straight out of a billiard hall, obese fridges laden with half the Waitrose chilled aisle, lights inside the drawers and under the cupboards – where does it end? And then this is often accompanied by a utility room that is too small to do the ironing in!

Of course, all these expenditures can be justified, but it all has to be kept clean, the layout is not efficient in terms of minimising the walking between functions, and the culinary results frequently fail to live up to the expectations created.

The kitchen ‘designers’ don’t point out the practicalities since they are on a percentage for every piece and part. I often wonder what their homes are like.

And all this stuff adds to the waste mountain at some point.

I have never had a new kitchen. I thought about replacing my kitchen when I moved in five years ago but improving the lighting and replacing several cupboard hinges gave it a new lease of life. I’ve seen too many people scrap decent quality white goods when having a new kitchen fitted, only to find that the appliances are not as good as those they replaced.

I brought my microwave oven from my previous home and despite being over 30 years old it is still working fine.

I blame marketing and snobbery for our unsustainable lifestyle.

I built our fitted kitchen from scratch out of financial necessity when we extended the bungalow 35 years ago. It has worked well. The trouble is, replacing it after all the hard work that went into it would be very hard. Re doing the two bathrooms about 7 years ago that I had also put in was a bit of a wrench!

In many new houses the kitchen is an integral part of the main living space – a real living room. So it needs to look good as well as being functional. A family member is having a large new house built and we found a local small manufacturer who has done a superb job in helping the design and making a craftsmen-built kitchen. Should the house ever be sold we are told the quality of the kitchen is an important attribute,

While people have disposable income they will use it on things that bring them pleasure. That is why we don’t all drive Dacia Dusters and live in small apartments.

A younger friend bought a Dacia Duster a couple of years ago and is happy with it. He was trained as a Mercedes car mechanic and now understands value for money. The Duster gets him from A to B, he can do his own maintenance, and he has a couple of interesting vintage cars to play with.

Although I used a cheap car as an example it was also because of what it doesn’t offer – Which? says “Cheap and practical it may be, but the Dacia Duster doesn’t shine in any particular area. Indeed, in terms of safety, it’s way off the pace, making this a small SUV to avoid.” Lets hope it is a 2018+ model as the early versions were described as “No – safety and reliability issues mean it’s a Which? Don’t Buy model.“. However, I have owned company cars that were unreliable, but not “unsafe”.

But, when you compare it to a vintage car it is probably streets ahead. I find older basic cars very pleasurable to drive.

It’s the current model and as you say will be safer than the vintage cars.

If a car was fitted with a microwave oven as standard, would it be the ultimate cooking machine?

I’d have thought a Duster with a Robovac option would be a good combination

Definitely a niche market, but an enterprising salesperson could clean up.

I have only had one new kitchen that was completed eventually nearly 4 years ago.

The washing machine packed up just before work started, I had already paid for one repair costing £200-£300 so a I felt a new machine was justified especially as the previous one leaked all over the floor when it got older.

I had to replace our old cooker the year before the new kitchen was decided on. The plan was to integrate it into our new kitchen, but was returned as unfit for purpose before work started so a new cooker and hob were justified.

The old fridge/freezer and tumble dryer still worked so they were retained for the new kitchen. I have since bought a second fridge/freezer in steel so it doesn’t show up the yellowing white of the old fridge/fridge freezer that works well. We were advised to install a water feed to the fridge/freezer but is not something we are likely to use.

I do have an extra integrated microwave/small oven that was forward planning for when our existing microwave gave up. It is still in pristine condition as it was only used for plate warming until recently. Since my bread machine became unusable, I have found it to be the perfect place to prove my bread dough at 34ºC.

And I couldn’t have a new kitchen without having my very first dishwasher.

No island, bar stools, butcher’s block, cupboard inserts that are a waste of space, hanging lights, hanging pans, no lights in drawers, but probably guilty with the kitchen tap.

The result is a functional kitchen that is now a pleasure to work in.

It’s good to hear that someone does not just scrap all their appliances when having a new kitchen fitted, Alfa. Yellowed plastics seem to be a growing problem with white goods. The handle of my Bosch oven is a little yellowed but this is only visible when opened.

I use to use my microwave a lot, and it will still see the odd ready meal – but in all honesty, it’s now mostly a very large and extravagant hot chocolate maker… (saves cleaning a saucepan of milk)

Microwave Oven is “nice” to have kitchen appliance, practically it is a very useful processor. Numbers of vegetables can be cooked with the help of this magical device that too with very less time. I really enjoy my cooking in a different style and can able to make new and delicious dishes ….. <3

[This comment has been edited to remove advertising links. Thanks, mods.]

J Hughes says:
14 September 2012

Microwaves need someone who is prepared to experiment. And break the rules.

There are two rules that you cannot change: cooking eggs without sticking holes in the yolk and oil based cooking..

Yes, you CAN cook in shallow metal dishes – but they shouldn’t anything else.

Like rice? Take a shallow microwave bowl, out your measure of real rice (not Aunt someone or others brand). Fill with cold water, swirl with your hand to remove dust, repeat until water is clear.

Leave just over one-half inch of water above the rice and cook on high for 10 minutes. Remove, the surface should be covered with a little amount of water. Set aside and the rice will absorb the water, stir and you are ready to serve.

Fish is also an excellent dish to microwave. Place herbs and condiments on top, wrap in cling wrap and cook – according to weight.

Enjoy!

jennipher says:
3 December 2012

How can any one live without a microwave oven in their home?
They are the most convenient,energy efficient and clean cooking appliance in the kitchen today and produce the most nutritious food,
Energy efficient – they save up to 85% of your cooking costs in comparison with conventional cooking
Nutritious – More nutrients are retained in microwave cooked food (especially vegetables) than by any other cooking method – including steaming
They are clean and environmentally friendly – not to mention useful for defrosting and cooking simple items – like fairy cakes – 6 cakes in 1 minute – or a steamed sponge pudding (or Christmas pudding) in 7 – 8 minutes!
Why would you not want this versatile piece of cooking equipment in your kitchen?

woody says:
5 June 2013

Don’t you think this microwave is harmful?