/ 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
Guest
Argus says:
25 July 2012

We don’t have a microwave in our house at all and don’t need one either.

Guest
Ian Greet says:
25 July 2012

Baked potatoes do really well and crispy too in a microwave.
The clincher is the time – so much quicker than in the oven.

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Guest

Ah yes, baked potatoes. How could you do them without a microwave?

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Guest

Could I do without my microwave? – yes – I taught food technology so I can cook on all systems – from open camp fires onwards. But Would I do without my microwave? No – It is faster, cleaner, far more convenient and very very effective. The only food which is not easily cooked is bread – So I use my bread machine (though I could bake it in the oven).

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Guest

The convenience is a massive factor Richard, it’s true. The constant washing up of pots and pans is also a consideration I’m looking at with this….!

Guest
Susan says:
26 July 2012

What about porridge? Its the best way of making it and I wouldn’t go back to making it on the cooker again. Its also the best way to heat up cold takeaways. We’re putting in a new kitchen at the moment and we’re definitely having a microwave.

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Guest

Porridge is a great shout. Haven’t felt the affects of this yet as I only really eat it in winter. Susan I’m starting to get tipped back into the microwave corner………

Guest
Joel says:
26 July 2012

It is far more energy efficient to cook using a microwave. Porridge done in 3 minutes in a microwave vs 10-15 on a hob, and using far less energy in the microwave. I’m less convinced about the utility of the grill/convection oven, but it does give you the option of having a smaller oven if you only need to heat up a small item (eg a meal for one), so likely to be more energy efficient than using your full sized oven. It does give you a backup oven in case of failure of your main oven, or as an extra at Christmas when you need too many things doing at once.

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Guest

Actually I have two microwaves – My main one that is multi purpose – grills bakes roasts etc and my old Sharpe simple turntable microwave as a stand-by. The main one will cook quite a large Turkey.

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Guest

I think the grill and oven features are great if you are cooking for one, agree with that Joel. But if it is going to cost an extra £100 for the microwave that is where I have to draw the line. My Christmas remedy will have to be to wake up earlier….!

Guest
Bob says:
26 July 2012

You are committing the ‘cardinal sin’ by defrosting in water and I am surprised you published this, particuarly as Which? are meant to be safety aware!

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Guest

There is no danger provided that you thaw food quickly and cook it promptly. The website suggests cooking from frozen, but there is a danger that food is not cooked throughout.

I’m not convinced this is a useful website, particularly since temperatures are given in Fahrenheit.

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Guest

I’d like to think that I could live without a microwave, but it’s a bit of a ‘life saver’ when I come home late and need some food quickly. However, as I use it infrequently, I would be grudged to spend more than £30!

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Guest

I lived for many years without a microwave or even the use of a freezer, and I didn’t miss either.

I visited my old housemate recently and was glad to see the freezer was still switched off and no microwave was in site. I also visited my parents and was amazed by how much food they keep in their freezer – unnecessarily in my mind. It’s only the two of them living there now, but it looks as though they have enough food to feed the entire town for a month. #whatawaste

Guest
Mary Peck says:
26 July 2012

It looks as though you might find a microwave useful for defrosting so perhaps on balance the answer to your question is yes but perhaps not at the top end of the range if that is the main purpose for it. It may also be useful to have a mirco-wave during periods such as kitchen refurbishment or when for some reason you main oven is out of use.

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Guest

There is no good logic in having a microwave cooker. Having a microwave cooker that is an oven and a grill makes excellent sense as you are maximising the utility of the space provided. Kitchens are generally small so I take a view that all items need to be as useful as they can be,

Scrambled eggs, porridge, baked potatoes, re-heating food, additional oven space for holidays are all very good reasons to invest. There are very few things that cheap but yet so useful in saving money/electricity and time.

Guest
Alice says:
26 July 2012

You don’t need a microwave. I had a hand me down for a short while and gave it away, because it changed all the food [I would not be surprised if it damaged the nutrients in the food too]. Good restaurants don’t microwave. And the (unchecked) story goes that when someone microwaved blood products to defrost them, the recipient died.
I reheat by steaming or baking. Potatoes are best cut into wedges and baked quickly in the oven. The microwave saves time, but doesn’t improve the food.

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Guest

Our Michaelwave [as my mother called it] looked rather sad through lack of use and about seven years ago we decided to get rid of it. No regrets. We’ve also parted company with lots of other little-used kitchen gadgets, duplicate vessels, utensils, and other paraphernalia and now have a more spacious kitchen with clear work surfaces and half-empty drawers. In tribute to the queen of cuisine I can also report that we have never eaten better.

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Guest

Love it John. I agree about having greater space in the kitchen. It does make it a more pleasant area to work in and you can produce better things. If I do decide on making a microwave purchase though, it will definitely be dubbed “Michaelwave”.

Guest
Sarah says:
26 July 2012

The only time I’ve wished I had a microwave (and a couple of times zipped round to my neighbour’s to use theirs) is on Christmas Day. To be able to do the pudding in minutes rather than it taking up a hob for 3hours is a real bonus, but not worth having the other 364 days a year, to my mind.
My mother in law once gave me an old one of hers. After it cluttered the work surface for 6 months without being used I junked it without a twinge of regret.
My all-gas cooker is brilliant – the heat is there immediately and none is wasted. I loathe cooking on electric stoves, but am still nostalgic for an Aga as I grew up with one – again, the heat is always there when you want it.

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Guest

Warming the mixture for a heavy fruit cake in a microwave oven makes it easy to mix thoroughly and shortens the baking time, saving electricity. I often put food in the microwave before finishing cooking in the oven or browning it under the grill.

A simple microwave oven is easy to keep clean because it does not get hot, so a quick wipe with a damp cloth and it is as good as new. Mine is over 20 years old and in daily use, and there are no stains or food deposits inside. I would not want a combination oven because they are harder to keep clean.

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Guest

Absolutely not – microwaves are excellent, nothing’s better for heating veg or porridge and I won’t be parted from my ancient Which? Best Buy.

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Guest

Of course we could get by just fine without a microwave, people seemed to manage ok before they were invented. But they are cheap to buy and have their uses, mostly part cooking and reheating.
They will never replace a proper cooker with a hob and an oven, you simply cannot cook properly or at leat in the same way, but as I said a microwave can be very useful.
Apart from the convenience of quick heating where a microwave really scores is in it’s energy efficiency. You can for example bring a litre of liquid to boiling (or whatever temperature you want) more quickly and in doing so consume less energy than by use of a cooker.

Bit of a daft question really “Do we really need a microwave”?
Course we don’t, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make use of a cheap and efficient appliance if we want to.

Guest
Peter Smee says:
27 July 2012

Microwaves are very much greener than ovens,gas or electricity. And they are super for cooking fish or veg-or do you like your greens pulpy and overcooked,some do! It will also do pasta,all these things need a modicum of experimentation like anything else. Top chefs don’t like them -maybe the fear being deskilled?

Guest
Clodagh says:
27 July 2012

I thought I could do without a microwave when we moved into our new house and inherited a gas-fired Rayburn – but then a hot hot summer came, and putting the Rayburn on was unbearable, so if we wanted anything other than salads and bought quiches, the microwave was essential. The Rayburn doesn’t have a grill really, so the built-in grill in the microwave is useful. I agree about the ‘baked’ potatoes – in the Rayburn they take about three hours and have skins of leather, but if I mostly cook them in the microwave then they only need crisping in the oven for about 20 minutes. But the best reason for having a microwave is the SCRAMBLED EGGS! I just make sure that I don’t cook them too long and they’re lovely and soft – and no sticky pan to scrub.

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Guest

I live alone and I don’t have a cooker! I use my combination microwave for most things and my single induction hob for stir fry’s and other things that need to be done on a hob.

Guest
Vic Wilkins. says:
27 July 2012

We have two microwaves, but no oven. We bought a newer microwave because it can do so much more than the older model. But we still keep the older microwave for ‘ready meals’ etc.

We use the Halogen oven to replace the electric cooker.

Guest
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.

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Guest

??????

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Guest

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.

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Guest

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.

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Guest

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.

Guest
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.

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Guest

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.

Guest
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.

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Guest

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. 🙂

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Guest

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

Guest
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 .

Guest
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

Guest
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

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Guest

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.

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Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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”.

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Guest

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.

Guest
David says:
28 July 2012

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

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Guest

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.

Guest
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!

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Guest

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?

Guest
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.

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Guest

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)

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Guest

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.]

Guest
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!

Guest
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?

Guest
woody says:
5 June 2013

Don’t you think this microwave is harmful?