Guess What Your Microwave Can Do?

Consumer educator, Teresa Hunsaker, shows surprising uses for your microwave!

We all have one, or at least most of us do, but do we get the most use out of them? We are talking about the microwave oven. Besides heating up leftovers there are a number of other great uses for your microwave oven…here are just a few.

Meatloaf in Minutes. Use your favorite meatloaf recipe, only form the meat mixture into 4 or 5 small oval or rectangular shaped meatloaves and place in a glass cooking dish side by side. Top with your usual toppings of ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, and brown sugar. Cover lightly with waxed paper. Cook on HIGH for 7-10 minutes. Let stand 1 minute. Rotate and cook for another 1 minute on HIGH, making sure meat is thoroughly cooked. If you have a meat thermometer to a temp check to 160.

Partially Cook Food for Grilling. Most meats should be cooked at 50% power (ground beef is the exception). So place your marinated chicken breasts or ribs in a microwave safe dish and cook at 50% power until almost done (usually this takes 4-6 minutes) then move immediately out to your grill to finish cooking. This will keep your meat more moist and shorten the grilling time without sacrificing the grilled flavor. I always recommend using a meat thermometer to check cooking temps for meats.

Juice a Lemon. Zap lemons, oranges, limes, and other citrus for 10-20 seconds on HIGH. These do become hot, so use some caution. Cut open and juice. This will aide in getting more juice out of the citrus.

Soften Brown Sugar. Place hard dry brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Add a lettuce leaf over the top or a few slices of apple. Cover and place in the microwave. I like to use 50% power (rather than HIGH so as not to melt any of the brown sugar) for 30 seconds. Stir and reheat for another 15 seconds on 50% power. Stir again, remove the lettuce or apple and place in an airtight container along with a fresh apple slice.

Melt Chocolate. Microwave at 50% power for 2-3 minutes (depending on the quantity, type chocolate, and size pieces). Stir after 1 minutes, then check/stir every 20 seconds or so, to see that pieces are melting and chocolate is not seizing up or scorching.

Raise Frozen Roll Dough. Place 4 cups of water in a 4 cup glass measure. Heat on HIGH to boiling. Meanwhile, arrange rolls on a glass tray or glass baking dish. Spray with vegetable oil cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. While microwave is still warm and water is in the back of the microwave place your tray of rolls in the oven. Begin thawing by heating at 50% power for 30 seconds. Let sit for 1 minute. Repeat the 30 second heat cycle at 50% power. Let sit for 1 minute. (May have to repeat one more time.)

Now drop the power to 30% and heat in 30 second intervals, checking rolls after each. Once rolls have completely thawed and are starting to rise you can either let them finish rising outside the microwave covered in a warm place or drop the power to 10% and heat for a couple of minutes at 10% power then sit for 2 minutes. Then heat at 10% power for 2 minutes then let them sit for 4 minutes. They should be about doubled in bulk by this time. This entire process on frozen rolls takes about 12-15 minutes. Bake in a conventional oven as instructed on the package.

Sanitize a Sponge. I was a little skeptical about this, but authorities do say, if done right, this method does kill a very high percentage of micro-organisms. The sponge must be completely wet and caution used. Heat the completely wet sponge on HIGH for 2 minutes. Using tongs, remove from the microwave. There are those who have had some serious mishaps and even started a fire this way, so be careful and cautious. I am more inclined to use a low concentration of bleach and water as my method of sanitizing a sponge. See, I told you I was skeptical.

De-crystallize Honey. This is one use for my microwave that I just love. I have done it many times, as I store and use lots of honey. I prefer to heat my honey at 50% power, but I do know there are many sources that say you can use full or HIGH power. I heat my honey just until the crystals are dissolved.

Soften Cream Cheese. Un-wrap an 8 ounce package of cream cheese and place in a microwave safe dish. Microwave at 50% power for 1 ½-2 minutes. Voila.

Roasting Garlic. Cut the tops off of one to four heads of garlic, leaving the heads intact. Place the garlic in a microwave-safe dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and microwave for six to eight minutes, depending on the size of the garlic heads. Keep the garlic covered and let it stand for 10 minutes before using.

Toasting Coconut or Nuts. Spread coconut or other nuts in a thin layer on a paper plate or paper towel. Microwave on HIGH, or full power, for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Some spots may brown too quickly, so stir after a minute or so.

Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and nuts can also be done using this method, by increasing the cook time for the type of seed or nut you are toasting.

Soften Ice Cream to Scoop. Sometimes our ice cream is frozen so hard you can’t get a scoop through it. This trick works for a full half gallon of ice cream…place in the microwave on HIGH for 20-30 seconds, your ice cream will be ready to scoop!

Heating Beauty Products and health aides—lotions, creams, oils, and even heat packs can be warmed gently in the microwave—feels so good. Some products will need to be warmed on 50% or less, and other can be warmed on HIGH—for example my rice heat pack is 2 minutes on HIGH and it is toasty warm.

Dry Herbs and Citrus Fruit Peels. For those who love to grow herbs like I do, did you know you can quickly dry them for storage by using your microwave? Place cleaned herbs between two paper towels and microwave 1 to 2 minutes on HIGH. Check to see if they are dry enough to crumble. If they need more time dry further in 15-20 second intervals.

Cook Bacon. Cooking bacon in the microwave is a cinch, and it turns out so well. Place 5 or 6 slices of bacon on a layer of paper towels, or better yet a bacon tray intended for the microwave (available in most all kitchen stores), cover with paper towel and microwave on HIGH, of full power, for 3 minutes, or until crisp. Less mess and easy clean up—my favorite!

Ripen an Avocado. Prick avocado with a fork 3 or 4 times, as you would a potato for baking. Place unripe avocado on paper towels and microwave in 30 second intervals at 50% power (not HIGH). After each 30 second cook time let sit a minute, check for softness, then repeat. While this works quite well the flavor is not as full and the avocado is best used smashed, not sliced.

Perfect White Sauce Every Time. Place 2 TBS butter in a 1 quart measure and melt in microwave (50% power for 15-20 seconds). Add in 2 TBS flour to make a roux or paste. With a wire whisk mix in 1 cup of milk, ½ tsp powdered chicken bouillon, and some pepper. Microwave on HIGH for about 3 minutes—whisking after 2 minutes. Add time, if not quite thickened, in 30 second intervals until thick.

A few more uses for your microwave include: heating and softening tortillas, warming pancake syrup, drying bread crumbs or croutons, melting caramels, making peanut brittle, thawing meat for meal preparation in a hurry (meat must be cooked immediately upon thawing when using a microwave), and scrambling eggs—so cool!

A Word of Caution: Do not attempt to deep fat fry, boil an egg, or heat a baby bottle of milk—it is too easy to overheat milk, get hot spots, and then burn the baby’s mouth.

If you have any questions, contact Teresa Hunsaker at the Family and Consumer Science Education Department at the Weber County USU Extension office at (801) 399-8203 or online at

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