It's not just for reheating leftovers – a microwave can cook a range of quick, easy meals, from mug cakes to mash. Here's how to make the most of this handy machine.
Choosing the right microwave
If you want to find out which microwave is best for you, check out our review of the best microwaves on the market.
My top microwave uses
- Softening onions
- Melting chocolate
- Reviving dried-up vanilla pods (just dampen with water and microwave for a few seconds)
- Melting butter
- Making rice pudding
- Getting the most from citrus fruits – pop a lemon in the microwave for 10-20 seconds before juicing it and much more liquid will come out
Things to remember
- Never use anything metal in the microwave. That includes foil, cutlery or any crockery with a metallic design detail.
- Don’t tuck in straight away. Microwaved food will continue to cook for a minute or so after the machine is turned off. Let the food stand for a minute for the molecules to finish bouncing round.
- Stir, stir, stir. Microwave cooking isn't even, because it works by agitating the water molecules. These might not be evenly distributed within the food, so you need to stir the food halfway through to make sure the heat can be spread around.
- Don’t overfill your container. Liquid in the food can bubble up or splatter in the microwave, so either loosely cover what you’re heating with a microwave-safe plate or make sure it's in a bowl big enough to allow for this. Some cooks also suggest putting the bowl or mug you're cooking in on a second plate to catch anything that overflows.
Easiest ever microwave recipes
Vegan mug cake
Make a single portion of this simple sponge pudding – perfect if you need a dairy-free dessert at the last minute. Serve with a drizzle of coconut cream, or a scoop of vegan ice cream if you like.
- Put 3 tbsp dairy-free milk in a microwave-safe mug.
- Add a pinch of lemon zest and 1 tsp lemon juice and leave to sit for 2-3 mins. It may start to look a bit grainy, as if it has split, but that’s fine.
- Stir in 1 tbsp sunflower oil, 4 tbsp self-raising flour, 2 tsp caster sugar and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. Mix really well with a fork until smooth.
- Drop in 4 fresh or frozen raspberries then microwave on high for 1 min 30 secs, or until puffed up and cooked through.
Watch our video for more microwave mug cake ideas:
Mushrooms apparently keep more of their nutrients if microwaved, which is mega news for fry-up cooking. No more fried eggs with grey edges, more space in the pan for an extra sausage, and the mushrooms are better for you – triple win!
Simply put a generous handful of sliced mushrooms into a bowl, cover with a plate and then cook for 2-3 mins, stirring halfway through cooking. If the slices are still not quite tender, keep cooking in 30-second bursts until they're as you like them.
For more information, see our guide on how to microwave mushrooms.
Microwaved fish supper
Salmon or trout, wrapped up in a baking parchment parcel with some crème fraîche, herbs and green veg, cooks in 5 mins in the microwave. Try it with leeks, tarragon and peas. You can prepare the parcels earlier in the day and keep in the fridge until you want to cook them.
See our recipe for microwaved salmon parcels.
- Clean 4 small to medium-sized potatoes then prick them all over with a fork. Lay a piece of kitchen roll on a microwave-safe plate and pop another sheet on top.
- Microwave for 4 mins, then take them out and turn them over (be careful, as they will be hot). Re-cover with kitchen roll and cook for another 4 mins.
- Keep cooking in 1-2 min bursts until the potatoes feel soft all the way through and the skins are wrinkled. Take them out and leave them to cool.
- Once cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard – rinsing them under a cold tap can speed this up. Put the cooked, peeled potato in a bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork.
- Add 2 tbsp milk, a handful of grated cheese and 1 tsp butter, stir, then return to the microwave for 2 mins or until the mash is hot and the cheese has melted. Stir until smooth and season with salt and black pepper.
Fast truffle fudge
This easiest ever chocolate treat is a great last-minute dessert – or a storecupboard winner if you’ve forgotten a birthday.
- Line a 18cm x 18cm brownie tin or similar-sized square food box with cling film.
- Put 250g dark chocolate and 25g butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave until melted, stopping to stir the mixture every 30 seconds.
- Add 30g sour cherries along with 350g caramel or dulce de leche. Mix everything together, then put into your prepared tin.
- Chill in the fridge until set (around 1 hr) then turn it out onto a board and remove the cling film. Chop into squares to serve.
Put a couple of little mounds of grated parmesan (about ½ tsp each) onto a piece of baking parchment and microwave in 10-second bursts until melted and bubbling. Leave to set for 1 minute then peel off the paper. These lacy, cheesy discs are best broken into pieces and crumbled on salads, pasta or risotto.
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