Whether it’s to save counter space or money or for health reasons…many people are looking to get rid of, or avoid purchasing, microwaves. But no matter the reason, living without a microwave can present many challenges. If you are someone who is hoping to cut the microwave habit, today is your lucky day! :-) After reading dozens of articles and hundreds of comments, I’m sharing my favorite tips for going microwave-free!
This is what I use my microwave for 98% of the time! Without a microwave you have to get used to reheating leftovers on the stove or in the oven.
Handy tools to have on hand…
Cast Iron Skillet
They heat things up fast and evenly. Click here to purchase
Great option for reheating sauces and other liquid items. If you don’t have a double boiler you can make one with a regular saucepan and a glass bowl. Click here to purchase
This is just a saucepan with a pour spout on one side. Butter warmers make it really easy to heat up liquid and pour it into cups without drips or spills. Click here to purchase
Anything you can make in the oven you can make in a toaster oven – just in smaller quantities. These are especially great to have on hand in the summer when you don’t want to heat up the whole kitchen with the big oven. Click here to purchase
These are great for heating up small amounts of soup, pasta, liquids etc. Click here to purchase
Glass Baking and Storage Dishes
These can easily go from the fridge to the oven, eliminating the need to dirty up more dishes. Corningware is great for this as well. You can often find them at thrift stores and on Ebay for dirt cheap. Click here to purchase
Small Pots and Pans
These are so much more convenient that having to drag out a big pot every time you need to heat something up. And small pots and pans are much quicker to wash. Click here to purchase
Specific Food Tips…
Rice or Other Grains
Put them in a pot with a little bit of water or chicken/vegetable stock. Heat over medium until they are warmed through. Remember to stir frequently while they reheat. You can also reheat grains in a cast-iron skilled. Heat the skillet with butter or oil over medium heat then add the grains. Stir frequently until hot.
Place pizza on a cookie sheet in a conventional oven or a toaster oven. Heat at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until warm.
Potatoes (French Fries, Sliced Potatoes, Hashbrowns etc.)
Place potatoes on a cookie sheet in a conventional oven or a toaster oven. Heat at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until warm.
Put the liquid in a mason jar and set in a pot of simmering water until the liquid is warm. You can also put sauces right into a pan and add a little bit of water. Make sure to stir frequently while heating.
Add the cereal to a sauce pan with a generous amount of water. Heat over medium until warm. You’ll need to break up the chunks of cereal until it regains its creaminess.
Toss cold, cooked pasta in hot water for about a minute or until warm.
Bread, Bagels, Rolls, Cake etc
Put bread products on a tray in the oven or toaster oven and heat at 250 degrees until warm. To prevent bread from getting crunchy, cover it with a stainless steel bowl flipped upside down, tin foil, parchment paper, or an oven safe lid.
Use foil or an upside down cookie sheet to cover containers when reheating food in the oven. Covering helps the food heat faster and also keeps it from getting dried out.
To save time and energy, put dishes in the oven while it preheats rather than waiting until it’s hot.
If you’re heating up a bunch of leftovers, place them all in oven safe bowls on a cookie sheet. Heat at 350 for about 20 minutes or until everything is warm.
I’m giving coffee it’s own little section because I know cold coffee is an issue for a lot of people!
Pour cold coffee into a butter warmer (mentioned above) and heat on the stove. The spout on the side of the butter warmer makes it easy to pour the coffee back into a mug.
Add ice to cold coffee to turn it into iced coffee.
Set your coffee mug on a mug warmer. Mug warmers aren’t quite strong enough to reheat cold coffee, but they will keep it from getting cold in the first place.
Pour your cold coffee into a hot cocoa maker. My family uses one of these and I am notorious for letting mine go cold. When I want to reheat it I just throw it back into the hot cocoa maker and run it through a cycle.
Place your mug into a pan with a bit of water and heat on low until warm.
Put your hot coffee into a Contigo Travel Mug to keep it from getting cold in the first place. I’m sure any brand of mug would work but I read lots of recommendations for Contigo mugs while researching this post.
Make your coffee in a Chemex Coffee Maker. You can reheat your coffee right in the Chemex!
After reheating food, the thing I use my microwave most for is defrosting butter and meat. Luckily you can easily complete both these tasks without a microwave.
Place frozen or cold butter in a small bowl then place the small bowl into a larger bowl filled about halfway with hot water. Let it sit until the butter is softened.
Keep your butter on the counter or in the pantry. I already do this but always wondered if it was safe or not. I found a comment from someone on another site who said their husband works in food safety and he hasn’t come up with any reason why it would be harmful to eat non-refrigerated butter.
If you’re melting butter for baking, place the butter in an oven safe bowl in the oven while it is preheating. I also like to put sticks of butter on stop of the oven while it preheats. It gets warm enough to soften them up a bit
I’m a little hesitant to even talk about defrosting meat because I’ve heard a lot of different opinions on the safest way to do it. So I’ll mention a couple of different options and leave it up to you to decide what is safe for your family.
Transfer meat from the freezer to the back of the refrigerator the day before you plan to use it. Keep a defrost bowl in the fridge for this purpose. The bowl will catch any juices from the meat and remind you to get your meat out the night before.
Use the cold water method. Put meat in a watertight bag and submerge it in cold water. Make sure the water stays cold! Keep an eye on it and if the water starts to get warm, drain the sink and add more cold water. If you thaw food with cold water, you must cook it immediately.
Ground meat can be cooked frozen in a pan. Just make sure to flip it every couple of minutes and scrape off the portion that has thawed.
Make crockpot meals for dinner that allow you to use frozen meat.
Frozen chicken can be boiled – it will just take a little longer to cook.
If you’re like me, you don’t use a microwave to cook much food. Things just don’t taste as good when cooked in the microwave! But I definitely use it for a few things including warming up frozen veggies and making popcorn. Here are some other options:
Use a stackable steam pot to cook vegetables on the stove.
You can boil hotdogs on the stove or cook them in a cast iron skillet with a little bit of oil.
Melt peanut butter and chocolate in a double boiler on the stove.
Reheating Food at Work
I’m sure a lot of you work in offices with only a microwave for cooking. Here are some great tips for heating up lunches without using the microwave.
Use a mini crockpot, electric steamer or saucepan, or a hot plate. When using the crockpot, plug it in and add your food a couple of hours before lunchtime. That way your food will be piping hot when you are ready to eat.
Heat food up at home and bring it to work in a stainless steel thermos.
Bring a small electric skillet to work for reheating leftovers or even cooking from scratch in a few minutes.
Microwaves are especially convenient for busy moms with little ones. But with a little creativity you an complete baby related tasks on the stove that you would normally do in the microwave.
Use a steamer basket and a saucepan to steam sterilize breast pump parts and bottles. It take about 10 minutes on the stovetop.
If you keep baby food in the freezer, heat a saucepan with a little bit of water and add the frozen baby food. Stir until warm and smooth. You can also set meatless or dairy-free baby food on the counter to defrost if you have the time.
If baby food is in a glass jar, run it under hot water or put it in a pan with a little bit of boiling water.
Heating Rice Bags for Pain
While researching this post I discovered that one of the main problems people had with ditching their microwave was how to heat up rice bags used for pain relief. Luckily there are some great tips for this as well!
If you do still have a microwave – don’t hesitate to use it to heat up rice bags! Since you aren’t consuming the rice there shouldn’t be any worries about health effects from the microwave.
Put a rice bag in a crockpot on low for a couple of hours.
Put the rice bag in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Make sure to check it frequently so it doesn’t burn. If you’re worried about putting the fabric right on the oven racks, put the bags in a glass baking dish.
You may also want to redesign the bag itself! Add a zipper or a tie at the top of the bag. That way you can toast your rice in a pan on the stove. This way you can even add essentials oils before putting the rice back in the bag.
If you haven’t already, stop buying prepackaged frozen meals that need to be cooked in the microwave. Frozen meals are nowhere near as convenient when you have to bake them for an hour in the oven.
Plan your meals out for the week and keep a list of them on your fridge. Look at that list every evening so you know if you need move meat from the freezer to the refrigerator to defrost.
Use your phone as a timer (instead of the microwave) or buy an inexpensive countertop timer.
Keep quick oats and minute rice on hand to cut down on stovetop cooking time.
Eat more raw foods to cut down on the need to cook altogether.
Put bread in a cold oven with the door closed to rise. This might sound odd but I know a lot of people set bread in the microwave to rise.
Have you ditched your microwave?