Life Without a Microwave
November 10, 2014 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I threw out our microwave the other day in a fit of frustration over the amount of space it took up compared to how rarely we use it, and with its general unreliability. Did I make a mistake or is modern life possible without a microwave?

In the few days since the microwave went bye-bye, I have gone to cook two things that I realized would be much easier to cook WITH a microwave (such is life). The first (curry) I was able to reheat in a pot on the stovetop and that was pretty easy, but just now it was a frozen tamale. As I went to Google "How to cook a frozen tamale in the oven", I thought I might ask you good people if you have had any success regularly cook/reheating food without a microwave and if there is some general source of information for working around not having one. I may cave and eventually just buy another one (that is smaller and not 10 years old like the last one, of course) but I'd really like to avoid that.

(Oh dear--in the time it took me to write that, my coffee has gotten cold. HELP!)
posted by lovableiago to Food & Drink (57 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My two previous apartments didn't have a microwave. Easy as pie honestly. The only time I missed it was when I wanted to say speed up moisture extraction on cabbage or to make latkes. You'll do great!
posted by Carillon at 10:46 AM on November 10, 2014

Perhaps you would enjoy an under-cabinet mounted microwave?

Alternatively, perhaps you could look for boil-in-bag foods, instant noodles, and perhaps invest in an electric kettle?

Really, I think it's a matter of buying and expecting foods that are heated differently. That is, no frozen burritos, more sandwiches.

Personally, though, we use the microwave a lot - the whole cook-a-lot-on-the-weekend, reheat-during-the-week strategy depends on it.
posted by amtho at 10:47 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, you can live without a microwave. Here are 7 tips for life without a microwave, after a bunch of musing on the EPA and safety of microwaves, so I'll copy the key text of the seven tips:

1. Buy at least one stackable steamer pot.
2. Find a good teapot or kettle.
3. Rethink reheating foods. Years ago microwaves were not in existence, yet people still ate leftovers.
4. Ditch the prepackaged meals.
5. Buy a toaster oven.
6. Buy a hot air heated popcorn popper.

I'm fully in support of toaster ovens instead of standard toasters, but that's because I grew up with one.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

I don't have one now, and I miss it less and less. I heat up leftovers on the stove, and coffee I just drink faster. I make some stuff, like frozen dumplings, in a steamer pot - you could probably do tamales in one of those. And I do popcorn on the stove, I don't know why people think it's so hard to do it that way.

I am however considering buying a toaster oven to replace the one my former roommate took. The singular reason: melting cheese onto grilled cheese/nachos/etc.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2014

I suspect that you use less electricity (natural resources) reheating with a microwave, also. There's less wasted heat.
posted by amtho at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2014

We also do no have one, because I think they look ugly in my kitchen.

Use the oven on grill mode. You can heat up so many things that way, surprisingly quickly! You don't have to wait for the entire oven to heat up.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's how you heat up a frozen tamale without a microwave:

1) Get a small pot, put like an inch of water in it
2) Boil the water
3) Suspend the tamale in the pot above the water so it will be bathed in steam. You can use one of those small strainer things with hooks for the edge of the pot, or, if you have one, use an actual steamer for this.

You might want to rotate the tamales at some point to ensure even heating.

Its funny that this is the example you used because I think frozen tamales are seriously one of the very few things that both comes out well in the microwave and is easier and faster to reheat in the microwave.

More generally, yes, it is very, very possible to live without a microwave. On the other hand, small microwaves cost like 20 bucks on craigslist. If you want one, just get another one.
posted by jeb at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Modern life is absolutely possible without a microwave. I'm a frequent and enthusiastic cook and baker (as in I don't order in or eat prepared foods, pretty much ever), and I don't own one. Never have -- I don't like them. I make good use of the toaster oven for reheating small stuff, or the stovetop for some things -- for example, pizza is waaaay better re-heated in a skillet on a stovetop than in a toaster oven or microwave. Yeah, you have to wait a bit longer if you use the toaster oven or stovetop, but I've found the results to be far superior to anything done in a microwave; the food doesn't get soggy (see reheated pizza, above) and it doesn't get cold in three seconds the way it does when you use a microwave.
posted by holborne at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I loathe microwaves. The last one I got rid of, I realized the only thing I would miss would be the popcorn button. So rather than spend (at the time) $150 for a new microwave, we spent $15 for a hot air popcorn popper.

Learn to defrost things in Ziploc bags in warm water in the sink.
Learn to reheat things on low on the stovetop or in the oven.
Learn to cook and eat differently.

I mean, I don't know what all you do with a microwave. Other than popcorn and warming baby bottles (which can be done in warm water on a stove top), I never saw much use for them personally.

(The only two microwaves I have had were essentially gifts from relatives who are fans of them. I really have never liked them.)
posted by Michele in California at 10:51 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Counter to the energy-saving of microwaves: there's also the use of resources to create the microwave and get it to your home. If you get a used one, that's less of a concern, but you have to be careful when buying a used microwave.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:51 AM on November 10, 2014

The only thing I can think of that really requires a microwave is a microwavable heating pad (which you can make yourself), but if you have one, you can replace it with a plug-in pad, or a hot water bottle.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:53 AM on November 10, 2014

Whirley-pops and similar stovetop poppers are soooooo much better than hot air. Also buy Flavacol.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2014

I've rarely had a microwave, toaster oven or anything except a stove really as an adult. I don't even have a stand mixer and I bake all the time. In college we didn't have an ove (well we did but it was clearly trying to kill us so we stopped using it). You don't need them, there are other ways to cook and reheat. Although microwaves do save you time washing dishes.
posted by fshgrl at 11:00 AM on November 10, 2014

Ours broke in a move and we didn't replace it (now we live in a house with a built-in one or we still wouldn't have one.)

For us, a toaster oven, an electric kettle for quickly heating water, and a very tiny saucepan for heating lunch-sized amounts of food were really helpful in making us feel like we had good options. A steamer basket's also handy. I'd probably put the tamale in the toaster oven or steamer.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:06 AM on November 10, 2014

We did without one for a couple of years when we had a tiny kitchen. I found that many things could be heated up in a pot on the stove and/or in the toaster oven. One big thing for us was that both my fiance and I had access to microwaves at work, so we would plan on taking our easy-to-microwave leftovers to work for lunch. This strategy worked pretty well, since there are plenty of foods that are POSSIBLE to heat up other ways, but are time consuming or annoying. One thing we did end up buying was an air popcorn popper, which we found to be easier than doing popcorn on the stovetop. And, actually we prefer it to microwave popcorn, and have kept it around even now that we have a microwave.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:07 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing what everyone is saying.

Defrosting in zip-lock bags in warm water, reheating on the stove, and toaster ovens are awesome. My current crappy microwave is the last one I ever hope to own. After this, I'm done with them.
posted by JimBJ9 at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

We sold our microwave before moving... nearly 3.5 years ago. We spent money on a kick-ass teakettle and I only use a microwave at work if I bring leftover soup for lunch. Eminently manageable.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2014

My sister lived without a microwave for 2 years. The major problem ( besides convince food ) is defrosting meat. Living without a microwave requires enough meal planning to stuff your frozen meat in the fridge before you decide you want food. If you don't have it yet a meal plan will help enormously with non-left overs.
posted by Liger at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had one for years, and then when it broke a few years ago we never replaced it. General thoughts: take things out of the freezer to defrost long before you actually need to use them (you will get used to this); and take things out of the fridge so they can come up to room temp and possibly not need to be heated further (you will get used to this); and just experiment in terms of heating things up in the oven, stovetop, whatever (you will get used to this, too). Basically, it'll take you a bit of adaptation but yeah, you will totally get used to this. I don't miss it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2014

To reheat things, wrap them in tinfoil/aluminium foil & put them in the oven. You'll find stuff reheating so much better than they did in the microwave. Things like curry put in an ovensafe dish, cover & let the oven do the work. I find pans tend to reheat unevenly & standing around stirring drives me crazy.
posted by wwax at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You do not have to stick your frozen meat in the fridge. I almost never do that. Because of my medical condition, I get food poisoning more easily than average and that kind of thing can lead to me getting sick (and throwing up for three days). So I want things defrosted rapidly and cooked promptly.

If speed is important to you, it will take a smidgeon of planning, but you can buy small-ish steaks (like eye round), stick one or two steaks apiece in small Ziploc bags and lay them flat to freeze rapidly. When you come home, fill a bowl or the sink with warm water, toss in as many Ziploc bags of steak as you desire to cook for your meal, let them sit for a few minutes while you do vegetable prep (or use the bathroom, turn on the TV...whatever) and then cook like fresh meat a few minutes later. You can buy an eye round roast and have the butcher cut it up into like 20 small steaks and have as much or as little steak as you desire at a time.

It takes a little longer than using a microwave to defrost, but the quality is so much better and the amount of time, effort, planning, etc. is pretty minimal. If you want a convenient relationship to food, you should be doing a lot of your planning and food prep around the same time as your shopping trip anyway. If you think before you buy and spend a few extra minutes dealing with stuff before you store it (in the pantry, fridge or freezer), then the whole rest of the week is just a whole lot easier.
posted by Michele in California at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also consider getting a pressure cooker. A lot of things that are faster in a microwave are also faster in a pressure cooker. You can get an electric tea kettle to boil water. A toaster oven does a lot of nice things too.

Personally I like having a microwave around for various things: (1) reheating coffee when it's gone cold in the mug (stop judging me right now, you bastards), (2) melting cheese on top of whatever thing I just put it on, (3) reheating things like chili, etc.

A microwave doesn't have to always live on the counter top either. You can unplug it and store it in a closet or somewhere out of the way when you're not using it.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

For two years I lived in a studio apartment with little kitchen space and therefore had no microwave. I got by just fine with a regular oven and stove top (I didn't even have a toaster oven at the time). Nthing people above that food reheated in an oven/toaster oven is much tastier than food reheated in a microwave. I also found that it forced me to plan meals and defrost food in a timely fashion. It also upped my zen a few notches by not feeding my constant need for immediate gratification. You definitely develop more patience, which is not such a bad thing.

Now that we have a bigger kitchen, we have a microwave. It's a bajillion years old and I can't wait for it to conk out so I can show my husband the wonders of living without a microwave.
posted by Nutritionista at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

For your coffee, you might want a mug warmer. Basically a mug-sized hotplate that runs at a low power to hold things around 120oF. It will not reheat your coffee but it will keep your coffee from getting cold.
posted by aimedwander at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm cold of toes and a forgetful tea drinker, so heating up wheatbags / cherry stone bags and rewarming tea are both good arguments for a microwave. I've lived the last 5 years without one so it is possible (and make popcorn on the stove), but those two aspects are what is driving me to buy one this winter.
posted by pipstar at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

My strategy as someone who cooks a lot, has a lot of leftovers, and doesn't have a microwave, is just to bring my microwave-centric leftovers to work for my lunch. Otherwise I find it's no big deal. Soups, stews and sauces re-heat fine on the stove, frozen meat defrosts quite quickly sealed in lukewarm water in a zip lock bag. Not sure what you would need it for at this point, really.
posted by Diablevert at 12:07 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Something someone wrote reminded me of this:

I grew up before microwaves existed. Some foods are not great for reheating on the stove. Reheating mashed potatoes is another good use of a microwave and German potato balls have to be cooked in ridiculous amounts of butter to not stick to a pan because of the high starch content. However, slicing up leftover potato balls and reheating them in leftover gravy is totally awesome and mashed potatoes at room temperature can be warmed a bit by adding hot gravy to them. (I also just prefer fresh foods generally and don't do a lot of leftovers, so reheating is not a big part of my life.)

I happen to love potato balls sliced up (so they reheat faster) and reheated in leftover gravy. For me, this is not a sacrifice. It's a delicacy.

I am mentioning that because this was something I had to think about at one time and come up with a solution for before microwaves even existed and I came up with a solution that made me look forward to reheating certain leftovers. So maybe there are some things you wind up having leftovers from and you can't serve it exactly like you would have if you had just cooked it fresh or if you had a microwave and could reheat it to resemble the fresh way you prefer to serve it, but that doesn't mean there isn't some means to reheat it that you would be perfectly happy with.

Similarly, my understanding is that tortilla chips basically were born of trying to find a way to salvage leftover tortillas. And the solution was to cut them up smaller and cook a second time and now it's a popular thing in its own right.
posted by Michele in California at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

So maybe there are some things you wind up having leftovers from and you can't serve it exactly like you would have if you had just cooked it fresh or if you had a microwave and could reheat it to resemble the fresh way you prefer to serve it, but that doesn't mean there isn't some means to reheat it that you would be perfectly happy with.

Oh, right, this is a good point. Now, whenever I have leftover Chinese/Indian/Thai takeout, I mix the rice with the saucy part before reheating it in the pan. (When I had a microwave I would reheat them separately, because that's how you eat it when it's fresh.) I also found that I usually need to add a dollop of extra jarred sauce to stove-reheated pasta dishes, but that can actually be a fun way to differentiate leftovers from what you ate yesterday- toss in some cream or wine instead of pasta sauce before you reheat, for example.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:49 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was coming in to suggest a coffee mug warmer, but I see that's already covered so I'll just second that. We went without a microwave for almost 2 years, and between my mug warmer, electric kettle, hot water bottle, and the skillet-warmed pizza method mentioned above, we were fine. If you like tea, I'd also suggest a nice tea cozy so you can brew a pot of tea and keep it from going cold in between cups.

However, when we eventually saw a small microwave on sale for super-cheap during the most recent wave of college move-in sales, we went ahead and bought it and I'm really happy we did. Yes, you can definitely be fine without one, but it is what it purports itself to be - a convenience item. Sometimes you just want something to be hot quickly and easily, without any planning or additional pan-dirtying. Heck, sometimes you even just want a bag of microwave popcorn. Don't beat yourself up about it if you decide you'd be happier having a microwave again. In my experience, waiting for a good sale helped mitigate any nebulous feelings of failure I might otherwise have had about getting a new one; maybe that would help you, too.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:51 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you will decide fairly quickly whether you need to replace your microwave. For my family, it's an important convenience item, but not strictly necessary. I will say that if I didn't have it, I would use my convection toaster oven a lot more. We love our toaster oven for the holidays, reheating pizza, and baking in the summer so we don't heat up our kitchen. Those take up about the same footprint as a microwave, so you would have to decide if it was worth it for you.

When we didn't have a microwave, I usually used google (as you did) for how to heat things. I'm not sure I ever couldn't find what I was looking for.
posted by Night_owl at 1:17 PM on November 10, 2014

I use my microwave all the time.

In the absence of one, for anything that goes in a bowl, your best bet is to heat/re-heat in a saucepan on the stove top. (I had leftover curry yesterday and just put the rice down in a bowl, poured the curry on top and microwaved the whole thing, and then ate it out of that bowl. I guess you'd need to re-heat the rice in a separate sauce pan if you didn't have a microwave. or you'd have to mix everything together.) Even with a microwave, for soups or things like chili, I often prefer using a sauce pan on the stove.

For a frozen tamale (or frozen burritos -- I eat a lot of those) you would be best off using a toaster oven, in my opinion, because using a full size oven means you're looking at a very long cooking time for what would take 2 minutes in a microwave. A full size oven will take longer to heat up and, frankly, it will be overkill for a little frozen burrito. Either way, without a microwave, this is going to take longer. Whenever I look at frozen food packaging, it says 5 minutes in a microwave or 50 minutes in an oven -- sounds rough. A toaster oven might be quicker because it's smaller. However, the problem here is that a toaster oven takes up almost as much space as a microwave. Unless you already have a toaster oven in your kitchen, you are just going to have to buy a new appliance either way. You are trading one appliance for another.

I'm also fond of using my panini press. I use that in absence of a toaster oven to crisp up certain foods. But I use it in conjunction with my microwave. I heat something in the microwave first and then crisp up with the panini press -- everything from frozen burritos to veggie burger patties. Maybe you can find a way to make a panini press useful to you. They don't get hot enough to cook things like raw meat though, for instance. Although I guess you could buy a George Foreman-type grill, which is similar.

Microwaves are pretty cheap. You may just be able to find a small, nice-looking one and save yourself from having to wash pots and pans all the time.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm 37 and have never owned a microwave in my life. (Except for the year I subletted an apartment that came with one; I used it to heat up my coffee maybe twice, and otherwise ignored it.) I have never felt a microwave-shaped hole in my life, in fact if I got one now I'm almost positive it would not occur to me to use it. So, you're fine. You can reheat things in the oven or on the stove, as people have done since ovens and stoves have been around. It's not complicated.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:22 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, basically everyone else has the right idea (except stove-top popcorn is way more delicious than air-popped). I've never had a microwave as an adult, and I don't want one. On the (very) rare occasion that I buy frozen food, I just wait the hour or so it takes to heat in the regular oven. Tamales go in the steamer.

The only thing, as others have noted, is the microwavable heating pads. I put one in the oven once, and... no. Don't do that.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 1:25 PM on November 10, 2014

The only thing, as others have noted, is the microwavable heating pads. I put one in the oven once, and... no. Don't do that., the internet told me it would work just fine if I set the oven to 200 and left it for 20 minutes. Was it wrong? Will I burn down my apartment building doing this? (Mine is made of feed corn and fabric.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:31 PM on November 10, 2014

Maybe 200 is ok! The fabric on mine burned, but I probably put it in at too high a temperature.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 1:34 PM on November 10, 2014

We don't have a microwave, and I never miss it. Just use the stovetop or oven to reheat things. To defrost items, put them in a large plastic bag (ziploc) and let it soak in hot water. We make stovetop popcorn (instead of microwave) and it is infinitely better. To heat water, we use a kettle.

All this takes more time, but how much of a rush are you really in?
posted by Toddles at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2014

I have never in my 30 years of life lived with a microwave. I cook a decent amount, and the only thing I imagine it would be useful for is last-minute defrosting.

Living without an electric kettle, however, would be annoying.
posted by HFSH at 1:49 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I admit that I have a microwave and I love it, even though I have a fancy water boiler and a toaster oven. We use it probably 5 or 6 times a day, mostly for tea and leftovers because it's easier to clean up afterwards. But it's just a tool!

-- Buy a couple of more heavily insulated coffee mugs, or a coffee mug cozy

-- For baking, if you need small amounts of ingredients melted, buy a set of smaller pots/pans. I have a single egg pan that is great for butter and a 2 cup pot for cream/chocolate (but I think the microwave is honestly easier for small amounts because then it's perfectly melted and I don't have to worry about fire from three different places.)

-- I know a lot of people like using Ziploc bags to defrost/cook, but not all Ziploc bags are microwave safe and Ziploc doesn't recommend higher temperatures than that with any of their bags, so hot water is probably fine but I wouldn't personally use them in anything close to boiling water.

-- Stock up on tin foil for reheating/baking; I like using the half-sized or quarter cookie sheets for small things because they're easier to handle and clean

--Electric kettles are wonderful, wonderful things
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2014

Living without a microwave is 100% possible. I did it for a good eight months with no prior preparation. Just started using the oven for everything. The only reason not to do so and to maybe go buy a reliable microwave is the sheer energy use. Ovens use a lot of energy, and so does the range. For a fraction of the time and energy use/cost, you can have food that's just as hot.

So yeah, it's doable, but it's not the most environmentally friendly option in the long run. Maybe pick up a small microwave and put it on top of the refrigerator or something?
posted by Urban Winter at 2:10 PM on November 10, 2014

When I want to extend the time my coffee or tea stays warm, I will pour boiling water into the mug and let it sit for a bit, pour out the water and then add my beverage.

I got rid of my microwave with my last move and I really don't miss it. I do have a toaster oven, george foreman grill and a steamer, so that pretty much covers everything I need.

My popcorn is made on top of my stove in my dutch oven.
posted by Julnyes at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2014

If you drink drip coffee, they have coffee makers with thermal carafes. My parents have one, and it does keep the coffee hot for a lot longer (a couple hours without tasting stale). There are also thermal carafes not related to any coffeemaker you can buy to pour the coffee right into after you make it so that it can just sit on the table and not get cold (people use them for after-dinner coffee if they have company ime). If you make coffee with a french press, or if you drink tea in a teapot, you can knit a cozy for it and/or get one of those lids for your mug. There are also thermal french press pots, that have double glass walls. Those usually keep the coffee hot for about 45 minutes longer than a regular french press will ime. You can also reheat coffee on the stove (in a small saucepan) but that usually makes it taste stale no matter how short a time it's actually been since you made it. If you're interested just in tea or instant, I also love my electric kettle, much easier and faster than trying to use a metal one on the stove top.

What do you use the microwave for?

If it's thawing frozen food, just defrost the food in the fridge/on the counter (depending on what it is and what you think is safest) or bake it in the oven for longer at a slightly lower temp (if it's a frozen casserole or pot pie or something).

If it's small snacks that you don't want to use the oven for, toaster ovens are good for those (stuff like taquitos are good in the toaster oven, you can even make a couple cookies at a time in there if you want). You can put those things in the oven, too, it just takes longer to cook (anything pre-prepared will probably have conventional oven directions on the package)

If it's reheating leftovers -- if you cooked the dish on the stove originally, reheat it on the stove, and if you cooked the dish in the oven originally, reheat it in the oven. I agree with the people above who recommend mixing the rice or pasta with the sauce if you're reheating a dish like that (spaghetti with meat sauce tastes really good this way). Be careful with adding more sauce or water to something that you're reheating on the stove, though -- for soup, especially, it can get pretty concentrated if you just reheat it as is, but if you try to water it down at that point it'll often taste weird, like the soup doesn't coalesce anymore. Or so I've found. When in doubt, I add wine and/or stock instead of water.

For frozen veggies, steam them on the stove using a steamer in a saucepan.

Popcorn is really good on the stove. You might need to get a big pot especially for it, though, because it will *mess up* a pot if you make it a lot. Basically, you heat 2tbs of vegetable oil in a pretty big pot, put in a half cup of kernels, cover the pot with tinfoil (or a lid I guess, but tinfoil is easier imo because you can leave some space for air to escape), let the kernels pop like crazy, then pour the popcorn into a bowl. Then you can go to town with olive oil, butter, whatever you want. I advise against margarine, though, it melts funny.

The hardest thing to heat imo is roast meat, which I don't think you can actually reheat without drying it out. You can try covering it in tinfoil and putting it in the oven, but I haven't been successful with that. I just end up eating it cold instead.

I do all this stuff despite actually having a microwave. My parents are just complete Luddites and I guess this all is how I've been taught to warm food back up (though I've bought them multiple microwaves to try and get them to change, too!). I've never seen a central source to teach you how to reheat food, though. I wouldn't worry, it's not rocket science. The main thing is to not put plastic in the oven, because if it melts, it's a HUGE pain to get off. Wrap leftovers in tinfoil instead of clingwrap because of this. Also, if you're now going to be using the oven more, you might want to put one of those foil trays on the bottom of it so that you can swap it out when it gets covered in grease. You really can start a grease fire in there!
posted by rue72 at 2:18 PM on November 10, 2014

Almost all of your defrosting needs can be taken care of by bowl-in-water-in-pot-with-lid. I have lived the last 20 years without a microwave and I have never missed it. I will frequently reheat cold coffee in a pot on the stove.

Things take somewhat longer and you do slightly more dishes. I guess if either of those things sound like hell to you, keep your microwave.
posted by 256 at 2:23 PM on November 10, 2014

thinking back on it, i lived in a place for over a year with no microwave. i then moved to another place where we didn't have one until well after we moved again almost six months later.

not having a microwave isn't that bad, but not having a microwave OR a toaster oven sucks and always seems like a gigantic waste of energy(and i'm not all that sympathetic to the "think about how much energy was used to make it!" argument. i'm talking about actual utility bills here). when i didn't have a microwave, i used my toaster oven ever day. now that i have a TINY gas oven(i've seen larger in-wall microwave/convection combos) i'd still say i use the oven and stove probably 5x as much as the microwave.

many good solutions have been outlined above, and only maybe once a month did i find myself going "dammit, this would be so fast and easy if i had a microwave".

Whatever you do though, don't become one of those damn woo-people who is convinced you're somehow superior or healthier for not having one. seriously, if you start reading any advice and it gets in to some thing a bout how it's sooo much healthier or woo about radiation or whatever just close that shit instantly.

For what it's worth, i would definitely prefer having one to not unless i had a SUPER small kitchen. I'd rather have a convection-capable toaster oven than a microwave if i had to choose, but i'd mostly just rather have both. Unless this is a critical space issue, i'd rather have one than not. Even if i only use it a couple times a week, it's just so much easier when it's there.
posted by emptythought at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a microwave because my partner likes using it; I wouldn't have one otherwise. I use it for popcorn only (yes, it tastes better on the stove, but I'm lazy, sue me) and nothing else. Once in a great while I'm extra lazy and reheat something in the microwave instead of on the stove, but usually I end up regretting that when I end up with the inevitable cold spots among the overheated areas.

I cook, bake, and reheat leftovers all the time. The stove and oven cover all of my cooking needs except for the aforementioned microwave popcorn bags. I know some people rely on them a lot more and if it is a big deal in your life you will learn this very quickly.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:27 PM on November 10, 2014

I don't have one in my house. I don't have a single grounded outlet in my kitchen and I just don't need one. I spend summers in a place that has one. I like both situations just fine. I do more dishes in the no-microwave place. I also have a good toaster oven that I use for small reheating and it's a lot more efficient than the bigger oven. I steam more things. I have an electric kettle. I thaw stuff in the fridge. I even buy some frozen meals and they are usually fine in the toaster oven it just takes a ton longer. I sort of like the no-microwave house because it makes me more mindful of what I eat and thinking about food before I'm OMG STARVING. I miss being able to reheat stuff quickly and non-messily but in every other way I don't really miss having one.
posted by jessamyn at 3:43 PM on November 10, 2014

I'm 44 and have never owned a microwave. My family got our first microwave in '83 or so, and I've never trusted them. I heat up things in a pot or in the oven. I don't really care for popcorn. Cooking/warming would probably be easier or faster if I had one, but I'm staunchly opposed to them. No particular reason, probably just me being curmudgeonly.
posted by bendy at 5:40 PM on November 10, 2014

We live without a microwave. We have a small kitchen and haven't found one that can live without a ginormous amount of dedicated space.

The critical factors to heating things on the stovetop or oven are patience and moisture. So you throw a couple of tablespoons of water into your Chinese food, put it on low simmer, set the timer for five minutes--dumb out on the internet--come back and stir and either set the timer for five minutes more or eat.

I sort of theoretically wish we had a microwave but the topic of 'should we get a microwave' has surfaced and fallen annually since 2005 so I'm going with 'not necessary'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:42 PM on November 10, 2014

I've never had a microwave in my adult life (on purpose). Here're some things that will make it possible:

Reheating tools that you should own:
a. Tin foil
b. Pyrex storage containers (all different sizes)
c. A few cookie sheets (different sizes, including a small one)

My go-to reheating process is to turn the oven to 400, put the cold pyrex dish of leftovers inside, set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Done.

If it's a soupy or saucy thing, I reheat it on the stovetop.

Congratulations on your new microwave-free lifestyle!
posted by RingerChopChop at 6:36 PM on November 10, 2014

tl;dr but I've never had one, and I cook for myself, often. Is the 25 minutes extra it takes in a conventional oven really such a big deal, when preparing your Thaw&Chaw frozen dinner? I regularly heat up my leftovers in a stove-top saucepan or frying pan, like everybody did before ~1978, and you can, too.
posted by Rash at 7:11 PM on November 10, 2014

I have a microwave. I also buy a fair number of frozen premade meals. 80% of the time or more, the reheat instructions on these meals include either a steam or bake alternative to mixrowaving, and 100% of the time this option works better (more even heating).

The only thing I use my microwave for is reheating gloppy leftovers like spaghetti and soup.

So I'd say that, absent leftover reheating, I wouldn't miss my microwave.
posted by zippy at 7:19 PM on November 10, 2014

As others have said, living without a microwave is perfectly possible. I have not had one for 10 years. I've learned other ways to reheat or reuse leftovers, including making hash.

I got rid of my microwave because I didn't have space for it in my (then) new house. Honestly, if I suddenly had the option, I would not get a new one. I just don't miss it any more. Give it some time, and you'll learn new ways to do the things you used to use it for.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:45 PM on November 10, 2014

Forgot microwaves were a thing. I'd miss my mortar and pestle though.

I mostly don't simply reheat leftovers, instead I transform them. Leftover stir fry converts to fried rice, leftover roast chicken becomes soup, leftover soup gets something new thrown in. The leftover (amazing) cumin-rubbed ribs that I slow cooked on top of the wood stove this weekend turned into pulled pork tacos, etc. Doesn't take long, keeps up variety.
posted by joeyh at 8:51 PM on November 10, 2014

I personally love my microwave for a large number of applications. That said, I did recent live about three years without one, and it didn't affect my life that adversely. The stove, some pots, a steamer basket, a toaster and an oven till reheat pretty much any food you need heating.

That said, since folks above have mentioned it, America's Test Kitchen found a really great way to quickly thaw small cuts of meat (even many of them), so check out the video here. I use it regularly, and find it to give better results than microwave-thawing.
posted by General Malaise at 9:07 PM on November 10, 2014

I've had the same microwave for almost 24 years. I used to use it to eat microwave popcorn (which I don't eat anymore) and still do when I need to quickly heat up just one cup of water. I'm not much of a cook at all, but I do reheat things, and I find they taste much better when heated on the stovetop or in the oven. So yeah, you'll be fine unless you want to make Peeps explode.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:52 PM on November 10, 2014

You must learn to cut buns, bagels, etc before freezing because you no longer have a device that can rapidly defrost to get a knife through. Also you will have to be careful that breads, etc are packed properly because you can't partially defrost to separate your stuck breads.

I was without a microwave for a month and the worst things were no hot pack, bread problems, and making hot lunch for kids cause that has to go hot into a thermos in a short time period. I am happy to have the microwave back just to deal with frozen bread product. I found no good work around.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:57 PM on November 10, 2014

We've been living without a microwave for 12+ years and are perfectly content without one. Most things can be thawed in a plastic bag submerged in cold water. Pizza reheats well in a frying pan (preferred technique: start it topping-side down in a cold pan over medium, heat until it starts to sizzle slightly, then flip it over to crisp the crust as it finishes reheating; or here's what Serious Eats has to say about it). A double boiler is your friend, as is an oven on low heat.
posted by Lexica at 7:14 PM on November 11, 2014

Thanks everyone. We've now lived sans microwave for a month and haven't missed it. (I was amused to see that a lot of answers mentioned that the only good reasons to have one are making popcorn and defrosting meat...we never eat popcorn [I hate everything about it, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms] and because our previous microwave was so old and busted, the defrost feature never worked so we've always dealt with meat the old school way). I will say (for anyone stumbling across this thread in the future) that foil in combination with an oven safe container (like a ceramic bowl) has been a must-have (especially for things like lasagnas and casseroles)...mac and cheese and other soupy things benefit from a small pot on the stovetop heated on low heat with a bit of moisture added (water or milk). We reheated leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes in a frying pan coated with a wee bit of olive oil; they were freakin' delish and I wondered why I had never thought to do it before. So yeah, all good without the nuke machine for now.
posted by lovableiago at 8:45 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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