Is it really that weird that I don't own a microwave?
February 23, 2017 9:35 PM   Subscribe

I had a new friend over to my apartment tonight for the first time, and he noticed I didn't have a microwave and commented on it. He seemed really surprised. Other people have commented on it over the years, as well. Is this really that strange?

I did own microwaves for years, a friend moved in that had a better microwave, we kept his and got rid of mine, then he moved out a couple years later. I didn't buy one to replace it, and I just... got used to it.

Now I can't really imagine ever owning one again. Just seems unnecessary. There must be other (middle classish American) people out there that don't have microwaves, right?
posted by Automocar to Society & Culture (85 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's not incredibly strange or anything, but it'd be fairly uncommon in my social circle, too. (Somewhere in the don't-own-a-TV or don't-have-a-smartphone range, only harder to notice.) It's something I hear about much more on the internet than I see in real life, probably because I'm a big square.
posted by Polycarp at 9:38 PM on February 23, 2017

From a quick search online, roughly 97% of American households own a microwave.
posted by blob at 9:43 PM on February 23, 2017 [23 favorites]

I don't think it's strange. My frozen Trader Joe's stuff goes in the oven or on the stove. Most of the people I know who don't own a microwave either have small kitchens or think microwaving food is unhealthy. I've never asked for details about that last one.

What I do find strange is microwaving mugs of water instead of using an electric kettle, but it is a big world with all kinds of people in it.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:48 PM on February 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

Doing a quick rough estimate of people I know and like well enough to visit regularly, about 30% of my friends (mostly middle class-ish tech-adopting Americans ages 25-60, of varying household sizes) don't own microwaves. I didn't for over a decade, and the only reason I do now is that it's built into my apartment kitchen.

I've definitely seen it remarked-upon by others, but for reference, I get way more side-eye and "How do you even live?" for not owning a car than I ever got for not owning a nuker. It's probably on par with not owning a TV--a little unexpected for folks who have firm ideas about what a standard American household should look like, but not otherwise notably weird.

This may differ based on region and social circle, though. It would be a minor neighborhood scandal if guests came over to my mom's house in eastern NC and they noticed she didn't have a microwave.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:49 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hello! My microwave broke years ago. Last year I bought a new one finally, out of some kind of middle class peer pressure, and wound up having to return it unused because it had arrived with a broken seal.
That's it, I'm done for now at least. I just...don't need a microwave. We use the stove to melt butter, steam frozen vegetables and heat up coffee.
I just don't even think about it anymore, except when I'm reverse bragging about not having a microwave.
posted by flourpot at 9:59 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I don't have a microwave, either, and people also tend to comment regarding my lack of typical kitchen accoutrements. I have basically a galley kitchen in an open floor plan AND I don't really like the taste of microwaved food. Solidarity!
posted by sara is disenchanted at 10:00 PM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's unusual, but not unheard of. I didn't have one for about 5 years. The kitchen was just too small to waste the counter space on it. It was a mild bummer not being able to quickly heat up hot pockets or white castle burgers or whatever, but not really a huge deal.

My current lack of a toaster is definitely more of a pain. I really should go to Target tomorrow and get one.
posted by wierdo at 10:02 PM on February 23, 2017

Enh. I'm 41 and I've never owned a microwave, and the only reason I have one now is because it's built into the kitchen of my current apartment. I grew up in a solidly middle class family that got our first microwave in 1981 or 1982. The place I'm moving into this spring doesn't have a microwave or room for one, and when I first walked into the kitchen the real estate agent had ideas all ready on how to fit one in. She shrugged when I said I said I didn't want one, but it was no huge deal. Otherwise, it's never once come up in conversation my whole adult life.

Seems like my friends with kids have them more often than my friends without. My mom is nearly 70 and can't imagine life without one. My elderly relatives use theirs daily.
posted by mochapickle at 10:03 PM on February 23, 2017

Unusual, yes. Weird, no. As long as you didn't say something about microwaved food being unhealthy, I wouldn't think twice about the situation.
posted by she's not there at 10:04 PM on February 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

I haven't had one for 5-10 years, it's unusual. People won't notice on their own but if you point it out (or they need to use it) they'll be surprised.
posted by rhizome at 10:07 PM on February 23, 2017

Apparently 90-95% of Americans own a microwave, at least that's what Google says. Now I'm going to be that person who is nosy about kitchens because I'm curious about microwave status.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:09 PM on February 23, 2017

I don't think I've ever lived somewhere without a microwave since we got one when I was a kid. These days I don't use it that much, but unless I was really short on space, I'd buy one if I didn't have one. And I think I would find it unusual to learn that a friend doesn't have one. But not unusual in a bad way, just surprising because it does feel so common.

What I do find strange is microwaving mugs of water instead of using an electric kettle

When I did this it's because I needed to boil water like that (as opposed to for the purposes of cooking pasta or something) maybe three times a year at most. Certainly not enough to justify a completely separate appliance for it. But then I got married and my wife drinks tea, so eventually we did get an electric kettle.
posted by primethyme at 10:12 PM on February 23, 2017

Best answer: I also don't own a microwave. I don't have a TV or a smartphone, either. I guess that means I hit some uncommon-lack-of-belongings trifecta.

On the other hand, I have three couches in a small apartment. (I keep finding deals.) To each his own. I'd probably try to have a microwave if the wiring was better in this place. There are certain things a microwave does better, in my opinion (quick-cooking chicken in its own juices, quick microwave-baking potatoes; browning can be finished through other means), but electric griddles, toaster ovens, or just the stovetop gives you cooking and reheating options. It is a little unusual, yes, but it doesn't follow that it's necessarily bad. It's just not something some people expect, especially if they don't cook much.
posted by spelunkingplato at 10:15 PM on February 23, 2017

When I moved into my own apartment, I decided to try going without a microwave for a while.

Microwavelessness did not work well with my style of making large amounts of food for myself and saving the portions to reheat because reheating things on an electric stove takes five times as long.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:17 PM on February 23, 2017 [16 favorites]

I think Polycarp and rhiannonstone pin it down: it's as unusual as not having a TV, or a British person not having an electric kettle. It's more unusual than, say, not having a washing machine or dishwasher, which is a combination of cost and space -- plenty of wealthy Manhattanites don't have those personal amenities. Weirdness is a value judgement.
posted by holgate at 10:44 PM on February 23, 2017

You are the weirdest weirdo to ever weird.

Okay, no, not really. Your lack of microwave is out of the norm for 2017 USA, but not weird. I know people who don't have toaster ovens (but do have regular toasters) and I personally think that is slightly odder, but whatever. We do have a microwave, and use it fairly frequently for heating up leftovers and some baking-related tasks - melting butter, melting chocolate, melting butter + chocolate, etc.

But if you don't mind e.g. dirtying a pot to reheat some soup or stew, or to more quickly cook up a sweet potato, or you don't mind heating your living space by using the oven to do a thing you might otherwise use the microwave for, then...whatever!
posted by rtha at 10:46 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've never had one of my own, only if a roommate had one, and haven't had one in over 10 years. I know a lot of other people without them, but I'm an artist in a big city, so. Recently someone I didn't know too well (ALSO A WEIRDO!) brought microwave popcorn to a casual potluck-type thing and was surprised and the room was probably 50/50 havers/not-havers. Stovetop popcorn is better and microwaved water for tea is an abomination, I've always hated it. I never even think about microwaves.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:48 PM on February 23, 2017

When I had one I used it maybe twice a year, and for the last year or so I just haven't had one (I sold it after my last move). Nobody has ever said anything about it, but I and a lot of my friends are avid home cooks, and now that I think about it none of us have one.

I have nothing against them personally, I just always found that the heating was uneven and kinda weird, and I got way more consistent results from my stove.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:50 PM on February 23, 2017

Yeah, it's weird. But I don't have one either, and have never owned one as an adult. People are shocked...shocked, I say, that I have survived 2 decades without one. But.... How do you reheat pizza? The toaster oven. How do you reheat leftovers? The stove or the toaster oven. How do you boil water? Oh, ffs. I have a damn teakettle!
posted by greermahoney at 10:52 PM on February 23, 2017

I don't have a microwave or a toaster. I prefer the counter space and like, that's what a stove/oven is for! I'm actually surprised to read that 97% of household have microwaves. What for???

I will say though, that if I didn't have a washer/drier and dishwasher in house, I'd basically throw myself off a cliff. So I'm not anti-appliance, they just have to prove themselves useful in my home.

(Also, no TV - that is what Internet is for!)
posted by Toddles at 11:17 PM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have one but rarely use it and wouldn't miss it if it was gone, if only to regain some counter space. However the SO uses it daily. so there it sits. I would not notice if someone's kitchen lacked a microwave.

I totally don't understand toaster ovens. They are terrible at making toast.
posted by jamaro at 11:32 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't have a microwave or a toaster. I prefer the counter space and like, that's what a stove/oven is for! I'm actually surprised to read that 97% of household have microwaves. What for???

Warming coffee. Really annoying to have to heat a mug you're only half done by pouring it back in a pot. Also good for leftovers you're going to eat right out of the storage container, otherwise you have to wash more stuff which isn't fair since you already washed the pot you cooked it in the first time, it's like paying taxes twice.

I use mine once a week or so and could live without it, but it is convenient.
posted by mark k at 11:57 PM on February 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

I do personally find it weird because I don't think I could survive without one. I have only met one person who didn't own a microwave, at least to my knowledge. I had shock and admiration for her fortitude in the face of microwavelessness.
posted by sevenofspades at 12:01 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely unusual, but you're not alone by any means. I put mine in a closet two months ago when I wanted the counter space for a toaster oven, and I seem to be surviving so far.
posted by ktkt at 12:11 AM on February 24, 2017

I don't have a microwave because my kettle, coffee machine, fruit bowl and Kitchen aid occupy my counter space and I can't afford to lose any more. I use them more often than I would a microwave (not the Kitchen aid so much but if you've ever tried to lift one, you'll understand why that stays put.) I've survived without one through raising two babies and while I'm sure if I had one I would probably use it, you get used to just heating things up the old fashioned way. I also haven't replaced my broken dishwasher yet and I miss that more!
posted by Jubey at 12:31 AM on February 24, 2017

Totally weird but I love you anyway. When I babysat 20 years ago I sat for a family with no microwave and EVEN THEN they left me special instructions of how to reheat food stove top or in the oven (since everyone else used microwaves). Mostly people are just going to be curious how you reheat food and them they'll be like, "Huh! I didn't know you could reheat pizza that way!" They will find it interesting, but worry it may be inconvenient, but will want all your reheating tips.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:41 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't have one. Had one in the early 90s but only used it to start baked potatoes and that was during a period when I was cooking a full family meal nightly. Considered buying one when I was waxing my legs at home regularly but didn't feel like I had room for such a large single use kitchen gadget and double boilers worked just fine anyway.
posted by janey47 at 12:53 AM on February 24, 2017

Not weird, just unusual.

I have one, because my SO had one and we moved in together. When it breaks, I won't want another. I only use it for juicing lemons.

(I am not American, if that's relevant).
posted by pompomtom at 1:53 AM on February 24, 2017

(oh, and papadams)
posted by pompomtom at 1:54 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not American - Australian in UK via the Netherlands - and I haven't owned a microwave in years. And I'm speaking as someone who owns ALL THE KITCHEN GADGETS (Instant Pot, food processor, blender, spiralizer etc...)

I just don't have much use for one. Reheating happens in the oven or on the stove. Thawing happens in the fridge. Steaming happens on the stove.

Sure, we're a bit outside of the norm, but there are plenty of us out there!
posted by nerdfish at 2:15 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have one now (it was a wedding gift from well meaning relative and does come in handy for melting cold pour soap that has hardened while I'm working on it) but I didn't have one for about ten years before that, so no, I don't think it is that weird. I am based in the UK, so things that aren't common here like heating water in the microwave instead of using a electric kettle aren't really factors in "needing" a microwave though. (And I eat my leftover pizza cold and have done since I was little.)

I don't even end up using it for defrosting because I freeze most of my freezer meals in foil trays but I can see it being handy when I need to sterilise jars and bottles as I don't have a dishwasher and faddling about with the oven for small batch jam making is tedious.
posted by halcyonday at 2:54 AM on February 24, 2017

Data point: I refuse to own one. I do own both a TV and a smartphone.

Further data point: Where I live, it is illegal to rent a property out that does not have a microwave.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:27 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not normal. I know because we don't have one and holy moly do people LOVE to comment on it.

We had one that came with our apartment. When we bought a house, there wasn't an overhead one, and I was really reluctant to give up the counter space. The only thing i miss is making popcorn (I suck at stove popcorn and I don't want to buy a popcorn popper). But that's it.
posted by kimberussell at 3:52 AM on February 24, 2017

My people! Unusual by the numbers maybe, but whatever. I have like five waffle irons, six cast-iron pans and three Instant Pots. But I've never bought a microwave and have lived many years without one. I only have one now because my boyfriend came with one. If this one breaks, I won't get a new one (the microwave, not the boyfriend).
posted by veggieboy at 4:13 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

before meeting my SO, I didn't have a microwave in any of the places I lived on my own (we had a microwave in my university house, where 5 of us lived) and people who came over to my apartment would sometimes comment on it. they either commented on not having a microwave in the kitchen or not having a TV in the living room (my couch faced a bookshelf). I guess people assume you'll have those two things.

I prefer to eat cold leftovers but my partner likes to heat them up, so we have a microwave now. it is very rare for me to use it though.
posted by gursky at 4:13 AM on February 24, 2017

We bought our current home from a very well-known TV chef and were surprised to discover that there was no microwave...then we found it hidden inside the pantry away from the prying eyes of guests.
posted by richmondparker at 4:37 AM on February 24, 2017 [18 favorites]

I grew up with a microwave, but when I moved into my new (old) house, I didn't want it to clutter the counter, so I ditched it.

It was a hassle in the beginning and my biggest annoyance was not having somewhere to microwave my eyebrow wax. But for food prep? You can pretty much use a stove-top or oven for everything.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:57 AM on February 24, 2017

I think one reason most people end up with microwaves is that except for the very bottom of the market they last a really long time and are hard to break, so there are lots of old ones out there for the asking. We got one when I was a kid in the late eighties and my parents gave it to me in maybe 2002 or so, and we used it until about 2009, when something happened - I don't remember if it actually broke, if the controls just got worn and horrible or what. But we replaced it with a nicer one that an aunt gave us, and we've had that one for six or seven years.

I don't think I'd actually buy my own microwave if I didn't have one, but there are always people trying to give them away.
posted by Frowner at 4:59 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seems pretty shruggo to me. It's a convenience. Some people find them more indispensable than others do. Neither is a particularly interesting stance.

Personally, I would find it weirder if anybody actually gave your lack of microwave more than half a second's thought.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:02 AM on February 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

For me microwaves are one of those things that I take a long time to replace. So I have one about 80% of the time but when one breaks or becomes infested with tiny ants (true story!) I'll go a few months or years without one.
posted by mskyle at 5:20 AM on February 24, 2017

I don't have one because it takes up space in my 800 square foot house, and makes food that tastes like shit. You can't even cook an egg properly with a microwave!

Who needs a microwave?

For what it's worth, upper middle class millennial household here speaking.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:28 AM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

I haven't had one in about 10 years (though I'm contemplating getting one again). For me it was a space issue rather than a philosophical one - series of apartments with limited counter space and no good place to put one.

I'm thinking of getting one again because some of my food choices are moving in a direction where it'd be actively useful as opposed to a reasonable alternative that has other solutions that took about as much time or (personal) energy.
posted by modernhypatia at 5:36 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have almost always lived in situations where the microwave was provided by the landlord; in fact, of 11 past rental situations, only one required us to buy a microwave. I wouldn't think it was weird not to have a microwave, but I would feel bad for you.

I currently live in a place without one, but we have a toaster oven and it does everything you'd want it to. I don't really miss it, but I had to re-learn how to reheat food on the stove.

When I lived in an apartment with no stove, THAT was weird. We had a hotplate, a microwave, and a Nu-Wave, which is like if a hot plate and a hair dryer had a baby.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:07 AM on February 24, 2017

I don't have a microwave or a toaster. I prefer the counter space and like, that's what a stove/oven is for! I'm actually surprised to read that 97% of household have microwaves. What for???

Heating leftovers. Doing so in the oven takes far too long for the pay-off for most foods (though heating in the oven or toaster is preferred for foods where crispiness is preferred). You can not have a reheated meal in 2 minutes in a stove.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:16 AM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

The other thing about microwaves is that where they're useful, they're really useful. Semi-steaming vegetables, par-cooking eggplant, warming up old pizza, soup or beans, quick-thawing frozen vegetables for inclusion in another dish, melting butter for baking - I'd say I actually use ours most for quick ingredient prep for cooking done on the stove. I'd rather dirty a tiny glass bowl to melt some butter than a whole pan, or a soup bowl to wilt some spinach. It's one of those things where I think the kinds of things you cook on the actual stove may modulate how useful you find the microwave. If you're more a one-pot person, or more of a dry-heat person, you probably don't need one at all.
posted by Frowner at 6:19 AM on February 24, 2017 [11 favorites]

I agree with the others that it is unusual not weird. I also do not have one (I haven't had one for 15 years) and people sometimes comment on it.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:20 AM on February 24, 2017

My mother-in-law (American, has lived in England for decades) participated in this exchange during a transatlantic phone conversation with her sister in Texas:

MIL: "...and there's a dead snake on the microwave - "

MIL's Sister: "You have a microwave?"

One of the cats had recently dragged in a deceased grass snake, and MIL (who finds these things interesting) had kept it lying in state in the kitchen until she could have a proper look at it.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 6:21 AM on February 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

I became hooked on microwaves when babysitting my nephew back in 1983. At my brother's house, you warmed his bottle 8 seconds in the microwave. At our house, you had to let it sit in hot water for several minutes, minutes that felt like hours when the baby was screaming for food.

Of course I never had children, so that particular problem didn't come up again. But I still use the microwave for heating/reheating certain things. I could probably do without it just fine. I might be surprised if somebody didn't have one, but I don't think it's weird at all.

It wasn't until this thread that I found out that some people consider no toaster oven to be weird. I've never even used one.
posted by JanetLand at 6:24 AM on February 24, 2017

I have a microwave. I only use it to melt cheese on nachos. Aside from quickly melting cheese, the limited cooking that I do is more suited towards a range and oven. (Yes, even leftover pizza, I put that in a frying pan.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:24 AM on February 24, 2017

I immediately did a Ctrl+F for "children" and ditto JanetLand, because there's something about a microwave that seems invaluable for feeding children. I am usually patient enough to warm up my dinner on the stove or in the oven, my hungry child is NOT. A microwave is perfect for quickly making something warm enough for a child to enjoy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:30 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

No microwave, toaster (oven or otherwise), or TV. I do own an electric kettle, kitchen-aid, food processor, blender, ice-cream maker, and yogurt maker. Which is to say: I like kitchen gadgets, but only when they let me do something interesting (and making coffee faster in the morning counts as interesting because those extra minutes of sleep are so great).
posted by dizziest at 6:40 AM on February 24, 2017

To me the rational for a microwave or not is based on time. Have lots of it, cook on the stove top or in the oven. Have not so much, zap it. Not having one is not weird. It is statistically unusual, but not weird.

I had an elderly relative that lived to 100. She was born in 1910. About three years before she died I asked her what she thought was the most important invention in her lifetime. I was thinking she might say the airplane or going to the moon or some other product that changed the way we live or dream. Her response, and she had clearly thought about this previously, was the toaster oven. She thought the microwave was simply an incremental step, but the toaster over took the women of her generation out from "under the chains of being tied to the kitchen". (If that was the case, I thought that the TV dinner was the driving force, but who am I to disagree?)
posted by AugustWest at 6:51 AM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

We have only had microwaves when they've been built into the cabinetry of whatever apartment we're in. When we have one, we use it occasionally, but not often enough to be worth the cost and counter space of buying our own if it weren't provided.

I became hooked on microwaves when babysitting my nephew back in 1983. At my brother's house, you warmed his bottle 8 seconds in the microwave. At our house, you had to let it sit in hot water for several minutes, minutes that felt like hours when the baby was screaming for food.
Heh. And now it is not recommended to heat baby bottles in the microwave because uneven heating can result in "hot spots" that might scald. You could microwave the water to put the bottle in to heat it, but that would be the only advantage.
posted by Kriesa at 6:55 AM on February 24, 2017

(Toaster ovens aren't for making toast they're for melting cheese over nachos in my experience)
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:59 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is statistically unusual, but not weird.

Yep. I am another person who doesn't have one since I have no grounded outlets in my rental and almost no counter space. I do have a lot of other kitchen gadgets--electric kettle, toaster oven, panini press, waffle maker, popcorn machine-- that I use a lot. In the US it is super unusual to not have a microwave (which I know because people comment on it) but it works for me. That said, I spend summers in a place that has a microwave and I feel like I use it ALL THE TIME because I am excited at getting to have papadams, microwave popcorn, reheated coffee, whatever the stuff is.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you not just shake up the baby bottle if there are hot spots?

I think you're unusual in some circles, common in others. It's a very hipster thing, like not owning a TV, that seems virtuous but is actually meaningless. I microwave hot fudge for my morning iced mocha (too thick to stir otherwise) and it came with the house. I'm not sure I'd buy one right now, but have always had one in the past. I prefer stove-reheated pizza but do not mind the "taste" of microwaved hot water for tea (what even??).
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's that unusual. When I met my wife, I didn't have a microwave, and hadn't for years. I cook over fire, like God and my caveman ancestors intended.

We have a microwave now, because she'd starve if she didn't have one. I never use it and she can have it in the divorce. She heats water in the microwave, I heat it on the stove. Together, we fight crime.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:13 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have one but I can count on one hand the times I've used it. Always o pre-cooking potatoes.
posted by Marinara at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't have one (space constraints, I'd have to choose between it and a toaster oven and prefer toast) but wish I did for making mochi and heating up burritos (40 minutes in the oven does not a convenience food make).
posted by snaw at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definitely weird and objectively unusual, based on the demographic data cited in this thread.

The utility of a microwave is pretty huge for both "I cook a lot and want to reheat" folks AND the "eats a lot of prepared food" folks. As noted, reheating in the oven or on the stove takes way longer, and is much easier to fuck up since neither of those devices comes with the "make heat for X time and then stop" feature that defines the microwave UI.

I think if I met someone who omitted it from their kitchen without some obvious reason (absurdly small kitchen? never eats at home?), I'd think it was an affectation in the same class as folks proud they don't have a TV.

We cook a lot. It's not unusual for a meal to involve the near-simultaneous use of the oven, the cooktop, the toaster oven, AND the microwave.
posted by uberchet at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

We went years without a microwave and didn't miss it one bit. The only reason we have one now is we inherited it from a parent. We use it sparingly to do things like quickly melt butter or defrost meat. We don't cook with it. Leftovers tend to get reheated on the stove.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:41 AM on February 24, 2017

I would bet -- and this is completely my personal perception -- that the percentage of American MeFites (specifying American as that's where I live and am most familiar with) that don't own a microwave is substantially higher than the percentage of Americans overall who don't own a microwave.

One thing is that the percentage of MeFites who live in large, dense cities, with correspondingly smaller and older kitchens, is almost certainly higher than that of the American population as a whole. Large, newer suburban kitchens are way more likely to be equipped with a microwave because the kitchen already comes with it and/or there is just a ton of space for it, when compared to an urban kitchen. Also, this might just be an NYC thing, but I feel like urban dwellers are much more likely to eat many/most of their meals out (bagel for breakfast, grab lunch at work, takeout for dinner) which would also reduce the need for a microwave.

In addition, it's also my hunch, though I wouldn't be surprised to be proven wrong, that MeFites who are single and/or without children are probably also over-represented compared to the American population. I would think that being older, having a higher income, and having children would all be positively correlated with microwave ownership.

(All that said, as a twentysomething single Brooklyn resident without children, I own a microwave. I fall into the "cook a lot for only myself and want to reheat" camp.)
posted by andrewesque at 7:50 AM on February 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

People are always surprised that I don't have one, so I guess it is unusual. But I see no need for one in daily life and have lived without one for years.
posted by smich at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2017

Response by poster: Weird, I cook a lot for myself in big batches and just reheat things on the stove. I'm usually making rice anyway, so I gotta wait 20 minutes to eat regardless, and reheated rice doesn't taste good no matter how you reheat it.

I also don't have a toaster or a toaster oven. Basically the only kitchen "gadgets" I own are a drip coffeemaker and a stand mixer (because I love to bake.)

Interesting answers everyone, thanks!
posted by Automocar at 8:09 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Our microwave died last weekend and I haven't had a chance to replace it yet. It has been a long week for us, as we've gotten into the habit of making large amounts of things with the intention of heating up leftovers in the microwave. It makes mealtimes for my family so much easier. Fussing around with the stove or oven to reheat leftovers is a pain. So much less clean-up when you re-heat in the microwave. Also, my kids (7 and 10) can re-heat food on their own with a microwave, which is a major bonus. In the past I've gone without a television, and I have never owned a smartphone but I've always had a microwave, even if it meant buying a used one when I was a student.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:28 AM on February 24, 2017

Pizza is one of the few things I won't reheat in the microwave. It just doesn't taste right and the texture goes all weird. Oven all the way for pizza.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:33 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I didn't have a microwave for about two years, and a few people commented on it. I do think it's fairly unusual - I'd lived in seven other shared-housing situations and never not had one. I missed it at first, but now that I have one again (because my roommate wanted one and it was super cheap) I only use it about once a week, if that. Mostly for defrosting meat and heating up coffee. Heating leftover coffee on the stove was a real pain in the ass compared to popping it into a microwave.

I'm usually making rice anyway, so I gotta wait 20 minutes to eat regardless, and reheated rice doesn't taste good no matter how you reheat it.

When I have leftover takeout rice I like to heat it in a pot with a smidge of water, which works pretty well, though this has nothing to do with your question! (Or I will make rice pudding with it, which has even less to do with your question, but I highly recommend it.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:40 AM on February 24, 2017

We've had one on and off over the years, currently off because ours broke several months ago and we've been too lazy to replace it. :) I find it's a nice convenience, but both my husband and I have access to microwaves at work, so if we have leftovers that are best re-heated in a microwave, we just take those things for lunch. People do frequently comment on how they don't understand how we do it, although my general sense is that many of those who make these comments literally do not cook for themselves, and thus a large portion of what they eat is microwave meals and takeout.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:48 AM on February 24, 2017

97% of household have microwaves. What for???

posted by JenThePro at 9:28 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Microwave used lots more in summertime to not heat the house with residual stove heat.
posted by effluvia at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have a very small kitchen, so my microwave lives on top of my fridge. I don't use it all the time, but I definitely prefer having it to not having it. I use it for: making popcorn, heating trader joe's frozen gyoza, re-heating big batch leftovers, warming ice cream (usually if I want ice cream I want it NOW and cannot be bothered to wait for it to warm on the counter for optimum scoopability), melting butter, sometimes heating water for tea.

Sometimes it's too much of a hassle to get the step stool to reach above the fridge, so sometimes I'll heat these things using the stove or toaster oven though.

Also, seconding effluvia - in the summer, I would rather use the microwave to reheat a lot of things rather than the oven, toaster oven, or stovetop!

Pizza never ever ever gets reheated in the microwave, though - it's either eaten cold, heated in the toaster oven, heated in a frying pan on the stove, or reheated in the oven. soggy microwave pizza is no bueno!
posted by firei at 10:07 AM on February 24, 2017

I skipped some comments so maybe someone already made this comment, but I use my microwave near daily, and partly it's because it's faster and more efficient (energy-wise) to heat with the microwave than the stove (and definitely dear god than the oven). There are only two of us, so I make a lot of frozen things warm with it, and I can't see heating up the whole oven for a Lean Cuisine or get out a pot for a pack of frozen veggies. I don't have a toaster oven, though, due to counter space issues. Maybe if I had a toaster oven I could give up the microwave. Still, I don't think you're weird. Just your lifestyle and mine are different.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:34 PM on February 24, 2017

No microwave here. Ours was an over the range model that got removed when we installed an actual oven hood. Been without ever since. People do comment on it. I prefer the counter space. How do we manage some of the things mentioned above?

Melting butter: stovetop in one of those old enamel Turkish coffee pot/melting pots.
Boiling water: electric kettle.
Leftovers: toaster oven, regular oven, or stovetop depending on what we're talking about.
Pizza: toaster oven or pan on the stovetop.
Soup: pot on stovetop.
Coffee: reheating coffee? What are we, savages? We drink it when it's fresh.
Trader Joe's frozen Indian or Chinese foods: oven.
Trade Joe's frozen gyoza: steamed on the stovetop.
Popcorn: stovetop.

The only time we miss it is at Thanksgiving when there are a million things to bring warm to the table at the same time. Otherwise, no big deal.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:55 PM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

No microwave! I've had them in the past and just never bothered to get one in my current apartment. I don't mind heating food up in the stove or in the oven. I just recently got a toaster; before that, I'd stick bread in the oven for a few minutes to make toast!

That said, when I'm watching the kid I nanny for, I use the microwave daily (heating up leftover broccoli or noodles for him). So perhaps it depends on who you're cooking for and if you want reheats to be quick or don't mind waiting.
posted by sucre at 4:39 PM on February 24, 2017

tl;dr but no, not strange to me.
posted by Rash at 5:34 PM on February 24, 2017

I haven't had one in the 6 years that I've lived in Manhattan. I could easily afford one but just don't have that much space for it and don't need it. No one has ever commented on it.
posted by John Cohen at 10:18 PM on February 24, 2017

Wow, I've never felt so sub-urban (though I'm not) middle class in my life. The only people I know without a microwave are the occasional super broke student and woo-woo types who think electrical meters cause cancer. If I found out a friend didn't have one I'd wonder how they live.

Re-heating left overs (fresh or frozen) in their plastic containers is my main use but pre heating baked potatoes and heating frozen burritos are another main use. Also defrosting hamburger.

And while I usually prefer reheating pizza in the toaster oven I sometimes crave the nuked mouth feel; must be an acquired taste.

Microwaves are vastly more energy efficient for reheating and when it's 35+ degrees the lack of secondary heating is a real plus.
posted by Mitheral at 12:54 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

For most of our 20-year marriage we never owned a microwave. Not really a big deal, but friends used to laugh at us. We have a retro kitchen that doesn't have many outlets so I could never figure out where to put one, and they remind me too much of the crusty smelly microwave at work. And the beeping, I hate the beeping...For years I was pretty adamant about not having one, but then we found a small one with analog dials (with a bell instead of beeps, it's like the Jitterbug of microwaves) that could sit in the corner and wasn't too obtrusive. I use it mostly for heating up my eye mask (very handy for that), warming up coffee and making oatmeal.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2017

I'm sitting in the kitchen right now, looking at our counters. Our gadgets (built in or no) from left to right are:
  • Rice Cooker (simple 1970s model with one rocker switch that heats up until the thermostat registers 101°C, and switches off because the water's clearly all gone and it's heating up air now)
  • toaster (single-large-slot kind without fiddly spring mechanisms to jam, just a lever to manually raise your toast when you're ready for it meet cold air)
  • gas stove with fume hood
  • clothes washer/dryer
  • sink
  • electric kettle
  • dishwasher we rarely use
  • a really nice electric oven the previous tenants left behind
(the fridge is in a closet just across the hall because of Reasons)

Of course the UK fast-heating electric kettle is the reason we can just use a pour-over kit instead of needing a specialised coffee machine. The rice cooker is kind of a standard automatic reflex (make rice while thinking of what to cook, and let it run while you're cooking).

We tend to use le creuset enamelware saucepans over low heat to re-heat food, but generally we don't have many leftovers and just cook enough for one meal.

I can't really think of anything I'd use a microwave for that would justify the space.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:18 PM on February 25, 2017

reheated rice doesn't taste good no matter how you reheat it.

The way to reheat rice is to put some oil in a pan, dump the rice in and add some soy sauce (and really, anything else you like - veggies, meat, etc).

In other words - make fried rice.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:56 AM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Dang, that's reminds me I have cold rice in the fridge so I can start making fried rice again. Gotta go to the store and get me some char siu.
posted by rhizome at 1:53 PM on February 26, 2017

While I could live without a microwave if we didn't have one, I don't particularly want to. The primary purpose of ours is to thaw food because Mr Telophase is very good at, when he is asked to ascertain if we have an item of frozen food, replacing the item in the freezer instead of taking it out to thaw. He will also forget that food takes time to thaw and, if he's the one doing the cooking, he will not retrieve the frozen item until the step in the recipe when he is required to start prepping it. (He forgets to preheat the oven, too.)

(Provided you store it correctly and provided you're not bothered by heating up plastic wrap of some ilk, rice can reheat quite well. The storage method is to wrap single-serving portions in plastic wrap while it's still a bit warm and pop it in the freezer, and then when you want it, take it out of the freezer and nuke the wrapped package for a minute or two until it's warm. The residual moisture steams the rice into ricey almost perfection.)
posted by telophase at 3:09 PM on February 27, 2017

What I do find strange is microwaving mugs of water instead of using an electric kettle, but it is a big world with all kinds of people in it.

I don't like scale or lime buildup. That's why I nuke my water.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:54 PM on March 29, 2017

When I was in med school, I lived in an apartment with a small kitchen. I could have a microwave, or I could put my stand mixer on the counter. Stand mixer won. Priorities.

The unintended side effects were that I cooked more often from scratch, and only ever enough for one meal because it was a pain to reheat leftovers. I lost weight.
posted by honeybee413 at 2:24 PM on March 29, 2017

Gotta say, I didn't have a dishwasher until I was 50. Now, as I near 60 I realize I will probably want one forever, not because I mind washing them by hand but because I am starting to notice, (after I put on my glasses,) that I am leaving stuff behind. Sigh.
posted by haikuku at 12:18 PM on March 30, 2017

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