It’s true…I’ll never own a microwave again.
Recently, I spent four months living abroad, and the flat I was sharing didn’t have a microwave. (The horror!) Combine that with a teeny-tiny fridge and an oven the size of an Easy Bake, and I was beginning to feel pretty out of sorts since microwaves are standard issue in American kitchens.
At first, it was weird. Heat up leftovers…in a pan?! Melt coconut oil or ghee…on the stovetop? What if I didn’t have an extra 85 seconds to wait for my food to get warm?! As someone who grew up in the 1980s, microwaves have just been a part of daily life. But faced without one for four months, I had one choice: adapt or never heat up anything cold again. (Of course, I chose the former).
So why will I never own a microwave again? I didn’t need it, and now I don’t miss it.
Going without one simplifies my kitchen space and my life. I’m sort of on a mission to reduce my dependence on gadgetry and de-clutter ever since I read The Clutter Trap by Thank Your Body. (Just don’t take my computer, okay?) You’d think that as a food blogger, I have all the latest and greatest kitchen goodies, but the truth is that I’ve minimized what I use down to a skeleton crew of only the things I use on a regular basis. I’m going without a microwave as one way to live more simply.
How am I managing?
- To heat up large portions, I use a cast iron or stainless steel skillet. The bonus is that I can get a nice browned or caramelized outside on certain foods that a microwave could never do. (Concerned about food sticking to stainless steel? Check out this tutorial on seasoning it just like cast iron.)
- To melt small amounts of coconut oil or other solid fats, I use a tiny sauce pot like this one.
- To safely defrost meats, I put them in the refrigerator the night before I want to use them or run them under water. For frozen veggies or stock, I thaw it in the fridge.
That’s it! I haven’t found anything I was unable to do, and I’m loving the extra room on my countertop. Of course, if you’re somewhere like work or the gym, and there’s not a stovetop in sight, a microwave may be necessary unless you want to eat salads every day.
What about radiation? Isn’t that a good enough reason to skip the microwave?
When it comes to radiation exposure from microwaves—a type of electromagnetic radiation that causes the water molecules in food to vibrate, thus creating heat—it’s unknown whether the small amount these ovens give off is truly harmful or not. The FDA’s created a standard for microwave radiation as such:
“A Federal standard limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts (mW) of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the oven surface. This limit is far below the level known to harm people. Microwave energy also decreases dramatically as you move away from the source of radiation. A measurement made 20 inches from an oven would be approximately one one-hundredth of the value measured at 2 inches.”
That problem is that much is still not understood about how very low levels of microwave radiation exposure could be harmful over time. If you don’t trust the FDA and you don’t want to take the chance, simplify like me and go without.
When it comes to the nutrients in food, it’s been demonstrated that microwaving food results in insignificant differences in nutrient value compared with other cooking methods. In fact, it may actually help retain more nutrients than boiling or high-temperature / long-duration methods.