When we discovered a microwave-free kitchen on our new farm, it felt like a sign: We don’t use a microwave. The new farm has no microwave. Ergo, we were meant to live here!
Are you wondering how in the world we can live without a microwave, and why anyone would want to? I’m glad you asked.
Our Pending Kitchen Renovation
We’re currently taking a break from major renovations for both emotional and financial reasons: renovating is both stressful and expensive!
While the dark, dated kitchen drives me crazy every single day, I’m actually thankful we didn’t rush into a full on kitchen renovation. If we had renovated the kitchen right away, I know we would have made decisions we’d later regret.
By taking some time to live in the space, we’re formulating a better plan that will make the eventual kitchen renovation much more efficient.
The Jetson Bar & Other Quirks
When we do get around to renovating the kitchen, we definitely plan to address the elevated dishwasher (yes, really – #1), remove the dated appliance garage (#2), and totally rework a second tiered island that defies explanation (#3). The lower tier is six inches below standard counter height with a strange built-in power strip while the curved bar-height counter reminds us of the Jetsons’ kitchen.
We’ll also get rid of the Viking range with the huge grill in the middle and one of those fancy ventilators that rises up out of the island (instead of an overhead range hood). It sounds great, but it makes me crazy! I’d trade the fancy Viking range-n-grill (#4) for a six-burner range any day.
What, No Microwave?
One of the unique features I love about our current kitchen, and do not plan to change, is that it has no microwave. Yes, you read that right: I do not have (or want) a microwave.
At our previous house we actually chose to live without a microwave, except for heating up our beloved neck wraps. Thankfully, it turns out that an oven works just fine for heating neck wraps.
In fact, we schemed various ways to repurpose the microwave space. Take it out and add another cabinet or shelf? Store dishes or baking pans in the unused microwave?
The Microwave: Genius or Dangerous?
Microwaves came onto the scene after World War II and became more affordable for residential use in the 1970’s. I was born in 1978 and can still remember when my parents purchased our first microwave oven.
Sort of like this one.
At first, the microwave seemed like such a great invention. What could be better than reheating leftovers or cooking meals in a flash?
Recently, however, some experts have questioned the safety of using radiation waves to heat food. Certain studies have indicated reduced nutritional value of microwaved foods and potential dangers (like cancer) from repeated exposure to microwave radiation (as well as radiation from devices like cell phones and computers).
Personally, I don’t like the (mushy, bland) taste of microwaved foods. And I prefer to reduce my family’s exposure to radiation. We can’t (or won’t) live without our cell phones or laptop computers, but it’s been pretty simple for us to ditch the microwave.
How to Live Without a Microwave
We’ve found plenty of ways to cook and reheat food without a microwave…
It’s pretty simple to reheat food in a toaster oven or on the stove. I will admit that my family resisted a bit during our transition to life without a microwave, but we all adjusted and now it feels totally normal.
1. Use your toaster oven.
We use our toaster oven like crazy! It’s perfect for reheating leftovers and baked goods. I use glass food storage containers that can take leftovers from the fridge to the oven. Baked goods like biscuits or muffins sit right on the oven rack.
Reheating Hot Drinks
When I first considered going microwave-free, a big sticking point involved reheating hot beverages. It’s so easy to nuke that cold cup of coffee (or in my case, Dandy Blend).
How does one reheat hot drinks without a microwave?
1. Pour smaller amounts
2. Use an insulated travel mug
Travel mugs aren’t just for travel! Put them to use at home, too, to keep your drinks hot for hours.
An added bonus is that most travel mugs are spill proof, which is handy when there are littles around. My favorite travel mug is made of nontoxic stainless steel with a spill-proof lid.
3. Use the toaster oven
We use our toaster oven so much that we finally switched to a bigger model, and this new oven easily accommodates our coffee mugs. Hooray!
Tip: I often pour my cooled beverage into a glass measuring cup and use that for reheating in the toaster oven. When it’s nice and hot, I pour it back into my mug. This saves me from holding a scalding hot, reheated mug.
Heating Neck Wraps
Neck wraps are amazing! Have you tried one? We love them in the winter when we just can’t get warm enough and they also work well for applying hot compresses with essential oil.
Before we moved to the new farm (where we live without a microwave), neck wraps were literally the only thing we heated in our microwave. I wondered if we’d have to give them up at our new house (because I didn’t plan to purchase a microwave just for heating neck wraps!), and was relieved to discover they can be safely heated in a regular oven.
Set the temperature to about 200°/250º F. Higher temperatures may result in scorched rice (inside the neck wrap).
Always place a small bowl of water in the oven when heating neck wraps, to prevent the rice inside the wrap from scorching.
3. Rack position
Please place your oven rack in the middle of the oven and make sure your neck wraps aren’t too close to a heating element.
Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Yes, this takes longer than the microwave but we got used to it and so will you!
Thawing Frozen Food
Many people are accustomed to thawing frozen foods like vegetables or ground meat in the microwave, but this is actually a tricky business. The microwave heats so unevenly that to thaw foods properly, they must be must flipped, rotated, or repositioned. And it’s easy to accidentally cook part of the food while the center remains frozen. Not good.
Whether or not you use a microwave regularly, I advise against using it to thaw food. Instead, this is what I recommend…
1. Plan ahead.
I’m a big fan of meal planning. I plan one week at a time, and leave the week’s meal plan out for everyone to see. We use a simple meal plan notepad, and next to each day’s meal plan I also note what should be done that day to prepare for the next day.
So if I plan to cook a whole chicken on Wednesday, I will write “thaw chicken” on Tuesday. Every night before bed I double check the meal plan to make sure we’ve retrieved all necessary items from the freezer in preparation for the next day’s meals.
I know this goes against food safety protocols, but I have always thawed at room temperature. We get meat out the night before and leave it out all night on the counter or in the sink. In the morning it goes in the crockpot or into the fridge to wait for dinner prep.
2. Use the oven.
Thawing foods in the oven takes a bit longer, but you don’t have to babysit it as much as with the microwave. It’s best to keep the oven temperature to about 200º-300º.
3. Don’t thaw.
Toss frozen veggies right into your pot of soup or hot skillet! Veggies thaw quickly and some can even be cut while mostly frozen. This is true for carrots and broccoli, among others. I almost never thaw veggies before cooking.
4. For glass jars…
I love to freeze foods in glass jars, especially broth and soups. Here are all my best tips for thawing foods frozen in jars: How to Freeze (& Thaw) Food in Glass Jars.
At this point of our discussion, this point is probably unnecessary, right? I do not recommend cooking food in the microwave!
Microwaved foods tend to be less nutritious and less appetizing than conventionally prepared foods, but I do understand the appeal of a quick meal. If you’re ready to make the jump from nuking food in the microwave but you need simple, streamlined recipes to minimize your time in the kitchen, try these strategies.
1. Use a Crockpot (or Instant Pot)
Many crockpot meals are just as easy as cooking with the microwave and the results are often much healthier. Check out my family’s favorite crockpot recipes here.
I don’t own an Instant Pot but fans rave over this newish kitchen appliance. (On Amazon, the Instant Pot currently has a 4.5 star rating with almost 31,000 reviews, wow!) The Instant Pot strikes me as a merge between the microwave and the crockpot: healthy cooking, done fast! Apparently you can even cook frozen meats in a jiffy!
2. Batch cook
If you’re going to cook chili or carnitas, why not double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe? Then you’ll have plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week or to freeze for future meals. Work smarter, not harder!
3. Make soup
Soup is my favorite. Most soup recipes are simple to prepare, easy to reheat, and easy to freeze. If you can get into a good rhythm of keeping homemade bone broth on hand, it will add amazing nutrients to your homemade soups.
4. Embrace leftovers
Especially meat! I love to batch cook a bunch of meat and then use the leftovers in new ways throughout the week.
- Whole chicken in the crockpot turns into chicken tortilla soup, chicken salad with crackers, easy chicken tacos with homemade or purchased tortillas, grain free pot pie (recipe coming soon), or lands on top of a green salad.
- Slow cooked roast beef turns into beef and sweet potato soup or adds protein to a green salad.
If you’ve toyed with the idea of ditching your microwave, I hope my experience encourages you to make the jump. Even if you’re not ready to abandon your microwave completely, maybe you’ll consider taking a few steps to use it less.
Do you use a microwave? Would you ever choose to live without a microwave? What would you miss most about your microwave?
Kathleen Henderson is the yankee behind the homestead. Follow along as we grow real food and three boys while renovating a 20-acre farm in northern Virginia. Do you love homegrown food, Paleo-ish recipes, and natural living? You’re in good company! Let’s grow together…