Microwave cooking offers many advantages over conventional range cooking. It's fast, convenient and saves you money because you use less energy to cook your food. For those rushed times when your family needs a meal fast, your microwave can help you get hot food to the table. In spite of rumors to the contrary, studies show that microwave cooking doesn't sap your food of nutrients. Microwaving generally uses less heat for a shorter time, preserving nutrients. Many foods are perfectly suited to everyday microwave cooking -- especially dishes prepared for one or two people. As Barbara Kafka, author of "The Microwave Gourmet" quips: "How many times are you going to...want to cook the side of an ox?"
Veggies are well-suited to microwave cooking, says Kafka. Vegetables generally retain more of their heat-sensitive nutrients in the microwave, especially when they are steamed or cooked without immersion in water, according to studies cited in "The New York Times" in 2006. The article also quoted a Cornell University study that found that spinach kept almost all its folate when cooked in a microwave, as opposed to losing 77 percent when cooked on a stove. If your kids think steamed veggies are bland, sprinkle on some dry dressing and seasoning mix for a zap of flavor.
Fish also lends itself to microwave cooking, according to Kafka. Little or no water or fat is necessary to cook in the microwave; therefore, health-conscious cooks can precisely control the fat content of healthy dishes like fish. The Chowhound website recommends cooking whole fish in the microwave because the method is quick and clean. To season whole or filleted fish, brush it with olive oil or grapeseed oil and sprinkle on dry dressing and dip mix blended with additional dried, sweet herbs such as dill, tarragon or parsley. Serve creamy salad dressing with fish instead of tartar sauce for a twist.
Soups, Stews and Sauces
Soups, stews and sauces, such as cheese or chocolate sauces, can be quickly and easily prepared in the microwave. Add dry dressing and seasoning mix to soup or stew at the beginning of the cooking cycle for an instant flavor boost. The microwave is an especially good solution if you don't want to heat up the kitchen by simmering soup on a stovetop for a long time; it also saves you the necessity of washing a pot, since you can serve the soup or stew right out of the microwave bowl.
Some quick snacks are tailor-made for the microwave. Everyone has used the microwave to make popcorn or nachos -- use a dash of powdered dressing and dip mix to remove the guesswork from seasoning. Your microwave is also ideal for making a quick hot dog. Simply place the dog inside a bun and wrap it with a paper towel. The hot dog steams the bun and the paper towel prevents a mess. Breakfast eggs can be quickly cooked in a microwave, although it's important to prick the shell of a whole egg to allow heat to escape. Microwave bacon is actually healthier than fried bacon, according to a Cornell study, which found that bacon cooked by microwave has less cancer-causing nitrosamines.
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Mary Strain's first byline appeared in "Scholastic Scope Magazine" in 1978. She has written continually since then and has been a professional editor since 1994. Her work has appeared in "Seventeen Magazine," "The War Cry," "Young Salvationist," "Fireside Companion," "Leaders for Today" and "Creation Illustrated." She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.