I abandoned the microwave and haven’t looked back

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There was a microwave here. It's gone now. …And it leaves so much space for fruit!
There was a microwave here. It’s gone now. …And it leaves so much space for fruit!

A few years ago I was watching an episode of one of Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows. He noted, with an air of superiority, that he doesn’t even own a microwave. I remember thinking that he was a) wrong, and b) preachy. But the idea of having my shit so damn together that I didn’t need the convenience of a microwave stuck with me.

About two months ago, I had the chance to test myself — to channel my inner Naked Chef — and live without a microwave. I don’t mean roughing it in the wild without one; I mean living at home as usual, but removing that convenience that I used nearly daily. I’m proud to say, maybe with that same air of superiority, that I haven’t looked back.

My partner left for work in another town for two weeks. I unplugged the microwave and put it in the closet. Here are the pros I learned about living without a microwave:

More counter space

Microwaves are big and ugly. They take up a lot of space and they don’t look cute doing it. Once I removed the microwave from our counter, everything felt less cluttered — cause it was. This was important because of the next point…

It encourages better cooking

Microwaves are convenient because you can cook convenience food in them. Think about what you’ve used your microwave for in the past month; I bet there are far fewer instances of “to steam vegetables” on your list than “to melt cheese.” And now that I had more counter space, I was more inclined to make elaborate and healthy meals — even just for myself.

It discourages eating out of boredom

A handful of times over the two weeks I was alone, I got bored enough to walk into the kitchen and open the fridge. When I remembered that in order to make a snack I’d have to fire up the oven or stove and wait longer, I said “Whoa eff that,” and shut the door. Laziness trumps boredom.

Food tastes better when it’s not made in a microwave

This is why Jamie Oliver avoids them. Microwaved leftovers or meals just don’t have the same flavour as food made on the stove, in the oven, on the BBQ, etc. Take my word for it and try heating up leftover pizza in the oven instead of the microwave. Thank me later.

Microwaves could give you cancer or extra limbs or something

I’m totally kidding, of course. But I had a friend whose mom wouldn’t let her anywhere near the kitchen if the microwave was going for fear she might turn into the Hulk or something. You may think they’re safe, but the Hulk’s life is a lonely one, so why take that chance? (Hahahaha just kidding just kidding.)

Why not just test it out? Unplug the microwave and put it in the closet for two weeks. Or, if you already live sans microwave, let us know what pros you’d add to this list.

Comments on I abandoned the microwave and haven’t looked back

  1. I ditched my microwave when i moved last, 5 years ago. I have never missed it. Even when I had one I barely used it, and it took up *so much space* in my tiny kitchen.

    I think people just *assume* they need one – like a stove or a fridge. You really don’t.

    Other benefits – you *can’t* buy prepackaged microwavable meals, so you don’t, and one less thing to clean!

    Full disclosure though: we DO have a microwave at work, and being as I bring my own lunch (usually leftovers from dinner the night before) i do end up using one there – as there is no stove and oven alternative.

    • Yea, heating pad and defrosting hamburger rolls (there’s just the two of us so there are more rolls in a package than we can use before they mold) are all I use my microwave for at all.

    • Oh I was so inspired by this article to have the Talk with my partner again… but minus-forty temps in the winter mean I NEED my heating pads. Forgot about that 🙁

      • I lived without a microwave for 3 years… What about electric heating pads? A hot water bottle? A oven baked potato or brick? I do love my microwaved rice bags though? 🙂

        • Seconding the hot water bottle. If you don’t have an actual rubbery bottle hot water bottle use my method. Grab a 2 litre pop bottle, turn the tap on full hot and wait until it’s steamy, carefully fill the bottle, cap it tight and wrap in a thin blanket. Super easy, cheap, and works wonders. If you keep the bottle under the covers with you at night it will still be warm in the morning. Good for cold feet, cramps, stiff muscles, and general cuddling. P.S. NEVER drink anything from that plastic bottle again. The heat causes stuff to leech into the water from the bottle. I keep a 2 litre bottle around just for my period cramps and bad foot circulation.

      • No shame! Sure, tea tastes better from water boiled in a kettle, but that doesn’t mean we should be ashamed when we need our tea fix RIGHT NOW. Take pride in your need for tea!
        Plus, my dad is always turning off the burner when I put a kettle on. Drives me buggy, but I’m sure it drives him buggy that (he thinks) I forgot to turn the stove off.

          • I got an electric kettle for Christmas – it’s wonderful! Talk about easy hot water for tea!!!

          • Holy poop Megan that is seriously the most awesome kettle I’ve ever seen! I’m a total tea nut, I used to work for an awesome Aussie tea company called T2 and I nearly DIED when you said you used the microwave. I have just created a birthday wish list just so I can put the kettle on it. Here’s hoping that amazon will ship it to Aus!

        • Being from the UK I always found it alarming how hard it was to find electric kettles that weren’t super expensive in Europe. I didn’t realise they weren’t a world-over thing. I literally wouldn’t even know how to boil water in a microwave!

          My microwave is one of the only-used-for-heat-pads types, but at my boyfriend’s house their oven is used as a cupboard for pots and pans and they have one of those giant convection oven microwave things. It’s super weird. I mean, how do you roast a piece of meat and some potatoes at the same time?!

          • I have no idea what you mean with “Europe”, here, but in Germany, you will find Wasserkocher (water boilers) in every supermarket for around 10€.

    • I have noticed no difference between water heated in a kettle versus water heated in the microwave. I mean, the water gets hot either way?
      I have seen people microwave their tea bag with their water in the microwave, and that confuses me. The tea is already roasted, why cook it more before tossing it in water to steep?

      • As a British person this entire thread makes me want to sit you all down and make you a proper cup of tea. With an electic kettle. And a teapot. And bone china mugs.

        • Yes! It baffles me how anyone can live without an electric kettle. I need to boil water several times a day for tea, coffee, pasta, vegetables, rice, stock etc. It is used more than any other kitchen appliance. I never owned a microwave, but when the flat I rented had one it was only ever used for making porridge, melting chocolate or butter for baking, or heating up leftovers. All of which can be done on the hob or in the oven, though it takes longer.

          And yes, I also have four teapots, two cosies, and an extensive collection of vintage cups, saucers, milk jugs and sugar bowls. And I always put the milk in first. Because I am not an animal.

          • Seriously, putting the milk in first is a thing? Man, I thought I was so sophisticated in my tea-making… it appears I still have much to learn.

          • The milk first thing is totally silly and an example of the British (especially the middle classes) being so easily worried about literally everything.

            According to various sources you should put milk in first because:
            1. Tea first could crack fine china cups
            2. Tea first will stain fine china
            3. Milk first ensures more even distribution of butterfat
            4. Milk first allows the temperature of the milk to rise slightly more slowly preventing excessive denaturing and tanning of the milk and giving a richer tasting, less bitter cup of tea.
            5. Milk first ensures that errant tea leaves sink to the bottom more quickly.

            On the other hand, you should put tea in first because:
            1. Only the middle classes put milk in first
            2. Only poor quality fine china will crack
            3. Tea first lessens the possibility of accidentally adding too much milk

            Of course, this only makes sense if you are using a pot (which you should always warm first), most people (even the English!) will use a tea bag in a mug if they’re just making one cup. In which case obviously you need to add the milk after the tea has brewed. My husband adds milk, water and teabag to the mug all at the same time, which totally wigs me out. Personally I add milk first because I don’t take sugar, so adding milk first does away with the need to stir my cup and reduces the washing up a fraction.

          • Coming from ordinary peasant stock (plus one delightfully romantic Lady of the House, who ran off with the gardener…) I make my tea in a stoneware mug and always add the milk after.
            I’m not enough of a peasant to make it in the microwave though. 😉

            I’m currently microwave-less, because I let the smoke out of my last one, and while I can certainly manage without too much trouble I would rather have one. Heating things on the stove does create more dishes, and I’m not very good at dishes. Also, I have bipolar disorder (and ADD) and, while I’m ridiculously sensitive to blood-sugar levels, I’m very bad about forgetting to eat – so I’ll suddenly be standing in my kitchen at 4 in the afternoon realizing that I haven’t eaten all day, and have to eat NOW but can’t quite manage cooking. At which point, chucking a potato in the microwave for 5 minutes – or even something prepackaged and frozen – is better than a handful of cookies-or-cake.

  2. I’ve lived without one before, and it’s really no big deal. The only bad thing aobut NOT haivg one is that using a microwave is more energy efficient than an electric stovetop or oven. So, I often will partially cook something in the microwave like potatoes, then toss them in a pan or in the oven to save on electricity and time. It’s mounted above the stove, so it’s not really taking up noticable space either. Also, I pretty much have a rule about turing on the oven in the summer time. If it’s on it had better be for just a short period of time.

    • Yep, I agree: partly cooking potatoes in the microwave then baking them in the oven (or the toaster oven) saves lots of time, as well as energy. That’s what we do around here, and it would be annoying to have to wait a whole hour for baked potatoes instead of 20 minutes.

      • What is this “part microwave/part oven” method for potatoes you speak of? I’m the person putting the potatoes in the oven for an hour, so if you can save me some time, I’d love you forever.

        • Prep your potatoes (make sure you poke them!!!) put in the microwave for awhile 5 minutes maybe to start. I do mine till they just start to soften. Then place in the oven to finish them off. Ta-da! 🙂

        • I agree with the above directions, but here are some more details:

          I wrap the potatoes in paper towel when microwaving them. I microwave them for 3 minutes to start, then flip them over and add another 1.5-2 minutes.

          For the oven part, I usually put them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350.

  3. My gf has used her microwave about once in the past year, so I’ll go from that perspective. I rarely use mine either, now. The most important thing is that food (re)heats EVENLY, and it’s much much more delicious. (I think that needs more attention in the article.)

    Oh, and I really don’t eat convenience food anymore, and I’m happier because of it. (Not saying you’d automatically be–not everyone gains a gf who loves to cook when they give up their microwave.)

  4. We moved a year ago, and didn’t have room for a microwave in our tiny kitchen, so we got rid of it! I do feel a little pride that we don’t have one anymore, my mom is still shocked that we can live without a microwave. But you can reheat things in a pan, I can melt butter in a pan, defrost meat in cold water, and I have a popcorn popper, so we really find we don’t miss it much. I do miss it for steaming veggies occasionally, or for the butter melting (or softening, when I don’t plan ahead), and especially for quickly defrosting meat, but overall I feel more resourceful and happy to not have a microwave.

    • I find it easier and more tasty steaming veges on the stove top! I just put a tiny bit of water in the bottom of a pot, put the veges in our metal sieve and rest it on the top, lid of pot resting over that. Green beans and broccoli done in like 3 mins! YUM! (and nice and crisp still!)

      • I am going to have to remember the grating butter thing for the next time i need to make icing and forgot to get a 1lb block of butter out of the chest freezer in the basement… those things take forever to thaw…

  5. For a month or two during our me last college summer, we lived without a microwave. I’ll tell ya, we did miss the ease of popcorn, but the Hot Pockets tasted waaaay better.

    We kept a skillet on the stove almost constantly (a quick dish-rag cleaning after use since we also didn’t have a dishwasher) because we used it so often.

    And I agree about the pizza reheated in the oven. So much better. In fact, now I only like Pizza Hut pizza on the second day – way better after being oven re-heated!

  6. I was without a microwave for a couple of months after moving a few years back, and I realized just how much I used it. I MISSED it! I certainly use mine to steam veggies and defrost meat, but I know how to do that the conventional way. What I DON’T know is how to reheat cooked food (from fridge or freezer) without a microwave. That’s what I use it for most often, because we have a household of 2 and I cook a lot of meals (like casseroles, stews, and the like) for the freezer and save time later by reheating portions after work. Any tips for doing that with a stove or oven instead of a microwave?

    • I’ve re-heated levtovers in a pan on the stove. It’s not too hard, but sometimes you might have to add a bit of water so it doesn’t dry out sauces or rice etc. Also, if you have a non-stick pan that helps. It takes longer, because you use a low setting. I think I’ve even heated up leftover pizza in a pan on the stove. I just put the cover on to trap the heat better.

    • I do something similar, where I only cook 1-2 times a week and heat up leftovers from the fridge for dinners the rest of the week. I think the microwave is best for daal, casseroles, and pasta dishes, etc because it’s more energy efficient. (This might depend on your exact microwave and stove, so if anyone has a link to those comparisons, please share.)
      Pizza or breaded things are best in the oven, as I’m sure you will agree. I think the oven dries out meat (but I only eat fish) when you try to reheat it. But for a large quantity of soup that I made in my giant soup pot, I’m not sure what the best way is. Using a smaller pot to warm up 2 portions makes an extra dish to wash, but heating it up in the bowls you use to eat in the microwave doesn’t!

    • My oven does wonders for leftovers. Some tips:

      Invest in some oven safe dishes. It makes it much easier to heat it and eat it straight from the oven that way. Make sure to protect your surface with a trivet, and don’t touch the sides of the plate.

      Anything with rice needs a bit of a water so it doesn’t get crunchy.

      Cut the larger pieces (like casserole or lasagna) down into smaller pieces for even heating.

      Now I am getting hungry for leftover chicken tikka masala in the oven.

    • Yeah, that would be my issue as well. We make most of our meals over the weekend, when we have time, and reheat as needed for dinner.

      We were microwave-less for a few days last year when we thought it had finally died for good. It resurrected itself, but I used the time to make a list of activities we use it for (heating pad, morning oatmeal, etc.). I don’t think living microwave-free would be extravagantly difficult for us, but for those few things, it’s really helpful.

    • I lived with my grandmother after high school for a couple years. Things i learned from her living without a microwave:

      Non-stick skillets and pots with lids can reheat many things – just think low heat. Any soup can be tossed in a pot on low to reheat you just may need to add a little extra water or milk to thin it out. Chili goes right into a pot, nothing added. Pizza can heat in a skillet or griddle, same with hamburgers.
      Leftover plain pastas can be tossed into hot/boiling water for a minute to heat it back up.
      For oven reheating, aluminum foil and low heat are your best friends. You can make up whole meal packets from leftovers and just toss them onto the rack to heat up (then you don’t have a thousand pots and pans for a reheated meal, too!). Foil packets work great for lasagne and tuna casserole — and its awesome for Thanksgiving leftovers if you have multiple people so that you’re not all standing in front of the microwave waiting for your turn for dinner…
      Meats can be difficult, but if it was originally made in a sauce it’ll usually retain some moisture just remember to go slow and cut it into small pieces to heat more evenly faster.
      Sturdy metal measuring cups can usually be used stove top for melting butter or heating a bit of milk for a recipe.

      The best thing is to just give a method a try and if it doesn’t work, try a different way.

  7. We’re 10 years into our no-microwave streak. Truly the only time I think about it is when guests show up with food, ie potluck type stuff, and ask if they can put it in the microwave.

  8. My girlfriend weaned me off the microwave and onto the toaster oven. I still use my microwave occasionally to steam vegetables, but the toaster oven can also melt cheese, reheat leftovers, and do all sorts of fun stuff.

    Also, new microwave: $200. New toaster oven: $35. ‘NUFF SAID.

    • Oh my god, I would DIE without my toaster oven. Seriously. I would forgo any and all kitchen appliances before I’d give up my toaster oven.

      • I bought one recently for like $80 at Target. There’s also always Craigslist and FreeCycle, whether you’re looking for a microwave or anything else! 🙂

    • Leftover pizza in the toaster oven is the best!

      If you want to get rid of your microwave altogether, rice cookers are good at steaming vegetables. I hear they’re good with rice, too. 😉

    • Yes!!! Toaster oven! I was wondering when somebody was going to mention it. We don’t have a microwave anymore either, and thought about getting one for our new place, but I don’t think I want to take up the counter space. Leftovers in the toaster oven are great! Especially pizza. I even make single-serve apple crisp in the toaster oven. So good.

  9. Oh microwaves. I have been without one for 5 years.
    I only miss the convenience of microwave pop corn. Mmmm, but then I discovered full of fat jiffy pop and I will never look back.

  10. Microwave free since 1997!
    It’s funny how many people insist on getting me a microwave. I have to be REALLY forceful in turning them down. I like my counterspace, and cooking’s not hard.

    • man. our microwave *caught fire and died* a few months ago. i was excited to use the opportunity to see how microwave-free living would work for us.

      then the in-laws found out. four hours after the incident we had a new microwave. my wife at least managed to argue them down to the smallest, simplest model in the store.

      • My microwave died a few years ago and I happened to mention it to someone. When my birthday rolled around a few weeks later, boom! BIG new microwave with a bow on it. Even though I was doing fine without one I didn’t want to be rude and thought, “Well, maybe I’ll use it if I have it.” Not really. Gets used maybe once per week for softening / melting butter.

      • I just had this image of you and your spouse hastily digging the microwave out of the garbage, putting it on the counter, and showing your in-laws “Oh yeah, this baby still works! Yup! Good as ever” and then just doing that every time they come by.

    • People are the same way with TVs with me. I have been given 3 TVs even though I always insist the reason I don’t have one is because I don’t want or need one. And those 3 are just the ones that have managed to surprise me by dumping one on me. Dozens of other attempts have been successfully thwarted. There’s one sitting unplugged on my bedroom floor right now. =(

  11. I lived without a microwave for a few years and honestly never missed it. I have one now and I use it for getting the chill off the cat food, reheating the occasional leftover, or quickly softening butter… but I found that certain things I really enjoy doing the “old fashioned” way and I maintain those habits. Making popcorn on the stove is way more fun than watching the bag slowly inflate and crispy leftover pizza in the toaster oven is far superior to soggy microwaved pizza. Plus, we cook a lot from scratch and find that the microwave isn’t really needed in most real cooking situations anyway.

  12. When we bought our tiny little house I put my foot down about having a microwave taking up space in our micro kitchen. My husband wants one to heat up coffee.
    We have been here for almost two years without a microwave and I don’t miss it one bit. He complains once on a while that he misses it, but a huge appliance to heat up coffee? NO.( insert pic of Grumpy Cat.)
    A toaster oven makes up for some of the reheating of things without using a huge stove and most people will have a toaster anyway just get a small toaster oven instead. We have oven proof glass storage containers that can go from the fridge to the toaster oven that takes care of how to heat up leftovers.
    We don’t eat prepackaged foods anyway so living without a microwave is easy for us, even if Trent still wants one for his coffee.

  13. I have not owned a microwave for several years now – and my mother, bless her heart, keeps trying to give me one. She’ll be like “you really need a microwave *mother-knows-best-frown*” and I will reply “NO. DO NOT GET ME A MICROWAVE. I DO NOT WANT ONE. I REPEAT. NO MICROWAVES. THANK YOU BUT NO.” Once you figure out you don’t need one, they just become this big, ugly thing … taking up space.

  14. I have not owned a microwave for several years now – and my mother, bless her heart, keeps trying to give me one. She’ll be like “you really need a microwave *mother-knows-best-frown*” and I will reply “NO. DO NOT GET ME A MICROWAVE. I DO NOT WANT ONE. I REPEAT. NO MICROWAVES. THANK YOU BUT NO.” Once you figure out you don’t need one, they just become this big, ugly thing … taking up space.

  15. We’re lucky enough to rent a house that has a pretty awesome kitchen and the microwave is built into the wall unit with the oven. The stove top is it’s own separate entity. I honestly wouldn’t want to NOT have a microwave. I use it to warm up coffee, quick melt butter for recipes, steam corn tortillas for tacos, etc… I mean, they don’t have to be a horrible invention that people only use to warm up their Lean Cuisines in.

  16. I actually use the microwave for cooking vegetables more than any other use. Microwaving vegetables in the dish I will eat them from makes for less dishes than cooking them in a pot on the stove then putting them into another dish.

  17. I’ve been Microwave free for 7 months now. My husband and I don’t miss it. We barely used the one we had.
    It makes us eat better since we can’t buy microwave anything. We have small convection oven/toaster we use if we need something heated up.
    Our family thought we were crazy when we ditched it. “How do you reheat coffee, defrost meat, etc.”
    Sure it takes a little extra effort when making meals, but it’s worth it.

  18. There might be a riot in my house if we got rid of the microwave. Not because we use it to cook unhealthy in (mostly for popcorn and warming water for baby bottles) but because my husband has what I call “a dish problem” where he uses a new dish/glass/utensil/pan for every single thing he eats or drinks. Our sink is always overflowing and without a microwave it would guarantee that my dirty dish pile would increase. I work nights twice a week while he is on baby duty and usually just warms up leftovers for himself with minimal mess. I don’t know who would be more frustrated without a microwave, me or him…

  19. Haha, I actually find it funny that you consider someone without a microwave to be ‘together’. You obviously haven’t been microwave-free long enough – there’s TONS of lazy junk food you can make without a microwave. I’ve been microwave-free (out of necessity) for a few years…Instant mash potatoes, heat n serve instant curries (yes they say to microwave them, but they take 2 minutes on the stove), endless grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream, nachos (cheese melts under the grill..) lunchables… Also, you reheat your leftover pizza? Now that’s someone who has their shit together!

  20. Funny. Pretty much the only thing I use my microwave for is steaming vegetables or melting butter to use in baked dishes. Guess there’s always gotta be that one person!

  21. When my fiance and I moved out of the shared house we were in and into our own apartment we didn’t have a microwave…and that freaked us out. At first. And then we realized it’s really not so bad…we lived microwave-free for about 8 months until we acquired one from my parents and we use it MAYBE once a week. He uses it to reheat leftovers (I’m too lazy for that, I eat ’em cold, hah). I’d be willing to go microwave-free again for the counter space but while we have one I guess I’m indifferent.

  22. I’ve actually never had a microwave. My family never owned one when I was growing up. Everything was done on the stove, in the oven or in the toaster oven. Only when I moved out did my mom buy a cheap microwave…but it was apparently to bake potatoes in…and she actually never uses it. She put it in the basement when she bought it so it wouldn’t be on the counter (because let’s face it, microwaves are unsightly), so it just sits in the basement collecting dust.

    My husband grew up with a microwave and loves microwaves. But when we bought our condo, our kitchen counter space was limited and we just didn’t have the budget for a microwave. Lo and behold my husband has lived without a microwave for the past 4+ years and rarely complains. Every once and a while he’ll complain he wants to eat microwave popcorn, but that’s it.

    Boiling water in a kettle takes as much time as doing it in the microwave, air-popped popcorn tastes better and is better for you, and anything needing to be reheated food-wise tastes better coming from an oven or stovetop.

    A friend actually told me about an experiment involving microwaved water: http://www.eutimes.net/2011/03/experiment-microwaved-water-kills-plants/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheEuropeanUnionTimes+%28The+European+Union+Times%29

    I’ve lived 26 years without a microwave in my house (excluding work), I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine if I never own one.

  23. We just returned from a long weekend at a friend’s house where there was no microwave. Two things jumped out from that experience: 1) My wife has grown physically dependent on pumped froth milk for her coffees (bodum makes the pump, and it is amazing). Heating the milk on the stove top in a double boiler type fashion just didn’t quite do the trick like the microwave. 2) Heating water for baby bottles. Our baby is ten months old and in that awkward cant-get-enough-from-the-source phase of breastfeeding so we’ve been supplementing her with a formula bottle when all else is exhausted. Heating the water in the microwave takes 25 seconds. The stove takes much much longer. Not cool when you’ve got a tired baby on your hands. I’m a stay-at-home dad, so heating water either for formula or as a place to warm bottles of breast milk has to happen fast.

    I grew up without a microwave (my mom thought it took up too much counter space also), and it is really just those two instances when we actually use one. But they have become quite mission critical around here. I’d love to get that space back though. Maybe when the we’re done with babies and I make enough money to buy a real cafe-style steamed milk frother we’ll ditch it.

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