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. My husband uses our microwave almost every day because even though we cook meals pretty much every day on the stove or in the oven, once the meal is on his plate, he microwaves it because he likes his food to be ridiculously hot, plus any cheese in the meal must be thoroughly melted. I don’t understand it all.

  2. Wait, is that Alaska Robotics art in your kitchen!!?? I have the same bear in the snow! Also the one rawring (lol) at night, and the autumish one. I got mine at their shop in Juneau! I love Alaska Robotics SO MUCH. Also, great tips. We have a tiny microwave and almost never use it. Maybe it’s time to get it out of my kitchen!

  3. THIS x one million! I haven’t owned a microwave since about 2005ish I think? And it gave my boyfriend and I something very hilarious to laugh at when we started dating because he doesn’t own one either, so when we moved in together there was no argument over that. I love it! And you are so right, food tastes way better sans microwave.

  4. About 3 years ago, our microwave died – and before we got around to replacing it, we noticed that we REALLY liked the extra counterspace. We still intended to get around to buying a toaster oven (smaller), but haven’t yet – and like I say – it’s been years. It has forced us to eat a little better, think about our meals a little before-hand, etc, etc. It’s good for us. The only thing we miss it for is heating-up leftovers, but we usually take those to work for lunches, where there are microwaves anyway – so yay!

  5. Yes to all of these things!

    I caught our microwave on fire a few years ago, and we just never replaced it. We never really missed it until recently, though. Our season of life is more busy than it was before, and sometimes it would be nice to defrost something super quick in the nuke box, but we make it work. We have really enjoyed having the extra counter space, and it really makes us eat more fresh and less packaged foods because it’s just not an option to have a TV dinner.

    It’s definitely not a choice for every house, but it’s been a good one for us!

  6. We also went microwaveless a few years ago, and honestly never looked back. I don’t miss it at all, though my friends and colleagues think I am totally nuts.

  7. My aunt wouldn’t allow a microwave in her kitchen for years–when one of my cousins came home from college with a microwave, he had to keep it in his bedroom! But she eventually caved when my grandpa moved in with them, because he was a big fan of TV dinners, and could make them himself if there was a microwave.

    I thought the other day about how nice it would be to free up some counter space in our tiny kitchen, but when I do need a microwave, I don’t often have any other solution for what I’m using it for. How on earth am I supposed to nuke a lemon to get more juice out of it with no microwave? 🙂

  8. We haven’t used our microwave in about 3 years. It sits on top of the high cabinets for emergencies. I love not using a microwave. Congrats on your decision!

  9. I think I’d be fine without a microwave, but I don’t see a problem with having one.

    I use it for:
    –melting butter or chocolate for baking
    –heating leftovers from yesterday’s dinner for lunch

  10. Congrats on having your shit way more together than I have mine! :p

    I’ve lived microwave-free before, and there were certainly nice things about it — food does taste a lot better when it hasn’t suffered the indignity of being microwaved, and microwaves are big and ugly (although ours does not live in our kitchen at this point…). Now I have a microwave, and there are a number of reasons I like it — but I’m glad I’ve also lived microwave-free, so that I know what things are just way better done in the toaster oven, or on the stove-top.

    Things I use my microwave for most:
    -Reheating leftovers (esp. pasta & rice) with fewer dirty dishes & no stuck-on nastiness. I never did really get the hang of reheating macaroni with cheese sauce on the stove-top without it getting really stuck on…
    -Partially cooking potatoes before doing something stove-top or oven-based with them — they take SO much less time, and my shit is anything but together most of the time.
    -Thawing frozen ingredients / foods, because I didn’t think of it early enough to just leave them out — mostly this is stuff I or my husband made in advance and froze (e.g. bagels), or veggies saved from the summer, since my brother has a farm.

    Things I will not use a microwave for:
    -Heating bread beyond room temperature (thawing it so that I can slice & toast it is OK, though…)
    -Reheating pizza
    -Cooking basically anything

    • In my microwave-less kitchen, we thaw everything in plastic bags and rounds of hot water. We too are forgetful and I never remember to put things in the fridge to thaw all day. Its safe and effective!

  11. Huh, now this has got me thinking about what we actually do with our microwave…but it isn’t very much. I may have to stash ours for a week or two to see how we do without it.

    And the cheese comment is VERY true. When my family bought our first microwave in 1991, all I used it for was melting cheese. I was five then…and I still like microwave melted cheese, although oven nachos taste much better.

  12. When I moved in with my partner, neither of us had a microwave, so we just decided to do without. We’ve had no problems these 7 months without one, and have no plans to get one. The only thing that is sometimes difficult is that we have to get creative when reheating leftovers. Pasta is a particularly confusing one. Hah.

    • I reheat pasta in my toaster oven by putting it into a soup crock (that is oven safe). It’s great, because you can add cheese right on top to get melty and gooey. However, this method takes about 20 minutes in the over to reheat it.

    • I also reheat pasta in the toaster oven! You could also put it in a small pot on the stove and add some olive oil, and sort-of “steam” it back to life with a lid on top. I do that regularly with restaurant left-overs that are cream based, and I add milk. Makes the sauce creamier and comes back to life without over doing it!

    • If the pasta is naked (unsauced) you can put it in a ziploc bag and then add piping hot water to reheat it.

  13. When I bought my husband an espresso machine the microwave got moved to the basement. I use it once or twice a week. It’s nice to still have access to it, but the espresso maker is used every day. 🙂

  14. Ours is built in to the range hood and has a one button “beverage” setting, which is great for reheating coffee on the mornings I totally forget to make a fresh pot (don’t judge me, I am both extremely lazy and incredibly busy). Other than that (few times weekly) reason, I can think of exactly twice in the last six months I’ve used it- once to melt butter and once to microwave a frozen dinner.

    That being said, about a year ago, our oven just stopped working. Would not work at all- it was a computer issue. We had technicians out a half dozen times, spent hours on the phone with the company and ordered several (expensive) rounds of replacement parts. It never did work again. We didn’t really mind, the stovetop still worked and we had a little toaster oven. And then one day, my husband heard a terribly clicking noise, and went to investigate and the oven’s gas line blew up in his face (he was thankfully okay). A week before Christmas. Our homeowner’s insurance was willing to replace it, but it took more than a month of waiting due to the holidays/other bureaucratic delays before we even got the check and then another two weeks for the oven to arrive. We we pretty thankful for the microwave then.

    Of course that’s all about at home. I freely admit that I use one daily at work. Financially it makes more sense to pack leftovers than food that doesn’t need to be reheated like sandwiches or salads. I used to use a little convection oven every day, but my current classroom/schedule doesn’t really allow for that.

  15. Won’t somebody please think of the microwave? You just abandoned the poor thing. Doesn’t anybody feel sorry for it? It’s probably huddled up somewhere, in the cold, crying little tears of radiation to try to warm itself up.

  16. I lived microwave free a few times out of necessity. I hated it. Not because I couldn’t cook, as I can do quite well without, but that I was working like 2 jobs and taking classes, etc. It was a pain. Not only that, but I LOVE microwaved popcorn. Not a fan of “Regular” popcorn, either. It is sad, since basically I am admitting to loving the taste of weird chemicals, but meh

  17. Best of all worlds: We have a microwave from a garage sale ($5! Clean! Works!) that fits in a large, multipurpose cabinet. We only plug it in – via extension cord to the only grounded outlet in the kitchen – when we need it, maybe 1-2 times per week. It doesn’t clutter my precious, precious counter space, it doesn’t suck energy, and when I close the cabinet, no one can see it.

    • Brilliant! Mine sits on a butcher block from IKEA. But if I had the cabinet space, I would so do this.

  18. I feel like this post has sparked an informal survey of “Do you reheat your coffee?”
    Never before did I realize people actually did this (regularly). My husband has always refused re-heated coffee, and I never drank coffee at all before I met him. Then once we got our first apartment, his mother gave us a coffee maker with a thermal carafe. Our coffee stays hot for about 8 hours. But after 8 hours, do you really want to drink it still?
    And doesn’t the microwave change the flavor of the coffee?
    I’m not judging, but this revelation is surprising to me. I’d like to know what y’all think.

    • My parents reheat their coffee in the microwave. My mom is notorious for forgetting about it, so when you go to use the microwave, there is always a mug in there!

      When I do reheat my coffee, I do it for under 30 seconds. This seems to make it warm but doesn’t change the flavor too much. Re-heating for longer so it is hot makes it gross. Normally I rinse out my mug with boiling water BEFORE I pour the coffee so it stays warm longer and I don’t have to reheat it!

      And I think that by the time the coffee has been on a carafe for more than 1.5 hours it tastes burnt.

    • I’m still trying to get my head round the whole ‘heating up water’ thing.

      Are kettles really so rare outside the UK? I’m so confused. 🙂

    • I will only drink reheated coffee if it’s from the same day. My grandmother grew up in the Depression so she was fanatical about not wasting anything. She would drink on a pot of coffee for days. I can’t do it… I am a little bit of a coffee particularist and it tastes too weird. I need muh fresh-brewed!!!!

      Also, if you leave it on the burner it gets… well, burned. I like to pour it into a ceramic pitcher with a lid so it stays somewhat warm but doesn’t burn.

      All my coworkers reheat coffee from days before, though, so apparently I am the odd one out.

  19. Still have a microwave, and only use it for my heat pads and reheating leftovers. Up until recently it was used for popcorn, but I’ve managed to convince the hubby that stove popped popcorn is brilliant compared to the microwave bag stuff. And soooo much cheaper too!

  20. Our microwave sits on the freezer and gets used maybe once a week. I like to use it

    a) if I forgot to defrost berries and want to have oats/berries/yogurt in the morning or

    b) if I want to make scrambled egg in a mug for breakfast (less egg smell in my office clothes).

    Occasionally we also use it to heat leftover meals or herb tea, but usually we do just fine without. Still don’t think I’d get rid of it, but our kitchen is large enough to have a microwave oven AND counter space. ^^

  21. I didn’t grow up with a microwave and have really only ever had one by chance, it if there was one already in a house share I moved in to. As an ex chef and happy cooker from scratch, for me microwaves can sometimes cook faster but not better. I really dislike the texture they give to anything baked.

    It is however absolutely possible to re-heat liquid things on the stove top as fast as a microwave and without drying out, it really doesn’t need to be slower but you will need to adjust your pan and keep stirring! It’s about keeping the pan small, in a professional kitchen as well as the pans used to cook things in the first place they will have lots of individual portion sized thin-based frying pans and tiny high sided saucepans for speedy but not dry reheating. Even things cooked to order are often in fact cooked to a certain point in bulk earlier in the day and then quickly finished to order.

    I live in a large UK city with a large Indian/Pakistani/Middle Eastern population and am lucky enough to have access to middle eastern food shops which often sell these very cheaply: http://en.academic.ru/pictures/enwiki/67/Coffee_pot_12.jpg
    They are sold for making individual servings of thick Arabic coffee but they are great for very quick heating/warming individual portions of baby food and also to reheat a single cup of coffee. The thin bottom means they heat quickly but the high sides minimise evaporation and drying out. They are also often very beautiful!

    With regards to the freezer thing, what microwaves offer is not having to make a decision about what to eat until mere minutes before you want to eat it. However if you can bare to take that decision in the morning before you got to work/begin your day then you can grab whatever it is out of the freezer and leave it defrosting in the fridge during the day. Its then much much quicker to warm it through in a pan on top of the stove. I have frequently also chucked a solid block of something in a pan with a little extra water and just stirred it aggressively over a high heat, breaking it up as soon as its soft enough to do so and giving it a good blast of heat as soon as its liquid. Not poisoned myself/anyone yet…

  22. i ditched my microwave about two years ago and never regretted it. any heating or melting that i need to do can be done with my stove or oven, and the taste is much much better. there are a few times when i miss having one, though. mainly when i want a frozen burrito, a baked potato or popcorn.

  23. I appolgize for not reading all the comments and if this has been added already then just ignore me…

    My grandma was anti-microwave but couldnt justify getting rid of it because she used it for defrosting bread and other things that she froze (one person household so it was the only option to keep things from molding). What she did was put her microwave in the pantry to keep it out of sight and out of mind. They are such ugly appliances!

    I do have to say though, once she remodeled her kitchen and bought one of those microwaves that double as a hood over the stove, she started using it more and she actually gained a ton of weight. I know it’s not all from the new access to the microwave but it did help her devlop a habbit of eating more convience foods.

  24. YES! We haven’t had one for about…2 years I think. Our last tiny one died and we just didn’t replace it. I would agree with everything in this post. The ONLY thing I miss it for now is melting butter.

    HOWEVER. We DO have a lovely convection toaster oven, that we use daily. I introduced our roommate to it, and she loves it now too. She never saw the use for one before, but we seriously do everything in it. I even figured out how to melt or soften butter in it for when I bake. Small pyrex glass bowls! Perfect!

  25. My parents don’t have a microwave, and I didn’t have one until I moved in with my husband. I use it for occasionally heating up leftovers and making microwave popcorn once in a blue moon. I could care less if we had one or not. I think mostly my husband uses it for when the butter is too cold to be spreadable. But if we didn’t have one we’d have an empty spot in the cupboard since there is a microwave shelf built in.

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