Would you believe that the microwave oven made its debut all the way back in 1947? It’s true! The first-ever microwave was a commercial version of the small appliance that we all know and love today. It stood over five feet tall, weighed some 750 lbs., and cost a whopping $5,000 USD.
Fast forward some 70 years later, and today we rely on our microwaves to reheat coffee, melt sticks of butter, warm up leftover pizza and soup, and of course pop our movie-style popcorn. But what if you don’t have a microwave? Or if you choose not to use one because of fears related to their safety? Turns out there are plenty of microwave alternatives. Read on to learn more!
Microwave Alternative #1: The Stovetop
People have been warming up their food without microwaves for millennia, so it stands to reason that you can, too. One of the easiest ways is on the stovetop. This method works best for foods like stew, soup, pasta, any kind of sauce or gravy, or beverages.
Place your food in a small saucepan and place it on the burner. The temperature that you use will depend on what you are reheating. For soupy leftovers, like — well, soup, you can use a medium-high or high setting. In no time at all, you will have a piping hot portion of minestrone, Grandma’s chicken-noodle, Uncle Pete’s five-alarm chili, or that saucy, spicy lentil curry that you whipped up for last night’s Meatless Monday dinner.
For items like gravy, hot fudge sauce, alfredo sauce, oatmeal, pudding, or other thicker liquids, it’s better to go low and slow. Keep the heat below medium, and stir the pot frequently with a rubber spatula to ensure that it’s not sticking or scorching.
Want to make a big batch of healthy, homemade tomato soup and reheat it throughout the week? Go ahead and store the entire pan, covered by its lid, in the fridge. That will cut down on the number of times you have to wash dishes, and couldn’t be any easier.
Microwave Alternative #2: The Oven
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to heat up your oven for just a cup of soup or mug of cocoa, but there are some foods that really reheat well with this method. For starters, pizza!
Every pizza lover knows that the leftover pie makes a great lunch — or breakfast! — the day after you splurge on delivery. But warming it in the microwave results in a subpar pizza experience. The crust gets rubbery instead of deliciously crisp, while the cheese gets dangerously hot and poses a real risk to the roof of your mouth!
For perfect leftover ‘za, preheat a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven. Five minutes or so ought to do the trick. Remove the pan, place your pizza slices on it, then cover the entire kaboodle with aluminum foil. The foil helps your slices heat more evenly, and also prevents them from drying out.
The oven is also a wonderful way to heat up fried foods, like french fries, beer-battered fish fillets, or chicken tenders. You may want to line the sheet pan with foil for easy cleanup, but don’t use it to cover these items. If you enclose them, they will steam, and steam is the enemy of crispness.
Casseroles are another prime candidate for oven reheating. These should be covered, either by the casserole dish’s matching lid or, if your dish doesn’t have a lid, with aluminum foil. Keep the temperature relatively low — 325 degrees is usually sufficient.
This method takes a bit longer, but it’s worth it. The noodles in your tuna bake or mac-and-cheese won’t turn to mush. Your shepherd’s pie or pot pie won’t become a homogenous mess, but will instead retain their distinct layers.
If you are serious about ditching your microwave once and for all, find out more about foods that reheat well in the oven.
Microwave Alternative #3: The Toaster Oven
Toaster ovens are handly little kitchen appliances that are top-notch when it comes to making leftovers more appealing.
This is an ideal method if you have only one or two portions to reheat. It’s also great when you don’t want to turn on the regular oven — in the dog days of August, for example.
The basic rules of reheating in a conventional oven apply to their countertop counterparts. If you want to restore crispness, leave your food uncovered. Or use a small, oven-proof dish for foods that might dry out.
A word to the wise about using toaster ovens for reheating: because the interior is so small, it can be very easy to burn foods. When you slide the tray inside, take a peek to make sure the food or foil isn’t touching the top element. It may be necessary to move the rack to a lower position.
Similarly, flip the food halfway through cooking, if possible. That will keep the bottoms from getting too browned.
One Last Bonus Trick
What about softening butter? Bakers often need butter to be soft but not melted, so that it can be incorporated into the sugar. This helps ensure that the final product will have the right texture. But if you forget to leave a stick of butter out to soften at room temperature, a shortcut can come in handy.
Unwrap the stick of butter and place it on a salad plate. Next, reach for a mixing bowl that’s large enough to cover the entire plate. Fill the bowl with boiling water from the kettle and let it stand for a few moments. Then quickly empty out the water, give the inside of the bowl a quick wipe with a clean kitchen towel, and invert the bowl over the butter plate.
Residual heat that was absorbed by the bowl will soften the butter, helping it achieve that perfect state for combining with sugar.
You Don’t Need a Microwave to Reheat Food!
It may take a little longer, or require a few more steps, to reheat food with a microwave alternative like these. But it’s worth it, not only for your family’s health but also to make your leftovers taste just as good as they did the first time around!
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