For all the love great chefs pour into long and complicated recipes, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that most normal cooks are really lazy. If there’s a shortcut to something tasty, you can guarantee that it will soon have a devoted following. Why waste hours poking at a slowly browning brisket when you can whack it in a pressure cooker and finish it in half the time?
It’s this attitude that gave the 20th century perhaps its greatest culinary innovation. Since the microwave burst onto the kitchen scene in 1946, increasingly indolent home cooks have been happily blasting dinners to oblivion in seconds. But, for all the frantic electronic pinging and growing collection of piping hot and still uncooked plates, there’s more to the microwave than speed. It turns out that, in the right hands in can be the basis for a range absolutely delicious and easy to prepare meals. Here are 7 of the tastiest dishes that can be made using only a microwave.
1. Mac and Cheese
It’s tough for anyone to turn down a hot mug of classic comfort food that’s literally available at the touch of the button. Mac and cheese can be made with almost any combination if ingredients, but the basic tenements remain the same: place half a cup of macaroni in a full cup of water and cook on high for eight minutes, pausing twice to stir. Add cheese of your choice once the pasta is cooked, blast for 30 seconds then sit back and enjoy.
Though cooking a crumble in a microwave might feel like cheating on your oven, one look at the results should be enough to convince you that it may be time to make a change. Simply cook your crumble filling with sugar and spices before topping it with a biscuit crumb, creating a winter favourite that can be ready in as little as four minutes.
Though it’s impossible to get the same slightly crispy, caramelised eggy underside produced in a pan, microwaved omelettes are a great way to prepare a hearty breakfast in the blink of an eye. The easiest way to prep is to add your assortment of regular omelette ingredients to a pan, cook on high for one minute covered and then an additional 30 seconds uncovered.
Ignoring the army of Italian grandmothers who would rather die than prepare risotto in anything other than a cast iron pan, there’s no getting away from the fact that microwaves are an awesome shortcut to rice-fuelled foodie heaven. Simply add two thirds of the stock you would usually use to a bowl of risotto rice and cook for 10 minutes on high. Stir, then add the remaining stock and cook for a further five minutes. Finally, add in any additional vegetables and toppings and cook for three minutes.
5. Egg Fried Rice
You could be forgiven for thinking that egg fried rice must, at some stage, involve frying. It turns out that the microwave can even help you bypass this apparently essential step. Place cooked rice in a mug along with peas, bean sprouts, carrots or whatever takes your fancy and cover with cling film that’s had a few holes poked through the top. Microwave on high for one minute 15 seconds while you beat an egg. Pour the egg into the mug, cook for a further one minute 30, stir and serve.
It might require more fiddling than most microwave recipes, but it’s perfectly possible to prepare this easy Italian staple in a matter of minutes. Microwave beef mince on high for around three minutes on high to cook it, then layer cooked lasagna noodles, ricotta, tomato sauce and mozzarella in a mug or bowl together with the mince. Microwave everything from one minute 30 seconds to melt the cheese, then tuck in.
Given how notoriously tricky it is to get fish cooking right, using a microwave seems like a disaster waiting to happen. In reality, this might be one of the best ways yet invented to consistently produce perfect salmon. Brush the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, before placing skin-side down and cooking on high for three to four minutes. You can even marinade beforehand for an extra flavour hit.
It’s easy to worry that a microwave is a sure fire way to ruin dinner. However, as these recipe hacks prove, there’s a place for the gadget in any kitchen. It might not be the answer to everything, but a microwave can certainly help spare you precious seconds.