Monday, April 1, 2019

A Microwave-Free Life: What I've learned, and what I love

Microwaves were always a normal part of my life. When I was a young kid, one of my favorite snacks was melted cheese on bread. I'd pile slices of cheese onto bread, pop it in the microwave, and stand nearby to watch through the window. When I'd see the cheese bubbling, I'd stop the microwave and enjoy the gooey, sharp deliciousness. Microwaves continued to be helpful over the years-if I needed to heat up water for coffee or tea, I'd put it in the microwave. Leftovers? Pop it in the microwave. Heating milk for a bread recipe? Microwave it! Microwaves graced our home growing up, and when I went to college, there were microwaves were in our dormitories and our student center. When my husband and I moved into our first apartment off-campus, there was a microwave for us to use. Our second apartment had one, too-and I used it often. 

However, when we moved into our house, we no longer had a microwave. While we could have purchased a microwave, I told my husband that I'd rather hold off for the time being. I wanted to see if a microwave was actually something that we needed. I wanted to experience life without the buzzing hum of a microwave at work. I wanted to have more counter space. We've been living for almost two years without a microwave, and honestly? I do not miss this kitchen appliance. There have been a couple times where not owning a microwave is a slight hassle, but for me, it's worth dealing with the little inconveniences. 

***Before I get into how life without a microwave works, I want to state that I DO NOT think that microwaves are evil. I'm sure there's research out there about whether or not microwaves are safe, but I don't care enough to research it-I personally choose to live without a microwave in an attempt to simplify life and have more counter space. When I go visit friends and family, I have no qualms about using their microwaves :) 

ANYWAYS, let's chat about the ups and downs of not owning a microwave: 

It has caused me to fall in love with cast-iron.
Since I can't heat up leftovers in the microwave, I typically throw them in my 10-inch cast iron skillet. And they are SO TASTY. I used to think that microwaving leftover pizza was the best way to heat it. Nope. Either heating it in the oven or in the skillet is THE best way to make it crispy and heated. Macaroni and cheese, heated in the skillet, is not only gooey but crispy on the edges. There are so many foods that can be reheated in cast iron-rice, potatoes, noodles, chicken, pork-and they taste just as good (if not better) than when they are reheated in the microwave. Cast iron used to scare me because it seems "so complicated," but it really doesn't have to be that hard. For years upon years, people have been living a no-fuss life with cast iron, and there are all sorts of disagreements about how to use it (soap or no soap? is a common one). Learning from my experienced relatives who got me hooked on cast iron, here's my routine: Take the skillet, slasher in a bunch of butter, bacon fat, or a little oil. Heat up leftovers. Scrape out the pan with a rubber scraper thing. Rinse in warm water and if needed, scrub it with a soapy washcloth. Stick it on the stove, over low heat, for about 8 minutes to dry it. I have two little kids, I can't do fussy high-maintenance cooking, so cast iron is AWESOME. 
(there are also apparently some health benefits to cast iron cooking too, so that's pretty cool)

TV dinners are NOT convenient anymore, which kind of stinks.
We don't eat a lot of TV dinners, but they can be a fun thing once in a while, especially with kids-and these things take forever to heat in the oven. So it's really not that convenient to heat them. This isn't a huge deal-breaker for me, but it's still a downside, so I think it's worth mentioning. 

It has helped elevate my coffee and tea-drinking experiences.
Previously, I'd just stick a measuring cup or mug of water in the microwave to heat it before pouring it over coffee grounds or tea leaves. But now? I use my trusty kettle (which a friend gave to me when she left to become a foreign missionary). There's something about the whistling tea kettle that's so homey and elevates the experience of drinking coffee or tea. 

I occasionally need to plan ahead a little or get creative, which can be a little challenging.
If I need softened butter for a cookie recipe, I need to plan ahead a little and put butter out on the counter to soften a few hours ahead of time. When I realized-just before company came to dinner once-that I had forgotten to put butter out to soften for our bread, I had to get creative (I placed the stick on the edge of our gas stove while we cooked pasta, which sufficiently softened it quickly). This isn't a terribly difficult thing, but when I have a lot of things on my mind it can still be a tad bit challenging to remember. OH, I also can no longer make a quick "brownie in a mug" like I used to, which means I either find another way to get a quick tasty treat or I make a whole pan of brownies, which takes a little longer to bake but isn't more difficult than making one in a mug. And more brownies are better, so this isn't necessarily a terrible thing ;) 

It helps me more efficiently heat leftovers.
When I had a microwave, I'd heat leftovers in two ways: each person's plate individually (which meant that once all plates were heated, the first plate had cooled), or a bunch of food at once (which took a long time to cook and required stopping the microwave periodically to stir). Neither of these ways are very efficient. Now that I don't have a microwave, I either heat a large amount of leftovers in cast iron (in addition to my 10-inch, I was gifted with a 12-inch that holds A LOT of food) or stick it in the oven. It really doesn't take much longer than heating food in the microwave, and it's really nice to have all of the food ready at once so everyone can start eating together. 

For recipes that require warm milk, I DO have to use one extra dish.
With a microwave, I'd just pour milk into my glass liquid measuring cup, heat it and use it. But now, I have to measure milk into a tiny pot to heat it, so I have that tiny pot to clean. It takes just a few seconds to clean that tiny pot, but it's still a small extra step that I need to take. 

A quieter kitchen (with more counter space) is AWESOME.
I know that microwaves don't have to be gigantic, but they still take up considerable room. I know that lots of microwaves sit above the stove, which is nice. But even then, there's still the hum of the microwave when you use it, and even just the continual glimmer of the microwave clock-it just adds to the visual (and audible) noise of the kitchen. Since I spend loads of time in the kitchen, I like it to be an uncluttered, quiet, peaceful place. For me, not owning a microwave helps simplify and quiet my kitchen. 

Really, the one time when I wish I had a microwave is when I need to melt chocolate.
Melting chocolate is just so easy and convenient when you have a microwave: Stick chocolate on a plate or in a bowl. Microwave a little bit, stir, microwave a little more, and use in recipe. Without a microwave, I have to heat up a small pot of water and use an insert (or pan lid) as a double-boiler to melt the chocolate. It's really not that much more difficult or tedious than using a microwave, it just feels like it. And since I don't even melt chocolate very often, this isn't a huge deal, but it's still something that I encounter from time to time. 

We may get a microwave someday, or we may continue to live without a microwave. I love not owning one right now, but my husband and kids may really want one someday, in which case we may get one. We'll just have to see. In the meantime, I am thoroughly going to enjoy my less-cluttered, less-noisy kitchen. 


  1. I'm really hoping to go without a microwave once ours kicks the bucket. Like you, I'm a massive fan of using cast-iron skillets (it's now I cook my usual dishes of chicken and potatoes) but I haven't really used them to reheat food since I rarely reheat anything. I'll have to try it next time!

    1. Chicken and potatoes sounds so yummy! Do you cook them in the oven or over the stove?

  2. I think I've mentioned before we haven't had a microwave since moving here--due to mostly the same reason, lack of counter space and a very small kitchen necessitates prioritizing kitchen appliances--and you're right, actually, a lot of leftovers taste BETTER when heated on the stove. I also don't have an oven, which I do miss and wish I had sometimes, but the stove can take you a pretty long way. Pizza is absolutely better when reheated on the stove. Crispy!

  3. I feel that most foods reheat better outside of the microwave. The microwave dries things out. We have one, and do use it. However, I prefer to cook most things on the stove. I still prepare oatmeal on the stove and definitely use a tea kettle to heat water for tea.

    1. This is a great point! Whenever I've microwaved food, there's always extra work involved of having to spritz it with water, stop it halfway to stir it, that kind of thing to make sure it doesn't dry out too much.

  4. Hi AnneMarie! Oh man I wish we could do without a microwave! It'd give us so much more counter-space! We have been doing without a toaster so far though, and that hasnt been too hard. And even though the microwave is a helpful quick convenience, especially with the kids, I don't really like what it does to reheated food. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough! ;)

    1. Hi, there, Bianca! Wow, that's amazing that you guys are making it without a toaster-I think everyone over here would notice (and be very sad) if we didn't have a toaster. I think it would be really hard to start living without a microwave when you've been used to having one, especially with older kids who would have to adapt to a "new normal." I think it's been easier for us since our oldest is only 2, so the only people who really had to get used to not having a microwave are my husband and I!