Park City Home: The Secret Life of Microwaves |

Park City Home: The Secret Life of Microwaves

It makes popcorn and reheats your lukewarm coffee, but a microwave is no two-trick pony. We’ve got a baker’s dozen of new uses for this multitalented appliance.

1 Soften stale bread
Wrap a stale slice or roll in a damp paper towel, place it on a microwavable plate, and zap for about 10 seconds. Check and repeat if necessary, taking care not to overcook.

2 Cook a coffee cup scramble
Coat the inside of a mug with cooking spray. Crack two eggs into the mug with a splash of milk, season with salt and pepper, and scramble with a fork. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, remove and stir the eggs, then zap for another 20 seconds. Repeat in 10-second intervals until just cooked through. Remove and top with a tablespoon of grated cheese and a dash of hot sauce.

3 Sanitize a kitchen sponge
After making sure there are no metallic fibers, wet it and microwave on high for one minute. It will be very hot, so handle with care.

4 Bake a single-serve chocolate cake
4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. chocolate
chips (optional)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Put dry ingredients in a large coffee mug and stir well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly, followed by the milk, oil, chocolate chips (if using), and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine.

Put the mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug. Allow to cool for at least several minutes, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

5 Soak beans
If you forgot to soak your dry beans overnight, put 1½ cups of beans in a large bowl with four cups of water. Cover and microwave on high for 12 minutes, or until boiling. Let sit for 30 minutes before draining and proceeding with recipe.

6 Make a heating pad
For soothing muscle pain or stiffness, soak two hand towels in water, squeeze out excess water, and place one towel in a ziplock bag (keep the bag open). Microwave for 2 minutes, then carefully remove the bag (it will be hot), seal it, and wrap it in the other towel. The heat should last for 20 minutes.

7 Peel garlic
Put a head of garlic in the microwave and zap for 20 seconds. Remove (it will be hot) and slip the individual garlic cloves out of their skins.

8 Pop regular popcorn
Microwave popcorn is convenient, but it’s just as easy to make your own from kernels. Place ⅓ cup of kernels in a large glass microwavable bowl with a lid (if you have a bowl without a lid, use high-quality plastic wrap). Cover and microwave on high for 6 minutes, listening after 4½ minutes. Stop when you hear 2 seconds between pops at the end. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with melted butter. (You can also use ¼ cup of loose popcorn kernels in a paper lunch bag folded over a few times. It will take under 5 minutes.)

9 Juice-up your citrus
Zap a whole lemon (or lime) for 20 – 30 seconds, until warm. Remove from microwave and let it sit for a minute before squeezing. You’ll end up with significantly more juice than using fruit straight from the fridge.

10 Create a soap cloud
Perhaps the world’s easiest science experiment calls for a bar of Ivory soap and a microwave. Place an unwrapped bar of Ivory on a microwaveable plate, and zap on high for 1 – 2 minutes. The soap will expand dramatically until it becomes a large cloud. (This only works with Ivory soap, which has a great deal of air whipped into it during the manufacturing process.) Bonus: Your kid can take the cloud into the bath.

11 Froth milk for your latte
Fill a Mason jar no more than half-way with 2% milk, screw on the lid, and shake until the milk froths and doubles in volume. (This can take up to a minute.) Take the lid off the jar and microwave for 30 seconds. Spoon onto your coffee immediately (the foam will start to dissolve after just a few seconds).

12 Make potato chips
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt

Use a mandoline to slice potatoes about ⅟ th inch. Place in a large bowl of cold water and stir, drain, and repeat with fresh water, repeating until the water stays clear. Drain a final time and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Pat dry.

Place dried potatoes in a single layer on a large microwave-safe plate lined with two layers of paper towels. Edges should not touch. (You will have to do several batches.) Lightly brush both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt. Microwave at full power for 3 minutes, flip the slices over, and microwave at 60% for 2 minutes, until crispy and brown. (Repeat at 1-minute intervals until crisp.)

13 Preserve herbs
Dry fresh basil, mint, parsley, thyme, and other herbs that are brown and wilted (but not slimy) by arranging them in a single layer on a plate lined with a paper towel folded to fit. Place another paper towel on top. Zap in 30-second intervals until the leaves are slightly dry and reduced in size (generally about 2 minutes, total). Store in an airtight container. 

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