Do Microwaves Still Have a Place in Our Kitchens?

Or are they becoming obsolete?

Might you be tempted to microwave these frozen dumplings?

The other night, I fell asleep before I had a chance to eat dinner and awoke at midnight with a strong need to fill my stomach’s empty void. The options: frozen ratatouille, leftover Indian food, salted peanuts, wasabi peas, or cereal and milk. 

I chose the leftover Indian food, which I ate cold, straight from the refrigerator. 

To paraphrase the wise Peter Miller on a recent Food52 podcast: Never buy a microwave. Just tell the world you need one and one will find its way to you. And because I haven’t come into a microwave yet, my best 12 A.M. option, lest I risk turning on the stove and waking the roommates or causing a stupor-induced fire, was cold (and a bit congealed) food. 

When Kristen suggested the world put eggplant in the microwave, she risked her life (and her job).

I had a microwave at the last apartment I lived in because the people I was subletting from did; I had a microwave in my college dorm because my roommate did. And over all those years, I probably used the microwave twice: Once in college to melt chocolate for truffles; once after college to defrost some vegetable stock.

Even though I’ve never been a frequent microwaver, there are times—like when I’m eating very cold Indian food in my Paul Frank pajamas—that I wish I had one. Or when it’s 8 P.M. and I’m just realizing that all that’s edible is frozen.

You can use your microwave to temper chocolate.

Yes, you can reheat food in the oven or on the stove, but it takes more time, it often requires dirtying extra dishes (because a storage container normally can’t go directly into an oven or onto a burner), and—in the case of turning on the whole oven—requires a lot more energy. (World/Mom: Consider this my plea for a toaster oven.) 

Plus, I’d argue that there are times when the microwave does what other appliances cannot. It will heat your leftover lasagna without creating a strange dry crust; it’ll steam vegetables almost too quickly, no contraptions necessary; it will gently melt chocolate (even Amanda and Merrill agree). 

Case in point: The other day, my roommate received a package of slightly stale flourless oatmeal cookies from The Cheese Shop in La Jolla, CA (note: if you have this recipe, please share it). I desperately wanted to zap them in the microwave, as I knew that would make them squishier and more tender. I had thoughts of putting them in the oven, but feared it would make them even drier. So stale cookies we ate.

It’s easy to make puppy chow when you can melt the chocolate in the microwave.

The number of recipes we feature that call for (or even advocate) the use of a microwave is very small. And, for all of the photographs of other appliances on our site, I had trouble finding even one of a microwave. Why this microwave shaming? Is most of the stigma related to health concerns or to the kind of cooking—frozen to table—the microwave represents? Is it worth it to own one just for reheating food? What if your kitchen is shoebox-sized?

My question: Is there a time and a place for microwaves, or are we moving away from an appliance that, at least for a time, changed the way we cooked and ate?