Our microwave just stopped working one day. Goodbye to quick leftovers and microwave popcorn, I thought. Three years later, we still haven't replaced it.
Going microwave-free was daunting but it's one of those things that turn out a lot easier than you imagine (I know, first world problems). Not being able to afford a new one right away helped us realize how simple reheating food still was without a microwave.
We noticed other benefits too. We had extra counter space and food was more evenly heated without "hot spots". I learned new cooking skills, from basic steaming to making popcorn on the stovetop. Plus, pre-packaged microwavable products became off limits and we were making noticeably better food choices as a result.
If you're thinking of going microwave-free, we've got the best tips on how to reheat food without one. Can't envision your life without a microwave? Here's how to survive if you ever have to replace a broken one!
1. Reheat most food the same way it was cooked.
One rule of thumb is to warm up your food the same way it was initially made. For instance, soups and saucy dishes can stay in their initial pots. Baked goods, roasted chicken, veggies and casseroles also warm up well in the oven again. If you're worried about food drying out in the oven, try covering with foil or portioning out leftovers into meal-size tinfoil packets.
2. Simmer with a bit of liquid to prevent burning.
Reheating soups, stews and saucy dishes in a pot is super easy, but not so much for things like fried rice or stir-frys that are prone to sticking. Don't be afraid to add some liquid. I find olive oil, coconut oil, almond milk, chicken or vegetable broth, or even water work extremely well. Add a few tablespoons at a time, cook over low-medium heat and stir frequently.
3. Steam foods that tend to get sticky, like rice and pasta.
Steaming is a surprisingly efficient way to bring those cold, dry leftovers back to life. If you don't own a steamer or steaming basket, you can even elevate a heat-safe container in a covered pot of boiling water (i.e. Pyrex container, pie pan, foil pan, etc.). Just be sure to elevate it using the ring from a mason jar lid. This works well for vegetables, rice, quinoa and plain pastas.
4. Repurpose leftovers to create a new dish.
Use and warm up your leftover ingredients in new recipes. Leftover brown rice or quinoa can be used in a fried rice, stir-fry or even added to soup. Leftover roast or chicken would be perfect in soup, sandwiches or stir-fried with veggies.
5. Get a toaster oven instead of a new microwave.
If you're thinking of investing in a new appliance, it should be a toaster oven. Perfect for smaller dishes like leftovers and cooking in hot summer weather. You also save some time not having to preheat a larger oven. Most foods that retain their shape such as casseroles, lasagna and pizza, warm up beautifully in the toaster oven.
6. No toaster oven? Use your oven broiler for a quick blast.
Whether it's chicken fingers, slices of bread or assorted veggies, the broiler is a quick and efficient way to re-crisp some of your favourite foods. Just keep a close eye for burning!
7. Consider investing in a portable crock pot.
This might be the perfect solution for all your work lunches. Evenly reheated home-cooked meal ready by lunchtime? We've yet to try it but our members have highly recommended something like this.
8. Invest in oven-safe storage containers.
There's nothing easier than taking your container of leftovers straight out of the fridge and right into the oven. Try storing your leftover foods in separate containers if they require different methods of reheating. For instance, my container of quinoa would go directly into my steamer while my container of roasted chicken is placed in the toaster oven.
Would you ever consider going microwave-free? What do you think would be the hardest adjustment? If you've already taken the plunge, what are you best tricks to reheat food without a microwave?