Nine things you probably didn't know you could use your microwave for

The humble microwave is typically only associated with reheating food and last-minute defrosting. But it turns out this little appliance can help with a whole lot more.

Microwaves can actually save you quite a bit of time and effort in the kitchen, here are nine unexpected (but useful) microwave tricks.

Proof dough quickly
This is a tip for all those people who bake bread at home. Yeast doughs that normally take an hour or more to rise at room temperature can be proofed in the microwave in about 15 minutes. Place the dough in a very large bowl and cover it with plastic. Pour a cup of boiling water from the kettle into a mug and pop it, along with your dough, into the microwave. The boiling water will produce enough heat to warm up the confined space and proof the dough in a short amount of time.

Read more: Clean your oven and microwave

Get more juice from citrus fruits
A lemon or lime taken straight from the refrigerator is harder to juice than one left at room temperature or warmed slightly. To get the most juice, microwave citrus fruits for 20 seconds before squeezing.

Fiona Mair, a home economist and test coordinator at consumer advocacy group CHOICE, says your microwave can help you coax more juice out of your lemons or limes. This information is especially useful during the colder months when citrus is out of season – and therefore more expensive – in Australia.

This microwave tip is simple: simply place the whole citrus fruit in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds, roll between your hands, then squeeze.

One word of caution though, if you overheat citrus fruit, it can explode.

“So don’t heat it too long!” says Ms Mair. “It’s a short burst of power and then a squeeze.”

Decrystalise honey
Honey that has solidified can be brought back to liquid life by uncovering the jar and heating on medium power for 30 seconds to one minute.

A great trick to know since quality honey is expensive!

Roast garlic
It takes 45 minutes to roast garlic in the oven but less than eight in the microwave. Slice off the top of the head to reveal all the cloves. Place the head in a small, deep dish, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with two tablespoons of good olive oil.

Spoon two tablespoons of water into the bottom of the dish, cover it with plastic wrap, and cook at medium power for seven to eight minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before unwrapping. Remove the garlic from the bowl and gently squeeze the garlic from the cloves into a clean bowl or plate.

Read more: Microwave Chicken Risotto

Peel garlic
Your microwave can also make peeling garlic so much easier. Just microwave a head of garlic for 20 seconds, then pull the cloves apart.

Microwaving garlic creates steam that breaks the bond between the cloves and their skins, so you’ll be able to slide them right off. I recently read this tip and now use it every time I need to peel garlic.

Dry herbs
Want to preserve those fresh herbs in your fridge before they go bad? Using your microwave to dry them will quickly sap the leaves of their moisture, leaving them brittle and dry enough to crush or grind.

“You can place herbs – such as parsley or thyme – onto a bit of paper towel and you can heat that on a gentle-medium type of heat, and it will dry your herbs for you,” says Ms Mair.

Place four to five sprigs of fresh herbs in a single layer between two paper towels, and heat on high for one minute, then check. The time you microwave them will depend on how much you’re working with, the power of your microwave and the type of herb.

“But if you have a whole bunch it will take longer. So, do it for a minute, check it, then do another minute,” Ms Mair says.

This method works best on parsley, basil, and celery leaves.

Read more: How to dry and store fresh garden herbs

Toast nuts
The microwave toasts nuts in about a quarter of the time it typically takes in the oven. Simply spread them in a single layer on a microwave dish, adding half a teaspoon of oil or butter for every cup of nuts or seeds. Heat on high for one minute then stir, they may need two or three minutes to lightly brown. Keep in mind that they will continue to toast for about a minute after removal.

Soaking lentils and beans
Do you often forget to soak lentils and beans overnight? The microwave can come to the rescue. Put the rinsed beans or lentils in a large, microwave-safe bowl and cover completely with water. Microwave the bowl at full power for 10 minutes, and then leave them inside for another 40 minutes. Your lentils or beans should be soaked and softened by then.

Make jam or marmalade
Got some spare berries, grapefruits, oranges and lemons lying around? With your microwave’s help, you can make jam or marmalade in under 30 minutes.

This recipe for microwave marmalade calls for grapefruit and lemons (or Seville oranges, if you prefer.) Or you could whip up some fresh strawberry jam following this recipe if you have a couple of punnets of strawberries.

But there’s one key safety rule for successful microwave cooking or reheating, says Ms Mair: “You need to have certain types of glass, because if you put some types of glass in the microwave, it becomes dangerously hot.”

She uses Pyrex, “which can withstand any type of excess heat”. Check the bottom of your glass or bowl to see whether it’s labelled microwave safe.

And don’t even think of cooking up your jam in plastic containers.

Do you have a microwave? What do you mainly use it for? Do you have any other microwave tips or tricks to share in the comments section below?

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Written by Ellie Baxter