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Over the past few years we have been trying to use our microwave less and less. This has posed a few challenges as we try to break the habit of “nuking” food just because it’s quick and convenient. We have adopted several new techniques for warming food and liquids as we phase this handy little kitchen tool out of our lives.

To microwave or not to microwave


Are Microwaves Safe

Without going into the science of how microwaves work (it’s all a little too complicated for me), I will just say that there’s enough information to make me nervous about using one. So nervous that I can sometimes be found ducking beneath the microwave or hiding around the corner when I have succumbed to using it. I have read about the molecular structure of food being changed when microwaved, thus destroying much of the nutrients. The use of microwaves is a personal preference, and it’s something Matt and I are finding alternatives for.

If you are on the fence about microwaves, maybe the following tips will challenge you to join us in The Great Microwave Phase-Out! (Okay, no such thing exists, but it always sounds fun to be part of something big so we’ll pretend.)

Microwave popcorn alternative

I won’t judge you if you eat microwave popcorn, but it’s one of the items on my “Things That Were Never Meant To Be Microwaved” list. I have been using the same cheap air popper since 1996, and it’s still kicking out killer batches on a regular (almost nightly) basis. I see air poppers at second hand stores all the time for only a few dollars if you want to try this option without purchasing brand new.

Popcorn is also excellent when made on the stovetop with oil. You can make it in a regular pan with a lid or in a stovetop popcorn popper. My dad would make popcorn on the stove when I was little, and I remember it being one of the most indulgent snacks of my youth. (I won’t suggest Jiffy Pop as an alternative, because the list of ingredients scares me a bit.)

Heating water


Warming up water for beverages, hot cereals, noodles, or baking will only take a few extra minutes on the stove. Grab a pot or a tea kettle and warm it to your liking. The good part? No extra dishes will need to be washed because it was only water.

One idea is a water dispenser with a hot water tap built in; talk about convenient and fast! The downside is those heating elements burn a lot of electricity.

Reheating leftovers

Matt and I love our leftovers. We have been using a cast iron dutch oven on the stovetop to warm things like soups, stews, rice dishes, even noodles. Covered with a lid, it only takes a few minutes to get things to the desired temperature – and the even heat means no “hot spots.” You can also throw a dutch oven or an oven safe pyrex dish into the oven for casseroles, meat, or many other leftover dishes. Preheating the oven takes some time and uses more energy, so the stovetop dutch oven method has become our favorite.

If you own a toaster oven, this is another great way to warm up leftovers. They generally take up less counter space than a microwave, and give lifeless leftovers a nice crispy finish. Matt and I put droopy, soggy restaurant leftovers on a cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes to resurrect them to their once tasty state. (Think burger and fries from your favorite burger joint!)

Infrared ovens like the NuWave are another option for warming food. I have seen the infomercials for these but don’t have personal experience using one. They have a fan that blows the heat around inside to ensure even cooking. Because the heat circulates, it won’t end up trapped at the top as it can in conventional ovens. Several of our friends use a convection oven for all their cooking and re-heating, and they swear by its usefulness.

Melting moments

It seems like I’m constantly melting butter, either for baking or for drizzling on my popcorn. Our gas stove melts butter in less than a minute in a small pan. This is probably less time than microwaving when you factor in all the time you waste checking on the spattering butter.

There are a few other things we used to melt or thaw in the microwave, that we now just run under hot water, heat in a double boiler, or submerge in a sink of hot water.

Bread and rolls

Since I’m a huge carb-aholic, I frequently warm rolls and bread to go with  meals. These can be warmed on a cookie sheet in the oven or under the broiler for just a few minutes. A toaster oven or regular toaster could also be used on a low setting.

Can you live without your microwave?

Want to know what else is on my “Things That Were Never Meant to be Microwaved” list? Brownies. I made microwaved chocolate brownies in a mug one desperate night, and Matt begged me to never try it again. It made both of us gag, and I vowed to always take the extra time to do it right.

We’re learning to live without the convenience of microwaving, although we still own one, and it’s not as tough as I thought it would be. (And it’s saving me from having to compulsively hide from the microwave’s rays.) The easiest way to stop using the microwave is to simply get rid of it. Trust me, you’ll find alternatives.

Have you found a way around using microwaves? Feel free to share below!


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Comments

  1. Jill says

    YES! Thank you for sharing this! We bought a house recently, after moving from out of state and I refused to purchase a microwave because we had one in storage. But in the months that passed before we were able to get to our storage unit, we got used to NOT using a microwave and decided to yard sale it after we got all of our stuff. I love having the counter space and it really is no big deal to heat stuff up the way everyone did it BEFORE microwaves were invented. We affectionately call our little toaster over our “microwave” now because it works brilliantly for heating up leftovers in small pyrex dishes or on the small metal tray it came with. We also heat up foods with more moisture content (soups, stews, some stir fries, etc…) on the stove as you suggest. We have an electric kettle that gets used several times a day for heating water (Hamilton Beach stainless steel) and love it. Thanks for addressing this issue. Just because a technology exists doesn’t mean we should use it!

  2. Jill says

    Oh, one more idea. I often melt butter in small pyrex glass bowls either in the toaster oven or, if I’m using the regular oven anyway, I will either put it in the oven briefly (in the pyrex bowl), or place the bowl over the burner (which is off of course) where the oven vents hot air. It is hot enough to melt the butter or coconut oil while I’m busy doing other prepping, but not hot enough to boil it.

  3. says

    I have been trying to use my microwave less and less as well. Actually, our microwave has become our new bread box. It’s where I store my bread :-)

  4. Caeryl says

    Interesting post – We actually did the same thing in October for many of the same reasons. We just didn’t trust that the food wasn’t Frankenfood when we thought about it. The only thing I stumbled over at first was frozen food that I didn’t take out in advance. So that is successful with a bowl of hot (not boiling water) changed several times. Thanks for the post!

  5. Jessica says

    I totally agree that curbing microwave use is a good idea! My only issue is that I work in an office and frequently bring in leftovers that need to be heated up. I guess I could get creative and figure out good cold meals to take to work everyday…my husband would probably be bummed if I told him he couldn’t take food to warm everyday! Wish there was another option.

    • Krystal says

      For Christmas this year I purchased a Thermos food jar from Target for my sister as she’d been spending all nighters on her college campus in the IT department without a microwave in sight. It was a bit more expensive than their regular grade product but it promised the food wood be HOT after 5 hours. So that morning she filled it up with water from the kettle and opened it up after dinner to find steaming hot water. She’s had great luck with it ever since. One but of advice for food is that you should fill it full if its food as leaving air in the container will cause it to cool a bit.

      • Kathy says

        One of the gals at work found a nice toaster oven at a yard sale and brought it into the office lunchroom. Hopefully that give someone a good idea, we love her “gift”.

  6. aj says

    I have the same problem as Jessica…I just haven’t found a solution to reheating leftovers at work with the microwave.

    We still have our microwave at home but I do not use it anymore.
    My husband uses it once in a while to heat up coffee that has set in the pot all day long, and the teens use it to heat up a Hot Pocket every once in a while, but other than that we do not use it at all. I LOVE my toaster oven & air popper!!
    I think I am going to suggest donating our microwave to get it out of the house once and for all!

    I feel so bad remembering how much I hounded my parents when I was younger-saying we really needed to get a microwave-until they finally caved and bought a big ol’ monster microwave oven. Now I won’t use one, lol.
    (and thankfully Mom uses hers for a bread box also)
    We live and learn.

  7. wendy white says

    I love this article! I lived overseas for several years and did not have a microwave in one of our homes…I was worried for a very short time, but never missed it! I’ve gotten back in the habit here in the states, but your article reminds me to so without…thanks!

  8. Mom says

    Great article Betty Lou! One more point about discouraging the use of microwaves….there seems to be a whole food culture built up around the use of microwaves….complete frozen dinners, main entrees, side dishes, frozen vegetables designed to be nuked in a plastic bag, etc. I have always avoided those types of “foods” for many reasons. The main reasons are these. There is way too much packaging that is discarded after preparation which contributes to the waste management problem. Nuking anything in plastic releases toxins that are dangerous to human health. Fresh food is much more nutritious and tasty than food that has been loaded with preservatives and then frozen. Convenience seems to play a big part in choosing to use the microwave, but when I weigh convenience against the unknown risks to my health of consuming the processed foods that are prepared in a microwave or even the unknown risks of using the technology of microwaving, stove top cooking or eating fresh raw foods wins every time.

    • says

      Great point Mom, discouraging microwave use also discourages all the crappy food and packaging that goes along with microwave culture!

  9. says

    We love our Nu-Wave oven and rarely use the microwave. We purchased the mini one and it’s perfect for cooking up more than enough for 1-2 meals for us, quickly too. And I believe with the shorter cooking times and smaller heating element, it must be a money saver, too, for electricity. My other kitchen helper is the crockpot – while it’s not FAST, its a great way to get all the ingredients in and let the marinating do its job. Then at the end of the day – POOF – dinner is served.

  10. Lauren says

    I’m new to having a toaster oven, but I really do need to read through the manual and start using it more than the microwave! I’ve heard from other sources that using an oven or toaster oven to reheat things is (probably) much healthier for you, I’ve just been too scared to try it!

    I will second the stovetop method for popcorn though, I’ll never go back to microwave popcorn now that I can make it in my wok in about 5 minutes and be able to completely control the seasonings and how much fat goes into it!

  11. Anne says

    I recommend using microwave ONLY as a timer for cooking (IF it has a timer w/o setting off the microwave itself)- microwaving changes the chemical structure of your food …have you ever been on your cell phone with the microwave running? very sobering to hear the electromagnetic frequencies colliding and the lightening bolts hit my ear drums!

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/18/microwave-hazards.aspx

    A great way to heat up leftovers on a stove top is to put about a tablespoon of water in a pan, let it heat up, then add the food on top, and within 10-15 minutes covered on low heat and, voila, the food is naturally steamed and heated evenly by the small amount of water. Works well for rice, pasta, stir-frys, even chicken or meats. Heat milk and liquids on the stove-top. Toast bread in the oven within 10 minutes just by starting up the oven. Popcorn is a synch stove-top and tastes better, or get a popcorn popper. ANYTHING can be re-heated in the oven too if it is covered or moistened correctly. Instead use your microwave compartment to store something as it is a great little closet space in the kitchen!

  12. martie says

    Love this article. Like Dallas ours is used as a bread box (or other foods box). The only thing i really use it for is to melt butter for popcorn but i think i will try your tips. The only thing that i use it for that i have yet to find a good alternative is i have a “pillow” full of feed corn that warms up well and helps my neck and back, if anyone has any ideas let me know .

  13. Cynthia says

    Love this article! We took our microwave out of the kitchen last April so the temptation to use it was not even there. Sold it in a garage sale in July and haven’t turned back. I can honestly say there have only been a couple of occassions I thought “wish I had the microwave” but managed without it.
    Thanks for your website. I have learned so much from it. Love the laundry detergent!

  14. L says

    We decided to ditch our microwave and tiny toaster oven as well when they both gave out at the same time. We opted for a larger toaster oven. Later on, we got another one that had no digital stuff, only dials, and it sealed better and so the convection and bake settings worked more efficiently. This is something to pay attention to. The toaster oven allowed us to bake most things with a smaller oven, saving energy and not heating up the house in the heat of summer, and also allows us to reheat meals on our plates or in a dish. It cuts down on the plastics use too.
    I really don’t miss the microwave. As someone said earlier, I did at first for the frozen things, but I didn’t miss the rubbery or still frozen spots in the foods. Now, I take it out beforehand to thaw, or as in the case of ground meat, I sometimes cook it from frozen.
    Food tastes better for you done more conventionally, and is better for you as well. I will never again have a microwave in my house and will encourage my kids to not use them. It just really is not necessary.

  15. Melissa V says

    I have also tried to scale down our microwave use. We have the over the stove model and I find that after a dish is ready from the stovetop, I put it into the microwave to keep it warm. It seems to hold the heat in and no powering up necessary. I have also found that softening butter is a tempting way to use your microwave but in winter I just set it on a plate (still wrapped) on the heat vent. Nice warm air softens it faster than room temp but no extra power is needed. I love this site! Thanks for all your great tips!

  16. says

    This made me nostalgic. I was raised with a microwave and then defiantly moved out of the house at 18, ready to take on the world. I ended up with no microwave and no money for a microwave and I can remember being nearly in tears trying to figure out how to cook anything! How am I going to cook these hot dogs!? In water?!!!! GROSS! And how on earth do I re-heat this spaghetti? It was such a lesson for me. I also remember crying because I burnt at least half a loaf of bread trying to toast it in the oven (no toaster money either). I so appreciate my gadgets now and although I’m going greener and greener over the years, I’m not sure I could give the microwave up.

  17. says

    This is an excellent post. My father and I got rid of our microwave, cold-turkey, about 4 years ago now. We were making nothing but junky, unhealthy processed foods in that thing…and it wasn’t making us feel good. So I just decided to throw it away…and we did. We have not regretted it at all. we use a toaster oven to heat up small things, because it uses less energy than a regular oven. If we need to heat water, we have an electric water kettle or the stove. Popcorn? Well, I do that the old-fashioned way in a giant stockpot with kernels and oil…on the stovetop :) :) Plus, now that I”m eating real food, a microwave isn’t good…because you’re not just heating up the food inside, but containers, too…and I didn’t want any plastic chemicals getting into my food. Anways, good post today :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather ;)

  18. says

    I have been living without a microwave for almost 2 years now, and I have to say I really don’t miss it. I do have to plan any meals with frozen meat a day in advance so I can move it to the fridge to defrost, but other than that I really have no problems living without the microwave.

    People look at me cross eyed when I tell them I don’t have a microwave, and I’ve even had people I work with offer to purchase one of me. But I tell them I actually prefer not having one and if I’ve made it this long without it, no need to change now!

  19. says

    We threw our microwave away in October of 2010. I had been doing some reading about how microwaves change the molecular structure of foods. So I dug deeper. I came across an obscure study done in the 80′s by a team of Swiss researchers. They took blood sample from “normal”, healthy folks before eating microwaved foods and again after. 100% of the samples of “after” blood showed reduced white blood count levels. I kept that in the back of my mind as I researched further. Russia actually banned the use of microwaves based on the Swiss study….then the researchers were sued and made to keep the study quiet for 10 years. (Can you say GE???) I knew my hubs would balk at losing the microwave, so I compiled all this info and showed it to him. He was as horrified as we both were when we first learned about Round-Up Ready seeds. The microwave was out of the kitchen the same day. It took some doing to get used to it, but we’ve never looked back. Several months after we stopped using it I was helping out with caring for an elderly neighbor couple…who used the microwave for pretty much everything. One evening I heated their dinner and thought, what the heck, once isn’t gonna hurt…so I ate some of the reheated pasta. Shortly after eating, I got SO very TIRED! Thought that strange, but didn’t give it much thought. The next week – same scenario: Me, exhausted. They, hungry….leftovers, microwaved. I ate with them again – and again got extremely sleepy after eating. That seemed like more than coincidence to me and I remembered the impacted white blood counts in the Swiss study…hmmmmm….I’m no scientist or expert, but I know that lowered white blood cell count is the hallmark of anemia…and anemics tend to have very low energy levels. Just a theory, but I thought the connection was very interesting. I’ve not eaten microwaved food since. Good luck on your journey – perhaps you should consider just getting the thing out of your house. I am convinced any food eaten in the microwave is not only devoid of nutrients but also potentially damaging.

    • says

      Good stuff Tammy. Ours is built into the wall but we may not be living here much longer and the new place we’re looking at doesn’t have a microwave.

  20. says

    Growing up we never had a microwave as my Mum didn’t want us to be exposed to it. I’ve learnt how to cook and reheat everything on the stove as if it was normal which is great and shows that it can be done. The best way to cut down on your usage is to simply get rid of it. If you don’t have one, you just figure out another way.

  21. Patty says

    Thank you! I thought I was the only one ducking. I don’t like the darn thing and know we can live without it. Forwarding this to my family!

  22. Megan Shaw says

    I have not had a microwave in over 10 years and do not miss it. The toaster oven is my best friend for reheating. I truly believe microwaves zap out the vital nutrients which are the reason we are eating in the first place.

  23. Jason says

    One other method I use is steaming. Sometimes you don’t want things to dry out in the toaster oven and you want to retain moisture. Get a pot and put an inch of water at the bottom. Get a glass bowl that fits in the pot and place your food in the bowl. Cover. As the water boils it creates a steam and it keep moist the food that you don’t want dried out. If you have a steamer, better yet. Takes a little longer, but its not the microwave!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes! Thank you Jason, I totally forgot to include steaming as a wonderful option that also helps retain nutrients in our food! Veggies in particular taste so much better steamed rather than boiled or cooked in the microwave. :)

  24. Janice says

    Wow, I am inspired again to not use the microwave at all. I haven’t had a toaster oven since 1977 and am rethinking that one now. Thank you to all of you who care about your health and the health of loved ones. This was fun reading and I love the bread box idea.

  25. says

    After talking about not using a microwave for a while, we moved into a house that didn’t come with one. So we didn’t buy one. Not enough counter space anyway. :) We reheat almost everything on the stove top. Everything else goes in the toaster oven or oven. For melting butter or coconut oil, we measure what we need in the measuring cup and just put that on the burner on low (it’s heat-safe metal). I love not having one and if we ever get a house with one again, we’ll use it for storage. ;)

  26. says

    I was raised in a household where you used the microwave for defrosting meats, heating up leftovers, or making rice/instant potatoes. My mom even taught my sister at the age of 5 to use the microwave to make eggs. Not bad for a little kid but the eggs are rubbery. Since I have been married I have used the microwave alot less then growing up and I read all the time about the different articles about whats bad about them and then the articles saying they aren’t bad. I don’t really care now, but the reason I want to stop using my microwave is one it takes up to much space two mince doesn’t work that well and three I don’t know if they are really that unhealthy for you or not. So i might as well not use it, but my problem is I can’t get rid of it. My husband won’t allow me too. He still uses it alot. We even have a toaster oven, but he chooses the microwave over the toaster oven. I reheat things on the stove, oven. Any way other than the microwave. Oh by the way I absolutely love your site and have even made the scrubs, shampoo. Thanks for all the great information. It helps alot and I hope to be raising my future children in a much healthier household.

    • says

      Great to hear Danielle, glad you found us too. My advice is to let your husband do what he wants and just continue to be an example by choosing to not use it whenever you are making things. It may take awhile, but he may come around, especially if you find info supporting your position and show it to him.

  27. Janine Jorgensen says

    We have been without a microwave in our home for the past nearly six years. I had a friend going through cancer treatment that told me some risks involved in microwaving foods. I seldom cooked with one but did use one to reheat food. We were buying a house at the time and had a garage sale to prepare for moving and sold the microwave. We got used to reheating our foods the old fashioned way in pots and pans as we did when we were growing up and have done it ever since. We make air pop popcorn and keep a tea kettle on the stove for reheating beverages. I have even heated up coffee in a saucepan. I occasionally use a non stick pan to reheat some foods but am very careful of the utensils I use as there are risks with non stick cookware as well.

  28. Ariel says

    We ended up living w.o a microwave very similarly to Jill. The microwave caught on fire while using it! We were moving in a month and waited to purchase a replacement. It has been 3 months since moving. Only once have we thought it would be nice to have to heat up food quickly, and that was only because our friend asked where the microwave was.

    It is also a great way to get other members of the family to step out of their comfort zone and use a stove/oven. Love teh site – thanks.

  29. Karla says

    Thank you! I’ve been thinking about other ways to healthier eating for a while now, and we’ve implemented a lot of changes in our household towards that goal. I enjoy your newsletter and have gleaned some great ideas from your articles. I really appreciate all the hard work and research. Getting rid of the microwave will be my next project.
    A tip for those needing to thaw frozen foods; I found a large marble cutting board at a thrift store years ago, and used it for cutting pie crusts and cookie dough. A company started selling these ‘miracle’ boards to thaw foods but I was too cheap to by one. I went to the “As Seen on TV” store and looked at it. The material was similar to marble. We started using the marble cutting board to thaw foods. I don’t know why it works, and it doesn’t work instantly but, it seems to draw the cold out of the food. Since the marble also stays cold, it doesn’t allow the food to reach air temperature. We take a package of meat from the freezer, put it on the marble, and flip it once in a while. Depending on the thickness of the frozen food, it can take several hours. If it needs a boost, just put it in a sink of cool water, and change the water every 15 minutes or so. Like I said, not done in a few minutes, but infinitely healthier.
    P.S. We put our Thanksgiving turkey in a large Coleman ice chest (cooler) for a couple of days to thaw. We turn it over several times to get it to thaw evenly. The cooler keeps it cold enough to still be healthy, but saves a lot of space in the fridge.

  30. Amy Manly says

    I have found myself unsatisfied with microwaving lately as I prepare my baby’s homemade goodness frozen food cubes. I have been using a small pot to boil water on the stove top and insert the pyrex glass container of previously frozen (thawed for the day in the frige) food. This method has been working much better for us. I feel my baby is still getting the goodness I intended.

  31. Amanda says

    This is awesome info! Found out about giving the microwave the boot from Dr. Group’s book Green Body Cleanse and now it holds my teas, honey and dry goods & is used as a timer. I have found my warming drawer to be a great substitute along with over broiler for melting. It has been a relatively easy change and that is with four kids under 8! Living well offers a lot of benefits ;-) in exchange the for effort required! ~

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Amanda…you’re sure to be an inspiration to others who are desiring a change, but are too scared it will be difficult! I love that you’re not afraid of a little extra time commitment in exchange for a healthier family. :)

  32. Amanda says

    I forgot to add to check into a butter bell crock-keeps butter fresh and room temp on the counter for a week ;-) easy breezy!

  33. Marlies Bates says

    We got rid of our microwave when we started our kitchen remodel a few months back as it did not fit into the layout. I reheat everything on top of the stove or in the oven. It does take a little longer but definitely worth it healthwise. My mother in law came for dinner one day and wanted to know how on earth do I cook without it– I simply told her the old fashioned way. I do not miss it except when my husband or I need to warm up the herbal bag for pain relief. Any suggestions?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      What about using a pan with a little boiling water in the bottom, with a glass bowl that rests within the pan (without touching the water), and basically steaming your herbal bag? Put a lid on the whole thing to trap the steam and check periodically to see if the bag is warm enough.

  34. Bobby says

    Wow, the ignorance displayed here is scary. I don’t really know where to begin, but here are a few points:

    1. Many people clearly don’t understand what radiation is and the difference between radiation (which is everywhere) and BAD radiation.

    2. Cooking on the stove creates radiation and changes the molecular structure of food just like any other source of heat.

    3. The difference in time is NOT negligible as many claim. The reason I ended up at this site in the first place is that today I spent 20 minutes cleaning up the stove after my wife refused to use the microwave to heat up some soup. Most food can be heated up in the same container that you’ll eat from, instead of having to wash a pot AND a plate/bowl.

  35. sylvie says

    My husband does not believe in microwaves. When we got married 12 years ago the only thing he said no to me was about getting a microwave. Since I got everything else I decided not to let it go but in back of my mind I knew my grandmother had one and was storing plastic bags in it (because she also though the ray’s where bad for you) so I though I would ask her for it. I was home alone a lot at night so I though it was an easy fix for dinners but was not allowed to use it when my husband was home. As soon as I found out we were pregnant my husband say no more microwave. He got rid of it to make sure we would never use it as a last resort to warm up baby milk or food. Its been 11 year now I don’t have it and I don’t miss it. We use the stove top or oven to cook, boil or reheat what we need

  36. Cheryl says

    I have been seeing an alternative Dr. because I had breast cancer & he will not let youuse a microwave. He gave me some info to read about it & basically it changes the molecular structure of the food soit renders it to have very little if any food value left. Also, it does something to your insides because of ingesting the food made in a micowave. So, we just sold our only 1 year old microwave at our rummage sale we had this past weekend. We’ve certainly adjusted to heating on the stove just fine, you do dirty a few more kettles, but I’d rather have better health instead!

  37. Jnell says

    My family has not had a microwave in our home for almost 3 years now, we often hear “where’s your microwave?” or “why don’t you have a microwave?”, once someone even said “there cheap, I can buy you one if you want?” lol We tell people that we don’t want one and there usually shocked. But honestly I find that we eat much better without one, because using the stove or oven takes more time, so we end up not snacking on quick meals, or late night goodies as often.

    Great article, thanks for sharing!