25 Things You Didn’t Know Your Microwave Could Do


Microwaves make everyone’s life a little easier. In fact, if you’re just using yours to heat up your frozen dinners, you’re missing out on a whole lot of features. Besides a convection tool, it can be a crafting companion, a baker’s assistant, a scientific laboratory, and so much more. Basically, the only thing it can’t do is spy on you. (Thankfully.) Almost anything else is within its wheelhouse. Need proof? In honor of National Microwave Day, here are 25 things you probably didn’t realize your microwave could do.


A woman holds up a baking dish with meat and potatoes in front of a microwave.

Microwaves aren’t just for leftovers. They can be the main event when it comes to cooking, if you find the right recipe. Risotto? Enchiladas? Ropa vieja? Chicken and dumplings? All easy to throw together with just a little microwave know-how. Dorm chefs, rejoice.


A chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar in a white mug

Say goodbye to pre-heating the oven, because you can make a great cake in the microwave in a fraction of the time. Seriously, the perfect chocolate-cake-in-a-mug only needs 90 seconds of bake time in a microwave. Want to get fancier? You can throw together a three-layer cake for 10 to 12 people with just 10 minutes in the microwave.


A poached egg on toast

You didn’t think dinner was the only meal a microwave could master, did you? No matter how you like your eggs—scrambled, poached, sunny side up, or hard boiled—you can make them in the microwave in just a few minutes. In fact, according to a test by Good Housekeeping, poached and hard-boiled eggs taste even better made in the microwave than on the stovetop.


A bowl of broccoli in a microwave

Throw away your steamer basket, because the key to perfectly steamed vegetables has been in your microwave all along. You can steam small servings of vegetables like asparagus, bok choy, and more by wrapping them in several layers of damp paper towels and throwing them in the microwave. (Serious Eats has an in-depth guide to how long to steam different kinds of vegetables in the microwave here.) You can also just toss your vegetables in a bowl with some water and cover the bowl with a plate, and the heat from the microwave will do the rest.


A man puts french fries in the microwave on a crisper tray.

We tend to associate microwaving with making our pizza soggy, so you may not realize that it’s actually a great crisper if you have the right tools. You just need a crisper pan, which you can get for as little as $13 on Amazon. These microwave-safe metal pans are essentially griddles that keep your leftovers crispy while they heat, even with foods like pizza or french fries. It’s also a great way to make bacon in your microwave.


Hands peeling a clove of garlic

Peeling garlic is one of the more tedious tasks associated with cooking, but it doesn’t have to be. Microwave the full head of garlic for 20 seconds, then peel it apart. Once the steam breaks the chemical bonds between the skin and the garlic itself, those husks will come right off, no knives required.


Rosemary on a paper towel

You can dry fresh herbs quickly using your microwave. Put four or five branches of herbs between two dry paper towels, then microwave them for 2 to 3 minutes. They should be brittle and dry. Microwaving herbs to dry them is actually preferable to drying them in the oven or hanging them, because the electromagnetic radiation of the microwave quickly evaporates the water from the herbs instead of heating the entire branch evenly, preserving more of the essential oils that give the herbs their flavor in the first place.


Parmesan cheese tumbles out of two Parmesan baskets.

The only thing better than topping your salad with cheese is topping your cheese with salad. You can mold Parmesan or Romano cheese into bowls by microwaving the grated cheese on parchment paper, then flipping the hot cheese onto the outside of an upside-down ceramic bowl. The warm cheese hardens in the shape of the bowl, and voila! You have yourself a cheese dish.


Dough sits in a bowl to rise.

Homemade bread might be delicious, but it’s also a huge time suck. But it doesn’t need to be quite so time intensive. Instead of waiting for the dough to rise on its own, save yourself a few hours and use the microwave to speed up the process. For a two-rise or three-rise recipe, you can warm up the dough on very low power (10 percent) using the microwave, shape it, and put it back in to rise again. Instead of waiting 45 minutes for a rise, you can achieve the same results in 10 or 15 minutes.


Dicing onions on a cutting board

Throw out your onion-chopping goggles and quit holding your breath. Here’s a super-easy way to keep your eyes dry during food prep: Just stick that pungent onion in the microwave. Cut off the tips of the onion and microwave it for around 30 seconds. Once it’s been heated, you don’t have to worry about tears! (Note that you can also use your microwave to sauté or caramelize your onions, too.)


White beans soaking in a glass bowl

Even if you forgot to soak them last night, you can still have beans ready in time for dinner. Put your dried beans in the microwave with 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans. Microwave them on high for 15 minutes until they boil, then let the beans stand for an hour or so, and they’ll be ready to cook. (Some recipes suggest letting the beans boil in the microwave, then heating them on medium for another two minutes.)


Shucking corn

Similar to sticking your garlic in the microwave, doing the same with your corn makes it super simple to take off the husk. And even better, microwaving eliminates those extra strings that always seem to remain no matter how good at shucking you are. You just need to cut off the stalk end of the cob and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute (you can do up to four cobs at a time). When it’s done, you can grab the cob by the uncut end of the stalk and shake. The corn should tumble right out.


Milk foam in a mug

The only equipment you need to make milk foam for your at-home latte is a jar. Pour milk (the Kitchn recommends 2 percent or nonfat because the added protein helps it foam) into a jar, seal it, and shake it vigorously for up to a minute until it becomes foamy. Then stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds. The heat will stabilize the foam so it won’t immediately dissolve into your cappuccino.


A woman squeezes lemon juice into a bowl.

If you’re going to go to the work of squeezing citrus, you want to make sure you’re getting every last drop. And a microwave can help. If you’re trying to squeeze a lemon, pop it in the microwave and zap it for 10 seconds or so. Let it cool down for a sec, then slice it in half and squeeze away. You’ll get far more juice out of it. It works for larger fruit like grapefruits and oranges, but you’ll need to add a few more seconds on the timer.


A woman picks up an almond from a bowl.

The microwave is a great way to roast nuts evenly, perhaps even better than in the oven or on the stove. Arrange them in a single layer on a plate, then put them in the microwave for one-minute intervals, rearranging them on the plate after each minute so they all cook evenly. Then, keep taste-testing until they’re done to your liking.


Chips in a bowl next to a small bowl of salt

You don’t need a deep fryer or a kettle to make potato chips. Coat the thin slices of potato in vegetable oil, then lay them out in a single layer on a microwave-safe dish. Heat them in the microwave for three to five minutes until they are brown, wait for them to cool, and enjoy!


Peeled tomatoes in a bowl

Your microwave is excellent at peeling thin-skinned fruits. If you’re baking a peach pie or making a soup that calls for peeled tomatoes, cut the fruit in half, put it on a plate, and microwave it for up to five minutes, until the skin starts to wrinkle. You should be able to peel the skin right off with a fork at that point.


A hand holds up a piece of bread.

Soften stale bread in the microwave by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and microwaving it for about 10 seconds. That will soften up the bread and return it to its tasty glory. Instead of the damp paper towel, you can also put a glass of water in the microwave with the bread, and that will steam it right up, too.


A Fuseworks microwavable kiln in a box

Your microwave can also serve as a kiln. A microwavable kiln kit will allow you to fuse glass and jewelry pieces in a few minutes. The ceramic of the microwavable kiln acts like a magnifying glass to focus the heat and fuse stained glass pieces for earrings, pendants, and other small projects.


Brightly colored wool

Your microwave is a crafting powerhouse. You can dye wool or silk using the vibrant colors of Kool-Aid. Mix the colorful drink powder into water, add in the wool, and microwave it for several minutes. The heat from the microwave will bond the color to the fiber, keeping it safe from fading.


Fluffy white soap on a white background

Zapping your bar of Ivory soap is a fun, easy science experiment that will require little cleanup. A little bit of electromagnetic radiation yields an expanding, fluffy soap cloud that kids (and adults) of all ages can play around with. After two-and-a-half minutes in the microwave, the soap will grow in size, creating a squishy cloud shape you can mold with your fingers. Just be sure to use the Ivory brand of soap, or a similar soap that contains enough air in it to float in water, or it won’t work.


A beam of light on a pink and yellow background

With a relatively simple science experiment, you can measure the speed of light for yourself using a microwave and some chocolate. You’ll need to remove the tray from your microwave so that the chocolate doesn’t cook evenly. Put a long piece of chocolate in the now-empty microwave, and cook it until it begins to become misshapen, around 40 seconds. Then you can measure the distance between the hot spots where the chocolate began to melt and pool. Next, follow these directions to calculate the speed of light based on that distance.


Letters sticking out of a shelf

If you need to take a stamp off of an envelope it’s already stuck to (or are looking to save a stamp for your collection), you can easily pry it off without damaging it. Put a few drops of water onto the stamp and put it in the microwave for approximately 20 seconds. When it comes out, the stamp will peel right off of the paper.


A woman in a garden holds potting soil in one hand.

If you’re about to plant some seeds, you might want to sterilize your soil first. You can buy pre-sterilized potting mixes, but if you’re just using the dirt in your garden, you can rid your soil of pests, diseases, and weed seeds using the microwave. Put a few pounds of dirt in a quart-sized container—ideally with a vented lid—and stick it in the microwave, zapping it 90 seconds for every couple of pounds. After that, your soil is officially ready for planting.


A ceramic bowl in the microwave

Ideally, you’d know whether or not your dishes were microwave safe before you put them in said microwave, but sometimes, dishes aren’t marked or the symbol has rubbed off. So if you really want to be sure, you can do a quick test. Take a glass measuring cup or mug (that you already know is microwave safe) and fill it with 1 cup of water. Then, put that glass full of water on top of the dish you’re trying to test (or next to it, if you’re testing a cup). Microwave both for one minute, then touch them. If the water is hot but the testing dish isn’t, it’s safe to use to microwave food. If the dish is warm but the water is hot, that means it’s not microwave safe.

10 Ways To Look Professional, and Hide Your Pajamas, In a Video Conference Call

You don't need to wear full business attire to maintain a professional appearance.
You don't need to wear full business attire to maintain a professional appearance.
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

The COVID-19 crisis has forced offices to shutter around the country, and as a result, more people are working from home than ever. That means we're seeing more of coworkers' bedrooms, pets, and pajamas than we ever imagined.

If you're navigating the dos and don'ts of working remotely for the first time, you don't necessarily need to choose between professionalism and comfortable pants. Just keep a few tips in mind to make your transition from being alone on the couch to hopping onto a last-minute Zoom video call as smooth as possible.

Just like in real life, wearing the right outfit can go a long way when it comes to looking professional for your colleagues. Standards aren't as high when you're telecommuting, so even switching out your T-shirt for a business-casual top when you expect to be on video can be enough to show you put effort into your appearance. And unless you plan on moving around on the video call, don't bother putting on pants that don't have an elastic waistband.

If you want to look good on video, there are a few things to keep in mind that don't apply to in-person meetings. Position your computer so you're eye-level with the camera, placing it on a stack of books if necessary, and find a room with good lighting so your coworkers can actually see you. And to avoid getting any unpleasant surprises when you see yourself in a group meeting, check how you look on camera privately before calling in.

You can find tips for looking professional on a video conference call below. And for more ways to optimize your telecommuting experience, check out these habits to practice.

  1. Sit facing a window for natural lighting.
  1. Wear a business-casual top.
  1. Choose clothes with neutral tones.
  1. Position your webcam so it's level with your eyes.
  1. Sit farther from the camera rather than closer.
  1. If you're having a bad hair day, pull it back with a hair tie.
  1. Keep on comfortable pants if you can avoid standing up.
  1. Find a private room to minimize background distractions.
  1. See how you look on your computer camera before joining a video call.
  1. If you have limited time to put on makeup, focus on brows and cheeks to give your face dimension.

11 Boredom-Busting Classes and Activities You Can Do at Home

A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images

Staying home as much as possible is the best way to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, according to health experts. If you’ve already taken this step to protect yourself and your community, you may be faced with a different problem: the crushing boredom that comes with spending all your time indoors. Fortunately, there have never been more ways to keep busy on the internet. In an effort to lift spirits and stimulate minds in isolation, businesses, artists, and institutions have found new ways to keep people connected from afar. From virtual field trips to free workout classes, here are the best boredom-busting activities to check out.

1. Take a free workout class with the YMCA.

Your local gym may be closed, but that doesn’t mean you have to postpone your workout routine for the foreseeable future. The YMCA has launched a new series of free, online fitness classes for people stuck at home. The on-demand videos include barre, bootcamp, yoga, tai chi, and weightlifting. After breaking a sweat for 30 minutes, you may even forget you’re not at the gym.

2. Meditate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as maintaining your physical health while social distancing. If you want to start your day in a good head space, tune into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s morning “MeditOceans” on YouTube. After closing to the public, the California aquarium started uploading 10- to 15-minute guided meditations set to soothing footage of marine life or scenes from nature. We recommend starting with their video of undulating jellyfish.

3. Take a virtual field trip to a National Park.

Combat claustrophobia by taking a virtual tour of some of the country’s most majestic national parks. The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks project from Google Arts & Culture offers virtual, 360-degree tours of five National Park System sites, all guided by real park rangers. The diverse destinations include the Kenai Fjords in Alaska; Hawai’i Volcanoes in Hawai’i; Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Dry Tortugas in Florida. You can view all the properties from your phone or computer, and if you have a virtual reality headset, you can transport yourself out of your home with an immersive experience.

4. Take an Improv Class from Second City.

Improv comedy is difficult to do alone. With Second City, you can take a class with other students and master instructors from the comfort of your home. Second City has helped launch the careers of such comedy heavyweights as Steve Carell, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. Even though its physical theaters in Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles are closed during the coronavirus crisis, comedy classes will continue online. In addition to improv, students can take virtual lessons in comedic songwriting, pitching TV shows, stand-up, sketch comedy, and more from Second City’s pro teachers. If you’re not willing to pay $195 to $295 for a four- to eight-week online course, you can take a one-time drop-in improv or stand-up class for $25.

5. Learn about Women’s History with The New-York Historical Society.

Whether you’re teaching someone home from school or looking to educate yourself in your spare time, there are plenty of remote resources online. The New-York Historical Society is sharing its expertise in the form of a free digital curriculum on women’s history in America. The online course materials cover the period from 1920 to 1948, starting with the flappers of the Jazz Age and ending with women in the postwar era. You can view the entire unit, which includes archival photos and documents, on the NYHS’s website.

6. Join the D.C. Library’s quarantine book club.

If you already plan on reading a ton of books in isolation, you can turn the solitary activity into a social one by joining a quarantine book club. The D.C. Public Library recently announced its book club D.C. Reads is going digital, and now anyone can participate from home. This month’s pick is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. If you have a Washington, D.C. library card, you can use it to download the e-book for free. Book club discussions will take place on March 28 and April 4 at 2 p.m. through the library’s Twitter account.

7. Draw with Wendy Macnaughton.

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Whether you consider yourself a novice or a Picasso, you can benefit from making art with others. Every weekday at 10 a.m. PST, Wendy Macnaughton (illustrator of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) hosts drawing classes in her Instagram Stories. All participants need is paper and a pencil. Artists of all ages can draw along, though Macnaughton states classes are just long enough to keep kids occupied for parents “to get a little work done or take a shower and take a couple deep breathes.”

8. Tour the American Museum of Natural History.

As long as you have an internet connection, the impressive halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City are just a few clicks away. Every day at 2 p.m. EST, the institution is sharing tours of its exhibits and collections as Facebook Lives. Some special sneak peeks published to the AMNH Facebook page so far include a tour of the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians and a look at its trilobite collection led by curator and trilobite paleontologist Melanie Hopkins.

9. Take a cooking class with Milk Street.

Not sure what to do with your quarantine food supply? Taking a cooking class is a great place to start. Through the end of April, Milk Street (from America’s Test Kitchen co-founder Christopher Kimball) is making its online culinary lessons free to everyone. Topics include baking, cooking without a recipe, and using certain kitchen tools. After a few weeks of classes, you’ll know your way around everything from a chef’s knife to an Instant Pot.

10. Get Creative with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

While it’s closed, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is using its social media to keep followers engaged with their creative sides. Every Tuesday on Instagram, the institution will post a new challenge to its Stories. This week’s challenge is finding something to read and posting about it to Instagram to help the museum compile the ultimate reading list. Past challenges have included setting aside 30 minutes to make art and sharing photos of pets wearing wigs.

11. Learn guitar with Fender.

At the risk of driving your quarantine-mates crazy, you can use isolation as an opportunity to get in touch with your inner rockstar. Fender is giving the first 100,000 users who create a new account on Fender Play three months of free online lessons. The instructional videos led by talented musicians are high-quality, and you can access them from your phone, tablet, or computer. And if you don't have a guitar at home, the program also includes lessons for bass guitars and ukuleles.