We have not used a microwave for about four years. We read enough about it to confirm a belief that our food would be more healthful if we did not use a microwave. The purpose of what I write here is not to convince you to do without one, but rather to help you make the adjustment to living without a microwave should you desire to go that route yourself.
Even though I believed we would be better off without the microwave, it still took me some months to process my thoughts about how to make the switch. Okay, I’ll be honest. I needed that time to stop being stubborn — to let go of the “convenience” a microwave provided. Once I stopped being stubborn, the change was easy. Much easier than I thought it would be. I ended up only missing the kitchen timer feature on the microwave! The solution to that was easy — purchase a magnetic kitchen timer to hang on the refrigerator. As for convenience, I realized very quickly that it is just about as convenient to use the stove in reheating foods.
I do not miss the microwave one bit. I mean that. Practically speaking, I could say I have forgotten that microwaves exist at all. I use such easy, simple methods for reheating food without it. If I am at someone’s house, or if I read a recipe calling for the microwave’s use, or if I receive a question (as I did yesterday) about how to reheat something without a microwave, that will cause me to remember the microwave’s existence.
There are certain benefits to not using a microwave. This is not just about managing without it. For instance, removing a microwave frees up kitchen space, and most likely, in the form of precious counter space. Also, I can achieve more even heating of foods with frequent stirring, as opposed to “hot spots” from microwaving. Then there’s the belief that food is more healthful if not heated in the microwave. I could also say that I favor the simplicity of reheating my food with a plain heat source.
There are not many cons. In fact, I can only think of one and it is not hard to get around: I have more dishes to wash — those pots that do the reheating on the stovetop or in the oven. The number of pots can be lessened by planning. Often I will use one pot and reheat a meal whose components are combined as one skillet dish. Or I will take turns heating separate foods up with the same pot. Still, there will be at least one pot to wash every time I reheat a food or drink. This I overcome with a joyful attitude. God has give me — who used to dislike doing the dishes — an enjoyment from the feel of warm, soapy water on my hands. I use stainless steel or cast-iron cookware and both of these clean very easily most of the time.
Following I will share specifically how I reheat certain types of foods. You will see how easily this is done. In most cases, all that is required is additional water and medium heat.
Drinks are very simple to reheat. Pour the drink in a pot which fits it. Bring to a simmer (or desired temperature) over medium to medium-high heat. You’ll find that the reheating time rivals that of the microwave for most drinks, such as tea. Alternately, one can fill a mason jar with the drink, set it in a pot of water, and let the water heat to a simmer, which will heat the contents of the jar. If heating a liquid that scalds easily, such as a milk, lower the heat to medium or medium-low and stir constantly until it is hot.
Foods in Sauce
The process is again simple for foods such as spaghetti sauce, or other main dishes with liquid. In a stainless steel or cast-iron pot that fits the quantity, bring the food to desired temperature over medium or medium-high heat. Add water if the the sauce thickened during refrigeration. How much water to add is something one must learn over time. Generally, add one-quarter cup of water at a time until the sauce reaches the consistency desired. Keep in mind that foods will become thinner when heated, for cold foods are naturally more thick than heated foods.
Foods without Sauce
Put any foods that don’t have much or any sauce (meats, potatoes, steamed veggies) in a stainless steel or cast-iron pan. Add a little bit of water and/or oil (olive, grapeseed, red palm… ). Bring to desired temperature over medium to medium-high heat. One can also add broth or water along with additional seasonings and create a sauce with the leftovers. Alternately, put the foods in a smaller pan that nests inside a pan filled with boiling water. The water’s steam will heat the food. Add additional seasoning if desired.
A well-seasoned cast-iron pan or pot is the way to go for reheating brown rice, millet, quinoa or other whole grains. The seasoning on the cast-iron is the perfect non-stick surface to prevent excessive sticking. However, if sticking does occur, it is easily scraped off as long as the food is not heavily burned or scorched.
Add the grains to the pan, along with some water and oil (olive, grapeseed, red palm… ). Stir/scrape frequently as the grains heat over medium heat. I use the opportunity of reheating to season my grains with salt and pepper, herbs and/or the oil mentioned previously. Once the grain is all warmed and tasty, turn the heat to low and cover the pan.
All that pasta requires is a stainless steel pot and a bit of water and oil (olive, grapeseed, red palm… ). Heat it all over medium heat. As the water boils, it will evaporate, and its steam will reheat the pasta. Keep the pot covered, but toss frequently. Add water as needed. Too much water will make the pasta soggy. The idea is to add just enough for its evaporation to create sufficient steam for reheating. Season the pasta with salt, if desired.
Reheat beans in additional water and/or oil in a stainless steel or cast-iron pan. The beans will reheat much like the Foods in Sauces (above). Season if desired.
Porridges and Hot Cereals
Use either a stainless steel or cast-iron pot. Add the cereal and a generous amount of water to the pot. Stir to break up chunks. A bamboo stir-fry spoon works well to slice up the chunks, as does a potato masher. Turn the heat on to medium or medium-low. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon and cover in between stirs. Let the contents reheat, adding water as needed. If too much water is added, let the porridge simmer with the lid off so the excess water can evaporate. When the porridge reaches desired temperature, turn the heat to low and cover the pot.
Melt chocolate and oils which are solid at room temperature over low heat in stainless steel cookware. Stir constantly. Remove from heat when fully melted. Do not boil, unless a recipe calls for that. Alternately, one may put items to be melted in a small pot or container and nest it over a pot of boiling water. Stir and allow the heat of the steam to melt the food items.
Using the Oven or Toaster Oven
Reheat main dish leftovers in a covered casserole dish at 350 or 375 degrees for about half hour, until heated through to the center. Combine or layer different meal components in the same casserole dish to save space and clean-up.
For single servings, smaller quanitities, or for fruit desserts, reheat for 5 minutes and check for temperature. Continue heating until the food reaches desired temperature.
If I can be more specific about any of these methods, please let me know. Also, if I missed any food type, I would love to help with that, too.
© Copyright 2008 by Wardee Harmon.