We tested time-saving microwave tricks—here's what worked and what really didn't.

By Betty Gold
Updated: July 02, 2019
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Microwaves might be one of the most under-utilized appliances in the kitchen. Despite the fact that they've been granted a massive amount of permanent counter top real estate in nearly every home in America, we still file them away as being a one-hit wonder, good just for reheating leftovers and the occasional bag of popcorn. 

The microwave is a marvel of modern technology. Food can go from ice cold to blazing hot in a matter of seconds. It cuts down on cook time, speeds up prep time, and all around makes the home cook’s job easier. Shouldn't it be good for more than just zapping day-old ziti? We set out to test cool, creative, and quirky uses for the microwave. 

Can you dry herbs in the microwave?

What if we told you that you'd never have to dry herbs in your oven again? Especially in hot summer months when having the extra heat in the house is borderline unbearable, this would be a pretty magical microwave hack. We took several springs of dill, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and basil and laid them down on paper towels, then covered them with extra paper towel to absorb any moisture extracted from the herbs. We heated the herbs for two and a half minutes in 30-second intervals. The herbs turned out perfectly dry, crispy, and aromatic. Albeit a few black spots on the basil (which you won't notice once these are ground up), this worked wonderfully. Say goodbye to the days of having the oven on for ages to dry herbs!

Can you get more juice out of your citrus by microwaving it?

After reading online that you can microwave lemons, limes, oranges, and other forms of citrus to get their juices flowing and make them easier to squeeze, we had to try it. We took a single lemon and zapped it for 15 seconds, and took another (found at the same grocery store, and similar in shape and size) to compare it to. After allowing it to cool for about a minute and slicing down the center, we used our favorite OXO citrus juicer to measure the amount of juice we could extract side by side. The results were impressive—the lemon we'd gently heated in the microwave produced over a tablespoon more juice than the room temp lemon. The rind also felt less rigid and firm, which made the fruit easier to squeeze. It's a hit! 

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Can you make dulce de leche in the microwave?

Definitely the most intimidating trick so far. Dulce de Leche traditionally takes hours on end—sometimes all day—to cook properly. You have to simmer and stir, stir and simmer for ages at your stovetop. If we can do it in the microwave, it'll be life changing. We poured a can of sweetened condensed milk into a large microwave safe bowl on set the power to medium heat. We gave the sweet syrupy mixture two minutes at a time, pulled out the bowl and stirred with a silicone spatula before returning to the microwave. We repeated this six times—each time the mixture would get more aromatic and thick, then bubbly, then firm and dry. After 12 minutes, we threw in the towel. No dice—the color didn't change, and we cannot in good conscience call this authentic dulce de leche. That being said, it was still delicious.

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