Browse any kitchen appliance aisle and you’ll find more than one brand of microwave oven offered up for sale. The appliance, which relies on electromagnetic radiation to heat or cook food, is thought by some to be a kitchen staple. After all, how else can you heat up frozen dinners or make sure your reheated leftovers are perfect the next day?
But do you need a microwave in your kitchen?
Recently while scrolling Twitter, I came across a tweet from former football player and television personality Michael Strahan. In it, Strahan asked his more than one million followers about microwaves. His controversial take? Strahan doesn’t like or use a microwave because he feels food tastes better when heated up “properly.”
“It trips a lot of people out,” he said in the post. “I have modern things in the kitchen. I have an oven, stove and of course a blender, toaster oven, juicer, coffee maker — all of that stuff, but I don’t have a microwave in the kitchen because I like the way the food tastes when you heat it up in the oven or on the stove.”
Strahan concluded the video by asking his followers a question: Can you live without a microwave?
As a recent college graduate, my microwave is my best friend: a true necessity and really one of the only kitchen appliances I use. In college, my diet solely consisted of ramen noodles, reheated leftovers, steamed veggies and frozen dinners — all of which I made in my trusty microwave.
Believe it or not, I don’t cook … at all. Yes, I can make myself some pasta, but that’s where my culinary endeavors end. I have no interest in anything that’s going to take more than five minutes, so that’s why I need a microwave.
I’ve heard the “but it tastes better in the oven” spiel from my grandparents dozens of times, but I wanted to see what a professional had to say about Strahan’s anti-microwave stance. Is a microwave oven a kitchen essential? And do others share the Good Morning America co-host’s views on microwave ownership?
Do you need a microwave in the kitchen?
Serena Poon, a celebrity chef and founder of wellness site Culinary Academy doesn’t think microwaves are a must-have household appliance. “Microwaves aren’t necessary at all,” Poon tells Yahoo Life. “They were created to be a convenient and fast way to cook food and can be used as such, but you could absolutely cook everything you need with just a stovetop and oven.”
“Microwaves are really a tool of convenience,” she adds, “they can help you cook food quickly, but often at the risk of a loss of flavor, texture and in some cases nutrients.”
What can I use instead of a microwave?
Poon says if you have the means, it’s better off to use an air fryer, convection oven or instant pot. Although the cooking time will be a bit longer with these devices than with a microwave, it’s likely a worthwhile trade in terms of flavor and consistency.
Eva Shortt, a mother of two, does not view a microwave as a necessity in her household. “Microwaves alter the taste of food, take up a lot of room and make nearly everything mushy,” she says.
Nicole Robina, a publicist, agrees with Shortt that conventional ovens are the way to go. “Everything tastes better when you heat it up in the oven,” she says. “It’s worth the extra time.”
But while Robina and Shortt won’t be caught using a microwave, there are some people (like myself) who can’t live without one.
Devany Green, who works in human resources, recalls a story of how when she was a child her household microwave stopped working, leading to utter chaos. “When my mom was a young mom, she was home alone with my sister and I when our microwave died,” says Green. “She called my grandma in tears about it. A couple hours later, my grandma was knocking on our door with a new microwave.”
“I’d say it’s essential,” she adds, “especially nowadays.”
While Green’s mom may have found a microwave to be more of a convenience than a necessity, there are some people who truly need them. “For some people it’s necessary to have a microwave, as it’s easier or safer to operate than a stove top or oven,” says Kaitlin Neiswenter, an occupational therapy student. “Not everyone is able to make food in a typical way.”
Others like Jackie Meluso, a director at a public relations firm, use microwaves for the convenience and ease. “As someone who takes home leftovers or orders [take-out] a lot, I always need a microwave to quickly reheat foods,” she shares.
Should I not use a microwave?
With so many split over whether or not a microwave oven is essential, there appears to be no clear verdict in Strahan’s case. However, regardless of which side of the spectrum you’re on, there are a few foods you’ll want to keep out of the microwave: namely meat, hard boiled eggs and rice.
“Cooking meat in the microwave isn’t recommended because the meat won’t heat evenly, opening up the opportunity for uneven temperatures or bacteria growth,” says Poon. “Reheating meat can also increase cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) that are detrimental to heart health and known to be carcinogenic.”
When it comes to making hard-boiled eggs, using the microwave can cause a potential explosion. Reheating rice increases the risk of harboring poisonous bacteria: The last thing you want is to dig into your leftover fried rice and fall ill.
At the end of the day, use the kitchen appliance that best suits your needs whether that’s a microwave or stove top. The main thing to remember is to make sure you’re safe about what you’re heating up.
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