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Microwave hacks: the best things to cook in a microwave, according to Mumsnetters

Are you still using your microwave simply to reheat leftovers or cook a ready meal? Check out our hacks to make the most of your microwave and make life easier in the kitchen, with hints, tips and recommendations from Mumsnetters.

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Sep 22, 2023

Microwave hacks

A microwave is a lifesaver for busy families. Saving time, energy and stress, a microwave lets you reheat leftovers and serve midweek meals in seconds. However, chances are, you’re not using it to its full potential. A microwave can do so much more than reheat dishes and warm up baby food.

In the midst of a cost of living crisis, many of us are re-evaluating the way we cook at home and are looking for energy-efficient and speedy cooking methods to create fuss-free family-friendly meals and instant lunches.

We’ve scoured the Mumsnet forums for tried-and-tested microwave hacks to help you make the most of this underutilised appliance, and have put together a handy guide to the best things to cook in a microwave.

If you’re wondering if your microwave is up to scratch or whether it’s time for an upgrade, you can check out our roundup of the best microwaves to buy right now.

The best things to cook in a microwave

Microwave hacks

1. Speedy scrambled eggs

If you’re after a healthy breakfast or want to cook a small portion of scrambled eggs for a child, the thought of dragging out pots and pans may be enough to put you off. Instead of firing up the hob rings, you can easily cook a bowl of scrambled eggs in the microwave. Just be careful not to overcook them or your eggs will be rubbery and tough.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“Microwaved scrambled eggs are amazing IF cooked properly. I always take them out 5-10 seconds before they look ready, as they are so hot that the cooking process continues outside the microwave. I just them a good stir and find they are perfect, avoiding the rubbery over-cooked mess.” - Recommended by Mumsnet user usingadifferentname

“This is not one for purists, but a few years ago Eat Well for Less did a microwave 'egg in a mug' recipe which puffs up to a cross between a scrambled egg and an omelette. It includes a splash of milk and a tiny sprinkle of grated cheese, so makes the egg a bit more filling and goes much further. Great with HP sauce and on toast with beans for an easy snack.” - Tip from Mumsnet user Undertheoldlindentree

Read next: The best toasters to buy, as recommended by families

2. Swift spuds

There’s nothing quite like tucking into a crispy jacket potato loaded with melted butter, cheese or beans. But cooking a baked spud from scratch can take hours - something you’ll be keen to avoid with current energy prices.

Instead of waiting for foil-wrapped jackets to bake in the oven, prick your potatoes and pop them in the microwave for 6-7 minutes to soften before crisping them up in the oven or air fryer for a satisfying spud in a fraction of the time.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“I usually ping them for 6-7mins and then finish off in the air fryer - spray with oil, salt the skin then put it in the hot air fryer for 5-10mins. Lovely and crunchy skin". - Method used by Mumsnet user GetOffTheRoof 

“For anyone without a combi or an air fryer, after microwaving them, you can split them in half and put them under a hot grill for a few minutes to crisp up the skin and any exposed insides too. I think this would be cheaper than putting the oven on.” - Suggestion from Mumsnet user Plastichanger

3. Say goodbye to onion tears

If peeling onions for your casseroles, stir fries and sauces leaves you looking like you’ve just watched The Notebook? You’re not alone. Onion tears are incredibly common.

If you’d prefer to keep your mascara intact as you slice, pop your onions into the microwave for around 45 seconds to soften them before you bring out the chopping board. Magic.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“If you intend to chop a lot of onions, first cut them in half, peel, and zap them in the microwave until they soften - stops the risk of tears.” - Handy hack from Mumsnet user JayeAshe

4. Revive stale bread

microwave hacks

Is your bread past its best? A microwave can quickly breathe life back into your bloomer in seconds. Simply sprinkle with water or wrap your bread in a damp piece of kitchen roll before adding to the microwave for 10-30 seconds. Soft, squishy and delicious - pass the butter.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“If you microwave them for 30 seconds they will be soft again.” - Tip from Mumsnet user caringcarer

Read next: The best kettles to buy

5. Melt butter

Speaking of butter, buying a block of butter is often cheaper than a spreadable alternative, but when it’s rock solid from the fridge and you’re trying to butter your toast in the morning rush? Not so much fun.

If you’re after a spreadable lump for your tower of toast, cut off a small block and add it to the microwave for just a few seconds to soften it and have it gliding across your toast in no time.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“We cut bits off and put it in the meecro-waaaavey for about 3 to 4 secs....” - A Nigella reference and tip from Mumsnet user Letsgetbizzy 

“I cut off a few bits into a ramekin (those ones from Gu) and microwave for 10 seconds. Makes it soft enough to spread, but not melt.” - Advice from Mumsnet user Truthlikeness

6. Steam vegetables

Running out of hob rings? If you’re serving a variety of vegetables and have no room left in the steamer, a microwave can be a great alternative to a food steamer, especially when cooking your veg straight from the freezer.

From mixed veg to sweetcorn and peas, you can quickly warm up a batch of your favourite vegetables in minutes using a lightly covered bowl.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“We do everything in the microwave - I never do veg any other way. We just put them in a tupperware dish with a little bit of water, then put a lid loosely on and zap for a couple of minutes, then test. You'll get to know what veg needs and how long to cook it for in your microwave. Dead easy.” - Method used by Mumsnet user flowerybeanbag 

7. Cook crispy bacon

Fancy a bacon roll after the school run but can’t justify washing up a pan? Did you know you can crisp your bacon in the microwave? Whether you’re partial to red sauce or brown, one rasher or two, this hack will get that bacon butty on your plate faster than you can blink - the perfect pick-me-up for a Monday morning!

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“Absolutely brilliant hack, lay a couple of sheets of kitchen roll on a plate, lay your bacon on top, and pop another sheet of roll on top, microwave for two mins and Bob’s your uncle, perfect bacon!” - Hack from Mumsnet user IHaveAGreyLamp 

“I used to do this and it's a perfectly acceptable way of cooking bacon. Place the bacon on a plate between two sheets of kitchen towel, then do some test runs to see how long it takes your microwave to cook it to the texture you like. Be careful though, it doesn't take too long and will quickly go black and create smoke if it goes too far. It's good for things like a quick bacon roll if you don't fancy having to wash a pan up, or you're only doing 2 or 3 slices for yourself.” - Advice from Mumsnet user ​​FrothyB

8. Prepare rapid rice

Microwave hacks

Cooking your rice in the microwave is super efficient - the important part is ensuring you add enough water and use an appropriately sized bowl. As the rice expands during cooking, you need to leave additional space or opt for a rice cooker specifically for that purpose. You don’t need to stop and stir it either - just let the microwave work its magic.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“I microwave it - put rice in a bowl, cover with boiling water (about half a finger higher than the rice), covered with clingfilm which you pierce in a few places, and cook for 12 minutes. It's always perfect. I couldn't cook it before this either” - Method used by Mumsnet user HelenHywater 

“I use a simple, microwaveable rice cooker. It's just a plastic tub with a double lid. Bought it on Amazon. Cheap and cheerful, works brilliantly.” - Tip from Mumsnet user  lazylinguist

Read next: The best blenders to buy, according to Mumsnetters

9. Cook frozen mash

After a super quick mid-week dinner? Put the potato peeler down!

Your microwave can cook frozen mash from scratch. Bung it in the microwave before fluffing it up with a fork for a fuss-free mash in minutes. Now all you need to worry about is the sausages and a generous helping of gravy. Yum.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“You can microwave it from FROZEN. Oh yes, you can! Just do it in bursts and I usually start on something like 70% of the power. Nuke for a minute, and stir. Nuke, stir. As it gets defrosted you can nuke for longer at a time.” - Tip from Mumsnet user SpaceOp 

10. Warm up forgotten coffees

Last but not least and one that all parents can probably relate to - a steaming mug of morning coffee can quickly become a cold vat of lacklustre liquid when dealing with yet another parenting crisis.

If your toddler has a habit of needing a poo the second you’ve switched on the kettle or has a mad moment just as you’re bringing the mug to your mouth - don’t pour it down the sink, reheat it instead. Microwaves can very quickly bring that brew back up to the perfect temperature.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“I’m always warming up brews that I've forgotten about and have gone cold.” - Tip from Mumsnet user Thehogfatherstolemycurry

“I use my microwave to reheat my coffee that I didn't drink because I was dealing with children.” - Microwave use from Mumsnet user Oysterbabe 

Are microwaves energy efficient?

With the astronomical cost of energy, many families are turning off their ovens and switching to more energy-efficient options such as microwaves and air fryers.

Thanks to their almost instant heat-up time, rapid cooking capabilities and the fact they heat the food rather than their surroundings, microwaves are far more energy efficient and hence, cost far less than running a conventional oven.

What cannot be cooked in a microwave?

While there are lots of foods that are perfect to cook in the microwave, there are a small number of things that should never be added to your appliance.

These include:

  • Hardboiled eggs - scrambled eggs are one thing, but hard-boiled eggs should never be placed in your microwave. Pressure will build up under the surface of the hard shell with only one inevitable conclusion - you’ll be mopping up an egg yolk explosion rather than enjoying your lunch

  • Anything in takeout containers - most takeout containers are made from aluminium foil which can actually reflect the radio waves - this can lead to sparks and at worst, fires

  • Hot peppers - If you like your food fiery, that's fine, but resist heating up hot peppers in your microwave. Not only can they spark and create a fire hazard, the cooking process will also create vapours which can burn and sting your eyes when you open the microwave door