We’re remodeling our kitchen. In the 12 years since we moved into this house, the kitchen has served us very well. The remodel is largely cosmetic, since we aren’t expanding or moving any walls. Our plan is to update the cabinets, appliances, flooring, and lighting.
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been slowly dismantling the kitchen. We hope it’s the last thing we demo upstairs before we have to move downstairs entirely. Last weekend we removed the cabinets above the stove. And then…we removed the microwave.
There’s a common foodie battle cry that goes something like, “Oh, we don’t have a microwave.” I too, could live without a microwave. If I had to. Since we are in the process of reexamining how we use our kitchen and how to most efficiently use every square inch of it, I think there is a case for the microwave.
Reason #1: Popcorn. WAIT! I know you can make popcorn on a stovetop. And I did. For YEARS. But I think popcorn in the microwave is vastly superior. It’s fluffier and doesn’t require any oil. I don’t buy the prepackaged stuff. I learned a simple microwave popcorn technique from the Alton Brown show Good Eats. Take a paper lunch sack; add ¼ of popping corn; fold the bag over once and staple twice (the staples don’t have enough metal in them to spark); and zap the bag for 2-3 minutes. It takes 1:48 in my microwave. Add some butter and salt = instant snack.
Reason #2: Reheating meals. We cook a lot. We don’t buy frozen or prepared meals. Sometimes we get Thai take-out. Usually though, we have some leftovers to reheat. Reheating is easy to do on the stovetop and in the case of leftover steak for steak sandwiches, is even preferred. The thing is, if you have a bowl of leftovers, it is easier to just zap it. You don’t need to dirty another dish. I make steel-cut oats in big batches to reheat for quick breakfasts. I can just reheat them in the bowl I am gonna eat them from. I freeze soups in single serving containers that I can reheat in and eat from. To me, the microwave is a more efficient way to reheat meals.
Reason #3: Making potato chips. That’s right bitches, potato chips! The microwave somehow transforms them into the crunchiest, tastiest homemade potato chips I’ve ever had. Try it for yourself.
Reason #4: Knäck. I grew up making these Swedish candies and am completely addicted to them. A couple years ago, I found a microwave version that is a snap. We used to make these in a cast-iron skillet, then used spoons to transfer the molten caramel into little paper cups. Today? I put all the ingredients into a Pyrex, nuke it and pour the caramel with the aid of the handy pour spout. Sure, I only make these caramels a few times a year, but since they are easier to make with the microwave, I may start making them more regularly.
Reason #5: Cooking vegetables. You heard me – vegetables! Vegetables cook in the microwave in less than five minutes. No added fat, just the steam they create in a covered microwaveable container. Even Harold McGee – esteemed food scientist and New York Times columnist– recommends this method for cooking vegetables quickly, without cooking out their nutrients.
Reason #6: Hot cocoa and hot cider. I have a hot water kettle for everything else, but sometimes I want a cup of something warm. Just one cup. It is so easy to pour milk or juice into a mug, zap it for 2-3 minutes and drink. No fuss, no muss.
So, we’ve decided there WILL be a microwave in our new kitchen. Now, the only quandary is WHERE to put it. In the old kitchen, the microwave was mounted above the stove (see photo below). We know we won’t be repeating this set-up. Our house has semi-vaulted ceilings throughout, and smoke and smells waft from the kitchen through the entire house. We need a restaurant-strength hood. I want one so strong it sucks my hair up when it’s running on high speed.
We will likely retrofit one of the new top cabinets on the other side of the kitchen to hold the microwave. The efficiency we are gaining with the new cabinets (better access in the corner cabinets, pull out drawer/shelves, etc) will greatly make up for the small amount of real estate we give up for the microwave. And, given the reasons above, having a microwave is worth it to us.