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02/09/2017 12:33 pm ET

6 Unexpected Ways To Use Your Microwave

Let this kitchen appliance earn its keep by putting it to work using these brilliant tricks.

  • Turn Your Kitchen Into A Coffee House
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    Note: The times will vary depending on the wattage of your microwave; these uses are based on a 1,000-watt microwave. Always use microwave-safe plates and cups.


    You can get a gorgeous layer of velvety-smooth foam atop your cappuccino without any special gadgets, says J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. Just vigorously shake a half-cup of milk in a sealed microwave-safe, pint-size container until it thickens and creates a rich foam, then microwave it for 15 to 20 seconds to stabilize it. For best results, use 2-percent, 1-percent or skim milk; higher-fat milk doesn't work as well, and this is one case where nut or soy milk is no substitute for the real deal.
  • Toast 2 Surprising Foods
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    We love garnishing pasta, salad and other dishes with lightly toasted nuts for crunch and added flavor, but we'd only ever used the oven or stove for the job. Toasting nuts in the microwave is quick and easy, though. Linda S. Gossett, an extension professor at the University of Idaho's Expanded Food & Nutrition Program, says to spread a tablespoon to a half-cup of nuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe dish and add a small amount of softened butter, margarine or oil (corn, olive or grapeseed work well) -- about 1/2 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of nuts, and proportionally less for smaller amounts. Stir to thinly coat with the fat and microwave on high for one minute. Stir and microwave for another minute, if necessary, watching closely to avoid burning.
  • Get the Most Out of Your Lemons
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    This shortcut to juicing a lemon works with any citrus fruits that's been stored in the fridge (and ideally, that's where you should keep them. As Chris McGugan, VP/GM of innovation and Kenmore appliances for Sears Holdings Corporation, explains, that's because when you heat citrus, the internal pressure builds, breaking the cellular bonds within the lemon and allowing more juice to flow (with significantly less effort from you). Microwave the fruit (10 seconds if it's small; 20 seconds if it's larger), then roll it under the palm of your hand against the kitchen counter for a few seconds. The heat and the mini-massage will help release more juice when you cut it open and squeeze.
  • Keep Supper Hot -- Even After You've Served It
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    Heating dinner plates sounds like something from another era, but doing so can truly elevate your meal. Chris Smith, senior product manager of cooking for the home-appliance brand Electrolux, suggests taking a (microwave-safe) dish and spritzing a small amount of water in the center of it with a spray bottle. You can stack three to five dishes this way, each with a bit of water, then heat the stack for 30 seconds to one minute for a warm-to-hot plate. Be careful when removing the plates (the water on them could be very hot). Pour it off into the sink, wipe the plates dry with a towel and they're ready for whatever you've cooked.
  • Sanitize Much More Than Sponges
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    Everyone from A Bowl Full of Lemons homekeeping blogger Toni Hammersley to scientists use the microwave to remove bacteria from damp kitchen sponges (all it takes is a minute). But if you use a designated microwave sterilizer, you can also sanitize baby-related items such as bottles and small toys. And if you're a gardener, we've got great news: zapping soil before planting seeds in it will result in healthier plants, since the microwave removes pathogens.
  • Stop Candles From Wobbling
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    We know microwaving wax sounds like something for advanced-level crafters -- yet Katie Holdefehr, design and projects editor at Apartment Therapy, says it's actually a quick and easy to way to fix a taper candle that's wobbling in its holder, without having to actually light the candle (if you want to keep it new for, say, a dinner party). The five-minute process is as simple as placing beeswax or soy-wax flakes in a microwave-safe glass container (such as Pyrex) and then microwaving it for one minute, adding on 30 seconds at a time until the wax is completely melted. Pour a small amount into the candle holder, then place the candle on top and hold the candle firmly in place until the melted wax has hardened.

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