During World War II, an engineer discovered that the radar waves used to detect planes could also heat up food. Making use of this technology, the first beastly microwave oven, called the Radarange, debuted in the late 1940s. More user-friendly consumer countertop models hit store shelves two decades later, and soon afterward the microwave became the ubiquitous household appliance it is today. But if you’re like most guys, you probably only use yours for nuking popcorn and leftover pizza, which means you’re selling this versatile and time-saving appliance short. From pasta to moist fish, you can count on the microwave to turn out an array of quick, nutritious dishes with minimal prep and cleanup time. Here’s a collection of nutrient-dense, muscle-building recipes that prove the microwave can cook praiseworthy meals and desserts. Just don’t fear the magnetron.
Follow these tips to get the most out of your microwave:
1. Choose wisely
Microwave meals work best when made with items of high-moisture content, such as fish, boneless poultry, fruits, and vegetables.
For even cooking, microwave items in round or oval containers instead of square ones.
Use only microwave-safe containers. Generally, glass, ceramic, and silicone are good options. Because of the risk for potentially harmful chemicals leaching into hot food, it’s best to avoid plastic containers, even those deemed “microwave safe.” And, whenever you can, buy containers that say “BPA-free” on the label.
4. High voltage
Microwaves vary in their power production, so it’s best to use cooking times indicated in recipes only as a guideline. Depending on your microwave, a dish could take less or more time to cook.
Remember that the defrost button, which defaults to about 30% power, is just for thawing items, not for cooking them.
6. Cover up
Covering food like fish and chicken with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap can help retain moisture and promote even cooking. (Be sure to keep the plastic wrap from touching any food.) When appropriate, stirring food once or more during cooking aids in even cooking and reduces the risk of food poisoning by eliminating cold spots.
7. Leftover magic
When you have an appetite for leftovers, be sure to heat them up with the “reheat” button to help prevent overcooking, which can dry out items like fish.
8. Be patient Allow food to sit for about a minute after the timer dings to better distribute the heat, since excited food molecules are still bouncing around.
Did you know?
Like fish, you can also zap chicken in the microwave for a quick protein fix. Juicy, boneless, skinless thighs are a better option than chicken breasts, which are more likely to succumb to the microwave’s dehydrating powers. Place chicken in a microwave-safe baking dish. Cover dish with plastic wrap (be sure to keep the plastic from touching food), leaving one side slightly open to vent. Cook on high for 14 minutes, turning the meat over halfway through, or until the meat is cooked through and the juices run clear.
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Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich
Scrambling eggs in the microwave means no caked-on-egg skillet to clean, but be careful of overcooking. In the microwave, eggs can very quickly go from just right to rubbery. Canadian bacon is cut from the pork loin, so it has about half the fat of traditional bacon. If you prefer, you can swap out the English muffin for toasted sprouted bread. And if you want some kick, Frank’s RedHot adds negligible calories and can make you feel full faster.
4 slices Canadian bacon 3 whole large eggs 3 large egg whites 3 tbsp low-fat milk 1 scallion, chopped 1⁄2 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese 1⁄4 tsp black pepper Hot sauce, optional 4 whole-wheat English muffins, toasted 4 tomato slices
1. Place bacon on a microwave-safe plate in a single layer and cover with a paper towel. Microwave on high for three minutes. Rotate plate halfway and cook for one additional minute, or until bacon edges have browned and turned crispy. Set aside.
2. Lightly grease a microwave-safe bowl; add whole eggs, egg whites, and milk, and lightly beat. Stir in scallion. Microwave on high, uncovered, for 45 seconds. Gently stir eggs and continue to cook in 45-second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until set. Stir in cheese, black pepper, and a few squirts of hot sauce. Let stand until cheese has melted.
3. Divide eggs on four slices of English muffin and top each with bacon, tomato, and remaining muffin slices.
The macros Calories: 416 Protein: 33g Carbs: 48g Fat: 12g
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Salmon with Polenta and Asparagaus
Omega-3-rich fish like salmon, trout, and tilapia taste great when zapped quickly in the microwave. Polenta is a good source of quality carbs. Round out this dish with asparagus for vitamin K and folate.
1⁄2 cup finely ground cornmeal 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tsp fresh thyme 3⁄4 tsp salt 1 3⁄4 cups water, plus 1 tbsp water 1⁄2 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 lb salmon fillet, cut into 2 equal-size pieces 1⁄4 tsp black pepper 1 tsp lemon zest 1 lb asparagus, tough ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1. Make polenta: Put cornmeal, olive oil, garlic, thyme, 1⁄4 tsp salt, and 1 3⁄4 cups water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 1⁄2 minutes. Stir mixture and heat for another 2 1⁄2 minutes or until polenta has thickened and most of the water is absorbed. (The polenta will thicken further upon standing.) Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and cheese. Cover and let sit.
2. Place salmon, skin-side down, in a microwave-safe baking dish. Season with 1⁄4 tsp salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Cover dish with waxed paper, leaving one side slightly open to vent. Microwave on high for three minutes. Check if fish is cooked through. If not, microwave in 25-second intervals until flesh flakes easily.
3. Place asparagus in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tbsp water. Loosely cover with a paper towel and microwave for two minutes. Season with 1⁄4 tsp salt and lemon juice.
4. Put polenta on a plate, top with salmon, and serve with asparagus.
The Macros Calories: 414 Protein: 31g Carbs: 24g Fat: 22g
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Tuna Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese out of a box isn’t normally considered a nutritional standout, but when you gussy up a homemade microwave version with whole-grain pasta, protein-packed tuna, and an assortment of vegetables, you have yourself a dish that won’t leave you second-guessing each bite. Ricotta cheese adds creamy richness, not to mention a healthy dose of muscle-building whey protein. This recipe provides four servings, so nuke it again the next day for a killer lunch.
2 cups whole-grain macaroni pasta 1⁄4 tsp salt 2 cups water 2 (5 oz) cans albacore Tuna, drained and flaked Cup 2% milk 1 1⁄2 cups shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese 3⁄4 cup light ricotta cheese 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 4 cups chopped kale 1 cup frozen corn kernels Cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 1⁄4 tsp red chili flakes 1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1. Place macaroni, salt, and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high, uncovered, in two-minute intervals, stirring between each interval, until pasta is tender (about eight minutes total). Drain any excess water.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients and microwave on high in 45-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until cheese has melted and everything is warmed through.