9 Time-Saving Microwave Hacks for Faster Meals

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Cooking in a microwave may seem old-school compared to using trendy gadgets like an Instant Pot or air fryer, but anyone who’s made fast and easy microwave meals knows what a valuable kitchen tool it is.

But microwaves aren’t just for making instant ramen.

According to Ilana Muhlstein, M.S., R.D.N., Beachbody nutrition expert and creator of 2B Mindset, there’s no need to shy from the microwave.

“It’s not bad for you and has been used safely for a long time. This tool is useful for helping you shave time off meal prep. You’ll have fewer pots and pans to wash as well,” she says.

While you can make healthy microwave meals, using the microwave alone won’t necessarily give you the flavor development that grilling, baking, or pan-frying will provide.

But using a microwave during your cooking process means you’ll spend less time preparing a meal and more time enjoying it!

Here are some top time-saving microwave hacks to help you get food on the table in no time.

Close-up of microwave control panel

1. Whip up fluffy eggs

Fancy some eggs in the AM but not awake enough to deal with a hot stove? You can use the microwave for cooking eggs in just a few minutes.

“Egg mugs are great for making omelets,” says Muhlstein. “Just crack two eggs into a microwave-safe mug. Microwave for one minute, then stir in some cheese, onions, or seasoning, and microwave some more until it’s done.”

2. Make crispy turkey bacon

Using the microwave is the easiest (and maybe even healthiest) way to cook bacon. You’ll be crunching on crispy bacon in no time.

Place a single layer of turkey bacon on paper towels and cover it with more paper towels. Microwave 30 seconds at a time until crispy.

Bonus: The paper towels soak up excess grease!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash on a baking tray

3. Cook spaghetti squash safely

Muhlstein’s favorite trick is to prep spaghetti squash in the microwave.

“It can be dangerous to slice fresh spaghetti squash because the knife can easily slip,” she says. “I recommend popping a whole squash into the microwave for 3 minutes to soften it up and make it easier to slice.”

Even better: You can use the microwave to cook spaghetti squash all the way through. Just remember to poke it liberally all around the rind. Microwave for 10 minutes, slice, and use a fork to rake the flesh into strands of “noodles.”

Try this time-saving trick the next time you make Spaghetti Squash Lasagna or Barbecue Spaghetti Squash Sliders.

4. Bake a sweet potato

Baked sweet potatoes can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to cook. Use the microwave to get the same effect in just 5 minutes!

For detailed instructions, read How to Cook Sweet Potato in the Microwave.

Serve sweet potatoes as a dinner side dish, or make it a meal by loading your potatoes with savory toppings (Greek yogurt, cheese, green onions, turkey bacon) or sweet toppings (cinnamon, lightly candied nuts).

5. Speed up ripening bananas

If you’re craving banana bread or banana muffins, but your bananas aren’t quite ripe enough, use the microwave to speed up the process.

Simply poke a few holes in the banana skin and microwave for a minute or so. Then, use it in your recipe of choice.

6. Peel garlic faster

Peel garlic in a flash by popping a garlic bulb in the microwave. After just 20 seconds, your garlic will be softer and easier to peel.

Cloves will slide right out of the skins without clinging to your fingers or slowing you down!

Plate of broccoli in a microwave.

7. Quick-steam veggies

A watched pot never boils, right? So skip the stove and quickly steam your vegetables in the microwave to serve alongside your main dish.

Put your chopped vegetables and a few tablespoons of water in a covered microwave-safe bowl, then microwave for a few minutes until they reach the desired doneness.

This strategy can help reduce cooking time for veggies that you plan to add into soups, pasta, fried rice, and stir-fries.

8. Thaw frozen meats quickly

Thawing frozen meats can take upwards of 30 minutes in the fridge or in cold water. Save time by using the microwave’s “Defrost” function.

Remember to remove meat from the foam tray and cook it immediately after it’s thawed.

9. Make a fast oatmeal

Cuddle up to comforting oats in the morning. Use a ratio of 1:1 old-fashioned oats to milk; for example, 1 cup of oats to 1 cup of milk.

Add a dash of cinnamon or honey, then microwave on high for 3 minutes. Serve with your favorite fruit or nuts.