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Using a microwave to cook and make meals

Wondering how to make the most of your microwave? Check out our top tips on how to use your microwave to cook more cheaply. Discover meals you can make in the microwave and learn how to make the most of your appliance with our energy-saving advice, along with microwave hacks and safety tips.

How much electricity does a microwave use?

Not just for reheating leftovers, this kitchen staple appliance can cook more or less anything, plus it's very affordable to run.

A 1,000-watt (large) microwave uses 1kW per hour, which costs around 34p.* Microwaves tend to be used in short bursts, meaning they are economical to run.

Many recipe timings are based on a 750-watt microwave, so check if yours is different – if it's more powerful, you may need to reduce the cooking time and vice-versa. It's worth reading the manual for your microwave too – if you no longer have it, you should be able to find it online by searching the name of the model.

How to use a microwave safely

Microwave 101

Does the container I use really matter?

Yes! Round glass, ceramic dishes or microwave safe bowls are the best choices, as they distribute heat better. Never put metal, including kitchen foil, in the microwave – it doesn't allow the microwave's heat to pass through it, which will ultimately cause a fire and could break your appliance too.

So, I can't just use my old plastic takeaway containers?

Ideally, no – they're not made to withstand the high temperature of microwaving. Always make sure the container is microwave-safe.

Why do instructions call for microwaving in short bursts and stirring in between?

Microwaves heat from the outside in, so stirring between bursts prevents you ending up with food that's overcooked on the outside but cold in the middle.

Stirring also allows steam to escape for more even cooking, which is important for soups or pasta sauces that will bubble up and make a big mess if heated unevenly.

Is it safe to defrost raw meat and fish in the microwave?

Yes, but it's important not to defrost too much at a time (whole birds are a hard no), to make sure it thaws evenly. Once defrosted, it's essential you use the meat or fish straight away.

So, can I cook raw meat in the microwave? What about cooking a steak?

You can! Just cover the meat during cooking to prevent it from drying out and turn it regularly so it cooks evenly. Just remember that it won't sear and brown in the same way as it does when being cooked on the hob or under the grill.

Myth buster

FALSE: Microwaves destroy nutrients.

TRUE: The only time this happens is if food is overcooked, which can happen with any cooking method. Microwaving food can actually preserve more nutrients than other cooking methods (boiling in particular), as they heat food so quickly.

472x310 Microwave poached eggs with soy butter mushrooms

What's the best way to use a microwave?

Can you use your microwave as an oven?

Yes. A great way to save money with a microwave is by using it to cook meals you would normally use an oven for.

What can you cook with a microwave?

This red lentil dhal is made using just 4 ingredients and is made entirely in the microwave in just 15 minutes – a great alternative to cooking on an electric hob!

Instead of poaching your morning egg on a hob, try cooking it in a microwave. Simply crack an egg into a microwavable mug with 5 tbsp of water, then microwave on high for 1 minute for a soft yolk. Serve your perfectly poached egg with soy-butter mushrooms and wilted spinach.

Did you know you can make bread using your microwave? Our recipe for cheese and onion bread takes 20 minutes and makes 6 slices – perfect for when you're craving a quick, umami snack or when you find yourself out of bread and don’t want to go to the shops.

Is a microwave cheaper to run than an oven?

Microwaves cook food really quickly, meaning they use less energy and are subsequently more energy efficient than ovens.

472x310 Microwave red lentil dhal

Micro-dos and don'ts

Do use it for...

Mashed potatoes: Prick potatoes all over with a fork, then cook for 8-10 mins, turning halfway. Peel off the skin, then mash.

Steaming vegetables: Cut into even-sized pieces. Put in a microwave-safe container, add 2 tbsp water, cover and cook until tender. Different veg will take different times.

Cakes: Single-serve microwave cakes are a great way to quickly satisfy a craving. This comforting lemon curd sponge is ready in just 10 minutes. Why not whip up one of these chocolate chip cookie pots next time you fancy a sweet treat.

Don't use it for...

Boiling an egg: As it cooks, there's nowhere for the steam to escape, so you'll end up with an exploded egg and a messy microwave.

Reheating tea or coffee: The liquid's structure mean it can end up superheating and erupting violently when moved.

'Roasting' garlic: Some people have had success here, but it's more likely to burst into flames, so is much safer to avoid.

472x310 TESCO Q4 MicrowaveSkills ChocolateChipCookiePots TRF

Put our microwave cooking hacks into practice! Check out our best microwave recipes here.

See our selection of low-energy cooking recipes. With ideas on how to make the most of all your kitchen appliances, including slow-cooker and air-fryer inspiration, here.

*You can work out the rough running cost of an appliance by finding its wattage and using the calculation that you pay around 34p per kilowatt per hour (a kilowatt (kW) is 1,000W).

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