Anyone born after 1960 probably can’t remember life before microwave ovens. Invented by accident by a Raytheon engineer in 1945, the microwave was first used in American homes in 1955. It started as a bulky wall unit made by licensee Tappan Stove and sold for $1,295 (around $10,500 by today’s monetary standards).
Today, you can pick one up for around $50, with 90 percent of US households already owning one. Many people even claim that they don’t cook with any other appliance.
Still, there are those people that shun the microwave altogether, citing health risks related to leaking radiation and food contamination. Lucky for them there are lots of other cooking tools out there that they can use to whip up some tasty meals.
Instead of heating up your whole kitchen by using your conventional oven or stovetop to cook food low and slow, consider investing in a slow cooker. Soups, stews, chili, whole chicken, pot roast, casseroles, and even desserts can be perfectly cooked in a self-contained countertop model. The bonus here is that you can set it on low in the morning and have a perfect dinner waiting for you seven or eight hours later when you get home from work. Choose a cooker with a removable bowl for easy cleanup by hand or in the dishwasher.
Popularized in the 1950s as an alternative to conventional oven cooking, toaster ovens have never really lost favor. Rather, they’ve been increasingly improved over the years, with new sizes that hold whole pizzas and chickens, self-cleaning interiors, oven settings up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and top and bottom broiling units. A toaster oven can be used to turn out tasty French toast, oven-grilled cheese sandwiches, broiled burgers, steak, chops, fresh or frozen vegetables, rice, and potatoes. If dinner is cooking on the stove, you can use your toaster oven to bake a pie, a batch of cookies, or a simple cake to round out the meal with dessert.
A relatively new invention, sous vide machines cook any food to the ideal degree of doneness in a water bath. The foods themselves, which can be meat, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables, or meat substitutes, are tightly sealed in specially-made plastic bags and very slowly cooked to your preferred temperature. Sous vides involve no guesswork, since they have an internal sensor that stops cooking when the food is done and keeps it hot until you’re ready to serve it. Very similar to frozen food cooked in boiling water on the stovetop, sous vide cooking is sure to bring simplicity to your kitchen.
The instant pot lives up to its claims that it’s a combination slow cooker, pressure cooker, and braising pan. Its features include a searing setting that seals in the juices of meats, fish, and poultry and then cooks it in a fraction of the time a slow cooker takes without compromising tenderness or flavor. The multiple functions of an instant pot often eliminate the need for a pressure or slow cooker altogether, as you can easily adapt it to perform all their functions and more.
A coffee maker is often relegated to one purpose: making coffee. With a little ingenuity, however, you can transform it into a multitasking miracle. Fill the (very clean) coffee basket with a filter and place frozen or fresh vegetables in it. Secure the basket, fill the water holder with cold water, turn it on, and minutes later, you’ll have perfectly steamed vegetables. Securely cover the bottom-heating unit where the pot normally goes and use it as a griddle to make grilled cheese, cook burgers or hot dogs, slow-fry bacon, or reheat leftovers. The unit doesn’t get red hot, of course, so the process may be a little slow. But the results are amazing nonetheless.
Basically just a tea kettle that works without a stove, electric kettles heat water in a jiffy, ready to make ramen or instant soup, steam vegetables in a tightly lidded container, or rustle up a satisfying dish of macaroni and cheese. Just make sure the model you choose has a stay-warm mode so that your water stays hot during the entire meal preparation.
It’s pretty easy to transform a waffle iron into a panini maker. Just make your sandwich, butter the outside, and put it in. Minutes later, you have a lovely toasted sandwich with a fancy pattern on both sides. You can follow the same procedure to create grilled cheese or PBJ sandwiches. Overlapped bacon strips cooked on a waffle iron turn out crisp and delicious, and you can even add in waffled French toast for a complete meal. Strategically place a number of tater tots on a hot waffle iron, close the lid, and stand by for potato heaven. Quesadillas are also a snap using a waffle iron, and cinnamon rolls crisped on both sides have never tasted better.
Microwaves are amazing but not irreplaceable. There are many alternatives available to apartment dwellers that turn out food that’s never dried out, rubbery, or riddled with cold spots.