Zap It: How to Use Your Microwave for Gourmet Cooking

If there’s a microwave in your apartment, condo, or house, we’re betting you only use it for reheating leftovers and making popcorn. Well, we’re here to say that you can use microwaves to cook real food.

Harnessing the impressive science-fiction-y power of a microwave helps make life easier in the kitchen (and we’re def not talking about TV dinners!). Instead of relying on a microwave to create an entire meal, think of it as just another tool to help with certain tasks, like a food processor or an air fryer.

We’ve got some tips and strategies to help you and your microwave become better teammates during meal prep. These can come in especially handy if you’re staying in a dorm, hotel, or AirBNB that doesn’t have a full kitchen!

Beat the Heat (Settings)

Usually when we pop something in the microwave, we set it for a minute or two and walk away. But that’s using the strongest heat setting on the appliance. You wouldn’t only cook things over the highest flame on the stove, or under the broiler, right?

Similarly, learning to ride the microwave’s various heat settings is your first method of leveling up. Most have a button that lets you adjust the heat level from 10% to 100%. Even for leftovers, dialing that down to 60 or 70% can help things heat more gently and evenly.

Defrost Like a Boss 

Reducing food waste, cooking efficiently, and cooking ahead often involves using the freezer in new and creative ways. The microwave can be your ally in quick-but-delicious meals because it can defrost things in a flash.  

Frozen sauces, stocks, stews and chili, vegetables, meats, and more can go from arctic to perfect when you use the microwave’s defrost setting properly. Many microwaves include various defrost settings based on the item’s weight for best results, don’t skip that step! Also, be sure to stop the microwave a few times and stir or mix up the frozen items to ensure even heating.


What do poached eggs, fish filets, pasta, and sweet potatoes all have in common? They’re all foods that you’d never expect can be fully cooked in a microwave. We know it sounds a little sus to use the microwave instead of the oven or stove, but the outcomes are just as good (or better) with the right techniques!

  • ZENB Pasta Agile: That’s right, you can use your microwave to cook ZENB Pasta Agile! Just combine Pasta Agile and ingredients in microwave-safe bowl. Use a bowl at least 2 times as large as the amount of pasta (ex: for 1 cup of Pasta Agile, use a 2.5 cup bowl; for 2 cups, use a 4 cup (one quart) bowl). Use about ½ cup of liquid or sauce for every 1 cup of uncooked pasta. Microwave on HIGH until Pasta Agile is tender, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully remove bowl from microwave. Do not drain. Be careful, the bowl will be hot. Stir, let stand 1 minute until liquid is absorbed. If not, give it another minute on high, then strain and serve. For more pasta tips see here and here, and be sure to check out our latest meals that you can make in the microwave, ZENB Agile Bowls!
  • Poached eggs: Fill a microwave-safe mug with ½ cup of water and a tiny dash of white vinegar, then crack a room-temperature egg in it. Cover the mug with a microwave-safe saucer or small dish, and cook on high for 30 seconds. If the white isn’t cooked through, cook for 10-second intervals until the white is set. Hit it with salt and pepper and it’s ready to go!
  • Potatoes: Poke a sweet or regular potato a few times with a knife or fork to create little holes for steam to escape through. Then put it on a microwave-safe plate and cook it on high for 5 minutes. Turn it over halfway through, and if it isn’t done after 5 minutes, cook for 20-second blasts til it’s nice and tender.
  • Fresh fish (yes, really): Place dry, seasoned fish filets on a microwave safe plate and cover with a piece of parchment paper. If you want to add butter, marinade, or herbs, add before cooking. Microwave thinner white fish filets like cod or tilapia, on high for 2-3 minutes, and thicker steaks, like salmon or tuna, for 4-5 minutes. They will be nicely steamed!

Grains, bacon, roasted garlic, spaghetti squash, mug cakes, chocolate sauce, and so much more can be cooked in the microwave! Google is your friend when it comes to microwave-friendly recipes.

We’re here to help you step it up in the kitchen in all kinds of ways! Check out our blog posts about finishing flavors, grilling like a champ, and how to rock food photos for sharing on social. Speaking of social, follow ZENB on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for even more delicious, plant-fueled inspo.

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