HEAT IT UP
How to Cook, Reheat, and Defrost Food Without a Microwave
Counter space is divine when you live in a city, but you don’t need to nuke everything under the sun to survive. From an Instant Pot to a sous vide, use these tools instead.
The apartment I currently live in was recently renovated. And while the kitchen was updated (and thankfully comes with a dishwasher), there was one major appliance missing: a microwave. A decent microwave isn't that expensive these days, but because there wasn't the typical built-in nook above the stove, that meant sacrificing the already-scarce counter space. So, I nixed the idea of getting one.
I'll bring leftovers for lunch, I thought. I'll actually do the stovetop and oven directions on the back of the box!
But what that really meant was adapting the kitchen gadgets I had amassed to make sure that the sparse counter space was utilized to make my cooking experiences easier, not more convoluted. A lot of NYC apartments skimp on the granite, but add many unnecessary cabinets to make up for it. That means you can house a lot of things in and around the kitchen, you just can't leave them out on the counter at all times.
I'm now a firm believer that a microwave is no longer a required appliance, and these are the things that have solidified it.
Is it a fad? Probably. But what the Instant Pot does is take 90% of the work out of complicated recipes and shrinks it down into one pot (and 1/3 of the time) that you can easily store in the back of a cabinet with the rest of your cookware or shoved on top of your fridge. Part slow cooker (No sense in keeping the Crock Pot I had since college), part rice cooker, part steamer, part you name it. Plus, because of the size, you can batch cook intensely flavorful meals and then bring them to work to use their microwave.
It's a fancy hot water heater, if we're being honest, but the one job it does do (heat water to a certain temperature consistently to perfectly cook food), it does well. Steaks are never overcooked. Chicken breasts are tender and juicy. You can make pickles with a sous vide, boil eggs with a sous vide, make nacho cheese with a sous vide! The world is your immersion circulated-oyster.
After giving in to the hype of the new Trader Joe's soup dumplings (trust me, they're worth it), I had a moment of panic when I realized that I didn't have a microwave to steam them in. Thankfully, my mother parted with her pot and steamer basket when I first moved out and it's been with me ever since. I've done bao buns, veggies, fish, and more with that thing. Does it take longer to get frozen dumplings to thaw than just nuking them? Yes. Is it worth the hassle? Abso-freakin-lutely.
Or get a steamer basket for your Instant Pot.
I've been wavering on the idea of getting a toaster oven for months now. While they're usually smaller than a microwave, it does still take up counter space, albeit it less. While using the oven to really cook a meal is ideal, utilizing the toaster oven for more than just reheating crab rangoon and slices of pizza is a great idea. Opting for one with multiple cook settings means you can broil, toast, reheat, even bake in it. If I had to choose between a toaster oven and a microwave, the toaster oven would win every time.
The job of a pizza stone is pretty obvious, since the thing you use it for is literally in the name of it, but don't dare call it a uni-tasker. Yes, it'll make cooking homemade (and frozen) pizza 1,000x better, but you can use it to roast veggies on or to reheat french fries without them getting soggy. You can even heat it up in the oven and use it to sear the steak you just cooked with your sous vide. The best part? It takes up zero space because you can just store it inside your oven when it's not in use.