The Dinosaur in Your Kitchen

A few years ago, I took a course on Green Design during which several of the designers present began discussing how they no longer put microwaves in their client’s kitchens.  Microwaves are the worst, terrible for you and the environment, and nobody even uses them! was their gist.  Huh?! This was all news to me!

Sure, I lived through the early ’90’s mania about microwaves slowly killing us with radiation.  But besides no longer standing directly in front of a microwave as it nuked my left-overs, I hadn’t really changed my microwaving usage or behavior in the last 20 years.  Also, at the time of this Green Design class, I had a 3 year old and the thought of living without a microwave seemed outright ridiculous.  What would I do without one? Heat up left-overs on the stove, like some sort of cave woman? I don’t think so!

So when the time came to make the microwave decision in my own kitchen remodel last year, it was an easy “yes.”  But the times, they are a changing, and now I find myself designing another new kitchen for myself (more on that later) and I can’t get those nagging microwave thoughts out of my head.  With that in mind, I embarked an exhaustive “if not a microwave, then what?” and started my search for microwave alternatives.  Here are my findings:

1) A Combination Convection/Microwave oven  This is the creme de la creme of microwave alternatives if you really can’t live without a microwave, but are also searching for something better, a combi is able to zap your leftover pizza and then crisp up the crust with ease.  You can also use one as a second oven, which is great for avid cooks with small kitchens.  Available in both built-in and countertop models, these run about the same cost as a microwave.

2) Warming Drawer  Ok, so this won’t heat cold food up, but it will keep hot food warm for up to 4 hours.  If you often find yourself reheating an otherwise fresh dinner because someone is working late, or your kids have practice, or all of the above, then a warming drawer could be just the thing you need to keep your home-cooked meals fresh and ready to serve.  Pricier than most microwaves, these also need to be built-in to your cabinets, which is an added cost to consider.

3) Combination Convection/Steam Oven  Purported to reheat leftovers that taste as good as they did the first time around, these pricey mini-ovens are microwave alternatives that are packed with features.  Besides the obvious steam and bake, some models also have slow-cooking, food dehydrating, sterilizing, bread proofing, keep-warm, and sous-vide functions.  Though they are expensive and can usually only be built-in, you get quite a lot of bang for your buck.

As for me, after a lot of hemming and some hawing, I’ve decided to go with the Miele Convection/Steam Oven, because I have a real weakness for good-looking, multi-functional products.  I know there will be a learning curve, but I’m excited to try something new!  Oh, and I’m hiding a cheap counter top microwave in the pantry–don’t tell the green designers!

What is your “can’t live without it” appliance?


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