Veges in the microwave

There’s heaps of reasons for cooking veges in the microwave instead of on the stove.

  1. Boiling your veges causes a lot of their nutrients to leak out into the surrounding water. When you microwave them, this doesn’t happen.
  2. It’s far quicker in the microwave than on the stove – you don’t have to wait for the water to boil first.
  3. You’re less likely to over-cook the veges – the microwave stops cooking as soon as the timer is up, but on the stove they will keep cooking until you take them out of the water/off the steamer
  4. The microwave uses less energy than heating a pot of water on the stove

What you’ll need:

  • veges (duh)
  • a microwave (WARNING: my microwave power is 700W at maximum. Please be careful that you are using approximately the same power level on your microwave, otherwise you may over-cook your veges or even melt your container)
  • a decent quality microwave-safe container with a lid (preferably with a steam vent – I generally use one of these – remnants of my time as a Tupperware demonstrator)

How to:

  1. Chop up your veges – make the softer ones larger pieces, and the harder ones a bit smaller. I generally chop carrots into rounds that are about 5mm (1/4″) thick, broccoli/cauliflower into florets about the size of a golf ball, and softer things like zucchini into rounds about 1cm (1/2″) thick.
  2. Put all the veges into your microwave container, and top with a 1 tbsp of water per serve of veges.
  3. Put on lid – if you have a steam vent, make sure this is open. If you don’t, leave one corner of the lid un-sealed so steam can escape.
  4. Cook veges at approx 700W for 5mins for 1 serve (2 serves will take about 8mins). If the veges are undercooked for your liking, cook them further in 30 sec bursts (still at 700w) until cooked through.
    The cooking time will vary slightly between microwaves, but if you’ve got the wattage pretty close to 700W, this will make cooked veges that still have some bite to them – I don’t like super-soft veges. The times stated are what I use in my microwave.

I have a steamer insert that sits over my largest pot (a 6L soup pot), and if I’m doing veges for a lot of people (or if I’m cooking something in the big pot – e.g. pasta) I’ll put the veges into this instead of in the microwave. Steaming your veges in this way has many of the same benefits of microwaving them, but you do have to make sure you take the steamer off the pot as soon as they’re ready, because they’ll keep cooking as long as they are over the steam.

I always microwave my veges when I’m making bentos though, because it is much quicker and results in less clean-up, because I just re-use the same microwave container for everything I need to reheat, generally in the following order:

  1. Defrost frozen rice
  2. Cook veges
  3. Defrost meat items (always do meat last if you’re using the same container, and follow the food-safety tips from this post on JustBento if you’re packing a lunch)



6 thoughts on “Veges in the microwave

  1. Never boil veges, Just steam with very little water (just enough so they don’t stick to the pan/burn – – imagine stir fry with water instead if oil), low heat, covered pot, 5 to 10 mins depending on the vegetables.

    If your veges are soggy, then they’ve been overcooked – – nutrients destroyed!

  2. Not everyone uses a Microwave (fear of radiation etc)

    I never boil veges.
    I cook/steam with very little water (think stir fry with water instead of oil), low heat, covered pot, 5 – 10 mins for broccoli and other leafy variety, preferably a little crunchy not soggy – – soggy means it’s been overcooked and nutrient deficient. (10 – 15 mins for tougher sort like carrots, sweet potatoes etc).

    • I’m assuming here that if people are concerned about radiation from things like microwaves, they’d already be well aware that boiling veges deprives them of nutrients.
      In these posts, I’m speaking mainly to people who are just discovering the whole “cooking for yourself” thing, and sharing what wisdom I’ve learned along the way (most of it from my mum). I’m well aware that not everyone uses or has a microwave, for whatever reason – but I do, and anything on the blog about cooking is going to be from my perspective. I’m reasonably sure that this is the only recipe/whatever where I’ve actually specifically said it’s for a microwave. And this is because it’s a quick, easy way to make a single serve of veges (which is fantastic if you’re living on your own and like to cook your veges fresh). I did mention (I’m not sure if you saw) that veges should be steamed, and that you can use a steamer on the stove for this.
      I appreciate your concern, but for my part I’m more worried about making sure I am getting enough vegetables and eating a (reasonably) balanced diet. With the negligible amount of radiation that a microwave actually lets out of it’s faraday cage protection, you’d have to practically sit on top of the microwave while using it heavily every day to accumulate anywhere near the amount of radiation needed to even get close to the amount in something like an X-ray.
      Microwaves are also cheap to run and cook food quickly, which can be an absolute godsend for a cash-and-time-poor student (or anyone else). My stove takes at least 3x the power to cook veges in my steamer than it does in my microwave, and it also takes far longer (6mins in the microwave versus 15-20 on the stove, once you count the time to heat the water).
      I’d never try to MAKE someone use a microwave if they did not want to – I merely wished to offer an alternative that may be accessible for someone who lacks the equipment to cook veges in other ways (e.g. a uni student in a dorm with no hot plates allowed).

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