For Last Minute Steamed Veggies, Turn To Your Microwave

Too often, microwaves are intertwined with convenience rather than standalone culinary merit. Relegated to office meals and late-night leftovers, they're less an esteemed component of a kitchen and more of a neglected electronic drawer. Yet, with some technical background, the contraption can be surprisingly crafty. Even acclaimed chef David Chang promotes microwave cooking. And there's no better first foray into the magical box than by steaming vegetables.

The technique is simple: Lay vegetables, cut to no more than an inch across and around half to quarter inch thick, into a single layer in a large, microwave-safe dish. Then, drape with several layers of moist paper towels and microwave on high for two to eight minutes, depending on the contained component — and the power of your device. Alternatively, rather than employing towels, microwave the vegetables in a small pool of water. Either technique will yield a delicious texture with a blanched-like result.

What to consider when steaming vegetables in the microwave

To understand this technique, it's helpful to consider a microwave's mechanics. The device works by utilizing food-safe electromagnetic radiation to excite water droplets. The molecule's motion creates friction, which leads to heat. Microwaves will only cook a substance with water contained inside — and the density impacts the preparation time.

So, if you are hoping to steam a firm vegetable, like potatoes, turnips, squash, or cauliflower, it'll require a longer microwave time, from six to eight minutes. On the other hand, a more aqueous green, such as spinach or bok choy, will require half the duration.

To ensure the avoidance of mushy veg, don't batch produce of variable textures together. Open the microwave regularly to check for doneness, and keep portion sizes small to ensure consistent heating. Once sweated but still crisp, the ingredients are ready. The technique is ideal for a personal batch in a pinch; prepare your favorite vegetables in less time than water boils.