Sure it’s great for heating up leftovers and giving a baked potato a head start, but it’s the microwave’s lesser-known uses that make it an excellent household helper. Here are a few things we bet you didn’t know your microwave could do:
Sterilize sponges. Your dish sponge smells like last night’s dinner, and detergent won’t help. Time to toss it, right? Wrong. Pour a dash of white vinegar or lemon juice in a bowl of water, soak the sponge, and then heat it in the microwave on high for a minute. The heat will deodorize and disinfect the sponge—even after wiping up raw egg or chicken.
Clean the cutting board. How can you tell if you’ve washed the cutting board thoroughly enough after preparing raw meat? Eliminate the guesswork by sterilizing it in the microwave. Wash it first, rub it with lemon, then heat on high for one minute.
Soften sweeteners. Hardened brown sugar and crystallized honey don’t need to be thrown away, they just need to be heated. Sprinkle a bit of water into the brown sugar bag and heat the whole thing on high for 20 seconds. To return honey to its liquid form, remove the lid and heat the jar on medium for 30-60 seconds.
Speed up bread baking. Bread bakers know that yeast dough can take at least an hour to rise. Cut that time down to 15 minutes by proofing the dough in the microwave. Put the dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Position a cup of water at the back of the microwave before placing the bowl inside. At a low temperature, heat for 3 minutes, pause for 3 minutes to let the dough rise, then heat for another 3 minutes. Allow the dough to rise for another 6 minutes or until it doubles in size.
Relieve aches and pains. Warm up gel or herb-filled heating pads to soothe sore heads and tummies, and to reinvigorate tired muscles.
Here’s a kitchen tip: don’t use the “popcorn” button on your microwave.