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Since their induction into the kitchen appliance “must-have” hall of fame, microwaves have stood as a pillar of modern culinary convenience. Whether you’re softening butter, reheating day-old noodles or keeping prepared dinner warm, the microwave can just about do it all. However, there are microwave alternatives you should know about, especially when aiming for the best results for certain foods and cooking methods.
The microwave was invented shortly after WWII but didn’t establish itself as a must-have tool until the 2000s when it was named the #1 piece of technology making lives easier in America. Some people are turned off by the zapping kitchen appliance, believing “nuking” food destroys the molecular structure of key vitamins and minerals and leaves behind nutritionally inferior sustenance. There’s no evidence this is the case, and in fact, some experts agree cooking in a microwave destroys fewer nutrients than other forms of cooking due to the shorter cooking time.
Whether your kitchen didn’t come with a microwave or you’ve decided to explore your options, just know it’s very possible to survive without one. There are plenty of alternatives available, including ones with less potentially explosive effects. Here are a few non-microwave kitchen appliances to consider:
Toaster Ovens – Not only are toaster ovens a great microwave alternative, they’re also a great alternative to full-size ovens due to their versatility and multipurpose cooking abilities. Toaster ovens use a similar heating technique to microwaves but are more efficient and often require less space.
Dutch Ovens – Made from materials such as cast iron, aluminium or ceramic, Dutch ovens are highly durable and resilient. Their precisely fitted lids are extra tight, which allows heat to be locked in. This, in turn, creates a powerful cooking environment, ideal for soups and stews.
Air Fryers – For a crispy flavorsome finish to your food, opt for an air fryer. Microwaves might be quick, but they’re not going to give you a quality crispness like an air fryer will. Plus, if used correctly, these appliances can be a much healthier, relatively oil-free cooking alternative to deep fat fryers, too.
Steamers – A little water can provide a lot of cooking power when poured into a steamer. The heat created by hot water steam cooks vegetables in one of the healthiest ways possible.
Popcorn Makers – As one of America’s favorite snacks, the light and fluffy kernels can now be made in a variety of machines designed exclusively for that purpose. Microwaves are great for popping corn, but nothing beats a fresh bowl of kernels still warm from the popcorn maker.
We’ve scoured the internet to bring you the best models of each microwave alternative mentioned above. At least three options are included within each category, covering the best overall and best value along with an alternative must-buy suggestion.
Toaster ovens are great for reheating leftovers gradually or roasting veggies to make them extra crispy. They’re an excellent alternative to microwaves and our top recommendation in terms of versatility. They can also be a reasonable purchase for all wallet sizes. We’ve included four options, ranging from under $50 to over $300, all of which can be delivered to your door for immediate use.
Cuisinart AirFryer Convection Toaster Oven
If you’re looking for a microwave alternative that won’t just replace but enhance your kitchen’s arsenal of tools, this one’s a great option. It’s got 1800 watts of power and seven different functions for heating up and cooking food including air fry, convection bake, convention broil, regular boil, regular bake, warm and classic toast. Impressive, huh? The whole interior is non-stick so messes are easy to clean and it’s got an oven light for checking on your meal. It has the capacity for up to six slices of bread, three pounds of chicken wings, a 12-inch pizza or a four pound chicken. This thing means business.
It comes with an oven rack, air fryer basket and baking pan so you can get started right away.
Black+Decker 4-Slice Toaster Oven
If you don’t have a ton of counter space and want something a little more low-key, this toaster oven is a solid option that’ll get the job done without going overboard. It’s got EvenToast technology so all slices of breakfast toast will cook evenly every time.
The oven doesn’t take up a ton of space in your kitchen but the curved interior has enough room for 9-inch pizzas and four slices of conventional bread. It’s got four different functions packed into a small package including baking, broiling, toasting or just keeping food warm for the time being. Heat up food like you would in a microwave a little slower and more thoroughly with this small but mighty appliance. It’s got a 30-minute timer, a stay-on function in case you’re busy with other tasks and a removable crumb tray for easy cleaning.
Tovala Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven
BEST SMART OVEN
If you want to add a smart kitchen appliance to your home and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, this machine is getting rave reviews online for its power and features. Tovala has created a smart oven for the new-age kitchen, equipped with the ability to do everything your microwave can do faster, more efficiently and without drying out food. It’s got five different cooking modes — bake, broil, reheat, steam and toast, and is designed to cook your meals to perfection every time.
Along with the smart appliance comes an app from which you can set the cooking time and mode of your device, access a library of recipes and even scan the barcode of your favorite frozen meals that Tovala already knows the instructions for. Simply put the food in, find the barcode from Trader Joe’s, Amy’s, etc and your meal will be cooked to perfection.
The whole package comes with nine different cooking accessories and the company also offers oven-ready meal subscriptions you can follow with natural ingredients to avoid prep and cleanup.
BALMUDA Toaster Oven
The BALMUDA Toaster Oven is a masterpiece of toaster oven machinery. It has a beautiful appearance and is designed to a premium standard. There are five built-in modes, which provide a well-suited setting for most cooking requirements. Plus, the precise temperature control also enables you to carefully achieve any desired crispness. This stylish microwave alternative is available in black, silver or white, all of which feature two minimalistic control dials in the bottom corners and showcase the BALMUDA logo proudly under the central viewing panel.
Air fryers are rapidly becoming one of the most sought-after pieces of equipment in a modern home. They cook, crisp and fry in an alternative, healthy way. They can also be used to dehydrate foods. For a quality air fryer, you’ll need to spend upward of $100, but that will be $100 well spent for a future of delicious, healthier meals.
COSORI Air Fryer
The COSORI Air Fryer is a compact, well-designed air fryer packed with settings to suit an array of cooking requirements. The one-touch digital panel gets the fryer ready for steak, vegetables or frozen foods among other dishes in seconds. The 5.8-quart basket is big enough for a whole chicken, making this machine capable of adapting to most meals. Additionally, this device can create a fried food dish with up to 85% less fat through the near elimination of oils.
Instant Vortex Plus 4 Quart Air Fryer
With six built-in programs, the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer can be adapted to suit most foods. It can roast, bake and broil. Plus, EvenCrisp technology is utilized to deliver the crunchy finish expected by deep-frying without the same intense amount of oil required. The large, six-quart capacity is big enough to cook up to two pounds of fries at once. This air fryer is also designed to reheat foods to their original tastiness, if not make them better.
Ninja Air Fryer
BEST GIFT IDEA
You might not usually be a ninja in the kitchen yourself, but with this air fryer, you will be. The Ninja Air Fryer is ready to tackle any roasting, frying, reheating or dehydrating task you face. Cook using up to 75 percent less fat than traditional, deep frying techniques. When it comes to cleaning up, you can put the basket, crisper plate and multi-layer rack straight into the dishwasher, so you only need to focus on wiping down the unit itself.
As well as being known for cooking soups and stews on the stove, Dutch ovens are also very effective at reheating food. A dutch oven can reheat a meal quickly without zapping it, which allows the food to cook evenly all the way through. Their traditional appearance also makes Dutch ovens a welcome addition in any homely-styled kitchen.
Cuisinart Dutch Oven
This dutch oven means business. It’s made of cast iron which has serious heat retention and evenly distributes heat across the pot. It’s got a porcelain enamel interior that’s ideal for cooking as it won’t leech flavors or absorb odors, leaving your food fresh and fragrant for you to enjoy. It’s safe for use in your induction oven as well as on a gas or electric stove-top. It’s also dishwasher safe so cleaning it is easy. This dutch oven is quite large at 7-quarts, which is good for families or apartments with a few roommates.
Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
This cast iron dutch oven is a little smaller than our other option but is still just as hearty and effective. Just like the other one, this cast iron vessel is made with porcelain enamel that’s a particulate of glass baked onto the cast iron. During this process, the two materials fuse to form a powerful bond that’s very heat tolerant and impassable by water and other fluids. We love Lodge products for a reason, they’re high-quality, super durable and come in a variety of color choices. Plus, at $70 this is an affordable alternative to microwave usage.
Staub Dutch Oven
BEST FOR MEATS
The heavy cast-iron Staub Dutch Oven is oven safe up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit without the lid in place. With the lid, stick to a temperature of up to 500 degrees. It’s available in a range of classic kitchen tones, such as dark reds, browns and more modern options, like white and grey. Staub is a top French brand committed to delivering quality pieces. This pot features a circular steel handle placed in the center of the lid and two integrated handles on either side of the main pot for user-friendly purposes. On the underside of the lid, you’ll find the iron has been molded into spikes which help to circulate liquid and provide the ultimate juicy finish to meats.
If the majority of your microwaving comes in the form of popping popcorn, why not commit to one of these task-specific appliances instead? A dedicated machine is always going to provide a better finish than one that considers popcorn just part of what it can do.
West Bend Electric Popcorn Machine
Anything better than microwave popcorn? Yes! Popcorn made in this West Bend popcorn machine that requires no microwave power whatsoever. Fill this contraption with oil and kernels and pretty soon you’ll have your favorite airy snack ready to enjoy. It has a 6-quart capacity popcorn bowl attached and is nonstick so your cleanup will be easy. It has a stir rod that automatically improves the popping of each batch. It stores small with a cord wrapped neatly underneath and a protective cover over it, and boasts 120 volts of power. Treat yourself to a salty snack without a microwave with this popcorn maker.
Presto PopLite Popcorn Maker
You can melt your butter topping and make your popcorn at the same time using the Presto PopLit Popcorn Maker. No oil is required with this popping machine, as it uses hot air to heat the kernels into a puffy piece of popcorn. The compact white and yellow design is easy to assemble and features a useful wire hook on the back which you can use for tidy storage.
Nostalgia Vintage Popcorn Cart
Take a trip to the circus, cinema or back in time with the Nostalgia Vintage Popcorn Cart. If you’re a real popcorn fan, then you need one of these microwave alternatives. The unit can hold up to 32 cups of popcorn, which the appliance can make in just one batch. All of the glass panels are tempered to ensure safety. They’re also scratch-resistant and, of course, heat-resistant. You’ll have friends lining up for corn when they see this machine, so it’s time to get planning your popcorn party.
A food steamer is a particularly useful piece of equipment for vegetable lovers, as steaming is a great cooking method for retaining nutrients. These appliances are also extremely user-friendly and cost-efficient, as you only need the food you’re cooking and some water rather than any other product, like oil or butter. Some food steamers are particularly focused on certain foods, such as the BLACK+DECKER Food Steamer, which should be your steamer of choice if you frequently prepare rice.
BELLA Food Steamer
The BELLA Food Steamer is one of the most popular and well-reviewed appliances of its kind. With nearly 4,000 Amazon reviews and a 4.5-star rating, this steamer is definitely a contender when it comes to the top microwave alternatives. The two-tier design makes it possible to keep foods separate while simultaneously cooking them. You can use the built-in timer to control your cooking, and there’s also a built-in auto-shutoff feature for safety. To the left of the control dial, you’ll find a small viewing window, which indicates when water is required.
Aroma Housewares Rice Cooker and Steamer
There’s no two ways about it, this top-rated Aroma Housewares rice cooker is a bargain at just $19.95. It’s designed for multi-functional use whether you’re looking to cook a chunky chili, steam vegetables or cook rice to perfection. It’s got user-friendly one-touch operation, and is made to be a “set it and forget it” appliance in your kitchen. It’s made of BPA-free materials and has multiple trays inside so you can cook different types of food at once. It also has an automatic “Keep Warm” mode once your food is done cooking, and the nonstick inner pot is made to be easy to clean.
Cuisinart STM-1000 Digital Glass Steamer
If you’re a health nut and steaming veggies is most of what you use your microwave for, this glass steamer will do the trick instead. It uses water, steam and glass to create a cooking environment that won’t dry out your food and cooks it quickly using 1875 watts of power. It’s got six different modes for cooking everything from meats to grains and also has a reheat function that will bring your food back up to an optimal serving temperature quickly. Use the LCD screen to quickly navigate and program your device and quickly wash everything in the dishwasher after the fact. It’s made with stainless steel and quality materials that should last a long time.