I’m a sucker for newfangled kitchen helpers. I bought into the Instant Pot hype a few years ago and also tried a hot air fryer. (In the end I got this Breville Smart Oven Air, a toaster with a hot air fryer.) I also have a bunch of other things that clutter my kitchen cabinets: a juicer, a food processor, an ice maker, and two Vacuum machines.
Most often, however, I use the humble microwave. Like many of you, I mainly use it to reheat leftovers or reheat frozen meals. I never really thought about using it in cooking other than the occasional “microwave mug cake” recipe that I made viral on social media. Oh, I’ve heard of cookbooks from the ’70s and’ 80s trying to sell the wonders of microwave cooking to the public – I’m sure my mom even bought a few when I was growing up – but these have for the most part turned out to be exposed to be full of culinary delusion. (A roast beef dinner over the microwave? I don’t think so.)
But a few months ago I saw an Instagram ad for a new line of cookware designed specifically for use in the microwave. It’s called Every day, and it was co-founded by acclaimed Momofuku and Ugly Delicious chef David Chang. The ad featured delicious photos of mashed potatoes, mo-tofu, mac and cheese, and a chicken and pea dish that all looked delicious. Could all of this really only be done with the microwave? Perhs, the best kitchen helper was in front of my nose the whole time? Needless to say, I was intrigued.
According to Anyday, the main difference between cookware and normal microwave-safe containers is the glass lid. It has a silicone gasket that blocks splash and retains moisture, as well as a button on the top that can be pulled out to allow steam to escape through the vents. The button can also be pushed down to create an airtight, leak-proof seal, making the containers stackable. In contrast, my existing Pyrex containers only have regular plastic lids, which even the manufacturer recommends not to use in the microwave as they can warp.
I should note here that the anyday lids have stainless steel rims that you may find a little dangerous if you put them in the microwave. But they are really safe because of their smooth, curved shape that prevents arcing. However, the company warns against heating two dishes at the same time, as the combination of two stainless steel lids can cause flying sparks.
The Anyday tableware itself is also made of frosted borosilicate glass that can withstand large temperature fluctuations without cracking. This last part is important as certain ceramics and glasses are not completely microwave safe. For example, I once tried heating a potato on a plate I bought from IKEA and it ended up splitting in two. The plate, not the potato.
Still, I was a bit skeptical. So I went ahead and bought a complete set of Anyday cookware just try everything. That’s four dishes in total – shallow and deep in medium and large sizes – which is, admittedly, quite expensive at $ 120. Alternatively, you can get the middle set of two dishes for $ 55 or that big set for $ 75. You can also choose to buy each dish separately; the middle two are $ 30 apiece, while the large options are $ 40 apiece. That definitely makes this quite expensive compared to an average set of microwave-safe containers – a full 18-piece Snware Pyrex set, for example, costs only $ 30.
The Anyday set contains several recipe cards that are very handy to get started, but the best place to find recipes is on the Anyday website. You can find everything from single ingredient recipes (e.g. you just want to steam some rice) to full recipes like black bean soup and pumpkin curry. On each recipe page, you can select your desired portion size as well as the wattage of your specific microwave oven, which determines variables such as dish size, cooking time and the power level to be used.
I have been using the Anyday cookware for several weeks now and am actually most impressed with the results. The first recipe I tried was a chicken and rice meal with peas and marinara sauce. I was nervous about whether it would work, but it turned out to be delicious, with the chicken to the bone and the rice tender and fluffy. The Thai pineapple chicken recipe worked well too. I think I would have preferred the onions browned and caramelized as if they were on the stove, but it was perfectly satisfactory for microwave cooking.
One dish in particular was a revelation for me: Silky Chinese steam egg. This is a recipe that can be quite difficult to master on the stove as you have to slowly steam it over low heat. In the microwave, however, you only need to heat the custard solution for four to five minutes on a lower power level, depending on your microwave power. (The company’s website recommends Power Level 4.) I’ve never really fiddled with my microwave’s power settings, but now that I see this can result in a smooth custard, I’ll definitely be using it more often.
Another killer use, at least for me, is poached eggs. I usually find poaching eggs a bit of a hassle; You need to heat a saucepan of water, carefully throw the egg into it, and hope that if done correctly, you can save it. It’s especially challenging when it’s six in the morning and I haven’t had any coffee yet. But with the Anyday and the microwave, all I have to do is fill a shallow bowl with cold water straight from the t, beat in an egg, cover it, dust for two minutes and that’s it. The egg yolk is just boiled so that it’s a little runny, that’s how I like it. I almost couldn’t believe it.
However, the experience wasn’t perfect. For example, I tried to cook white rice with the Anyday, and although I followed the recipe exactly, the water in the bowl boiled over, pushed the lid up, and went into the microwave. As a result, the rice was not cooked properly and I had to add the water again and continue cooking. I later tried cooking the rice in a much larger dish and it worked better, but I wish the website had suggested that instead of finding out for myself.
Speaking of recipes, I should note that not all microwave ovens are created equal, even those with the same wattage. For example, my microwave is parentally more powerful than normal, and it took me much less time steaming broccoli than the website recommended. I’ve also found that not all microwave ovens are created equal. My power level 4 could be your power level 3. I definitely had to play around with different variables to properly cook certain foods.
Also, there are certain types of cooking that the microwave simply cannot do. You just won’t get the same tan that you can get on the stove or in the oven. You cannot use it for deep-frying, frying, or baking. What you’re basically doing is steaming food, albeit in a more controlled manner. The microwave won’t completely replace your stove or oven or instant pot.
But despite all of its shortcomings, I still think the Anyday cookware is great. I realized that there is a lot more to the microwave than just reheating leftovers. It opened up a whole new world of culinary possibilities for me that I didn’t know existed before. Sure, the mac and cheese I made in the microwave won’t be as great as the one baked in the oven, but the former can be made in less than 10 minutes and still tastes creamy and cheesy. I have also made instant ramen on Anyday and in the microwave with great success.
It may not be the best food you have ever tried, but for students and time-pressed parents and professionals, the microwave may be the most versatile appliance in the kitchen. As long as you have the right cookware for it anyway.
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