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Ask the Chef Season 1 Episode 6: What Do You Think About Microwaves and Keeping Herbs Fresh?

Good morning everyone, it’s Ask the Chef! day again. Today I wade through the debate on Microwaves, and answer a question on how to keep herbs fresh.

What do you think of the microwave?

Microwave of Death

Some chefs will fire you for using one. Others microwave proteins in the middle of a busy service.

John Reid asks:

I am studying Product Design and I am writing a report with the question “How has the microwave oven developed, has it had a positive or negative effect on our lifestyle and could we live without it?” I am looking for opinions from the professionals of the kitchen. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Great question John, and one that sparked debate. The best answer to your question is the microwave is a kitchen tool.

I used a microwave both at home and in high-end kitchens. Let’s put aside the debate and focus on what a microwave does when it heats an item.

You may have heard that microwaves cook food “from the inside out.” That is not the case. What happens is a microwave penetrates the surface of the food and excites the water, fat, or sugar molecule. The atoms of those molecules create heat energy from the friction of those moving molecules. (Have you ever tried making a bowl of popcorn and the center was cold when you take it out?)

A microwave is great for reheating liquids, melting fats, and steaming foods. Microwave ovens use less heat to cook vegetables, so the vegetables hold more nutrients after cooking than if they were steamed or boiled on the stove top.

Since you cook the food from within you can’t get a good caramelization by microwave ovens. When you heat water, it evaporates. You are left with a dry, rubbery texture that is not desirable with proteins.

I think it’s for this reason that most chefs do not tolerate the use of the microwave.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong about the microwave. I think it’s a tool like a knife. You just need to know how to use it.

How to keep herbs fresher for longer?

Neglected basil

Nothing is worse than wilted herbs.

Foodie 13 asks:

There is nothing more that I love than cooking dishes with fresh herbs but imp finding that I only get one use out of a small bag of them and by the time I want to use them again they have wilted :(

My dad had suggested that you can freeze herbs and we have tried that with no success. Can anyone tell me if there is a way for keeping fresh herbs for longer?

I can help you out. I wrote a post on how to save your herbs with some ideas.

Tangent: It frustrated me when my cooks wouldn’t take gentle care of herbs. I would find the herbs—still in their plastic bags—dying on the shelf. Three quarters were black. I was losing over two hundred dollars a week from tossing herbs in the garbage.

I understood that when the daily produce delivery came the cooks didn’t want to fiddle around with herbs. They had to remove the bags from the herbs, clean the bottom stems, and place them into a container with water. Worse, they must change the water daily.

The same cooks would take their time cleaning beef tenderloin to get the best yield. I saw they saved the scraps for mince. Why did they save the mince? Simple – the answer was food cost.

So I called a meeting and assembled around the whiteboard. To this we did the following: (This is what the whiteboard would look like.)


Eye-opening, isn’t it?

Remember to treat your herbs well. They are worth a LOT of money. Again, look here for how to keep your herbs fresh.

If you have a question for me, drop me a line on the Ask the Chef!” page, or you can follow the links on the sidebar to get to my Social Media contacts. I love hearing from you.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • John Paré August 12, 2013, 1:07 pm

    Even though I am not a chef, I see the argument as to why a microwave should not be used in the kitchen. That being said…. I could not live without one lol

  • Jason Sandeman August 12, 2013, 4:20 pm

    That’s the thing. If someone cooked their steak in it, I’d be floored. Reheating something is okay, or even melting butter or reheating coffee. Popcorn, even heating up a canned sauce like poutine. Of course, I could do all those things with a stove. I also blanch my vegetables in the microwave. It’s just a tool.

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