The best microwave alternatives are: our stovetops, countertop ovens/toaster ovens/countertop pizza ovens, air fryers, Dutch ovens, and portable food warmers, Instant Pot, Crock-Pot, digital food steamers, popcorn makers.
I guess these are the main, best alternatives to a microwave oven.
It’s pretty clear that if you don’t want to use your microwave oven to reheat your food or to make popcorn, there are definitely other kitchen appliances and cookware that you can use quite easily and successfully.
Of course, some might have some limitations but that’s what we’re here to talk about.
Maybe you’ll come across other alternatives that you can use instead of a microwave oven for various dishes and uses but these 9 substitutes are the ones I came up with through my experience of using each of them for reheating my food or for making popcorn. They all work great.
Check out my recommendations for the best cookware for convection microwave oven if you want to switch to a product can work both as a microwave oven, a convection oven, and maybe even as an air fryer.
Table of Contents
9 Microwave Alternatives
Now that we’ve established that we can choose from these 9 alternatives, it’s time to analyze them a bit more in-depth.
Of course, you can totally choose to use a combination of methods.
You can use your oven sometimes. And definitely consider using an air fryer.
At other times your stovetop and your Dutch oven.
Maybe add the Instant Pot to your list of kitchen appliances you must have because it’s amazing and so complex and can cook so many foods, including working as a food warmer, stainless steel rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, sterilizer, etc.
The Crock-Pot is a pretty cheap kitchen appliance that is also pretty awesome. There are more expensive pans for risotto than the Crock-Pot 7 Quart Manual Slow Cooker.
Of course, we can buy a popcorn maker, which can be fantastic for movie lovers who host movie nights frequently. Your family, friends or children will love it. But we can also make popcorn in the old-fashioned way: in a Dutch oven/saucepan/deep skillet on the stovetop with a bit of oil and popcorn kernels. It’s delicious.
Digital food steamers are also amazing for warming food. Of course, they’re the perfect appliances for eating healthier. Steamed veggies, fish, and meats (poultry, beef, pork) are cooked quickly and with little effort on our part.
Last but not least, portable food warmers, like the Hotlogic Mini Portable Oven, are awesome for warming up food at work or when we go camping if we have access to a bit of electricity.
I gave you a brief overview on these 9 microwave alternatives. It’s time to do a more in-depth analysis but you can stop reading now if you already have an idea about which substitutes would work best for you, your family, and your needs.
1. Stovetops: Easy-to-Use Microwave Alternatives
When I think of an accessible, easy-to-use alternative to a microwave oven, that most of us already have in our kitchens, stovetops are the first substitutes I think of.
There are a lot of dishes we can warm up on the stovetop.
Reheating in a saucepan
Basically, any food cooked in liquids can be easily warmed up in a few minutes.
That means that we only need a saucepan or a stockpot or similar cookware to reheat soups or stews, sauces, etc. My advice is to use a smaller saucepan if you only need to warm up a small quantity because it will get things done quickly.
Stir the food a bit so that everything is heated up evenly and quickly and then you’re done.
Of course, we’ll have to wash the saucepan afterwards. We wouldn’t need to wash additional cookware if we’re using the microwave oven. And it will take a minute or two longer and we need to stick close to the stovetop so that we don’t overheat our foods and then spend minutes for it to be edible but using stovetops is pretty simple and effective in practice.
Reheating leftover pasta
If we want to reheat foods like pasta on the stovetop, we’ll need to add some water or other liquid to do so.
I recommend using a large pan or a large casserole or a Dutch oven so that the pasta can be warmed up quickly so we don’t overcook it.
If you have a lid use it because the added extra water will create steam. Take the lid off a time or two or three to stir so that it heats up evenly.
If you don’t have a lid, we must stir continuously so that the entire quantity of pasta is warmed up quickly, avoiding overcooking our dish. We’re still wanting that al dente texture. It should be done in a couple of minutes.
If the pasta turns out a bit on the dry side because you didn’t use enough water, add some olive oil.
Reheating pizza on the stovetop
If you want to reheat pizza slices, use a flat pan or use a griddle. The griddle can handle more pizza slices, while a pan can have quite limited space, being maybe big enough for 2-3 slices.
Place the cold slices of pizza in the pan and then drop a few droplets of water onto the free surface of the pan. Lower the heat so that the slices are reheated and not burned.
Place a lid over the pan so that the droplets of water turn into steam. The steam is the one that will melt the cheese and soften the crust.
Once you see that the pizza starts melting and baubling a bit, you’re done. Take off the lid and be careful not to burn your tongue. You’re going to love the results.
This reheating pizza on the stovetop method can also be used to reheat bread slices. Use the same method of creating steam to make your bread taste fresh and delicious.
Making popcorn on the stovetop
Another wonderful use of stoves and deep skillet pans or Dutch ovens or similar cookware is making popcorn.
You don’t need a microwave oven or a popcorn maker if you don’t want to use either. You just need a bit of oil, a pan with a lid, and popcorn kernels. Of course, add salt at the end.
The lid is the crucial thing here. If you don’t put the lid on, the popcorn kernels will fly all over your kitchen.
Also, the pan must be deep and big enough to contain those mega expanded kernels. If this is your first attempt, don’t add too many kernels. Start small and see how it goes.
You can check out this article if you want to see how it’s done.
2. Ovens/Countertop Ovens/Toaster Ovens/Countertop Pizza Ovens
Ovens are another appliance that most of us own and we can definitely take advantage of them to reheat a wide array of foods: stews, meats, pizza slices, bread slices, casseroles, fried foods that can get crispy again, seafood, French fries under the broiler for a minute or two or until crispy, waffles, etc.
According to this website, the rule is that we should reheat foods in the same way they were cooked.
Of course, that doesn’t apply if we’re using a microwave oven. And, as we saw, there are plenty of foods we can reheat on the stovetop, even if they were cooked in the oven. We can use them interchangeably.
The thing you must keep in mind is that when we reheat in the oven we must cover our dishes with aluminum foil to ensure that the foods don’t dry up in the few minutes it takes to warm them up.
Or use lids if you’re using bakeware with lids, like a Dutch oven.
Another thing I want to mention is that some countertop ovens, like the Breville Smart Oven Pro, Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro, KitchenAid Countertop Toaster Oven, include a reheat function, which can make things easier.
The Cusinart TOB-260 Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven has a function called leftover. It has a default 325 degrees F default temp, a 20 minutes preset time, and it is used to reheat leftovers to serving temperature.
Reheating meat in the oven
We can also use a griddle or a pan to reheat burger patties or meats but the thing can be tricky because we can easily dry out our meat.
You can try the steam in the skillet method that I recommended for pizza slices but I actually recommend using the oven to reheat meat and BBQ.
Let’s see how we can reheat BBQ in the oven as one of our microwave alternatives.
In order for this to work nicely, I also recommend refrigerating or freezing your leftovers immediately. Use airtight containers or plastic bags.
In order to reheat meat in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place your meat on a baking sheet, in a pan, or wrap it with aluminum foil and put it in the oven.
You can also include a half a cup of water to create steam for the meat. Once the heat is completely hot and not warm, you can take it out. It should have a minimum internal temp of 165 degrees F.
3. Air Fryers
Air fryers like the Ninja AF101, Instant Vortex Plus, Ninja AG301, and so many other models include a reheat function among other cooking functions, just like the countertop ovens that I mentioned above.
Thus, for models like this we are offered an obvious microwave alternative.
The reheat function for air fryers is perfect for reviving our leftovers. This function will come with a default time like 350 degree F that we can adjust as we need and a preset time like 15 minutes but this can also be adjusted as we want.
I would say that air fryers are amazing when it comes to reheating fries and other fried foods. Of course, that’s pretty much what we buy these appliances for. To experience fried foods that are cooked using only 1 or 2 teaspoons of oil. So, it’s obvious that they’re great for reheating the types of foods we would also cook in them.
We can use them to reheat fries, onion rings, pizza, steaks, chicken, and other foods like that.
Can we reheat ready meals in an air fryer?
Of course we can. Nowadays, most foods will also provide info (temp and time) for air fryers.
If the packaging works for the oven then you can be sure that it will also work in an air fryer because they’re very similar, both using heating elements to cook foods.
And for reheating foods so they’re two very similar microwave alternatives but sometimes, when it’s not an air fryer oven, but a classic air fryer, the shape is a little different. But their working mechanism is pretty similar.
You can also use aluminum foil and parchment paper in an air fryer. Like I’ve said, treat your air fryer like you would your oven when it comes to what we can use them for and what you can use in them when cooking or reheating foods.
Is it better to reheat in an air fryer or microwave?
If you are looking for microwave alternatives, then it’s clear that an air fryer is the preferred appliance.
However, air fryers need to be preheated for 2-5 minutes, just like an oven. And it will take longer to reheat food in an air fryer than in a microwave oven. Nothing compares to the speed of a microwave oven when it comes to reheating absolutely all types of foods.
On the other hand, an air fryer can be awesome for fried foods because it can bring the crunchy texture back. That can certainly be a plus.
4. Digital Food Steamers
I love food steamers because I just love how easy they are to use and just how many ways we can use them. I wrote some very useful reviews in my article looking for the best potato steamer, if you’re interested to know more about these wonderful appliances and tools.
A pretty expensive steamer is the Cuisinart STM-1000 Cook Fresh Digital Glass Steamer. It’s quite complex and it has dials for: start/stop, reheat, pause. And a tiny knob for the timer.
Thus, we get a reheat option with this particular digital food steamer. If we press it, we can bring food up to serving temperature.
However, we don’t exactly buy an appliance like the Cuisinart STM-1000 Cook Fresh Digital Glass Steamer for reheating food. We buy it because we want to steam vegetables, meats, and fish for a more balanced diet.
Otherwise, we can just stick to much better microwave alternatives, like the stovetop and the oven, which most of us already own so we don’t have to pay extra to use them.
5. Dutch Ovens
I would say that a Dutch oven is the perfect cookware with a lid. So versatile and so amazing.
And, even if some of them are staggeringly expensive, there are also Dutch ovens from Lodge that are totally affordable.
And some of the most durable on the market if you go just cast iron.
Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are also amazing and can last a lifetime but the enameled ones, from Lodge, Le Creuset, and Staub tend to be pricier.
Still, if enameled cast iron would be better for you because it doesn’t have to be seasoned, then I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6 quart. It’s the much cheaper alternative to Le Creuset and it looks amazing.
Dutch ovens are perfect for reheating any food that was cooked in them. Of course, we can’t reheat fries or onion rings or pizza slices in a Dutch oven. But they certainly work for so many other types of foods.
Well, there is the Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron and the Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart that come with lids that can also be used as shallow skillets. If that’s the case, you can use the skillet to reheat pizza slices and fries.
Plus, I highly recommend getting a Dutch oven just for the pleasure of baking some of the best bread you’ll ever make, whether you’re making a sourdough or just using yeast to make the dough. You won’t regret it.
6. Portable Food Warmers: Microwave Alternatives for Camping & Work Places
Hotlogic Mini Portable Oven is one of my favorites when it comes to talking about microwave alternatives for reheating food when you’re truly away from home.
The only thing is that you need an electricity source for it to work. It makes it perfect for taking it to the office to enjoy a hot, delicious meal away from home. It can work on camping trips, as well, as long as you have a bit of electricity.
Plus, long-haul truck drivers also love using a portable food warmer.
The Hotlogic Mini Portable Oven only uses 45 watts so that’s great.
However, it also means that it takes a while until it reheats our food. In fact, it takes about 40 minutes to reheat our food.
But the temperature is perfect for serving and in those 40 minutes we don’t have to do anything, the Hotlogic Mini Portable Oven will do the job for us.
It measures 9.5 x 7.5 x 3.5 inches.
The container size is a bit smaller: 8.75 x 6.75 x 2.5 inches.
We get a plastic container to reheat our food in.
It uses thermal technology to heat our food. Basically, there’s a heating pad encased in the bottom. That also explains why it takes a while until our food is done warming.
7. Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1
I love the Instant Pot because it’s beautifully complex. This is a very popular appliance and it’s easy to see why.
There are many cooking functions that we can take advantage of. We can use it as a: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, food warmer, sterilizer.
There are also 3 sizes to choose from and they’re all affordable: 3, 6 or 8 quart.
The stainless steel (18/8) inner pot with tri-ply bottom for perfect sauteing. Of course, we can enjoy PFOA/PTFE-free cooking.
8. Crock-Pot 7 Quart
The first thing you’ll notice about the Crock-Pot 7 Quart is the affordable price, around $50, which is awesome.
It’s also a very easy to use appliance, no fancy functions, no display, no buttons.
We get just a dial for selecting: off, low, high, and warm.
With the convenient warm setting we can keep food at an ideal serving temperature for as long as we need.
The removable stoneware is also microwave safe and it can be used in the oven up to 400 degrees F. The glass lid doesn’t go into the oven.
Plus, the 7 quart manual slow cooker serves 9 people plus. Or fits a 7 pound roast. That’s an impressive side.
While I wouldn’t call the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 or the Crock-Pot 7 Quart the perfect microwave alternatives, I still think that they can be useful and versatile cooking appliances that allow us the need to not use a microwave for the dishes we cook in them. That’s still pretty amazing, all things considered.
9. Popcorn Makers
This substitute has nothing to do with reheating food. Popcorn makers are exactly just for that: for making popcorn if you don’t want to use a microwave oven or if you don’t want to make it in a pot on the stove.
While popcorn makers can be considered awesome microwave alternatives, I want you to remember that you can also make popcorn on the stovetop, just in case you don’t feel like buying yet another kitchen appliance.