Gadgets: Mastrad Minute Cooker
There are only a few things I cook in my microwave. Vegetables, primarily. But when I tried Alton Brown's recipe for microwave fish en papilotte, it rocked my world. No need to heat up the oven, and it's done in a few minutes.
But then there's that fiddly parchment folding. Not exactly what I want to do when I'm contemplating fast and easy cooking.
So, when I got the Mastrad Gourmet Minute Cooker ($29.99) to test, the first thing I tried out was a fish fillet.
The minute cooker is simple. A somewhat square (wider at the corners, gently curved in the center), somewhat flat bowl nestles in a silicone base with a silicone lid.
I was skeptical that the lid would hold in the required steam since it doesn't snap on, so I was pleasantly surprised when I lifted the lid and there was indeed a whole lot of steam inside. And the fish cooked evenly.
I was also gleefully surprised that the ceramic dish inside was attractive enough for serving, and it didn't get freakishly hot like some of my allegedly microwavable dishes tend to do.
After the fish, I tried several variations of vegetables, including fresh and frozen. And I reheated leftovers for lunch and dinner a number of times.
The benefit of using this contraption versus a plate or bowl with plastic wrap is that 1) I've melted plastic wrap in the microwave before when the plate has gotten too hot; 2) I'm getting tired of buying throwaway products like plastic wrap; 3) the silicone doesn't get hot, so I could remove this from the microwave without using pot holders; and 4) by leaving the food in the silicone holder while I attended to other things, it retained heat better than if it was a regular bowl covered with plastic wrap.
I'm not about to start cooking steaks in the microwave, but for my usual repertoire of vegetables and leftover lunches, along with the occasional fish dish, this is going to get a lot of use.
The only downside is the size—you're not going to be able to fit a buffet-size portion of vegetables in there, since the dish is just over 7 inches wide at the center.
But sometimes smaller is better. It's a perfect size for side dishes (I fit a full pound of frozen spinach into it) and it's reasonably large enough for single meals. Meanwhile, the low bowl shape makes it more versatile than a flat plate, and all the parts are dishwasher safe.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.