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Microwave Cookware Making Waves

By Micah Cheek

Something about microwaves invites derision. Lots of cooking jokes have the punchline of, “I can’t even microwave popcorn!” Gordon Ramsay’s starts throwing things every time he catches someone using one on “Kitchen Nightmares.”

What’s with all the hate? A microwave won’t significantly brown most foods, and the difference between tender-crisp zucchini and soggy squash is about 30 seconds. Other recipes can be adapted for the microwave but require some significant changes.

Still, when used properly, the microwave oven is indispensable when time is of the essence, and there’s nothing better for many routine cooking tasks. Furthermore, they present an opportunity for the retailer who carries accessories and cookers that help consumers make better use of the microwave.

SteamCaseTara Steffen, Marketing Manager, Lékué USA says that younger and busier consumers are wanting to get more out of their microwaves. “I think you have the Millennial crowd cooking for themselves; you also have the college crowd cooking for themselves. It’s also for the families. If you’ve got two working parents, you can make a meal quickly in the microwave, or have a child make a meal for themselves,” says Steffen. “For my 10 year old, he loves buttered noodles. We use our pasta cooker in the microwave. We can cook pasta in the microwave in 12 minutes.”

In microwave time, that’s a long time, but you don’t have to wait for water to boil, Steffen points out.

That tools for quick breakfasts are also getting a lot of interest from consumers, according to Steffen. Single egg poachers, omelet cookers and bacon cookers are all available, giving the consumer the chance to actually cook breakfast in the microwave instead of heating up a prepackaged, frozen item.

As these tools are designed to make food for busy families, many of them are designed to do double duty as serving piece and dining bowl. “We have the Ovo, an egg cooker, I use that a couple times a week as a healthy breakfast. I put one egg in the Ovo with olive oil and a little bit of pepper,” says Steffen. “If it’s [serving] one person, I serve it in the vessel. Popcorn and omelets, you can eat right out of there.”

Marc Magnus, President of the Americas, Joseph Joseph is also seeing more consumers interested in using the microwave as a cooking tool rather than just for leftovers. “If you think about it, it makes sense that the trend is on those unique items because it’s more about cooking than about reheating. Someone’s buying an egg poacher because they don’t really know how to poach eggs, and everything seems easier in the microwave anyway,” says Magnus.

Healthy eating also ties in to the trend. “I think it comes from the fact of what you’re putting in the food. If you’re cooking on a stainless steel skillet, you’re usually cooking with fat. For the popcorn maker, you’re not putting the fat in there,” adds Magnus. “Popcorn is a trend – some of our key retailers see that. That goes along with healthy eating, it’s a good snack. There could be a trend that we see here in more technique-based item.”

Joseph Joseph has seen more success in selling specific items rather than large, all-purpose microwave cookers, and is developing accordingly. “We see the sell-through more on these unique pieces,” says Magnus. “This is where we’re lucky to have a substantial team that reviews trends.”

For home cooks who aren’t confident in using their microwave ovens for new tasks, Joseph Joseph offers guidance. “All of our stuff comes with instructions. For the microwave cookware, you do have to make sure the instructions are pretty clear,” says Magnus. “It’s making sure you put in the right amount of water and watch it – it’s not totally set and forget. You do have to have that instruction manual and be very clear on how to use it.”

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