Kitchen Gear That’ll Make You Rethink Microwave Cooking
Microwave meals get a bad rap. It’s no mystery why: No matter how many new-age “organic” meals pop up in the freezer aisle, microwave-ready cuisine has long meant Hot Pockets and sad Lean Cuisine dinners, days-old leftovers, and nights spent wordlessly chewing in front of the TV.
Joseph Joseph, the British kitchenware brand known for exceptionally clever cooking gear, is changing that. Its M-Cuisine line includes six sets of devices designed to make something approaching fine dining (in this case, “fine” being more elevated than a frozen burrito) possible in a microwave.
There’s a surprisingly long list of foods you can cook in a microwave. Poached eggs, pasta, and steamed vegetables typically get prepared on a stovetop, but with the right settings, a microwave works too. The trouble for most people, says Antony Joseph, the company’s creative director and half of the fraternal founders, comes down to gear and space. Nearly everyone has a microwave, but “there is a lack of good quality cookware available that is designed specifically for this ubiquitous kitchen appliance,” he says. “As a result, many consumers are forced to improvise with unsuitable containers that often create a mess, break, or are simply unsafe.”
M-Cuisine aims to solve those problems. Everything’s made with injection-molded polypropylene, so it’s microwave-safe and easy to clean. Some of the bowls use a double-walled design, which prevents scalding exteriors. More importantly, though, the pieces are designed around a specific constraint: the microwave plate. You only have one to work with at a time (versus a stovetop with four burners), which could belabor the cooking process. To combat that, the Joseph brothers, along with British design firm Youmeus Design, found ways to pack a ton of utility onto the microwave plate.
Take the stackable cooking set ($42). It has a pot at the base, for preparing rice or pasta, a steamer basket for vegetables or fish, a pan for foods that need to sautée, and a lid like a typical microwave plate. This allows you to prep four dishes, more or less at once. Different foods require different cook times, so you can pause the microwave to add or remove dishes as needed without juggling lots of cookware. Likewise, because the Joseph brothers designed the omelet bowl ($12) with one flat-edged side, you can both prep with it, and then tilt it over to cook eggs, as if on a griddle.
The Joseph brothers are especially adept at identifying cultural macro-trends, and designing for them. They’ve made a consistent focal point of the constraints of urban living for many years now. Many of the brand’s hallmark products—the folding cutting board, the rainbow-hued nesting bowls and spoons, the flat-stacked cooking spoon set—cater specifically to the needs of young adults who live in cramped apartments but have good taste and an interest in cooking.
M-Cuisine speaks to another, adjacent, trend: People don’t really cook anymore, but like to feel as though they do. Joseph Joseph did some in-house research, and found that 60 percent of consumers in the US spend a maximum of 30 minutes cooking dinner, compared to one hour in the 1980s, and 100 minutes in the 1960s. Because more women work now than in the 1960s, and because of the surge in fast food and pre-made meals, those figures won’t surprise anyone. What’s interesting now, however, is the proliferation of delivery start ups—like Blue Apron or Plated—that let us keep cooking meals in 30 minutes, but revive the feeling of a home-cooked meal. M-Cuisine taps into that consumer desire. It’s convenient, but not too convenient.