Eggplant seems to elicit a love-hate relationship in equal measure. For most of us, it is an acquired taste that we grow to appreciate with time.
I’ll admit, my first encounter with this humble fruit was not all rosy. It has a bitter, sour flavor that some people find repulsive and slightly slimy.
So, how do you achieve eggplant’s tender, creamy consistency without turning it into mush? Well, the answer is simple – select young, small varieties and then microwave.
I know, I know, microwaves are the devil’s spawn, but hear me out. Due to their rapid cooking, microwaves render eggplant beautifully tender while maintaining its original nutritional value. Plus, they can draw out moisture from the fruit, substantially reducing its bitterness.
Here’s how to cook eggplant in microwave.
Wash the eggplant thoroughly and pat dry. Pierce its skin severally with a fork and place it on a microwave-safe plate whole. Pop it in the microwave and set your timer for 7-10 minutes. After 6 minutes, flip it over and continue microwaving until fork tender. Remove it from the microwave, and let it cool down before serving.
For more insights on microwaving eggplant, whether it’s nutritious, how long it takes to microwave, helpful tips and tricks, step-by-step instructions, and much more, please read on.
Are Eggplants Good for You?
Eggplant is one of the most undervalued vegetables, with a decent amount of fiber, potassium, and a low-calorie count.
Dating back to ancient times, this purple vegetable is native to Asia but has since spread worldwide. It has a white fleshy texture when sliced open, making it an excellent meat substitute in vegan dishes.
While not the healthiest vegetable I’ve come across, you can’t ignore the nutritional benefits it offers. If you want to lose weight or eat healthier, eggplant should be on your grocery list. It contains less than 1 gram of fat and only 20 calories per cup, keeping your meals light and refreshing.
Research also reveals that eggplant can help protect your cells from free radical damage. It boasts a high concentration of antioxidants like vitamin C and A, which promote overall cell function. Additionally, its fiber content makes it helpful for blood sugar regulation and digestion.
But perhaps one of the reasons why some people are hesitant to incorporate this plant into their diet is the presence of a chemical called solanine. Solanine is a natural toxin in the nightshade family, including tomatoes and potatoes.
Although no compelling proof linking the trace amounts of this chemical to arthritis, limit eggplant intake if you experience joint ache, itching, hoarseness, or a rash.
Can You Microwave Eggplant?
Absolutely, yes! Microwaving is a quick and effective way to cook eggplant for blending into sauces or as an easy snack.
But I’ll admit, cooking this vegetable is never easy, particularly in the microwave. While growing up, nothing irked me more than eggplant’s bitter, slimy flavor. As long as I didn’t have to eat one, that was fine. Fast-forward about 12 years (after my first child), and now I can’t seem to get enough of them.
What changed? Well, mostly prep work.
Firstly, select a firm, fresh eggplant with no soft spots. It should also feel heavy for its size and not too spongy when squeezed gently. Avoid older eggplants with wrinkled skin because they will be tough and bitter.
Nevertheless, if you have matured ones at home, and are worried about bitterness, throw on a little salt before microwaving. However, rinse all traces of salt before cooking to prevent sticking and uneven browning.
Lastly, do not leave your eggplant in the microwave unattended. I know, I know. It can be tedious waiting for minutes, flipping now and then, but the wait is worth it. Why? If left for too long, these otherwise lovely veggies become a sad, wet sponge.
Do You Have to Soak Eggplant Before Cooking?
Typically, soaking eggplant is unnecessary since most of today’s varieties are engineered to be less bitter.
If you are like me and grew up in a house where eggplant was a mainstay, you’ve probably experienced the sour flavor first-hand. As I previously stated, it was one of the reasons I loathed it as a child. But occasionally, you may stumble across a bitter variety. So, what do you do? Throw it away?
The good news is that there are a few tricks for tempering the bitterness without so much as a trip to the grocery store.
Although not popular in some quarters, salting your eggplant slices liberally before cooking them is one easy way to tame the bitterness. It also draws out any excess water which could otherwise make the vegetable mushy.
But if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to salt your eggplant, try scooping out the seeds instead. The seeds hold most of the bitterness; removing them allows you to enjoy the milder flavor found throughout the fruit’s flesh.
However, if everything else doesn’t work for you, try soaking eggplant slices in milk for 30 minutes. While they soak, they’ll absorb the sweetness of the milk, leaving a pleasantly creamy texture.
Whichever method you choose, avoid old or leaving eggplant out at room temperature for long periods. The longer it sits after picking, the more it accumulates anthocyanin compound, which is responsible for its signature bitter taste.
Can You Eat the Skin on an Eggplant?
Young eggplants have thin, tender skin that is edible. However, as they age, the skin becomes tough and bitter, necessitating peeling before cooking.
But that is not the only rationale for leaving the skin on or removing it. For starters, peeling off eggplant skin may deprive you of some of its nutrients, such as fiber and antioxidants.
Secondly, the process can be messy and time-consuming. For instance, you need to cut around the edge with a paring knife, slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds from each half, and so on. At the end of the day, you may cut more than just the skin, and the clean-up is tedious.
On the flip side, it is a question of cleanliness. Peeling removes dirt and bacteria that accumulate in the crevices of an eggplant’s skin, making it palatable. However, some argue against this point. Giving your fruit a quick scrub under running water should render it safe to consume without peeling.
Generally, it all boils down to personal preference. Personally, I like my eggplant skin to optimize the nutritional content. So, get busy experimenting with both approaches and find out which suits your taste buds best.
Can You Eat Eggplant Raw?
Except for the flowers and leaves, which are toxic, you can consume eggplant raw.
However, you should have it in moderation as it contains solanine, a natural plant chemical that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Although the compound is also present in cooked eggplant, boiling and frying methods reduce it to a tolerable level.
Furthermore, the bitter taste of this fruit makes it unpalatable to many people. For instance, have you noticed the number of recipes that call for raw eggplant? I’m guessing the answer is zero to none. Raw eggplant has an unpleasant texture and sour flavor. Cooking eliminates these qualities and makes it more appealing to the palate.
So, what does this mean for the raw eggplant enthusiast?
Fortunately, you can salt or soak your fruit to draw out some of the bitterness before cooking it. Above all, select young, small eggplants because they’re less bitter than their old, large counterparts.
Sometimes, I pair my eggplants with grilled pineapple slices, carrots, or avocado cubes. The sweetness balances the dish’s bitterness, making it one of my favorite go-to meals.
How Long Does It Take to Microwave Eggplant?
Typically, microwaving a whole eggplant will take 7-10 minutes.
So, why the long wait?
To be honest, eggplants have a bad rep for being bitter and slimy. If not microwaved to perfection, they can turn into a mushy mess of unappetizing flavor. They also require delicate handling because their flesh tears easily when cooked too quickly or at too high a temperature. Simply popping them in the microwave and pressing the start button will not suffice.
But never fear! The key to perfectly cooked eggplant is timing. As a result, I suggest microwaving in short bursts (2-3 minutes) and flipping periodically until fork tender. That way, you’ll avoid overcooking your dish and ruining all of your hard work.
However, the time may vary depending on your microwave wattage, the size of the eggplant, and how many you’re cooking at once. Feel free to experiment with different times until you find the one that works best for you.
What Is the Healthiest Way to Cook Eggplant?
To preserve nutrients, consider roasting, steaming, or air frying eggplant.
I can’t stress enough the health benefits of this Asian-Pacific favorite fruit. It’s rich in dietary fiber, potassium, and antioxidants and low in calories. But to optimize their nutritional value, your choice of cooking method is critical.
Baking involves cutting the eggplant into halves and then placing it on a lightly greased baking dish. Next, cook it for about 20 minutes at 350°F or until fork tender. The method maintains the flavor and texture of the eggplant, but if you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, steam it instead.
Finally, one of my personal favorites: air-fried eggplant! In contrast to pan frying, which utilizes oil, this method cooks by circulating hot air over the food. The result is crisper, crunchier skin with no guilt.
Tips For Microwaving Eggplant
Below are some of my tips for cooking eggplant in a microwave:
- Avoid using plastic or metal cookware, as these materials may interfere with the microwave and thus reduce its effectiveness. For instance, plastic will melt under intense heat, leaching toxins into your eggplant. Although metal is less prone to melt, it can cause sparks that could ignite any flammable material nearby. Instead, use microwave-safe glass or ceramic containers.
- Select young, small, but firm eggplants without blemishes or bruises. Older eggplants tend to be drier and bitter tasting, making them unpalatable. Cook them right away to avoid spoilage and retain their flavor.
- Poke holes in the eggplant skin before microwaving to allow steam to escape and prevent an explosion. This is particularly necessary if you’re microwaving a whole fruit rather than slices or cubes.
- Rinse the eggplant thoroughly, then cut it in half lengthwise or into slices. However, whether or not you cut it is entirely up to individual taste. Personally, I prefer cooking it as a whole.
- Monitor the cooking time and flip the eggplant occasionally to avoid overcooking. The fruit should be tender when pierced with a fork. If microwaved for too long, it will become dry and tough.
How To Cook Eggplant in Microwave
Now that we’ve established that you can cook eggplant in the microwave, it’s time for a quick snack or appetizer that will leave your guests envious.
- Wash and rinse eggplants thoroughly before patting them dry with a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess moisture.
- Pierce the eggplant skin severally with a fork, then place it on a microwave-safe plate.
- Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes (depending on size), turning once halfway through cooking time. Once it’s fork tender, remove it from the microwave and let it cool until you can handle it.
- Trim off the stem ends and cut it lengthwise or into 1⁄4-inch-thick rounds.
- Transfer your eggplant slices or halves into a serving dish, and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Serve warm as an appetizer, side dish, or as part of the main course salad.
Microwaving eggplant offers convenience and ease of cooking, especially for novice cooks. It is also a healthy alternative to frying as no oil is used. When prepped properly, microwaving eliminates the bitter flavor of the fruit, making it delicious to eat.
However, if left unattended, the flesh will scorch, resulting in a burnt taste that can ruin your dish. As a result, close monitoring of your meal is imperative to produce a tender, creamy eggplant.