If you want to get more out of your denshi renji microwave other than heating up bentos, leftovers, and precooked frozen foods, it’s time to get serious about proper microwavable cookware. Some of the best microwave cookware is actually made in Japan, or innovated by Japanese companies.
Cookware you can get for microwaves includes nabe pots, casserole dishes, egg boilers, steaming baskets, pressure cookers, rice cookers, popcorn makers, and even microwavable grill plates for burgers or hot sandwiches.
Why Microwave Cookware is Worthwhile
Microwave cookware in Japan is pretty cheap because for the most part is made out of either silicone or polypropylene. The advantage of these materials is that they are very light and unbreakable, as well as being certified microwave safe*.
Furthermore, these products don’t get excessively hot, and are potentially safer if children are around. Using a microwave to cut down cooking times, with correct cookware, can also help to reduce monthly utility payments.
Summary Points on Benefits of Microwave Cookware
- Relatively low cost
- Reduced cooking times
- Lower residual heat
- Save on utility bills
- Certified safe for food* (read further on…)
Silicone vs Polypropylene: Which is Safer and Better?
More costly microwave cookware is made of heat proof glass or ceramics, while inexpensive cookware is from either polypropylene plastic or silicone rubber. Both of these materials, if manufactured to correct standards, are certified by most government agencies, such as the FDA or EPA in the US, as food grade safe.
How Safe is Polypropylene Cookware?
Firstly, what is polypropylene? It’s a complex plastic derived from petroleum. Besides microwave cookware, it is found in yoghurt tubs, diapers, crisp packets, surgical equipment, and even implants.
Polypropylene is considered to be one of the safer and more acceptable plastics in line with high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene. It’s Resin ID is 5 shown in the middle of a triangle often on the bottom of a container.
But does this mean it’s actually safe? Safe here really means ‘safe for now’ or according to ‘currently guidelines’.
Polypropylene is BPA-free and this is a big buzz word and buzz label on polypropylene products. A recent study, however, reports that most plastics including polypropylene, show oestrogen or EA-activity, even when not under heat stress. More follow up studies, however, are needed.
How Safe is Silicone Cookware?
Silicone is a synthetic natural rubber which is chemically inert, resilient up to 428℉ / 220℃, and doesn’t absorb microwaves. It’s also dishwasher safe and doesn’t react with caustic cleaning agents.
Silicone products have recently made big inroads, especially hand held cooking tools and also bakeware. Back in 2010, Scientific America had little to report on the potential hazards of silicone cookware. A more recent study (2015) has revealed that silicone cookware releases small amounts silicone particles, or silicones, but the health impact is not yet known.
Generally speaking, the main concern arises from the production quality of silicone cookware and whether harmful fillers are used. Since silicone is inherently transparent, some people are concerned about coloring used in silicone products.
Recent studies are beginning to question the safety and efficacy of widely accepted and used polypropylene products in the kitchen, especially for storage or heating. There is no sufficient data to make a clear comparative conclusion as to whether silicone is a better alternative. All said and done, silicone is probably the safer bet for now.
Microwave Cookware Reviews: Best 7 Products in Japan
For our best selection of 7 affordable microwave cookware products, we searched for trustworthy products either made in Japan, by Japanese companies, or from the US.
- CB Japan basket steamer
- Pearl Metal nabe pot
- Housewares popcorn maker
- Yoshikawa egg boiler
- Ebisu paste boiler
- Skater rice steamer
- Meyer Pressure cooker
シービージャパン(CB JAPAN) – Best Silicone Steamer
- Resilient from minus 40℃ to 230℃
- Recipe book included
- Made in Taiwan
Silicone microwave cookware in Japan is not nearly as popular as polypropylene, so there’s less to choose from. These nicely designed and colored silicone steamers are made in Taiwan by CB Japan corporation, which also markets the Lekue brand.
They’re quite stylish and less expensive than the more globally popular Lekue silicone steamers. They’re great for vegetables, hard roots, fish, chicken dishes, gratin, and assari scallops. The grooves on the bottom nicely collect oil run off.
These baskets are 26cm wide, 18 deep from front to back, and 10 cm high. They only weigh 400 grams and the volume is 0.9 liters. They can also go in the refrigerator or freezer unit. These trouble free steamers are also good popcorn makers.
パール金属 Pearl Metal – Best Microwave Nabe Pot in Japan
- Heat resistant to 140 ℃
- 1.3 Liters
- Made in Japan
Pearl Metal manufacture kitchen equipment under their well known brand Pearl Life. Their other brand is actually Captain Stag which is an up-and-coming name in outdoors and camping equipment. They’re based in Niigata, and these microwave nabe pots are 100% made in Japan.
Each pot holds up to 1.3 liters and is 23 cm across the handles and the total height is 10 cm. They’re extremely light weighing a total of 249 grams and the lid is 71.5 grams.
Apart from nabe and stews, people also use these pots for soups and parboiling vegetables. You can also cook pasta in about 3 to 4 minutes.
The real nice thing about this pot is the color, because plastics and silicone tend to be overly bright. The same style of pot (price link) by Delish Kitchen is also available in a deep blue and bright yellow.
What the users say:
The lid doesn’t get so hot, so it’s easy to open up and check inside. The only issue, however, is that strong foods like kimchi often leave an odor after washing, which is a problem with plastic cookware in general. They’re also great for taking marinated meat to barbecues because they’re so light.
If you’re looking for a silicone pot for nabe, stews and soups, we can recommend the 旭金属 (Asahikinzoku) Maître Francais (price link) series.
They come in medium and large sizes and both are collapsible into a smaller shaped vessel.
Asahikinzoku is a Japanese company, they don’t exactly specialize in microwave cookware, and the pots are not made in Japan, but China.
Housewares Solutions – Best Microwave Popcorn Maker in Japan
These popcorn makers are probably one of the most convenient microwave cookware items you can get in Japan. They are mostly produced under generic names and even if the name is Japanese, it’s difficult to find country of origin information.
Nevertheless, Houseware Solutions check all the right boxes, and these popcorn makers are made from silicone. Like other types of silicone ware, they are easily collapsible and convenient to store away.
The microwave power level must be below 1000 W otherwise you’re likely to burn the kernels. You may need to adjust the timing to the power level or the kind of microwave you have.
The container measures 7.25 inches (18.5cm) when fully erect and only 2.5 inches (6.5cm) for packing away. You have to use it in the erect position, so make sure it fits your oven before you make a purchase.
What the users say:
People love the option of making mess free and oil less popcorn. Some do add oil mixed with salt, but you need to experiment the parameters for yourself. The handles do get a little hot, so be careful or don’t take the popcorn out right away. They make great housewarming gifts.
Pearl Metal – Best Microwave Egg Boiler Made in Japan
These dinky microwave egg boilers are also a Japanese innovation and there are quite a few competing local and generic manufacturers. Pearl Metal also has a 3-egg version. Another popular choice is Akebono Sangyo (price link) and also Pearl Metal Delish Kitchen (price link).
The most basic way to use these egg boilers is to add water to the container, slip in the aluminum tray, place the eggs, pop on the lid, and zap away on low wattage between 500 – 600 W.
What the users say:
The only problem with any of these microwave eggs boilers, is they release a lot of steam and moisture in the microwave. You need to wipe this out. Also, for hard boil eggs the water may run out, but the best thing to do here is to cook for 7 min and then remove and allow the residual heat to cook for another 4 min.
エビス(Ebisu) – Best Microwave Pasta Boiler in Japan
- No fuss design
- Cooks pasta in 7 min
- Made in Japan
Ebisu corporation is based in Nara Prefecture. They’re probably best known for their toothbrushes and other dental care products. They make a large range of plastic goods, food storage containers, and their Ebisu PPS-6220 pasta boiler is quite a hit.
Compared to similar products, the Ebisu is innovative in the depressed lid that cycles water up and then down again, avoiding any spillage. It has the usual hole for measuring the exact amount of pasta, and the sides are clearly marked with the amount of water you need to add.
What the users say:
To get perfect results you actually need to follow the instructions. This means first to put in boiling water, and then the pasta before setting the microwave timer. Adding the pasta first will lead to insufficient water, and not boiling the water, will undercook the pasta.
The main hassle is the amount of residual steam produced because the container is fairly open. Furthermore, the sides get quite hot and it’s not easy to take out without a cloth. Lastly, the lid is not a clip-on lid, which would improve things a lot.
Skater スケーター: Best Microwave Rice Cooker in Japan
Dragging out the rice cooker for just one bowl of rice isn’t really worth it. This is where these handy one portion steamers come in useful— or if you just don’t feel the need to buy a rice cooker.
They have a middle lid, an outer lid cover, and an extra mesh ring. The mesh ring is used only when you want to use the cooker as a vegetable steamer. The total dimensions are L14.2 x D15.4 x H12.6 cm, and the volume is 640 ml.
How to use it:
Cooking time is really not that much shorter than a conventional rice cooker. First you have to rinse the rice off and soak in 200 cc of water for 20 minutes if summer, 30 minutes if winter.
After clipping on the outer lid, you heat up at 500 W for 10 min, or 7 minutes for half the normal quantity. Then you leave it to steam for another 20 minutes.
What the users say:
You can also use this for cooking any type of rice with a little experimenting with parameters. The container and rice spoon are very easy to rinse off and you can even do without an additional serving bowl.
One drawback is that the outer lid has holes to let the steam out, so like any microwave steamer, you have to clean away the water droplets. Also, you have to use plastic wrap over the top if you need to refrigerate rice in the container.
Other Skater Microwave Cookware in Japan
Skater Co. Ltd. is a kitchenware company from Nara Prefecture. They’re most famous for their range of character lunchboxes for kids. Their focus is on safe and ‘eco friendly’ plastics and silicone kitchenware.
Other popular polypropylene products available on the same link above are a sunny side egg cooker, omelette cooker, and chukaman steamer.
Meyer Microwave Pressure Cooker – Best American Cookware
- 4 safety mechanism
- Made in the USA
- Conforms to international safety standards
Microwave ‘pressure’ cookers were all the rage maybe about four or five years ago. The Meyer brand is still one of the best reviewed and liked.
You can do a lot more in these than most other types of microwave cookware in Japan, including whole chickens, large cuts of meat, stews, or just boil pasta extra fast. It also comes with a base steamer plate or veggies and fish, so they’re pretty versatile.
How it Works:
These cookers are simple to use, get at the same time well designed and fail proof in their complexity. The lid mechanism consists of a primary and secondary safety device.
When the pressure is right, a safety valve will pop up to let you know it’s cooking time. When done, it will drop again. Furthermore, the multifunctional lock mechanism ensures that the container cannot be opening until the pressure reduces to a safe level.
Foods with peels, skins, or rinds need to be punctured with a fork to prevent excessive internal pressure. So do potatoes, sausages, and chicken pieces.
Foods that produce foam and oil like pasta or beans may clog up the safety devices, so avoid using too much liquid that could cause overflow.
Specifications and Manual:
- WDH: 26 x 22 x 12.5 cm
- Total height: 5.2 inches
The minimum inner dimensions of your microwave should be 30 cm in length and depth and a minimum height of 17.5 cm inches above the tray.
The recipes included are designed for 1 100 W microwaves. For lower powers such as 800 W or 900 W, you will have to adjust the cooking times: for 900 W increase cooking times by 20%.
Because Tokyo is a major distribution center for Meyer products and these products are often marketed through local TV shopping chnnels, the manual will probably be in Japanese. The online manual is in English.
What the users say:
Although overall ratings of this product are fairly good, there are a few noteworthy observations. The first is that these pots should not really be considered as pressure cookers. This is largely true, the pressure inside is considerably less, but it does offer a more contained environment that other types of microwave cookware.
Quite a few people found that recipe times take longer than claimed. It’s unclear if users remembered to make adjustments according to their microwave’s power capability. However, hard legumes like dried beans that haven’t been soaked, or are old, will not cook easily in these pots.
Overall, while many people had success with steaming vegetables and even making rice, these pots do much better with stronger flavors of stews and curries rather than more subtle flavors in steamed vegetables.
See Our Reviews for Microwave Grill Plate Cookware in Japan
You can actually use your microwave to make grilled vegetables, burger patties, or hot toasted sandwiches! See these product reviews: