Is there any downside to making kale chips in the microwave?

Recently, a friend showed me that torn kale leaves tossed with a little olive oil and salt and zapped in the microwave for 2-3 minutes turn into perfectly done kale chips—far superior to any batches I've made in a conventional oven. Is there any downside to making kale chips this way? If not, why isn't this method more popular?

  • Posted by: Felnr
  • July 11, 2015


sonya August 10, 2015
I haven't actually tried this yet, but I saw this article in Cook's Illustrated:

If you’ve somehow missed that kale chips are a “thing,” with recipes flooding cooking sites and packages of commercially made chips now turning up even in ordinary supermarkets, trust us: Tossing torn leaves of kale with oil and salt and baking them until crispy is a worthwhile endeavor. The slightly browned leaves take on a nutty, sweet taste and a pleasing, brittle texture. But the standard oven approach isn’t perfect: It’s hard to get the leaves evenly browned; plus, it’s difficult to drive off enough moisture so that the chips stay crispy when stored for more than a few hours. So when we noticed a few blogs promoting a microwave method, we were eager to give it a try. We found that the microwave dehydrates the leaves evenly and thoroughly, so they stay crispy longer—and the chips cook a whole lot faster than they do in the oven. (Note: For the best texture, we prefer to use flatter Lacinato kale. We also found that collard greens work well, but we don’t recommend curly-leaf kale, Swiss chard, or curly-leaf spinach, all of which turn dusty and crumbly when crisped.) Here’s our take on the technique.
1. Remove stems from 5 ounces kale (about 1/2 bunch). Tear leaves into 2-inch pieces; wash and thoroughly dry, then toss well with 4 teaspoons oil in large bowl. 2. Spread roughly one-third of leaves in single layer on large plate and season lightly with kosher salt.
3. Microwave for 3 minutes. If leaves are crispy, transfer to serving bowl; if not, continue to microwave leaves in 30-second increments until crispy. Repeat with remaining leaves in 2 batches. Store chips in airtight container for up to 1 week."

Then the next year, they published this, so maybe that was the problem with it originally, or the downside, as you asked?

Why Does Kale Sometimes Spark in the Microwave?

From Cook's Illustrated | May/June 2014

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Sometimes, when making kale chips chips in the microwave, the kale will spark during the cooking process. What’s causes this?

Sparking never happened when we developed our recipe for Quick Microwave Kale Chips (see related content), but we've received letters from readers indicating that this has happened to them on occasion. We revisited our microwave method for kale chips, making batches in 10 different microwaves. But try as we might, we couldn’t get sparks to fly. That said, research informed us it can in fact happen, and the phenomenon even has a name: arcing. There are a few theories about what causes it. It could be that the mineral or moisture content of certain vegetables makes them more prone to spark. Others say it’s more likely to happen when pieces of food with sharp (rather than rounded) edges are arranged too closely together in the microwave.

Using a reduced power level won’t solve the issue. Waves can be emitted by a microwave at only one energy level, so the appliance just cycles on and off when set on a lower power setting—one burst of waves can still cause arcing. We suggest making sure that the kale is dried thoroughly and that the pieces are spread out on the plate. If this doesn’t help, the best bet is to stop using the microwave to make kale chips (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, prolonged arcing can damage your microwave).

And no I don't work for Cook's Illustrated - haha. I just got asked that question twice today. Just a very passionate home baker :)
Susan W. July 11, 2015
I made these. Success!! I was going to take a photo, but they were gone in a flash. I'll increase the amount of kale on the plate next time (aka tomorrow). Easy to do several batches though.
Felnr July 11, 2015
Yay! Yes, they disappear fast!
Susan W. July 11, 2015
I never would have thought this would work. Do you spread the kale out on a plate? I'm going to have to try this.
Felnr July 11, 2015
I spread the kale out in a glass microwave-safe Pyrex dish. At first, I did a small amount, so the kale was a single layer. But now I am a bit more bold, and put more in at a time.
Susan W. July 11, 2015
I just found an America's Test Kitchen video on it. I'm sold!! I'll try it this weekend. The only downside that I see is you end up with a fairly small batch because of limited room, but making several batches would be quick. Especially if, like you said, you can do more than a single layer. Did you have to increase the time?
Felnr July 11, 2015
Yes, small batches is indeed one downside. But it's still far less time to do multiple batches in the microwave. I generally do add about 30 seconds more for a larger batch. (And by larger batch, it's still pretty small—about a third of a head of lac into kale.)
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