Put your microwave to work with these easy tricks.

Chances are you have a microwave sitting somewhere in your kitchen. They've gotten smaller over the years, but even the most svelte version takes up precious real estate. It's time to put that baby to work.

Here are 7 unexpected uses for your microwave:

1. Cook Fish

Cook a steak in the microwave and you'll end up with shoe leather. Fish, on the other hand, can be cooked perfectly in the microwave. Simply wrap your fish in microwave-safe plastic with a little seasoning (salt and pepper and some lemon, perhaps) and cook for about 2 minutes on high. (The time for doneness will vary depending on the strength of your microwave and the size and shape of your fillet. Watch it closely to prevent overcooking.)

2. Sanitize Your Kitchen Sponge

Sponges are a breeding ground for germs. It's easy to just throw them away, but they're not cheap, so extend the use of your sponge by zapping away harmful bacteria in your microwave daily! Just place your (wet) sponge in the microwave and nuke it for 2 minutes on High. That should be enough to kill 99% of the harmful bacteria that set up camp there.

3. Make Potato Chips

It's hard to believe anything can get as crispy as a potato chip in the microwave, but believe it! Thinly sliced potatoes crisp up beautifully in the microwave and since these crispy chips aren't fried, they're healthier for you, too, with around 8 grams less fat per serving than regular chips. Who knew?

4. Steam Vegetables

Put that annoying steamer basket away and cook your veggies in the microwave. Not only is it easier, but it's better for you. The longer and hotter you cook a food, the more you'll lose certain heat- and water-sensitive nutrients, especially vitamin C and thiamin ­– a B vitamin. Because microwave cooking often cooks foods more quickly, it can actually help to minimize nutrient losses.

5. Soften Brown Sugar

Ever go to make cookies and find your brown sugar is as hard as a rock? Put down your chisel, moisten some paper towels and place them on top of your brick of brown sugar. Microwave in 30-second increments and your brown sugar will loosen up. Crisis averted.

6. Cook Bacon

No room for another pan on your stove to cook bacon in for breakfast? No worries. You can get crispy bacon in your microwave. (With less mess!) Cover a microwave-safe dish with a couple of paper towels. Add bacon in a single layer. Cover the bacon with a couple more paper towels and cook in 2-minute increments until crispy.

7. Use It As A Proofer

Calling all bakers! Need a warm, moist place for your dough to rise? The microwave is the perfect place to set up a temporary proofer (for nonbakers, a proofer is a contraption that creates ideal conditions, i.e., warm and moist, for yeast breads to rise.) The sealed environment of your microwave will keep the moisture and heat in. Just heat a cup of water in your microwave until it's steaming, then put your dough in along with it, shut the door and let it do its thing.