Does Applebee’s Microwave Their Food?

Applebee’s is one of the largest casual dining restaurant chains in America, with nearly 2,000 locations across the country. The neighborhood-style bar and grill is known for its extensive menu of American fare like burgers, ribs, pasta, and salads.

However, over the years, some customers have questioned if Applebee’s relies too heavily on microwaving pre-made food rather than preparing dishes fresh in the kitchen.

So does Applebee’s really just zap frozen food in the microwave and serve it on a plate?

According to claims by a former server, Jasper Lee, a significant portion of Applebee’s food is pre-packaged and reheated in a microwave, excluding items such as steaks, grilled chicken, and burgers. However, some online commenters and former employees dispute this, asserting that while some items are microwaved, a majority of the menu is prepared in-house on a grill or flattop.

What Percentage of Applebee’s Food is Microwaved?

According to some former Applebee’s employees, the majority of menu items arrive at the restaurant already pre-cooked or prepared in some way. They claim that around 75% of the dishes are simply reheated in the microwave before being served.

However, Applebee’s maintains that it uses a combination of scratch cooking and modern kitchen efficiency techniques to deliver consistent, high-quality dishes. The restaurant states its kitchen staff follow meticulous recipes to prepare soups, sauces, and more from scratch using fresh ingredients.

So the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. Applebee’s relies on some pre-made ingredients that are quickly assembled and heated up. But it’s inaccurate to say all the food just comes frozen and is simply microwaved. Certain dishes like steaks, chicken, and burgers do appear to be grilled fresh in each location.

Which Dishes at Applebee’s are Microwaved?

According to insider reports, the Applebee’s menu items most likely to be microwaved or pre-made include:

  • Sides – Broccoli, green beans, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf
  • Appetizers – Mozzarella sticks, boneless wings, spinach & artichoke dip
  • Soups & Salads – Broccoli cheddar soup, house salad, caesar salad
  • Pasta Dishes – Fettuccine alfredo, mac & cheese, chicken parmesan
  • Desserts – Brownies, cookies, dessert shooters

The kid’s menu is also said to rely heavily on pre-packaged, microwavable food for simplicity and speed. Reportedly, even the kid’s mac & cheese is just Kraft macaroni and cheese.

How Does Applebee’s Heat Up Their Food?

While a decent portion of the menu is pre-prepared, Applebee’s does use several methods to heat up food besides just popping it in the microwave:

  • Grills – Steaks, burgers, ribs, and chicken breasts are grilled over an open flame.
  • Broilers – Some steaks, chops, and other proteins are finished under a broiler.
  • Fryers – Most appetizers and sides like fries, chips, and wings are fried.
  • Flat Top Griddles – Fajitas, quesadillas, and other items are cooked on a flat grill.
  • Ovens – Breads, baked pastas, and meatloaf are warmed in standard ovens.
  • Sauté Stations – Fresh vegetables and rices are sautéed in woks.
  • Steamers – Vegetables like broccoli are steamed.

So while microwaves are used, it’s not the only technique for preparing dishes. Certain menu items do still involve some basic scratch cooking.

Why Dine Out When You Can Microwave In?

After uncovering the heated debate over Applebee’s quick zaps in the kitchen, you might wonder: why not get that ‘dining out’ experience right from your own microwave? For those who fancy a crispy appetizer without the restaurant wait, why not check out the 6 Best Frozen Onion Rings you can heat and eat in the comfort of your slippers and PJs?

These aren’t your average frozen fare; they’re handpicked for their gourmet quality and flavors that rival your favorite neighborhood grill.

What are the Pros and Cons of Microwaving Food?

Microwaving has some advantages for restaurants trying to serve consistent, fast food:


  • Speed – Microwaves can heat food very quickly.
  • Convenience – No advanced cooking skills needed.
  • Consistency – Identical results from any microwave.
  • Low Labor – Less staff and training required in kitchen.

However, there are some downsides to relying heavily on microwave cooking:


  • Quality – Microwaved texture and taste often inferior.
  • Nutrition – Some nutrients degraded by microwave heating.
  • Presentation – Food can look mushy or dry when microwaved.
  • Variety – Restricted to pre-made, microwavable ingredients.
  • Freshness – Not preparing meals completely from scratch.

So microwaving does help standardize results and reduce costs. But exclusive use can sacrifice freshness, quality, and dining experience.

How Can You Tell if Food Has Been Microwaved?

It’s not always easy to discern if a dish was freshly prepared or simply microwaved. But here are some signs your food may have spent time in the microwave:

  • Uneven heating – Cold spots or very hot spots.
  • Rubbery, mushy texture – Microwaves degrade cell structure.
  • Lack of browning or char – No Maillard reaction occurs.
  • Dried out, shrunken appearance – Microwaves dehydrate food.
  • Chewy, dense meats – Microwaved meat gets tough.
  • Boiled or steamed look – No nice sear or caramelization.
  • Unpleasant aroma – Smells like reheated food.
  • Fast serving time – Little preparation or cooking time.

Of course, these cues aren’t foolproof. But if multiple factors make the food seem lower in quality, excessive microwave use may be the reason.

What are the Health Implications of Eating Microwaved Food?

There are mixed opinions on whether microwaved food is less healthy. Some potential concerns include:

  • Nutrient loss – Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins may decline.
  • Plastic chemicals – Heating plastic containers may cause chemicals to migrate.
  • Superheating – Liquids can overheat and cause burns.
  • Bacterial survival – Uneven heating allows bacteria to survive.

However, many experts argue that microwaved food is just as safe and nutritious:

  • USDA Research – Found microwaved and conventionally cooked foods have the same nutrients.
  • FDA Approval – Deemed microwaves safe for food when used properly.
  • Short Cooking Time – Less time to lose nutrients than other cooking methods.
  • Lower Fat – Microwaves don’t require added oils or fats during cooking.

Overall, moderation is key. Microwaved food once in awhile is likely fine, but heavily relying on it to replace fresh cooking may have some drawbacks.

What are the Customer Reviews of Applebee’s Food?

Applebee’s frequently draws customer complaints about overly relying on pre-made, microwaved food. Some common grievances include:

  • “Frozen then microwaved” – Many dishes taste like reheated frozen food.
  • “Served right from the bag” – Food arrives in packaging just microwaved.
  • “Kid’s menu is lazy” – Mac & cheese, chicken tenders straight from the freezer.
  • “Why so expensive?” – Prices high for low-quality ingredients and preparation.
  • “Disappointing cuts of meat” – Steaks, chops are cheap, gristly cuts.
  • “Where’s the flavor?” – Food is bland, flavorless, and plain.

However, some customers don’t mind the convenient, affordable, consistent dishes Applebee’s offers. Fans highlight positive attributes like:

  • “Hit or miss” – Some dishes like fajitas, ribs, burgers are fine.
  • “Kid-friendly” – Kid’s menu is convenient for family dining.
  • “Nice lunch menu” – Affordable lighter fare for weekday lunches.
  • “Consistent” – You know what to expect from each location.
  • “Full bar” – Good selection of beers, cocktails and drinks.

So experiences definitely vary. More discerning diners seem disappointed, while others find it reliably meets their needs, especially with kids or on a budget.


Applebee’s likely microwaves a fair amount of their menu, especially sides, appetizers and kids’ options. However, they also do use grills, ovens and sauté stations to freshly prepare portions of their cuisine. The convenience and consistency of microwaving does play a role at Applebee’s, but from-scratch cooking isn’t completely absent from their kitchens. Overall customer satisfaction with the dining experience appears mixed, with pre-made microwave cuisine cited as a common complaint.

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