Perhaps the most common variety of barley, pearl barley can be prepared in the microwave in under 30 minutes. Unlike other types of barley, pearl barley has been stripped of its outer hull and bran, giving it a smooth appearance and a reduced cooking time. The barley still retains some of its bran and fiber, however, making it a healthful substitute for pasta or rice. Barley is incredibly versatile, and you can prepare yours as either a sweet or savory dish.
Pour the liquid and the barley into a microwave-safe dish at a two-to-one ratio. For example, for every 1 cup of uncooked pearl barley, you'll need to add 2 cups of liquid. You can use plain water, or substitute a more flavorful liquid like vegetable, chicken or beef broth.
Cover the the dish and microwave on medium power until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. You may have to adjust cooking times depending on your microwave.
Remove the barley from the microwave and fluff with a fork. If necessary, season with salt to taste.
For a savory variation, microwave a tablespoon of butter or margarine in a microwave-safe dish until it's melted. Add flavorful vegetables like chopped onion, garlic, shallots or mushrooms to the melted butter, then microwave until the vegetable are softened, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring once. Add the liquid and barley to the softened vegetables and cook as usual.
Mix the barley together with brown sugar, cinnamon and a splash of milk for a simple breakfast porridge.