CHICAGO — While Americans might be eating at home more, it doesn’t mean they are actually cooking more, according to the NPD Group. It means they are using microwaves more often.

"Microwaving has been flat for two decades, but it increased last year as Americans found a way to eat at home and not cook," said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. "We’re using our microwaves to warm and heat more, but not prepare more dishes from scratch."

About 20% of all meals prepared in U.S. homes from 1990 to 2007 involved using a microwave until last year when usage rose to 10%. While stove tops are the most popular cooking appliance, the per cent of main meals prepared on a stove top dropped to 33% in 2009 from 52% in 1985.

"There was a lot of speculation last year as to how our eating behaviors changed as a result of the economic crisis," Mr. Balzer said. "The truth is consumer behavior changes slowly. I’ve observed America’s eating patterns in good and bad economies, and the constant is there is no recession in eating and Americans don’t want to cook what they eat."