A microwave oven is a sealed box or chamber with a fan to vent the chamber and a source of microwave radiation. Food is placed in the chamber and is bombarded with microwave radiation. This “excites” water molecules in the food, which become hot generating steam and heating the foodstuff around it. Microwaving is a similar process to steaming and food will not brown.
Microwaves penetrate deeper into foods than heat (infra-red) energy but do not cook from the inside out. If a block of butter is placed in a microwave oven for a short time, heat builds up in the centre and so the centre melts before the outside. Heat can build up in foodstuffs and is not able to escape and this can cause burning or other undesirable effects so it is important to follow manufacturer’s instructions and test cooking processes carefully.
Microwave ovens play an important role in the hectic lives so many of us lead today. They’re fast, convenient, energy-efficient, low-maintenance, and affordable. Many families now have more than one microwave oven, and use them every day… even if only to heat frozen pastries in the kitchen or popcorn in the family room.
Utility experts tell us that microwave cooking uses 30% to 70% less power than conventional methods. With gas and electric ovens, much of the heat ends up warming air rather than heating food. Micro waving is far more efficient, saving you money and reducing the impact of cooking on the environment. Microwave ovens don’t need to be pre-heated, and that saves both time and energy.
Microwave ovens can reduce overall cooking time up to 75%! One dish can often be used for mixing, cooking, and serving. They not only cook faster, they really can cook some things better.
A microwave oven can’t replace your conventional oven, frying pans and stove-top cooking. It’s not a substitute for cooking methods like grilling or broiling a steak or baking bread. Some foods will always taste better when fried, grilled, or slow -cooked. But… microwave ovens can be used for more than heating frozen dinners and re-heating leftovers.
Microwave ovens are available in many sizes, with a staggering assortment of features, functions, and power configurations, from a variety of manufacturers, with price tags to fit any budget.
Things you can do with a microwave oven
• Get more juice from citrus fruit…
Gently warm a lemon, lime, or orange before squeezing by hand or using a juicer – Heat on full power for about 10 seconds.
• Plump and soften raisins and other dried fruit …
Place the fruit in a small bowl; sprinkle with water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on full power for 30 to 40 seconds.
• Peel peaches or tomatoes…
Pour water into a deep microwavable bowl or a glass measuring cup. Bring to a boil. Drop tomatoes or peaches in the water for only a few seconds each. The skin will loosen and peel off easily.
• Make apple sauce
For 4 to 6 servings – wash, core, and quarter two pounds of apples. Do not peel. Microwave in a covered, 3-quart glass casserole on full power for 12 to 14 minutes. Process in a food mill for smooth applesauce. While it’s still warm, add some brown sugar and a little cinnamon.
• Dry fresh herbs..
Lay a small bunch of fresh herbs between paper towels. Microwave on full power for 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool, then check to see if they are dry enough to crumble. If not, continue to microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until the herbs are completely dried. Store in an airtight container.
• Peel onions…
Place onions on a covered microwave-safe plate and cook for 1 to 2 minutes at full power.
• Remove outer skin from garlic cloves…
Put the cloves in a custard cup and microwave at 80% power for 30 seconds. Allow the cloves to cool enough so you can handle them, then lift away the skin.
• Blanch fresh vegetables before freezing …
Prepare the vegetables as desired – wash, chop, peel, slice, etc. – then place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a small amount of water, cover, and microwave on full power for 3 to 4 minutes per pound, stopping to stir and re-arrange halfway through. Drain, then immediately plunge the hot vegetables into ice cold water to quickly cool. Drain again, then pack the vegetables in zippered storage bags and freeze.
• Make refrigerated butter or margarine spread able…
Microwave 1 stick of butter or margarine for 20 seconds at 50% power.
• Melt butter, margarine or solid shortening…
Microwave 1 stick of butter or margarine or 1/2 cup of shortening on full power for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
• Soften refrigerated cream cheese to use in a recipe…
No need to let it stand at room temperature first. Unwrap an 8 oz. package of cream cheese and microwave at 50% power for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.
• Make rock-hard ice cream easier to scoop…
Microwave a full half gallon container for 30 seconds on full power to soften it just enough for scooping.
• Toast coconut…
Spread coconut in a thin layer on a microwave safe pie plate or on a paper plate. Microwave on full power for 2 to 3 minutes or until light golden brown. Watch closely to prevent over-browning.
• Blanch almonds…
Microwave a cup water until it begins to boil. Place almonds in a separate cup. Add enough boiling water to cover the almonds and then microwave on full power for 30 seconds. Drain and rub off the almond skins.
• Toast sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sliced or slivered almonds….
Place a layer of seeds or nuts on a microwave safe plate that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Microwave seeds for 3 to 4 minutes on full power and nuts for 3 to 5 minutes on full power. Stop to toss gently or stir often. Brown very lightly since they will continue to darken as they cool.
• Melt caramel…
Place 7 oz. of unwrapped caramels in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon water. Microwave, uncovered, on full power for 1- 1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes, stopping to stir every 30 seconds or until the caramel is melted and smooth.
• Melt baking chocolate…
Place one or two squares at a time, each broken in half, in a microwave safe cup. Microwave, uncovered, on 50% power for 2 to 3 minutes. After the first minute, stop to stir and check it about every 20 seconds As soon as most of the chocolate is melted, stir to finish. Even a slight amount or excess time can cause scorching.
• Make smooth sauces and gravies…
Click on the picture below for a simple recipe for a basic white sauce and cheese sauce made in a microwave oven.
• Soften brown sugar…
Place hardened brown sugar in a plastic bag. Add a slice of soft white bread or about a quarter of a fresh apple. Close the bag tightly and microwave on full power for 20 seconds. Discard the bread or apple and stir the sugar.
• Liquefy honey that has crystallized and hardened…
Microwave at 50% power, stopping to check at 15 second intervals. Crystallized honey will liquefy quickly. Total time depends on the amount and the condition of the honey.
• Heat pancake and waffle syrup…
Place an uncapped bottle of syrup or a filled syrup pitcher in the microwave. Microwave on full power, usually for only 35 to 45 seconds, depending on the amount of syrup.
• Make croutons and dry breadcrumbs…
Microwave 4 cups of bread cubes or bread crumbs for 5 to 7 minutes at full power.
• Soften tortillas…
Loosely wrap a stack of 3 to 4 corn or flour tortillas in waxed paper. Microwave on full power for 15 to 25 seconds.
• Freshen chips and snack crackers…
Microwave, uncovered, for about one minute on full power.
• Heat cakes, puddings, pies and other foods
• Defrost frozen meats, fish and poultry
Things you SHOULD NOT DO with a microwave oven
• Do not heat baby’s bottle in a microwave oven. Due to the possibility of uneven heating and hot spots, micro waving formula or milk for baby is not recommended. Use a microwave oven to heat water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup or in a deep, narrow bowl. Place the filled bottle in the hot water to heat instead.
• Do not leave the kitchen while popping a bag of microwave popcorn. Just a slight amount or extra time can scorch popcorn. Heat buildup can cause a fire. Set the timer according to the package instructions, using the shortest recommended time. Stop heating and remove the bag of popped corn from the microwave oven when the popping slows down.
• Do not use a microwave oven to cook stuffed chops or stuffed poultry. The meat inside may not cook completely.
• Do not uncover microwave foods by lifting the side of the lid or the edge of the wrap that’s closest to you. To prevent burns, uncover hot food by lifting the farthest edge and pulling it back towards you to carefully release steam.
• Do not salt food before cooking in a microwave oven. Salt draws moisture to the surface and forms a layer that slows the penetration of microwaves and increases the required cooking time. It can also make meat and vegetables tough and less juicy. Salt immediately after cooking instead.
• Do not cook eggs in their shells in a microwave oven. Steam that builds up inside the shell may cause the egg to explode.
• Do not attempt to deep-fry in a microwave oven.
Why Microwave Food?
It’s fast! Generally, cooking food takes one-fourth the time in the microwave than it takes in your conventional oven. It’s cool! Cooking heat is created within the food, so your kitchen does not become overheated.
It’s tastier! Natural flavors are retained in the food. It’s nutritional! Reduced cooking time means more vitamins and minerals are retained.
It’s economical! You only cook the amount of food you need. Your microwave uses less electrical wattage than with your conventional oven, and you’re cooking for a shorter amount of time.
Food containers made from certain materials are unsuitable for use in a It’s convenient! You can cook right in the serving dish, on paper plates and in paper towels. There is less mess to clean up after you’re done.
Microwave ovens are convenient and useful appliances but they do have some limitations:
• Microwave ovens don’t produce the same results as conventional cooking methods. For example, microwaving foods does not produce the same browning effect that grilling or frying does. This is because microwaves do not use applied heat to cook foods.
• Pastries and cakes tend to go soggy in a microwave oven because of the steam created by microwaving.
• In general, microwave ovens are smaller and have limited capacity compared to a standard oven.
Microwave cookery however is particularly useful for:
• Defrosting frozen foods
• Reheating pre-prepared dishes
• Cooking foods that don’t require browning
• Foods that can be cooked fast at an even temperature
Foods suitable for microwave cookery ideally, only microwave foods that have high moisture content, such as: vegetables, fruit, fish, shellfish, eggs, herbs and breadcrumbs can be dried using a microwave.
Utensils and equipment for microwave cooking
Exposure to the radiated energy can be dangerous so it is important to take care when using microwave ovens. These appliances must be properly maintained – keep the unit clean and check doors and seals regularly to make sure that microwaves can’t escape while the appliance is running.Microwave oven as they prevent the waves of energy passing through and reaching the food.