The best microwave cooking tips tricks are those that come from an understanding of how microwaves work. It is the key to instinctively cooking great meals.
Although at first daunting, microwave cooking can be the easiest thing in the World. It is cleaner and faster than stove top cooking. If you use microwave safe glass dishes, you can serve them straight onto the table. And the flavors and juices from cooking like this are retained, and not lost by boiling or evaporation as would normally occur.
As we get ever more technologically advanced, we are beginning to appreciate the complexities that are involved in making great tasting meals. Food Science is an established academic discipline. So much so that now even Harvard runs courses in Food Science! Many age-old tips and tricks are being investigated in the laboratory to find out how they work.
Caramelizing onions (cooking them very slowly over a low heat) is a technique that has been used for centuries. To a chemist, it is the process of turning complex carbohydrates into sugars, and then caramel.
Another example is that of roasting meat in order to give it a delicious taste. Chemically this is caused by the Maillard Reaction, a complex little understood process that takes place at around 154° Centigrade, where amino acids are turned into sugars.
Now, although microwave cooking applies heat in a different fashion to other cooking methods, the processes and aims are the same.
Don’t get suckered into thinking you can only defrost freezer dinners, and reheat leftovers.
These top ten microwave cooking tips are all based on the science involved. Bear these in mind when you are in your kitchen, and you are well on the way to making fresh delicious tasting meals.
Microwave cooking tips tricks #1 – Sometimes you don’t need a recipe, simple is best.
- Some of the nicest meals are made by just using fresh ingredients and quickly cooking them. For example, slice up some small fresh new potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms, throw them in a microwave dish, with some stock and herbs, and cook for 3 minutes. Then place a slice of fresh fish on top, and cook for another 3 minutes. This is a delicious hit and run meal, ready in less time than it takes to defrost a TV dinner.
It is almost as simple as cooking fresh caught sardines over a fire on the beach!
Microwave cooking tips tricks #2 – get the right kind of food
- Microwaves cook by spinning the water, fat and sugar molecules rapidly until the friction generates enough heat to penetrate the rest of the food. So, your food must have sufficient quantities of these to enable the cooking process to take place.
So don’t expect to make a delicious meal out of dried pinto beans! And pastries do not cook well in a microwave either, as they require a hot dry atmosphere – just what you do not get in a microwave!
Microwave cooking tips tricks #3 – beware of hard skinned food types
- As the water temperature rises, the build up of steam creates pressure. If the outer skin of the food does not allow the pressure to reduce, eventually the build up causes a rupture of the outside shell. Eggs in shells and hard skin vegetables like squashes explode.
It is very messy!
In fact this is the very process used in making popcorn. We have a great slow motion video on this site showing the rupturing of the corn husks that happens in the making of microwave popcorn.
Eggs should always be cooked outside of their shells….scrambled and poached are two favorites. One of the most sensible microwave cooking tips is to pierce the yolk of the eggs before cooking, as even they can explode!
Microwave cooking tips tricks #4 – reduce the power
- Thick foods do not cook instantly. The heat is generated only in the first 1⁄2” to 1″ from the outside. Deeper than this and the microwaves have been fully absorbed. So heat needs to travel to the center of the food in order to cook right the way through. For thick portions, one of the best microwave cooking tips is to reduce the microwave power down to 50%, and then to cook everything for longer to compensate.
Microwave cooking tips tricks #5 – forget about browning
- The air in a microwave is not directly heated. The heat generation takes place inside the food. So the air outside the food does not get to a high enough temperature to start the complex chemical processes we talked about earlier, caramelizing and browning.
Of course, this does not apply to convection microwave ovens, where you get the best of both worlds, browning and microwave cooking.
Microwave cooking tips tricks #6 – cut meat into smaller chunks
- Meats are often used in microwave cooking recipes, but bear in mind that thinner portions cook better and more evenly than thick portions.
Microwave cooking tips tricks #7 – vegetables often cook in their own liquids
- Vegetables and fish cook fantastically, retaining all the juices which are normally lost when these types of foods are boiled or simmered. Frequently, the water left clinging to the leaves of fresh green vegetables is enough to steam them.
Microwave cooking tips tricks #8 – don’t get hung up about timings
- The power levels available in microwave magnetrons vary greatly from around 600 watts in low power ovens, all the way up to 1300 watts for some Panasonic microwaves. So microwave cooking times are necessarily imprecise. Use the timings in microwave cooking recipes as a guide only, and use your judgment.
Microwave cooking tips tricks #9 – great for diets
- Microwave oven cooking has great benefits for dieters as no extra fat or oils are used in cooking, and all the nutrients and juices in the food are retained in the cooking containers.
the last words
At its simplest, microwave oven cooking is a process of internal steaming. The oven makes the water content hot enough to steam food from the insides out. So any normal cooking methods that use liquids can be adapted to microwaves. Techniques such as in steaming, stewing, simmering, poaching, boiling, braising, and blanching can all be adapted. Using just some basic microwave oven cookware, you can easily make steamed fish, stewed pork casseroles, simmered soups, boiled rice, poached eggs, braised red cabbage, and blanched green beans.
Also Read: Microwave Oven Inbuilt
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