Microwave ovens are good for much more than just reheating leftovers or cooking a frozen dinner. Cooking in the microwave doesn't heat up the kitchen, it's often faster than a conventional oven, and some foods, like vegetables, retain more nutrients when cooked in the microwave. A microwave provides a quick and easy alternative to some basic cooking techniques.
Microwaves used to be a piece of equipment that was considered a luxury, not everyone had one in their kitchen. But, today most American families own and use a microwave. They are available new from $50 and up. An important thing to think about when choosing a microwave is the size. If you plan on cooking a meal for a large family in the microwave a larger one is important. But, if you are usually cooking for one or two, a smaller one may suffice and save you counter space.
Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven.
Glass, ceramic containers, and all plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use. Check the item or its packaging label to make sure. Plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers should never be used in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to leach into the food. Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving. Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocer bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven. Round dishes are better than square or oblong containers for reheating.
Tips for successful microwave cooking:
Microwave ovens make water, sugar, and fat molecules vibrate and that vibration causes heat. There are some things we have to think about when we cook using a microwave that we don't have to worry about with a conventional oven.
- Most foods are cooked starting at room temperature or refrigerated temperature. If you use frozen foods, it will make the cooking time longer and may affect the quality of the food.
- You usually have to stir the food during the cooking process to distribute the heat more evenly.
- Foods that can't be stirred need to be turned over during cooking.
- It works best to place the food in a circular dish or to arrange it in a circle on the oven tray so that it will cook more evenly.
- If you double a recipe, it affects the cooking time and takes longer.
- The more moisture the food has (think soup), the longer the cooking time.
- The more dense the food (think potato), the longer the cooking time.
- Foods with a higher fat content or higher sugar content heat more quickly. If you substitute low-fat or low-sugar versions for ingredients, a longer cooking time may be necessary.
- Pierce or score foods that are covered with a skin or outer membrane like potatoes and egg yolks with a fork or knife. This prevents pressure from building up and the food from bursting.
- Watch the food as it cooks through the microwave oven door. Hot liquids have a tendency to boil over. Open the door immediately if food is vigorously bubbling and about to boil over but do NOT grab the container. Sometimes you can decrease the power level to 80% to keep foods from boiling over.
- A drawback to cooking meat in the microwave is that it doesn't brown like it does in a conventional oven. You can get that 'browned' look by brushing the meat with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, butter, or spices. Larger cuts of meat that require long cooking times will brown lightly on their own.
Best foods to Microwave:
All types of food and recipes can be cooked in the microwave. Vegetables, meats, soups, and casseroles are all items that most people don't realize can be cooked in the microwave. Here are some tips on how to convert your favorite recipes into a microwave ready recipe.
To convert a one-dish meal recipe for use in the microwave, reduce the cooking time by one forth to one third.
Since there is less evaporation, reduce the amount of liquid ingredients by about one fourth.
Some sources also suggest using slightly less seasoning when making the recipe in the microwave. Taste foods after they are cooked and add additional seasoning if needed.
Pasta, rice, and dried beans must be conventionally cooked before adding them to a dish that's cooked in a microwave.
Recipes for foods that are crispy do not do well in the microwave and should be cooked in a conventional oven.
When doubling a recipe, do not automatically double the time. Increase the cooking time by one half to start. Test the results before adding more cooking time.
For best results, when trying a microwave recipe for the first time, always follow the shortest amount of time given and add extra time if needed. Microwave recipes in magazines, newspapers, and the internet are usually written for 600 to 800 watt ovens. Know the wattage of your microwave oven and make adjustments if necessary. For microwave ovens less than 600 watts, add about 15 seconds for each minute of cooking time. For microwave ovens over 1000 watts, add about 15 seconds for each minute of cooking time. For microwave ovens over 1000 watts, decrease cooking times by 15 seconds for every minute, or use reduced power settings.