Microwave Cooking Tips

Here is a great infographic about Microwave safety:

Microwave Safety Tips Infographic

Author of the image: State Farm

Microwave ovens are fast, convenient, and a snap to clean up. This is their appeal over conventional ovens. Microwaves differ from conventional ovens by using electrical and magnetic waves to defrost, cook, and reheat some of our favorite foods.

When microwaves hit the food they are absorbed. Microwaves penetrate one inch into food, and if the food is beyond an inch the remaining heating is carried out by conduction where one part of the food heats the next part.

Wattage is important when considering a microwave for your needs. They range in wattage from 500 to 1000 watts. You can tell what wattage you have by reading the owner’s manual, looking on the back of your microwave, or heating one cup water in a glass measuring container. For the glass test, if the water takes over 4 min to heat, then the microwave is less than 500 watts; but if it takes between 3-4 min, you are more likely heating with 500-600 watts, and so on. Like wattage, power settings are important when cooking different items. From defrosting (low power) to cooking (more food = more power).

Operating a microwave oven is a serious matter, which is why owners should always read the instruction manual for tips and safety guidance. Microwaves are equipped with an interlocking system, which is regulated by the FDA to prevent microwave exposure. This interlocking system prevents the microwave oven from operating and omitting microwaves when the door is opened.

Keeping the microwave clean and making sure the seal is intact are vital parts of not only keeping your microwave operational but also to prevent microwaves from escaping. If the microwave is dirty or seal is broken, then you will experience microwave leakage. To test the microwave leakage, contact a certified professional.

Choosing what is appropriate to put in a microwave could be confusing, but remember that metal is the first thing that shouldn’t be used in a microwave. Metals reflect microwaves which is why foil sparks when used to heat food. Choose  containers that transmit microwaves like some plastics and glass.

Not all plastics are microwavable, and they will usually indicate if they are or not on the item. Check any container before using it in the microwave (or any other major appliance like an oven or dishwasher). If the plastic or another material is not microwave safe, then it will melt into the food and expose you to dangerous chemicals. Styrofoam, brown paper bags, and metals are not safe in the microwave and could render the aforementioned results.

Microwave ovens are not perfect and are notorious for uneven cooking. This is why microwaves are equipped with turntables…to prevent uneven cooking by rotating the food during the cooking cycle. There are also other ways in which to prevent uneven cooking (or worse, foodborne illness). If your microwave oven does not have a turntable, you can rotate the food manually at recommended intervals during the cooking cycle. Some foods instruct standing time, or time after the microwave timer has sounded, to continue cooking. Different foods call for different techniques, so be sure to read the cooking directions.

Now that we know more about what we can heat our food in, let’s discuss some good foods to cook in the microwave. Fruits, vegetables, and cereal are great choices for microwave cooking. There are also products on the market to help with microwave cooking. Hot Pockets brand has the crisping package. There are also browning trays for your favorite meats. Although microwaves are a convenient way to cook items for the first time, the most common use of microwaves remains reheating. Be mindful of how much food you cooking or reheating because it takes more energy to cook larger amounts of food.

No matter what the amount of food, some foods are not meant to be cooked in the microwave. Home canned products, canned fruit and sauces shouldn’t be cooked in a microwave oven because they will fall victim to uneven cooking. Stuffed poultry should not be put into the microwave since fat does not absorb microwaves very well, and takes a while to heat. One should never microwave clothes, etc. because they are highly flammable. Baby food shouldn’t be either because the baby could burn its mouth. But if you must, be sure to test it and let it set for the temperature to equalize.

Cooking and reheating in the microwave are convenient, but defrosting may be the microwave’s crowning achievement. Besides hours in the refrigerator and running cold water over a frozen item, there is the microwave that is capable of defrosting tonight’s dinner. To defrost, first remove the frozen food from its packaging, you don’t want to transfer harmful chemicals to the food from a melted package. Place the frozen item on a microwavable dish and select the defrost setting if you have one. If your microwave does not have this setting, then turn your power setting down to 50 percent and select an appropriate time for the food you are defrosting. After defrosting, don’t let the item sit out or you risk food poisoning.

Explosions are not dangerous but create a mess in the microwave. This happens when water in food produces steam and the steam needs a place to escape. Foods with skins or membranes can also explode; examples include hot dogs and eggs. To prevent explosions pierce the object in a number of places and the steam will have a place to escape.

Microwaves are used by both young and old because of their simplicity and convenience. It is important to remember that no matter who you are, everyone should adhere to proper safety guidelines. These guidelines, inclusive of what and what not to put in the microwave, will help prevent appliance fires. Foodborne illnesses are also important to prevent by using microwavable containers and dishes. With all of this in mind, continue to use your microwave safely for all your dietary needs.