Author: Madhavi Porori
If your kitchen is like most kitchens these days, you've probably got a microwave oven sitting in it. And what do you use it for? Reheating? Melting butter or chocolate when baking? Maybe the kids throw a hot dog in once in a while. Well, if that's how your microwave gets used, you're missing out on a great cooking tool. After all, why heat up your oven when you can do the whole job in the microwave in the time it takes to pre-heat your oven?
A couple of good reasons to use your microwave instead of your oven are that no pre-heating is needed and the cost is greatly reduced. Using your microwave for 100 hours will cost about $7.00 compared to about $70.00 for 100 hours of conventional oven use.
Understanding how a microwave works will also help you rethink using it a little more, too. Molecules of fat, sugar and water within food attract microwaves that reflect against the metal walls of the oven. The molecules begin to vibrate against one another causing friction and that's the heat that cooks the food.
The microwaves can only penetrate food 1-1&1/2 inches so larger dishes need the vibrating molecules to move from the outside edges to the center of the food for it to be cooked. That's why food placement, dish quality and cooking quantity are all important when cooking in the microwave.
Microwaves can pass through plastic, paper, wood and glass but not through metals. That's why you'll get "Arching" or sparking if you put metal in the microwave.
A good rule to remember when cooking in the microwave is that approximately 6 minutes per pound will cook most foods including meat, poultry and fruit and vegetables. Seafood will take less time and reducing the power of your microwave will require longer cooking time. About 20% of the cooking time takes place after the oven turns off so make sure you remember that your food will continue cooking after you've removed it.
You might be used to your ovens temperature in degrees but you can convert your microwave's temperature that is described in power or watts. A microwave on high or 100% power is about the same as having your oven at 425 degrees. A 350-degree oven would be about the same as a microwave at 50% power.
You can determine the wattage of a microwave by placing 1 cup of tap water in a two cup measuring cup. Heat on high for two minutes. If the water boils in two minutes or less, the microwave is probably 700 watts or more. If it takes longer than it is 600 watts or less.
Different foods will require different temperatures to cook properly and while you should follow the 6 minutes per pound rule, add more minutes as you drop the power. Using 50% power, you'd want to cook your food for about 11 minutes. Cooking something that takes an hour in the oven should take about 15 minutes in the microwave.
Here are some helpful hints when cooking in the microwave:
Arrange food in dish so that the thicker part is on the outside and the thinner part inside for more even cooking.
Using a dish with a cone in the center will also help distribute heat evenly.
Let foods such as cakes with baking powder in them stand a few minutes before cooking to allow the leavening agents to work.
Don't use as much liquid -- if a recipe calls for milk and water, cut back on the water. You might want to use fewer spices as well.
Open covers away from you to release steam.
If you cover it in the regular oven, cover it in the microwave too.
Ready to try it yet? Get out your favorite cookbook and get cooking. You'll be saving time and money and still eating those foods you love.
About the Author:
I love to cook. Cooking is an art. http://www.planyourdinner.com