Microwave

Usually the microwave doesn't produce very good results. The mechanism behind how it heats food is to blame. High energy radiation (microwave) is shot into the food and it causes water molecules to start spinning. The friction in the spinning water translates to heat. It's not recommended for most dishes; however, there is one crucial benefit it holds over the oven or stove...

Heat from a pan or oven enters through the surface of the food and has to conduct to the center. It takes longer and it's hard to tell what's going on inside. You can roast a chicken and it looks beautiful on the outside, but the inside is still raw because of this. Microwaves penetrate much deeper before it is converted to heat. In a microwave there is much more heat originating in the center of the food rather than just the surface.

However, microwaves work high intensity in a short period of time. This rapid process means possible uneven heating. One area could receive more microwaves and heat up much more, you may have to rotate the food halfway.

Practical application: If you are in a rush and bring out chicken that is still raw inside (or the steak is just too rare for you), stick it in the microwave. It cooks the center much faster than sticking it in the oven or stove. Another benefit is that it cooks the center quicker without overcooking the outside like direct heat could. This saved me many times when I thought the chicken was fully cooked and served it.

7 comments:

Sarah Chu said...

Hey Tom,
Is it true that microwaved food is bad for you? I've been eating microwaved food almost every day this week...and the word "radiation" is kind of scary...is it harmful?

tomkim said...

The general consensus in the industry is that microwave, irradiation, and radiation are all safe. There are numerous studies which back this.

Instant, processed foods that are associated with microwave is a different story. There's nothing inherently wrong with the microwave as a method of cooking.

an said...

Thanks for the info! This is a side point. Is it harmful to stand in front of the microwave? I heard this growing up.

tomkim said...

As far as I know, the grill on the window should block all radiation. Something with the wavelength and it not able to pass through, a physics major might explain it better.

sean said...

How about microwaving ramen? Do you recommend that?

maurice said...

Be wary when microwaving water for tea, however! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superheating

Barbara said...

Caution, don't microwave anything metal unless it's labeled microwave safe. (eg, If you microwave a cup with metal trim, you'll see sparks.) Don't microwave anything in styrofoam, which melts easily and releases chemicals into your food. I also avoid using most plastics, which also can leach chemicals into the food when it melts. Use a paper towel to cover the food or use a microwave food cover which doesn't touch the food.