How to Cook With Microwave Ovens

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Microwave ovens have revolutionized American food preparation. Follow these few simple rules and your microwaved food will be perfect every time.

Things You'll Need

  • Microwave oven
  • Microwave safe containers
  • Hand protectors to handle hot containers

Perfect Microwave Meals in Minutes

  • Choose the right foods for your microwave meal. Use microwave ovens to refresh restaurant leftovers, create fabulous food from your freezer and prepare pantry products everyone will love. After some successful meals, you may want to try more creative recipes from scratch, but you never have to take cooking classes to use your microwave successfully if you follow a few basics.

  • Know what happens inside your microwave oven for best results. Radio waves inside the oven are absorbed by water, sugar and fat. Once absorbed, these waves are turned to heat. Because the radio waves are not absorbed by most ceramics, plastics or glass, these containers work well for microwave cooking. Waves are reflected by metal, so metal should not be used in a microwave oven.

  • Watch your cooking times closely and don't cook too long. Food cooks fast from the inside out in a microwave oven. The radio waves heat water, sugar and fat inside your food all at once to cook quickly. Large amounts of food will heat simultaneously but unevenly, which is why you may need to stir or rotate the food. Never cook in a microwave as long as you would in regular ovens, on grills or stove tops or by other cooking methods. They all require heat to migrate from the outside until food is cooked all the way through to the middle, which takes much longer. With all cooking methods, food continues to cook after you remove it from the heat, so don't overcook.

  • Select foods that are low in water content and not crispy or crusty for best results. Good restaurant reheating candidates are recipes containing rice, noodles, light sauces, or smaller pieces of meat and vegetables. Avoid soups, crackers or chips, and meats with bones. Asian and Italian dishes microwave better than burgers, hot dogs and French fries. Mexican foods made with soft tortillas are excellent in the microwave, but hard shell tacos or nacho chips become soggy. Frozen foods and pantry products are best cooked following the microwave cooking directions on their packages. If the package doesn't provide microwave instructions, it's best not to try to cook that product in the microwave as the results may disappoint.

  • Use your microwave to prepare almost anything from scratch if you wish, but results may be different from other cooking methods. Potatoes, tomatoes, squash and other thick skinned foods will trap steam when cooked in a microwave, so pierce them first and don't expect the skins to be crunchy. Cheese can be melted between two slices of bread in the microwave, but it won't be grilled to a golden brown. Pies, cakes and other baked goods will cook, but they don't brown and textures are different.

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for using your microwave. Microwaves are not all the same.
  • Follow the directions for microwave cooking on the recipe or food product for best results.
  • Don't overcook. As with all cooking, the food will continue to cook after the oven stops.
  • Microwaved food can get very hot. Be sure to protect yourself by using hot pads to remove items from the oven and open lids to direct steam away from your body.
  • Do not use metal in your microwave oven. No foil or metal trays.

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