Most of us could never imagine life without a microwave. And, if you were around in the 1970’s, you likely remember the first time you used a microwave oven to pop popcorn or heat up a frozen dinner! Today over 90% of American households are equipped with a microwave. In honor of this influential and life changing appliance, National Microwave Day is celebrated on December 6th each year.
While simple to use, many take the microwave for granted. To get the most from your microwave, consider these 10 simple tips.
- Spread it Out: Microwaves warm food in the outer layers of food first, then transfer the heat to the middle. Spreading food out evenly on the plate or microwave container will allow foods to cook more quickly and evenly.
- Let it Stand: The heat generated during the cooking process continues to spread after the microwave stops. As a general rule, allow a couple minutes of standing time for plated meals, keeping the plate covered to avoid heat loss. This allows time for the middle of the food to finish cooking and prevents the outside of the food from burning or drying out.
- Consider the Container: Food in the corners of square or rectangular containers tends to receive a more concentrated dose of microwave energy, which can leave a meal dry and overcooked. If heating up a casserole, opt for a circular or oval dish for more even cooking. And, if heating a container of food, consider transferring to a plate or to a rounded dish.
- Power Level Matters: Use a high setting to heat items up that have a high-water content, such as soups. Turn down the power when reheating ready meals, leftovers, and foods that require slower cooking such as casseroles or meat.
- Cover Up: Keeping food covered with a microwave safe lid while cooking will trap steam, help hold moisture and stop food from drying out up the cooking process. This simple “fix” will not only make food taste better, covering the food will keep the microwave cleaner by minimizing food splatters.
- Divide and Conquer: For quicker cooking, consider heating food up in batches rather than one large container.
- Stir or Turn: Remember, the microwave cooks food from the outside in. To avoid those dreaded cold spots, try to stir or turn food at least once during cooking. When cooking a food that cannot be stirred, such as a burger, flip it over midway through the cooking process.
- Defrost with Care: When defrosting, be sure to turn the foods at least once – or more, depending on the size of the item. This will help avoid foods that are frozen in one spot and cooked in another.
- Be Careful: Things may not be as they appear when watching things through the microwave door. Liquids like soups and sauces can reach temperatures above 100°c in the microwave, without appearing to bubble or boil.
- Be Safe: Using a container of the wrong material can stop your food cooking correctly, damage your microwave or even make food unsafe to eat. Likewise, some containers can get very hot.
While each microwave is a bit different, the principles remain the same. Microwave away and celebrate the day.