Conventional Ovens have had significance in cooking for centuries. Ovens made up of brick and wood which were used before are still used for their authentic taste and quality.
Microwave Oven was invented during World War II by an American Engineer Percy Spencer. These are not only used for heating leftovers as it is generally thought of. It has many uses,read on to know.
If you are someone who is planning to buy or even bought a new microwave then this ultimate guide on how to use microwave oven is for you. Read this guide if you are a beginner and we also have some expert tips, jump over to the tips section to find them.
How does a microwave oven work?
Before using a microwave oven we need to know its basic working. The microwave heats your food without getting hot itself. It does this through radiation, the same way as the sun heats your body.
Microwave ovens use high-frequency electromagnetic waves. The same as that of TV and radio, these are very small and hence the name ‘Micro’. Although the waves are small they carry enormous amounts of energy.
These are absorbed by the food particles, causing the particles to vibrate. This vibration leads to heating of the food particles. Microwaves do this without heating the surrounding air or oven itself.
Types of Microwave Ovens
Solo Microwave Oven
Solo Microwaves are ovens that are basic models and are cheaper. These ovens are entry-level models that are mostly used for heating leftovers. They can also be used for defrosting, and other basic cooking.
Grill Microwave oven
As the name suggests grill microwaves are for grilling meat, veggies, pizza, and others. These have heating coils that help in grilling and toasting. If you have a grill microwave then I am sure it requires a lot of cleaning and maintenance. Jump over to cleaning section to get some cleaning tips.
Convection Microwave oven
Convection ovens are sophisticated ovens that perform all the cooking functions that you need in your kitchen. Convection ovens have fans that circulate the air throughout, cooking the food uniformly. Baking bread,cakes, and brownies can all be done in this type of oven.
Microwave Oven vs Convection oven
Convection is a type of oven that uses a different heating method than that of a microwave. Convection ovens use a heating element and a fan that circulates the heat throughout.
Convection ovens cook food faster and more evenly than microwave ovens and hence considered to be better than them. Although there are combinations of both in the market, Microwave convection ovens. Which uses both the heating element and microwaves to heat the food. This guide addresses to all the types of ovens.
And it is a myth that microwaves cook food from inside out and convection the other way round.
Setting up a microwave oven before using
Before using a microwave oven there are some important factors to keep in mind.
You must go through the instructions manual. These are provided by the manufacturer for important stuff that you need to follow. Also these instructions change with the product.
Setting up the oven
The microwave oven must be placed on flat surfaces. Also ensure you have a designated place in the kitchen which is dry and clean. And ensure it is near a plug socket for the electric connection, as frequent moving of the oven can be tedious.
The socket must not be generally used by other appliances. Also make sure that you do not use an adapter or an extension cord for electric connection. The turntable provided is to be placed properly inside the oven, as per instructions.
Now as the microwave is set up, let’s look at the Preheating aspect.
Preheating(why, how, when and how long)
Preheating the microwave oven is like heating a pan before cooking or frying. The preheating process ensures that the oven reaches a certain temperature before you cook. Preheating is generally done for baking and grilling. As a cold oven can take time to reach the desired temperature levels and hence affect the cooking.
The preheating process is easy and requires you to switch on the baking mode(or set the temperature). Set a timer as per your need and start.
Preheating is usually carried out for 10-15 minutes, depending upon the model. Older models need more time and new ovens available in the market heat faster. They also need less time to reach the desired temperature. Usually, the temperatures required are in the range of 200-300 degrees Celsius.
Do’s and don’ts of Microwave Oven
A microwave oven is an electrical appliance that requires care. I have included some dos and don’ts that you must take into consideration.
- Use the microwave in a clean place.
- Preheat the oven as and when required.
- Clean the microwave frequently(Once or twice in a week); Use a clean damp cloth, soaked in detergent or just water. Clean the transparent glass after every use.
- Read and follow instructions as per instructions manual(manual is your bible)
- Use microwave-safe containers. For example ceramic, glass and other microwave-safe plastic containers(labeled by manufacturers)
- Stir the food as necessary, heat the food for a minute or two and remove it to check if it’s warm enough, if not stir the food and reheat it for another minute.
- Do not overstuff the oven with food, only heat what is needed; Overstuffed oven could lead to uneven cooking and thereby wasted energy.
- Do not put the food inside the oven uncovered, always cover the food with a plastic cover that is microwave safe. This could avoid splattering.
- Do not open the oven for repairs if you are not an expert.
- Do not use the oven for experiments. Use it safely and with guidance from experts and elders.
Uses of Microwave Oven
I always believed that if you want to heat your leftover food quickly then you gotta get a microwave. Well, the microwave ovens that are available now in the markets are much more advanced and do a lot more than just heating the leftovers.
Reheating leftovers, warming butter, chocolate, and coffee are also the most common uses of the oven.
Microwave can cook food too, be it dessert, chocolate peanut butter cake, to traditional Indian curries, the microwave does it all.
Boiling, blanching, roasting, and steaming food items are some of the common cooking options that you can get with a microwave oven. New microwaves have different presets for specific recipes and are heavily marketed by companies.
Baking is another popular use of a microwave oven and hence is used to bake cakes, cookies, and bread. Baking cakes find a popular use as many including me and you love cakes and pastries. The microwave makes it easy to bake these cakes and need very little time to bake. Another favorite being pizza comes under baking.
You can roast your favorite nuts easily in the microwave. Just pop some nuts into the microwave and set a timer of 15-30 seconds, stop and repeat until your kitchen fills up with the aroma of roasted nuts.
Similarly, spices can be easily roasted and are faster than the stove.
Blanching is a process of putting the vegetables in boiling water and running the vegetables through cold water immediately after. Thereby allowing peeling of the skin of the fruits and vegetables easily. Tomatoes can be blanched easily in the microwave and need half of the time.
Defrosting as the name suggests is freeing the vegetables, meat from accumulated ice. In other words thawing.
Some microwaves have a preset option of defrosting and do well in doing so. Reducing all the water running and endless wait for melting of the ice.
There are many other uses of microwave ovens and you will be shocked by some and wonder if you could actually use a microwave for this.
- Warming hair oils
Microwave with instant heating can warm up your oil instantly without a fuss and warm oil is considered best for the scalp.
- Bringing back the crunch in chips and mixtures
Microwave ovens are best in crunching back the potato chips and mixtures that must have taken in some moisture. Place the chips in a towel in the microwave and switch it on for 30 seconds. The towel soaks up all the moisture and voila your crunchy chips are back!
- Decrystallizing Honey
Place the crystallized honey in the microwave for 30 seconds and your honey is back in its true form.
A microwave oven comes with many functionalities and let’s look at some of the most important ones and its uses.
By far the most important and basic functionality is the Timer. The timer allows you to set the time interval for your cooking and usually the timer is preset to a minimum of 15-30 seconds. It lets you set and forget, without you worrying about the food burning or wastage of energy. Always use a timer to set a designated time for a particular recipe.
Microwave Presets(Auto Cook)
Presets are nothing but timers that are designed for specific dishes and recipes, you just have to select the recipe and the weight. The microwave then will automatically set the power and cooking time. Feel free to use this function and enjoy delicious dishes.
Wherein the oven is started empty for it to reach the desired temperature that is needed for the recipe. Usually carried out for cakes, cookies, and grilling.
Melting the ice from the frozen meat or vegetables, ovens have preset functions for defrosting. Defrosting with a click of a button.
Child lock makes your microwave-safe around children. This function disables the buttons. And if your kid clicks on a button it will not take in that command until you disable the lock. A very helpful functionality if the kids are around.
There are many other functionalities such as steaming, which helps you steam/simmer your food. Specially noodles, rice, and vegetables. Cooking power can also be controlled using the oven wherein it allows you to set the power levels from 10-90%.
Some premium models have turntable off functionality. In which you can stop the turntable from turning, this is usually ‘on’ by default.
+30 Seconds button adds in extra seconds. that controls your cooking time, use this function when you know that your food needs an increase in cooking time, to get perfectly cooked food.
Like most kitchen appliances, a microwave oven must be used with care. Before you heat the food or defrost you have to use microwave safe cookware. Regular cookware that does not microwave safe may harm the food and in turn you.
Microwave cookware is one that can sustain the microwaves and not get affected. The material should not get deformed, become too hot or release chemicals upon heating. The microwaves must pass through the cookware and heat the food.
Microwave safe materials are ceramic, glass, special plastic bowls, and paper. These allow the microwaves to pass through and heat the food. Not all ceramics are safe, stoneware and porcelain are considered to be safe. Although the metallic paints used in certain porcelain cannot be used as it may cause sparks. Even paper(plates) and napkins must be microwave safe.
To check whether material is microwave safe, place a cup of water and the cookware you want to test in the microwave. Run the microwave for a few seconds and check if the cookware gets too hot, if it does then it’s unsafe.
The shape of the cookware also affects the cooking. A square-shaped container may get the food overcooked, hence round shaped containers or plates are the best.
Microwave Cooking Tips
Microwave cooking is different and it is a skill. Here are a few tips that will make your job easy.
- Power setting
When you start the microwave without any power setting, it will be in a high power setting by default. Use the power settings as per the need. For example, cooking meat would require you to use 100% power, whereas defrosting will only need 30-40% of power setting.
When you say 30-40% power setting it means that the heating is on for 30% of the time.
- Work with your microwave
By working I mean is you gotta know your microwave well, its power, setting, auto cook, and others. You have to experiment with your microwave, try different recipes and dishes, and get familiar with your new microwave. It takes time and ample dishes for you to completely understand your microwave. Give it time and you will see it become your best kitchen companion.
- Use water for more moisture
This one is an expert tip wherein you place a wet or moist towel or paper into the microwave with your food to add in some extra moisture. You can raise that a bit by using a glass of water but be careful of superheated water.
- Arranging foods accordingly
It is always advisable to arrange your food at the edges or shape it like a ring with open space between. This would allow your food to cook evenly. Keeping the bowl full of leftovers on the edge of the turning plate would also ensure even heating.
- Stir, Turn, rotate, repeat.
When working with a microwave, take in mind to constantly stir, turn, and rotate the food for uniform heating. You can divide this at equal intervals or as you feel comfortable.
- Thinner the food the better cooking
Microwave finds it tougher to penetrate thicker foods, instead, you can cut it down into pieces and allow the microwave to heat.
Safety of Microwave Oven
There are certain things that you must take care to ensure that you use the microwave safely. Protecting yourself and the environment around you.
- Using the right cookware
I know this point is stressed a lot and hence it is very important to use microwave-safe utensils and cookware. Look for microwave safe sign.
- Avoid sharper metal objects
Avoid putting sharper metal objects into the microwave as it would cause a spark and hence a fire or explosion.
- Avoid sealed foods
Sealed packaged food directly into the microwave will cause it to explode and harm the appliance. Instead, empty the food into a microwave-safe bowl and then microwave it.
- Superheated water
Avoid heating the water into the microwave for more than two minutes. Above which the water may get superheated and can splatter the walls of the oven, damaging it.
- Free environment
Make sure you don’t place anything on top of the oven because this is where all the heating takes place, or place it near a hot surface. It would result in microwave overheating and hence damaging.
Cleaning Microwave oven
I have made this a section itself because many do not consider cleaning their microwaves a thing. But if the appliance is dirty with splattered food inside and the dust settled outside, it needs cleaning.
The key to keeping microwaves from dirt and smell is regular maintenance. A gentle wipe after every use works wonders and if not weekly cleaning is essential.
- With a lemon
Lemon is best for getting rid of smell and bacteria. Take a microwave-safe bowl, squeeze a lemon or lime slice and then start the oven for a minute or until steam forms. Let the steam rest for 2 minutes and then wipe the inside of the oven with a sponge or damp cloth.
Repeat the same step as above using a dash of vinegar instead of lemon.
- Baking Soda
If your microwave oven smells a lot then you can also consider baking soda. Add a teaspoon of baking soda into a microwave-safe bowl containing water and microwave the solution until the steam forms. Clean it using a damp cloth after a while.
For tough stains or grease, make a baking soda paste and apply it to the greasy area. Clean off the paste with a damp cloth.
Cleaning outside is easy with a damp cloth, preferably soaked in soap water or dishwashing liquid.
Using a microwave is not a complex thing, but it needs your time and patience. Try different recipes with a microwave and find your perfect settings for it. You will learn more about your microwave as you go along. And most important is cleaning, remember to keep the microwave clean and hygienic.
If you have any hacks or tricks then do let me know in the comments.