Microwave Cooking - Thoughts/Comments

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Chief Longwind Of The North

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Ah yes; the microwave oven. How does it work? Is it safe? Does it destroy, or damage nutrients/enzymes?

Let's talk about this for a minute or two. First, microwaves are called microwaves because the frequency of electromagnetic radiation creates very short Sine Waves, or waveforms. It is the same energy used by RADAR (Radio Ranging And Detection), and television/radio waves. The only difference is th frequency, or sine waves/cycles per second (Hertz).
Low frequencies produce long sinewaves. As frequency increases, the sine waves grow shorter. Infra-red heat is another form of energy that produces heat. It is, however light energy, again in the lower frequency range.

How do microwaves create heat? - Microwaves, like all electro-magnetic energy, pass through sild objects based on their density, metallic content, and other factors. Ever notice that inside a metal structure, or in a dense forest, or even hilly terrain, your cell phone reception is weakened, or even completely gone? The trees are absorbing those radio waves produced by the tower, or in the building, the metal is doing the same.

We had a U.S. Airforce Radar base in my home town for many years. As the
parabolic dish revolved, and pointed in you direction, that Radar beam (radio wave) would create a little hum on every TV and radio for 25 miles. It was said that it's output power was so great, that if you put a cow in front of the transmitter, the whole cow would be cooked in a few minutes.

Well Microwave ovens have special electronic devises inside them (klystrons, or magnetrons) that produced the same radio frequencies as that humongous radar did, only with much less power.

As the microwave energy passes through foods, the moisture molecules inside the food is excited on a molecular level, creating friction, which in turn, creates heat. The heat cooks the food.

It has been said that microwave ovens cook the food from the inside out. Whoever started that rumor knew nothing about energy transfer. Just as with convective, conductive, or radiated heat, the food heats first on the outside. However, the microwave energy is passing through the food and so heats it more evenly, all the way through much more quickly.

About those vitamins minerals, and enzymes; The only portion of them that is affected, is that portion that is denatured by heat. For example, the is an enzyme found in pineapple that breaks down meat tissue. It is sometimes used in meat tenderizers That same enzyme will stop gelatin from setting, and so raw pineapple cannot be added to gelatin products, such as Jello, Gummy Bears, etc. Once pineapple is heated to a certain temperature, that enzyme is broken down, or denatured, and loses its ability to tenderize. As mentioned by Andy, foods cooked in the microwave, in water will lose water soluble vitamins and minerals, just as if they were boiled on the stove top.

Think of it this way; heat is heat, whether it comes from conduction where a pan sits on a coil burner, radiation (heat from oven, burning things, or radiant ceramic coils, or even induction stoves, is the property of thermal energy entering a substance. Cold is the removal of thermal energy from a substance. What causes the energy transfer really doesn't matter, though some forms of heating produce unique flavors, such as grilling over hot coals. Often the time it takes to produce the desire amount of heat is more important than the heat itself, i.e. low & slow, moist and slow, boiling, par boiling. hot and dry, etc.

I think people are confused because of the word radiation. The term is used in many forms, with each having a different meaning. When we talk about nuclear radiation, we are talking gamma rays. When the bomb is detonated, or when the power plant melts down, radioactive isotopes are spewed over a wide area. The particles are radioactive, or emitting gamma rays. The gamma radiation passes through the body, and dislodges DNA, destroys cell walls, bone tissue, and can produce severe burns. But once it passes through, it's gone. You don't become radioactive. But the dust and minute particles that are radioactive can become lodged in your clothing, hair, and on your skin. The continue emitting gamma radiation.

Electro-magnetic radiation does not disrupt DNA/RNA chains, nor does it stick to your body. There is are no particles emitted, and so, no left over radioactive particles.

Think about the word - radiate. It means to move in all directions from the center.

I know, Lon-winded. Now you know how I got my DC Moniker. I do hope this helps everyone understand microwave ovens a little better.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
 

dragnlaw

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Quote... Chief... "But once it passes through, it's gone. You don't become radioactive. But the dust and minute particles that are radioactive can become lodged in your clothing, hair, and on your skin. They continue emitting gamma radiation."
*****
Aha! thank you - that I did not know!

and so many people still believe that the object is cooked from the inside out - after all these years!

My understanding is the only reason (for eg.) vegies are more nutritious done in the micro is because the speed at which they are cooked causes less leaching of the good stuff.
In other words they are exposed to the heat which cooks them for fewer minutes ergo more nutrients are left in.

but I might also add - a lot of times they just don't look as good done in the micro without extra care to doctor them up.
 
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Chief Longwind Of The North

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Quote... but I might also add - a lot of times they just don't look as good done in the micro without extra care to doctor them up.

True. There is no Milliard reaction to brown the food,, or develop the flavor from it. Also, no caramelization, which browns sugars. like an erupting volcano, abd can splash onto you, causing scalding.

Seeeeya: Chief Longwind of the North

If you place the wrong kinds of materials into a microwave oven, bad things can happen, arcs & sparks with metals, fire with certain fabrics, water eruptions if the water is super heated before moving. Be careful with straight, pure water, as once it goes past boiling temperatures, and still hasn't boiled, as soon as the vessel is moved, and the water is jostled, it will release energy like an erupting volcano. The splash can scald you. So be careful removing hot water from your microwave oven.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
 

dragnlaw

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Yes, it has happened with my brother and coffee.

Guess he over heated it, when he took it out and dropped in a sugar cube. KABOOM! neither of us got scalded - just lucky.

I wasn't in the room when I did mine, Accidently set minutes instead of sec. When I came back the cup was dry and the inside of the micro was dry too - complete with dried coffee everywhere!
 

GotGarlic

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My understanding is the only reason (for eg.) vegies are more nutritious done in the micro is because the speed at which they are cooked causes less leaching of the good stuff.
In other words they are exposed to the heat which cooks them for fewer minutes ergo more nutrients are left in.
Not quite. If the veggies are not cooked in water, there is nothing for the nutrients to leach into. Heat can damage or destroy some nutrients, but it can also make others easier for the body to absorb.
 

pepperhead212

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The main things I use the microwave for are steaming things, like veggies, and reheating and sometimes thawing the countless leftovers I eat. And sometimes just to take the chill off of cold dishes, so the dressing isn't congealed (and I'm too impatient to let it sit at room temperature to do that!). But there are a couple of things I have found the MW useful for - making candies, like nut brittles and English toffee, using a glass pyrex pitcher, and making cooked curd cheese, like mozzarella, finishing it by using the MW to heat the curd several times, before stretching it.
 

Roll_Bones

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I am going to give the lowly microwave some chances in my kitchen.
I am seeing uses I never considered. And if it helps make the job easier, I am all in.
Like yesterday, I spent much of the afternoon preparing for vegetable plates. Like you would get in a good home cooking place. Butter beans, Fried potato's, Tomato and onion salad loaded with fresh herbs from the garden and crispy fried zuchinni.
Each dish had its very own sequence and it for sure tired me out.
Fortunately I made enough for today. No cooking today!

Note: Its not as much the prepping and cooking food. Its the darn dishes.
 
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Chief Longwind Of The North

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Last nights supper was Zucchini And lamb. The lamb was fried in oil, with seasonings in a heavy pan. The ends were cut off of the zucchini, and it was then cut in half lengthwise, and put onto a microwave sage dish, the one that I ate off of. It was cooked oh high in the microwave for 1 minute, 30 seconds. It was juicy, perfect in texture(not rubbery, or mushy, with a bit of crunch left), and when a little butter was pit on top after cooking, was the perfect accompaniment to the lamb.

Corn cooked in the husk, green beans, butter beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots with a little honey and butter, potatoes, sweet potatoes, the list goes on; all are delicious when prepared in the microwave oven.

The point of this is that veggies cooked in your microwave oven, when timed properly, can be nothing short of spectacular. All of the flavor is still there, with the texture and nutritional value at its peak. It's a far more useful appliance than most give it credit for. It should be another great tool in your cooking arsenal.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
 

craftybrat

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I love my microwave and can cook 90% of my meals in that thing.
That said there are limits to it, just like any method of cooking.
I usually cook my potatoes in there and 'brown' my ground beef for spaghetti sauce and such. Mac and cheese sauce is good there. Even rice can sometimes be good cooked in there.
I have been dubbed the zapping Queen sometimes by friends and family.
I hate breads cooked or even heated in it and while it cooks cakes and such they are better in a 'regular' oven.
I prefer my soups and such homemade and slow cooked, but reheated is fine in the microwave.
I even figured out how to take mine camping with me.
 

GilliAnne

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I have two microwave cookers which are actually combis - one a microwave/grill combi and the other a microwave/grill/oven combi - and both are used a lot in this house. The only problem is, they don't come with much by way of instructions when cooking particular foods in combi-mode. I just use the different modes separately, but would like to find out, for example, how long to cook sausages for, in combi-mode, as that is quicker than either grill or oven.

I really need a new regular cooker - only one ring works well and is a decent size, the grill hasn't worked for years and the oven is not very sufficient.

Gillisn
 

GotGarlic

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I have two microwave cookers which are actually combis - one a microwave/grill combi and the other a microwave/grill/oven combi - and both are used a lot in this house. The only problem is, they don't come with much by way of instructions when cooking particular foods in combi-mode. I just use the different modes separately, but would like to find out, for example, how long to cook sausages for, in combi-mode, as that is quicker than either grill or oven.

I really need a new regular cooker - only one ring works well and is a decent size, the grill hasn't worked for years and the oven is not very sufficient.

Gillisn
Are you on Facebook? It seems like there's a group for every possible make and model of almost every machine ever invented [emoji16]
 

skilletlicker

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Chief, I tried to read the whole original post; unsuccessfully. My loss, no doubt.
My microwave is underused. Heats a cup of milk or a single tortilla. An occasional frozen burrito, about the only junk food I eat.

As for browning. In the seventies, I think, we had a microwave platter of some kind that got hot enough to brown meats. My recollection of this and everything else from that decade is pretty fuzzy though.

Re nutrient loss during cooking. I measure macro and micronutrients consumed as best I can and purty surely covered on that score. But I've heard that vitamin c takes the biggest hit during prolonged cooking so I add a lime slice to every beer. :)
 

taxlady

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A microwave oven is good for many things that would otherwise be done in a double boiler.

I make pudding in the microwave. I haven't done it on the stove top in probably 20 years.
 

GilliAnne

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Are you on Facebook? It seems like there's a group for every possible make and model of almost every machine ever invented [emoji16]

No, I'm not on Facebook. I did a Google search and found advice that said to reduce the cooking time by a quarter. Now I want to find out by how much I should reduce the amount of fluid used when required.

The annoying thing about all this is that I used to have a lot of microwave instruction and cookbooks and somewhere in there was instructions for adapting traditional recipes to microwave-mode, but I gave them all away a couple of months ago in a fit of decluttering.

Gillian
 

skilletlicker

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...

The annoying thing about all this is that I used to have a lot of microwave instruction and cookbooks and somewhere in there was instructions for adapting traditional recipes to microwave-mode, but I gave them all away a couple of months ago in a fit of decluttering.

Gillian

Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone
:)
 

Sir_Loin_of_Beef

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Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone
:)
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot. ;)

I don't normally cook anything except corn on the cob in the microwave, but once I was in a hurry and put a sweet potato in the microwave and set the timer for 10 minutes. About 6 minutes in, the sweet potato burst into flame. :devilish:

It took weeks to get the stink out of the microwave.

Now I just use it for defrosting and re-heating leftovers.
 
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Chief Longwind Of The North

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They paved paradise, put up a parking lot. ;)

I don't normally cook anything except corn on the cob in the microwave, but once I was in a hurry and put a sweet potato in the microwave and set the timer for 10 minutes. About 6 minutes in, the sweet potato burst into flame. :devilish:

It took weeks to get the stink out of the microwave.

Now I just use it for defrosting and re-heating leftovers.

Both microwave potatoes, and sweet potatoes can be wonderful from a microwave. Hot dogs and sausages, even bacon, retain their natural flavor. tomato based sauces do well, but need to be covered to avoid making a mess. Lasagna is a good candidate, as is mac an cheese. Other good things from the microwave:
summer squashes, winter squashes, chicken and dumplings, quick chilli (meat must be browned on the stove, bean soup, pea soup, boiled dinner, some fish and seafood recipes, hot open faced sandwiches with gravy, ham, and cheese sandwiches, Hot/warm Italian subs, cooked puddings, and custards, some types of cakes, good for tempering chocolates, or making ganache, or panacotta, or even flan.

There are many more cooking chores that a microwave will do, allowing you more options on your stove. You could make turkey dressing in the microwave, or bread pudding, and free up oven space for other casseroles/ sides.

So use that appliance. You paid good money for it, and considerable engineering went into it.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
 

dragnlaw

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I find that people don't seem to use the "power" setting.

I might heat a plate or bowl for 5 minutes but on 'Power Level' 6 or 7, depending. Same as putting it in a pot on a low burner.

Not everything has to be zapped on HI, nor should it.
 
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