The microwave oven is one of the most useful and versatile kitchen appliances on the market. It is portable so it can be used anywhere in the house. It can even be taken on self-catering holidays to ensure you really don’t spend much time in the kitchen. It is quick, easy and economical, because it saves on fuel. It also dispenses with the need to use saucepans and many other kitchen items reducing washing-up. Most foods can be microwave on the serving dish and, because there is no direct heat involved, food does not become burnt on, so dishes are easy to clean.
A microwave oven enables you to cook soups and casseroles, steam puddings, bake cakes and cook vegetables in a fraction of the time it takes using a conventional cooker. With the aid of a microwave browning skillet, meat can be browned and sealed effectively; some ovens are also fitted with a special browning element. The microwave oven is an excellent quick defroster; it can thaw a medium-sized chicken in 15 to 20 minutes and is also ideal for reheating prepared dishes.
How the Microwave Oven Works
When the oven is switched on, the magnetron which is the ‘heart of the oven’ converts the electrical energy into microwave energy and produces invisible waves. These pass down a channel into the oven and are distributed through the oven by a stirrer. The waves reflect off the sides, top and bottom of the oven, and pass through the container and food.
Microwaves tend to cook in a circle, so that the food around the outside edge cooks more quickly than that in the centre. Each make of oven is of course, different, they may cook at slightly different speeds while each will have its own hot and cold spots. To ensure that every part of the dish receives sufficient microwaves, stir or turn the food during cooking.
Microwave ovens which have three or four power levels are usually operated by a pulsator that switches on and off at pre-set intervals of so many seconds. In this way, foods are given short bursts of microwave energy with rests in between, enabling the heat to be distributed evenly through the food.
More sophisticated ovens are also fitted with a probe which is inserted into the centre of the food. This detects when a certain temperature is reached, and ensures that the oven will retain that temperature throughout cooking.
When buying a microwave oven, the choice will ultimately of course, depend on what you can afford as well as just what you expect the oven to do. If for example you don’t mind setting the oven manually with a timer and turning the dishes yourself, you can buy one at quite a reasonable price. These modest types usually have two settings, HIGH and DEFROST.
If you want the oven to have a greater range of power levels and do everything automatically for you including turning the dishes on a turntable, it will of course cost more. The most expensive ovens are a combination of microwave and conventional which may be used simultaneously or separately.