The microwave is familiar to many RVers for quick re-heat of leftovers and warming up coffee or water. Listed below are some tips to make microwaving even more successful in preparing a snack or a meal.
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Starting temperature makes a Difference
Microwave recipes are typically written taking the usual storage temperature of the food item into consideration when suggesting the cooking times. Refrigerated and frozen food will take longer than foods that are normally stored at room temperature.
Microwaves penetrate the food to 3/4″ – 1 1/4″ deep. The microwave energy causes molecules within the food to vibrate and produce heat to cook the food.
Steam builds up in foods that have a tight membrane. Poke the membrane of the eggs with a toothpick or knife. Potatoes need to be poked with a fork or knife a few times. Arrange foods with the meatiest or largest size facing the outside sides of the baking dish. Arrange foods that are equal size around the outer edge of the baking dish, forming a ring with the center left clear and open without food.
Round shaped baking dishes and rings of food cook more evenly because microwaves penetrate from all sides.
Cooking dishes for the microwave
Microwave safe bowls are available in glass, ceramic and some plastics, #5 recycle or microwave bakeware that specify microwave safe.
To cook foods quickly and retain moisture, cover the food with a microwave safe lid or plastic wrap. Vent plastic wrap by folding back 1 corner or edge so that steam can escape. If you intend to steam something like broccoli, place it in a bowl add a few ounces of water, seal with plastic wrap completely and let it steam in the microwave while it cooks in a short amount of time. Wax paper helps hold in heat and prevent splatters and prevents steaming of the food. Paper towels allow microwaves to penetrate the food, absorb moisture in bacon while holding in the moisture of breads.
Density of the Food items
Light porous food like bread, cake or rolls bake quicker than dense food such as potato.
Stir food once or twice during cooking. Start stirring at the outside of the dish and continue stirring towards the middle of the dish. Stir food once more before serving.
When cooking large items like a roast, select a lower temperature to assist in even cooking. Evenly shaped and evenly diced vegetables cook more evenly. Small diced food cooks faster than large diced food.
Smaller servings take less time to cook than larger portions.
When cooking food with a delicate texture, use a lower microwave power. Foods like ice cream, cream cheese, frosted cakes or cream pies should be removed from their original wrappers and placed in a bowl. If you heat milk in the microwave, use a microwave acceptable temperature probe to avoid overcooking
Turning Food Over
When defrosting food especially meat or chicken or other large pieces of food, turn the food a couple of times to assist the frozen food to defrost evenly. Defrost only until they can be pierced to the center with a skewer. If defrosting a whole chicken start the defrost with the breast side down. Shield fatty edges at the top of a roast if this or other meat is warm to the touch half way through defrosting. Follow your microwave manual instructions and USDA guidelines. Not following the guidelines of your microwave manual and USDA guidelines may result in an unsafe condition and could cause sparking or a fire or other adverse situation…. so do your research first! If your research approves using aluminum foil, only use small, smooth pieces of foil adequate enough to shield small areas as chicken wing tips or the top edge of the roast. NEVER let foil get within 1″ of any of the side walls, interior floor or interior ceiling of the microwave.
Food with a lot of moisture cooks evenly because the microwave energy in the cooking is attracted to water molecules. Food with low moisture content should be covered during cooking and given time to rest after the cooking process. This allows the heat to disperse evenly.
Food Resting Time
Letting foods rest after microwaving allows time for the food to complete its cooking. Example. When muffins or cakes have finished baking in the center and a toothpick comes out clean but you notice the top of the cake or muffin is still moist; this moisture dries up during the resting time when the surface finishes cooking!
The resting time of other foods should be followed also. A roast may be somewhat under in temperature when a recipe is followed, but the temperature rises to recommended levels of 5 – 13 minutes during the time the roast rests after microwaving. Be sure to check the internal temperature is at acceptable levels before slicing and serving though.
Things to avoid: Don’t heat food in bottles with a narrow neck like some hot sauces etc. Remove lids from wide mouth jars when microwave warming the jars contents. Never cook an egg in its shell. Microwaving baby food in jars and or baby bottles of milk is not advisable.