Microwave Cooking: The Basics

Microwave Cooking: The Basics Image

Everyone knows that microwave ovens are fast and easy to use.  But did you know that it’s important to consider the shape of your microwavable container or that salt can cause food to dry out?  Read on for more tips and ideas that can help you make the most of your microwave.

  • Arrange evenly sized pieces of food in a circle for more even cooking, or if food happens to be different sizes, place thicker pieces toward the outer edges and smaller pieces toward the center. 
  • When cooking foods that have a skin or some other type of shell or coating, pierce the outer layer. This will help to keep food from exploding as a result of steam that can build up from the inside.
  • Choose a microwave container slightly larger than the dish required for cooking the recipe in a conventional oven.  Make sure your container is labeled for microwave use.
  • Using containers that are round or oval in shape can help to heat food more evenly. With square or rectangular shaped containers, the corners tend to receive more energy, which can cause food to overcook in these areas.
  • Many recipes and packaging labels provide a cooking time that is expressed as a range (e.g., cook 3-5 min. on High) rather than an exact time period. To avoid overcooking, it’s a good idea to check the food at the lower end of the suggested range (in this case, 3 minutes). You can always decide to cook it longer.
  • If your microwave does not have a turntable, stop and rotate the food at regular intervals to promote even cooking.  Use an oven mitt and be careful not to burn yourself while rotating the dish.
  • When using the microwave to partially cook or defrost your food, transfer food directly from the microwave to your oven, stove or grill. Do not keep partially cooked foods in storage for later use.
  • When deciding whether a lid is necessary, remember this rule: If it’s covered in the oven, it’s covered in the microwave.
  • In addition, covering food with lids or plastic wrap can help foods retain moisture and cook more evenly. Remember to allow a small gap between the food and the lid or wrap, and leave one corner open to allow steam to escape. 
  • After cooking, lift container lids and wraps carefully and facing away from you, so that hot steam is released safely.  Be careful not to burn yourself.
  • Salt on the surface of food tends to attract microwaves, which can dry out the outer layer. If salt is desired, sprinkle it on the food after removal from the microwave.
  • To clean stuck-on foods and grease from inside your microwave oven, heat two tablespoons of lemon juice in one cup of water on high for 2-3 minutes until boiling. Do not open the door for five minutes after heating as the vapors from the liquid will help lift tough grit and grime from microwave surfaces. 
  • Similarly, heating lemon juice in the microwave can help get rid of tough odors.  Mix ½ cup lemon juice with 1 to 2 cups of water, cover and heat on high for approximately 5 minutes.   Allow the mixture cool before removing.   For really stubborn odors, repeat as necessary.  You can also do this with a whole lemon.  Just squeeze the juice into the water, then cut up the rind and add it as well.

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