Microwave Cooking Techniques

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Microwave-Cooking-TechniquescIf your microwave has a turntable, rearrange foods halfway through cooking by turning them sides-to-middle. Place a single dish in the centre of the reach turntable, or arrange individual dishes or portions evenly spaced in a circle round the edge of the turntable. Microwaves cook the outsides first and tend to fizzle out as they the centre of the cooker. This is why you should always arrange foods with the thickest part to the outside, and the thinner ends towards the centre.


Estimating the cooking time

It is always safer to aim to undercook than overcook, so cook the food in short stages, testing each time you take the dish from the cooker. It is always possible to give the food a little longer, but once it has been overcooked there is little that can be done to rescue it. Always cook for the shortest stated time and test with a fork or skewer. Remember to allow for the dish to finish cooking during a short period of standing time.

Estimating the power level for cooking

As a general rule, food which can be cooked at high temperatures (such as foods which normally require boiling) can be cooked at Full Power (100%). More delicate foods, such as egg custards, should be cooked on Medium (50%) or Low/Defrost (30%), as they would be on a lower setting in the conventional cooker. In a microwave, though, it is misleading to think of temperature (heat). Though foods get hot, they are cooked by bursts of microwave energy.

Foods unsuitable for microwaving

To my mind, meringues are far better if made in the conventional way. Don't attempt to hard-boil eggs (they can be done, if the shells are pricked, they are wrapped in foil and immersed in water, but it's such a fiddle . . .), make Yorkshire Puddings (they won't rise), or deep-fry anything in hot fat (you can't control the temperature).

Cooking techniques

If your microwave has a turntable, rearrange foods halfway through cooking by turning them sides-to-middle. Place a single dish in the centre of the reach turntable, or arrange individual dishes or portions evenly spaced in a circle round the edge of the turntable. Microwaves cook the outsides first and tend to fizzle out as they the centre of the cooker. This is why you should always arrange foods with the thickest part to the outside, and the thinner ends towards the centre.

If your microwave has no turntable, reposition the food two or three times during cooking, in addition to following the guidelines above. This helps the food to cook evenly and guards against the 'hot spots' which some cookers do have.

Stirring and turning and rearranging: always stir foods regularly during cooking. Turn the dish, or the pieces of food, to the centre halfway through the cooking time and hold the lid and shake the dish to level out something like a cauliflower as it is cooking. Whisk sauces, too, after cooking.

Shielding: always shield thin end, heads and tails of fish etc. with small strips of foil. Microwaves cannot pass through metal and the food is therefore kept from further cooking.

Even shapes: foods of an even thickness cook better, so arrange wedge-shaped portions alternately, tuck ends of fillets underneath the thicker part of a fish, or protect the thinner ends as above.

Covering: cover any foods which usually require a moist cooking method (vegetables, casseroles) with a layer of clear film or a lid. Always make sure there is room for steam, which collects under the lid, to escape during cooking (some microwave cookers calculate the cooking time automatically by 'sensing' the amount of steam in the cooking cavity). Turn back a corner of the film, or pierce it in several places with a fork or knife. Make sure that a lid is not tight-fitting.

To prevent foods from bursting

As steam collects inside foods just under the skin, always prick those foods which have a membrane or skin (egg yolks, sausages, whole potatoes) with a fork or cocktail stick, otherwise they will burst. Always slash the skins of whole fish, too, in two or three places or they will also burst under the pressure of the steam inside.

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