Cooking with a Microwave

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microwave.cooking_cAs you probably know, cooking by microwaves is not at all the same as cooking in the conventional way. A microwave is a short-lived, high-frequency electro-magnetic wave similar to the ones which are used for transmitting radar signals. It heats up food by penetrating it to a depth of up to an inch and a half (4 cm) and activating the molecules of water and fat and sugar, making them vibrate at millions of times a second. This produces heat by friction (as you do when you rub your hands together) and this heat travels in towards the centre of the food by conduction, passing from particle to particle, until the centre is reached.

The greatest problem with microwaving is judging the timing correctly, and the usual tendency for new microwave cooks is to overcook the food. Since it is usually quicker to cook this way - especially when dealing with small portions - and the heat generated on the outside of the food is so fierce it travels to the centre fast - you have to remember to remove the food from the cooker and let it finish cooking by leaving it for a brief period of standing time before it is ready to serve. The food - meat, fish, vegetables, a cake - will always continue to cook for a while once it is out of the microwave. So standing time is usually essential - and very useful, since you can plan your time to cook a second dish, or set the table, while the main dish is standing.

I find one main advantage is its speed, especially when the microwave is used in conjunction with my grill; maybe I need to reheat a simple Shepherd's Pie quickly for a family meal. As soon as I come in, I put the pie in the microwave to reheat, and at the same time I turn the grill on full. In 10 minutes, the potato-topped pie is reheated and I then transfer it to brown under the grill. While it is browning nicely, I cook freshly shredded cabbage in the microwave -and the meal is ready to serve in 15 minutes.

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