How Does a Microwave Oven Work?

I wouldn’t be without my microwave oven it is a kitchen work horse. This is on my list of must have kitchen appliances. I work it hard mainly to reheat foods I have already prepared, reheating ready made foods and cooking certain vegetables that benefit from microwave cooking.

As I watch the microwave oven turntable going around I often ponder….. how do microwave ovens actually work.

What are Microwaves?

Microwave ovens cook and heat your food by blitzing it with electromagnetic radiation of extremely high frequency. The electromagnetic waves are produced by a magnetron held inside the workings of the oven. These electromagnetic waves are safely contained within the cooking area of the oven, and are sent into the microwave oven to cook the food.

How Microwaves Cook your Food

These electromagnetic microwaves work by causing the water molecules in the food to vibrate and this vibration produces heat with in the food. The microwaves can only penetrate foods with a high water content up to about 1 inch.

If you notice from your microwave oven cooking manual there are a lot of instructions on how to use the your oven effectively.  For example the if you are cooking chicken breasts the advice is to place the breasts on the turntable so the thickest part is facing outwards. Another example is reheating foods like a stew in a bowl, this should be taken out of the microwave oven a regular intervals and stirred this ensures even cooking.

High fat foods have to be dealt with differently as the fat will reach a very high temperature. If you have ever tried to cook bacon in a microwave oven and over cooked it you will know what I mean. It can just take a few seconds over the optimum cooking time to burn the bacon!!!!

Microwave ovens are poor at cooking foods that have that brown and crispy finish you get from a conventional oven. For this reason you can buy combination microwave ovens with that incorporate a convection oven or broiler element. Also you can buy microwave accessories that will heat up and produce that “oven baked” taste.

Do you need a Microwave Oven?

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  • Microwave ovens certainly make reheating food quick and easy, my guess is this is what they are used for 90% of the time. So if you need to reheat food regularly then a microwave oven is pretty much essential.
  • You eat a lot of ready meals.
  • If you want to cook a meal from scratch you will need a have a combination microwave oven.
  • If you eat popcorn regularly you will find the microwave oven is great for popping popcorn.
  • You want a dinner fast on the table when you come in from work…
  • I find my microwave oven very useful for heating up dinner plates.


Further Information and Resources

How does a Microwave Oven Work – Video’s



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