Many of us only use the microwave to reheat food, but follow these tips and you’ll see how handy it can be for all sorts of jobs.
How a microwave works
Microwaves are invisible waves that cause water, fat and sugar molecules to vibrate very fast, producing heat by friction. Microwaves are only transmitted when the door is shut and the oven is turned on.
Contrary to popular belief, heat spreads through the food from the outside to the centre. It penetrates food in a microwave oven from all sides to a depth of up to 4cm.
This is why stirring during cooking and allowing a standing time at the end of cooking is important; it allows heat to spread evenly through the food.
Use glass or toughened plastic (marked as ‘microwave-safe’). Pyrex bowls and jugs are ideal. Never use metal containers or plates with a metal trim.
Choose plastic containers that carry a microwave-proof label. Avoid using other plastic containers such as ice-cream containers and margarine tubs.
How you arrange food in the microwave affects the cooking time. The thinner or more delicate areas of food should always face the centre of the dish.
To keep food moist while it is being cooked, cover it with a lid or plastic wrap. Pierce the wrap so steam can escape.
If a recipe specifies standing time, always allow for this as the food will continue to cook. Once the food is cooked and out of the microwave, cover with foil, shiny-side down.
Follow these steps for creamy microwave scrambled eggs.
Lightly beat 4 eggs with 1/2 cup skim milk in a Pyrex dish or other microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute.
Remove eggs from oven and beat again. A few small pieces of scrambled egg will start to form. Return to oven and cook on HIGH for a further 30 seconds
Remove from oven and beat eggs again. The eggs should look scrambled but still quite wet. At this point, add any extra ingredients (try smoked salmon, smoked chicken, spring onions or a sprinkling of cayenne pepper or paprika).
Cook eggs on HIGH for a final 30 seconds. Give them a final quick stir, then serve immediately.
Making the most of your microwave
Don’t just use it for defrosting and reheating! Microwave ovens can be used in many different ways.
Cooking vegetables Vegetables retain their flavour and colour when cooked in the microwave. Frozen vegetables take 2–2 1/2 minutes cooked on high per 150g serve, and need no added water.
Jacket potatoes For best results, prick washed potatoes all over with a fork and place on a piece of kitchen paper. Cook 1 medium potato on high for 6 minutes or until cooked through.
Cooking fish As a guide, place 125g fish fillets in a single layer in a shallow microwave-proof dish. Cover loosely with the lid and cook on high for 2 minutes until just cooked. Stand for 2 minutes.
Juicier juicing To get more juice from citrus fruits, heat on high for 20–30 seconds before juicing.
Pumpkin peeling To slice through the skin of pumpkin more easily, microwave pumpkin on high for 1–1 1/2 minutes, depending on the size of the pumpkin. This softens the skin, making it easier to peel.
Cooking times and power levels
All cooking times stated in these recipes and ideas are based on an 850-watt output microwave. Use these guidelines to adjust cooking times to your microwave:
650-watt – add 20 seconds per minute 700-watt – add 15 seconds per minute 750-watt – add 10 seconds per minute 800-watt – add 5 seconds per minute
Power levels as a guide:
High – 100% Medium – 50-60% Defrost/low – 30% Very low – 10%