Microwave Oven 101

by - July 08, 2014

It is no secret that I am in love with my microwave oven.
And, yes, there is much controversy over microwave cooking. So this post is meant to clear up some misconceptions, to tell you what I personally think about the whole she-bang and to just impart some of my microwave-guru knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. Well, two. Because that I only have access to a microwave in college.

Myth numero uno: Microwave ovens emit radiation which can cause cancer
Microwave ovens actually use non-ionising. Non ionising radiation has enough energy to move things around inside a cell but not enough to change cells chemically. Thus, it is unable to change the DNA of cells causing them to become cancerous. There is, as always, an exception to this rule. UV rays are non-ionising and do cause cancer. However, there has been research into whether microwave ovens are like UV rays, and so far there have been no evidence that this is so.
Microwave ovens produce magnetic fields which affect the body less the further you stand from it, and this effect does not last very long in the body. Many experts say that microwave radiation is not strong enough to damage DNA, and thus could not cause cancer.

Myth number two: Microwave ovens make food radioactive
All microwaves do is heat food by causing water molecules in the food to vibrate via non-ionising radiation. This vibration raises its temperature and thus cooks the food.

Myth number three: Microwave ovens remove any nutritional value from food you are cooking in it
This is not true if you do not overcook the food, overcooked vegetables and fruits will lose their nutrients no matter how you cooked them. In addition to this, microwaves actually help you to retain the nutrients in fruit and veg if you cook them in no water, thus nutrients do not leech out of the food and stay packed up in it, which leeches out into YOU instead when you eat them. Fab, no?

If you want to know more about microwaves and cancer, go here.

Right, no onto microwave RULES to live by, follow these to ensure your food is as good-for-you as possible and to avoid any -er- microwave mishaps (nobody likes those little sparks that fly whenever you don't microwave according to the rules)

Rule one: Only use glass or ceramic in your microwaves.
I strongly encourage you to follow this. This is the golden rule.
Emma Bridgewater bowls are a personal favourite, but it is completely up to you.

Metals and microwaves are a no-no. You want to avoid sparks/fire/explosions? Do not stick anything moderately metallic in your microwave. If it has got a metal handle / coating / little deco bits, it is not allowed in our microwave any under circumstances
Plastics without a 'microwave friendly' label on them will leech tons of plastic chemicals into whatever you are cooking, and may even melt in the microwaves, releasing toxic fumes. Even if you have microwaved with it before without knowing it was not microwave-friendly, do not ever use it again.
Plastics with a 'microwave friendly' label on them are regulated by an authority and cannot leak chemicals beyond a certain threshold. So what does this mean? It does not leak many chemicals into your food, but it DOES still do it. Even though the amount is very small, think about how often you microwave and this amount does build up. Older plastics may even leak more. So better to be safe and avoid plastics.

Rule two: Never desert your microwave, especially if it is the first time you are using it to cook a particular item.
Certain items, like popcorn and oatmeal should never be left alone. Nobody likes crusty oatmeal that has overflowed or the burnt smell that charred popcorn gives (does. not. get. out. of. hair.).
Eyes like a hawk, grasshopper. For items like oatmeal and veggies and kale chips, stop it every minute or so to give it a swirl around. This ensures both even heating/cooking and prevents burning/overflowing.

Rule three: When unsure, google
If this is the first time you are microwaving something, and if it is something you have never heard of being microwaved, do a quick online search. For those of you that eat eggs, whole eggs in the microwave only result in scrambled eggs--all over the interior of your oven. Things like grapes, raisins, hot peppers, onions, your pet cat... the list goes on. Especially if the food is very dry (dehydrated veg etc). Remember how we talked about microwave ovens using water molecules if the food to heat it? Well things can go south if you give your microwave oven no water to work with. For dryer vegetables, and if you have no intention of making kale chips, maybe add a tablespoon of water or so.
Here is a cheat sheet I have grabbed from pinterest for veggie cooking times in the microwave:

Rule four: Microwaves vary
If you see a recipe calling for a one minute cooking time, take it with a pinch of salt. Microwaves are all unique and I do suggest you keep an eye out while using the suggested times as a rough guide.

Rule four: Size matters
A small carrot cube will take a shorter time to cook to perfection than it's larger counterpart. So if time isn't on your side, spending an extra minute or so chopping your food into smaller pieces will probably save you more time in the long run

Rule five: Starting from the middle
Microwaves tend to heat up food in the centre first and this can overcook once the rest of your food has cooked through. So, when possible, place your carrot slices in a ring equi-distant from the centre of the microwave plate. For things like soup of oatmeal, stop constantly to give it a stir.

Alrighty then. Now that you are well acquainted with the rules of your microwave oven, it is time to get cooking. There are tons and tons of microwave recipes in the interwebs. Although many of these may not be vegan-friendly or good for you. I am alway inventing new ways to cook foods and recipes in the mircowave, so I have built up quite a collection. Here are some of mine. If there is anything you are DYING to make in the microwave, let me know! I am always up for a challenge.

1. Microwave Kale Chips
2. Microwave Savoy Cabbage Chips
3. Pancakes in a Jar
4. Curried Kabocha
5. Microwave Popcorn
In a ceramic microwave-safe bowl, place unpopped popcron kernels. The amount you add is dependent on the size of your bowl, but for an average sized bowl, I usually add about 4 tbsp of kernels. Place in your microwave and top with a plate which is large enough to completely cover the bowl of the bowl. Now microwave on the highest setting for about 3 minutes, keep an eye on the bowl throughout. Stop the microwave once the popping has become very infrequent, or when the plate on the bowl is being pushed up by the popcorn under it. Let the bowl cool with the door ajar, or handle with a cloth. Season as you wish.

6. Flax Seed Crackers
Mix equal parts of flaxseeds, ground flax and water and stir well. Salt and season to taste, I like to add garlic salt. You can even make it sweet with a pinch of cinnamon and coconut sugar. Spread onto a oiled ceramic or glass plate, forming a thin consistent layer, microwave on high for about five minutes, checking constantly. Remove from oven and allow to cool, it will harder as it cools. remove from plate and break apart.

7. Oatmeal / Buckwheat Flake porridge
Mix one part oats to slightly more than two parts water, I use a 1/2 cup of oats and slightly over 1 cup of water or almond milk. Microwave on high for about 4 minutes, stopping every minute or so to stir. Towards the end, check every 30 seconds. It is done when the oatmeal rises slightly and becomes airy. 

8. Granola
Stir one cup of oats with 3 tbsp of agave, and 1 tbsp of coconut oil. I like to add a dash of cinnamon but you can add coffee powder, spices, vanilla... stir it up and microwave on high for about 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Keep an eye on it towards the end by stirring every ten seconds. Then cool it and you can add raisins

9. 'Baked' Oats
Mix 1/2 cup of oats with 1/2 cup of water, and one flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal, and 3 tbsp water). Mash in a banana and stir, and sweeten it if you desire. Add a pinch of baking soda and stir well to make sure baking soda is mixed well and the oatmeal will rise evenly. Microwave for 3 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to make sure it doesn't rise over the top of the bowl. let cool then top with more fruit and eat!

10. Lentils

Soak 1/2 a cup of lentils in 1 1/2 cups of water overnight. Drain the next morning, place into a large bowl with 3 tbsp of water, 1 tsp of curry powder, salt to taste. Microwave on high for five minutes or until lentils are cooked through, you can test this by eating a lentil, if it still has a raw taste, continue to cook. Stir the lentils every 30 seconds while cooking.

11. Cauli-rice
If you have a powerful food processor, chop the cauliflower up into small florets then blitz until it resembles cous cous. Then add salt and pepper, and microwave fro about 3 minutes or until well cooked.
If you do not have a good food processor, microwave the small florets for 2-3 minutes or until tender, then blend until it forms 'rice'. Alternatively you can use a cheese grater, although this requires much more elbow grease! I prefer the first method because the cauli-rice is less watery and more fluffy, but both are pretty good.

12. Tofu Scramble
Take a block of extra firm tofu and mash well with a fork until it has the consistency of cottage cheese. Add some turmeric, salt, pepper and dried herbs and a splash of almond milk. Stir well then microwave on high for about 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. This goes perfectly with microwaved flax crackers :)

There we go! I have a few more recipes for microwave cupcakes and desserts which will be coming up soon (read: when i get my lazy arse to open lightroom and edit my photos properly)

I hope this was useful, leave a comment if you want a microwave-take on your favourite dish

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  1. So many wonderful tips, wish I had this some years ago when I lived in uni halls with no kitchen!

    1. why thank you :) It is never too late! Microwave tips are always needed when you are in a bit of a tight fix and have no time to whip something fancy up

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