Secrets of Microwave Cooking

Cooking with a microwave oven is easy to take for granted. Just put food in and push a button, right? Or is there more to it? This article and video gives you 66 tips for the best ways to cook using your microwave. So let’s go through each of them now:


  1. The most common “cold spot” for a microwave is in the center of it, so arrange evenly sized portions of food spaced in a ring around the center for more even cooking. Or if food happens to be different sizes, place the thicker portions toward the outer edges.
  2. Salt on the surface of food tends to attract microwaves, which can dry out the outer layer. So if salt is desired, sprinkle it on the food after removing it from the microwave
  3. Add about one-third less water when cooking recipes in your microwave versus your stove, since microwave cooking takes less time and therefore results in less evaporation.
  4. Microwave radiation can only penetrate about 1 to 1-1/2 inches into your food, and then the heat is conducted inward. This is why keeping even sizes, proper placement, and standing times are so important when microwave cooking.
  5. Using containers that are round or oval in shape can help food heat more evenly. With square or rectangular shaped containers, the corners tend to receive more energy, which can cause food to overcook in these areas (helpful accessory: round microwaveable containers).
  6. To keep foods like sandwiches, french fries, bread rolls, etc. from getting soggy when heating in your microwave, you should wrap them in a dry paper towel to absorb the moisture when they are being heated (see costs and reviews of paper towels).
  7. When cooking on any other power level than HIGH, the oven cooks by cycling power on and off, so the energy has a chance to move through the food without overcooking.
  8. Using your microwave for 100 hours costs only about $7.00, compared to about $70.00 for a conventional oven.
  9. Most recipes are developed for use in a 700-watt oven. If yours is a different wattage, here is a chart that will convert cooking times for you
  10. Never pile food one on top of the other. Food cooks more evenly when it is spaced apart in a microwave.
  11. Contrary to popular belief, microwaves don’t actually cook food from the inside out.
  12. Microwaved foods should be allowed time afterward for the heat to continue to spread and dissipate. This is called ‘standing time’, but it is actually when up to 20% additional cooking occurs. This is especially important when cooking large or dense foods.
  13. Microwaving works best with foods that cook well in moist heat: chicken, fish, ground meat, vegetables, sauces, and soups.
  14. Pay careful attention to arranging the food, stirring, rotating, and standing time instructions in microwave recipes.
  15. Portions that are about equal in size and shape will cook more uniformly in your microwave.
  16. To add moisture to leftovers, wrap them in a damp paper towel when reheating them in your microwave.
  17. Using your microwave versus your oven in summer can especially save energy because it does not require pre-heating, cooks your food quickly, and cooks without heating up your entire kitchen.
  18. You can determine the wattage of your microwave, according to the University of Tennessee, by placing 1 cup of lukewarm tap water in it, and then with it uncovered, turn your microwave on it’s highest power setting, and then watch until the water starts to boil. If boiling occurs in less than three minutes, the wattage of your microwave is likely 600 to 700; three to four minutes, the wattage is likely 500 to 600; more than four minutes, the oven wattage is likely less than 500 watts.
  19. You should defrost foods separately from cooking them in your microwave. Defrosting in a microwave generates significant moisture, which needs to be cleared out of your oven before you start cooking.
  20. Microwaving with a cover holds in steam which tenderizes the food, shortens cooking time, and cooks more evenly. Remember to not allow the cover or plastic wrap to come in contact with the hot food, and be sure to leave an opening to allow excess steam to escape (see costs and reviews of: microwavable coversmicrowave-safe plastic wraps).
  21. One of the advantages of using your microwave is that it does not need to be pre-heated.
  22. Use a high setting (100 percent power) for soups, beverages, fruits, vegetables, fish, ground meat, and poultry.
  23. Use a medium-high setting (70 percent power) for simmering stews.
  24. Use a medium setting (50 percent power) for baking bread, cakes and muffins, and cooking less tender cuts of meats.
  25. Remove food from packaging before defrosting in your microwave.
  26. When cooking in a microwave a good rule of thumb is that most foods require 6 minutes per pound to cook, but seafood will take less time. However, you will need to adjust this for the particular wattage of your microwave.
  27. You can drain food of fat as it cooks in your microwave by placing it in between two paper towels.
  28. You do not have to add oil to keep the food from sticking to the pan when cooking in a microwave because foods do not tend to stick in the moist heat of microwaving.
  29. Avoid food spatters by placing paper towels, microwave-safe plastic wrap, or wax paper over the top of open cookware. But be sure to vent plastic wrap so steam can escape.
  30. Choose a microwave-safe container slightly larger than the dish otherwise required for cooking the recipe in a conventional oven.
  31. If the food has been cooked with a cover, leave it covered for the standing time while heat spreads throughout the food. If it was cooked uncovered, then after it is removed add a loose covering of foil to retain the heat during the standing time.
  32. If you would cover it in the regular oven, then you would typically cover it in your microwave too.
  33. If your microwave does not have a turntable, to ensure even cooking throughout your food, you should stop and shift around the food at regular intervals, especially when cooking larger portions of food.
  34. Many recipes and packaging labels provide a cooking time that is expressed as a range (for example: cook 3-5 min. on HIGH). To avoid overcooking, start with the lowest time shown in a recipe, since you can always cook it longer if needed.
  35. Avoid coating meat with flour if you will be adding liquid for cooking, as the coatings will become soggy.
  36. Do not cook large cuts of meat on high power (100%). Large cuts of meat should be cooked on medium power (50%) for longer periods. This allows heat to reach the center without overcooking outer areas.
  37. Drain fat from hamburgers by microwaving them in a plastic colander placed on top of a dish or bowl.
  38. Let foods such as cakes with baking powder in them stand a few minutes before cooking to allow the leavening agents to work.
  39. Potato chips (or crackers, cereals, etc.) that have lost their crunch can be placed on paper towels in the microwave oven and heated briefly. The paper towels will absorb moisture and restore the chips to crispness.
  40. Remove large bones from meat before microwaving it because the dense bone may keep the area around it from cooking.
  41. Vegetables cook best if they are cut into pieces of about equal size.
  42. When cooking potatoes or other thick-skinned foods such as squash, tomatoes, or fruit in your microwave, be sure to pierce the skin to release steam.
  43. You can thaw frozen juices by removing the metal lid, placing the cardboard cylinder package in a microwavable container and heating on high power for approximately 30 seconds for 6-ounce containers, and 45 seconds for 12-ounce containers.
  44. If you are cooking an assortment of vegetables, arrange large or tougher vegetables (such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli etc.) toward the outside of the plate and small or tender ones (peas, mushrooms, etc.) in the center so they finish cooking at the same time.
  45. Use as little water as possible when microwaving vegetables, to help them retain as much water-soluble nutrients as possible.
  46. There’s no need to rinse or add any water when using frozen vegetables, as they already have enough frozen moisture in them.
  47. To get more juice from your oranges or lemons, before squeezing them, heat them in your microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  48. You can cook corn on the cob in your microwave by first rinsing the ears in cold water with the husks on. Heat in the microwave on high for up to six minutes for two ears and up to eight minutes for four.
  49. A cake cooked in your microwave rises higher than in a conventional oven.
  50. Add cheese and other toppings near the end of cooking to keep the top from becoming tough or soggy.
  51. An omelet is best cooked at 50% power (medium). If cooked at 100% power (high), the edges may be done before the center and become leathery by the time the whole omelet is done.
  52. Don’t season vegetables with salt until after cooking them in your microwave. Salting beforehand could leave brown spots.
  53. For stamp collectors: Place a few drops of water on the stamp to be removed from the envelope. Heat in the microwave for 20 seconds and the stamp will come right off.
  54. Melt chocolate squares by heating at full power for approximately 45 seconds per ounce of chocolate.
  55. Milk-based foods tend to boil over, so use a larger and deeper container.
  56. Soften a chilled or frozen stick of butter by reducing power to 50% and heating for approximately 40 seconds.
  57. Soften a stick of butter or margarine by reducing power to 20% and heating for about 1 minute.
  58. Soften hard ice cream by microwaving at 30% power. One pint will take 15 to 30 seconds; one quart, 30-45 seconds; and one-half gallon 45-60 seconds.
  59. To plump dried raisins and other dried fruits, measure one cup of dried fruit and sprinkle with two tablespoons of water. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and heat on high for approximately 30 seconds.
  60. To soften a box of hardened brown sugar, you can place a dampened paper towel in the box, close the box tightly, and put the whole thing in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds on high to soften the sugar.
  61. Vegetables can be steamed in the microwave in just a few minutes with no added fat. Simply chop vegetables as desired, place in a microwavable container with 1-2 Tbsp. of water and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cook on high until soft.
  62. When heating cream or sour cream, lower the power to 50-75% to help avoid curdling.
  63. When peeling foods such as tomatoes or peaches, heat for 30 seconds on high, then allow to stand for 2 minutes. The peels will then slip off easily.
  64. When peeling garlic or onions, snip off the ends and microwave for approximately 10 to 15 seconds to make the job easier.
  65. You can make breadcrumbs in your microwave by cutting bread slices into cubes and microwaving on high until hard. You can then crush the cubes in a re-sealable plastic bag to make the breadcrumbs.
  66. You can soften Jell-O that has set up too hard, by heating it in your microwave on a low power setting for a very short time.



We hope these 66 tips have given you some helpful ideas for the best ways to cook using your microwave oven.


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