Microwaves are super popular. Nearly every home I’ve been in recently has one. People usually associate microwaves with convenience as they are far and away the fastest way to heat most food. Unfortunately, they’ve long been shunned by the culinary world. High end classically trained Chefs have turned their nose up at the notion of microwaved food on television. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a Gordon Ramsay shame someone for even having a microwave. I’m not sure if this is done because old school Chefs do not understand how a microwave works or for another reason but its caused the general public to think microwaves are incapable of producing delicious food.
How it works
Microwaves essentially work by producing electromagnetic waves that interact with polar molecules (mostly water) in food. By causing these polar water molecules to oscillate at a ridiculously high frequency, the electromagnetic waves increase the temperature of the food by using the food itself.
Why its better
The classic technique for boiling or steaming vegetables or any other food item is to wait until the water is as hot as possible before dropping the food in. This is because the longer the vegetable stays in the water, the more flavour and nutrients dissolves into the water. In fact, slowly simmering bones or vegetables is exactly how you extract the most amount of flavour when making a stock. Water can only exist in a liquid state up to 100 degrees celsius so there is a limit to how fast an ingredient can be cooked. Therefore, there inevitably is going to be some flavour and nutrients lost.
Microwaves aren’t perfect but they cook food faster than any other method and the water that is cooking the food is inside the food itself so the flavour and nutrients is not extracted. This results in the most vibrant and nutritious result unmatched by alternative classic cooking techniques.
Have you ever tried cooking something in the microwave from frozen? If you have you probably remember because the result is quite startling. If you haven’t, what happens is parts of the food ends up being fully cooked while other parts of the food remains completely frozen.
This is because of the fact that frozen water has a different atomic structure than liquid water. Frozen water does not interact with the microwaves. The liquid water ends up cooking food near these molecules very quickly while the rest of the food is untouched. The defrost setting is simply the magnetron in the microwave oscillating between being on and off. This allows for small increments in cooking around the liquid water molecules which in turn provide enough heat to melt the frozen parts of the food. This allows for more even heating than the standard microwave setting.
Hopefully this has shed some light on the microwave, an appliance that has been grossly misunderstood for years.