Microwave Oven – What it is and How its Used

what is a microwave ovenDid you know that the first microwave ovens were offered for sale just after the end of World War II in 1947? Called “radar ranges“, they utilized the same identical radar technology as applied in World War II operations.

Short radio waves, referred to as microwaves pass through a magnetron tube or a wave-guide and directly into the microwave oven cavity.

When these short radio waves come in contact with food, they react to the water molecules within the food creating a rapid vibration. The friction between molecules during this vibration begins heating which in turn starts to cook the food. This is what establishes the cooking process.

How Food is Heated in a Microwave Oven

How food is heated is determined by the food’s moisture content, shape, volume, and amount put in your microwave oven.

Did you know that metallic materials, placed in a microwave oven, will totally reflect microwaves? When metallic objects are exposed to microwave energy and can’t absorb it — it creates sparks or arcing when the microwaves bounce off.

The sparks produced through arcing are intense, concentrated heat elements that can damage the parts and components they come in contact with inside your microwave oven. This can diminish the safety measures put in place when your microwave was first manufactured.

Besides damaging components, you also run the risk of fire with arcing. Your Owner’s Manual will suggest what kinds of utensils and containers may be used for your specific model.

Microwaved Food is Affected by Cooking Containers

microwave glass turntablePlastics, glass and paper containers, typically used, are partially transparent to microwaves allowing them to penetrate the container. When the microwaves get to the food they can start the cooking process.

While glass is probably your best cooking option, plastic containers are often used. Take care when using plastic because charring or melting due to overheating can unleash unintended consequences — harmful by-products of the melting can get absorbed by the food.

For example, heating or reheating leftovers, on the wrong power level, in a Styrofoam container can cause the Styrofoam to become too hot and melt.

As the Styrofoam collapses, even in a small area, it also leach dangerous chemicals into the food you are trying to reheat — don’t place yourself at unnecessary risk when reheating.

It is Not Just Metal at Risk in a Microwave

All non-metallic materials can be used inside a microwave is an assumption made by a lot of users. This is inaccurate and here’s how you can tell if a container is microwave oven safe:

  1. Fill a container you want to use in the microwave with one cup of cold water.
  2. Place that container on a microwave-safe plate.
  3. Set your microwave on high for 30 seconds.
  4. If the suspected container is hot in areas not directly touching the water, then it’s probably not safe for microwave use.

Why What’s on a Microwave Glass Turntable Matters

Be cautious with your microwave glass turntable as well. Cooking directly on your microwave turntable plate can pose dangers. Make sure your food is inside a safe container on the turntable plate.

A thermal shock may occur by superheating the glass turntable in spot locations, such as when cooking bacon on a paper towel rather than on a microwave-safe plate. And never, clean a hot microwave turntable plate.

Cooling down the turntable glass plate first will not expose a hot glass plate to the cooler temperatures with water or cleaning solutions. It’s best to clean the turntable plate after it has cooled, even if it means you need to soak it so it doesn’t get damaged.