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Your Microwave Questions Answered

By Kristin Sargianis Published

Questions about your microwave? We've got you covered.

We answer your most frequently asked questions about microwaves.

How Do Microwaves Work?

Microwaves employ a device called a magnetron that uses electric current and magnets to generate electromagnetic waves ("microwaves"), which create a field with a positive and negative charge. These charges reverse direction an astounding 4.9 billion times per second.

How Do Microwaves Heat Food?

Microwaves interact with water molecules and, to a lesser extent, oil. When water molecules, which have positive and negative charges, are exposed to the oscillating positive and negative charges of microwaves, they move at the same incredibly fast rate, bumping into one another (and into nearby molecules, such as fats and proteins) and increasing their temperature.

How Do Microwaves Cook Food?

Microwaves strike the exterior of food and in most cases penetrate about an inch into the interior, causing water molecules to heat up. That heat energy then transfers to adjacent molecules, heating the rest of the food via conduction.

Why Is There Mesh on the Door?

The holes allow users to see into the oven, and the metal reflects some microwaves back toward the food. The holes are small enough that microwaves can't fit through.

Why Is the Interior Metal?

Microwaves bounce off the metal surfaces, back toward the center of the oven.

Why Do Microwaves Have Turntables?

By rotating the food, the turntable helps microwaves reach—and heat—more of a food's surface.

How Does the Power Level Work?

When you lower the power level in a microwave, you decrease the amount of time the magnetron stays on. So, at 50 percent power, the microwave will emit electromagnetic waves for about 30 seconds out of a 1-minute cooking time by pulsing on and off intermittently. 

How Can I Clean My Microwave Easily?

Microwave 2 cups water at full power until steaming but not boiling, about 2 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes. Steam will loosen dried, stuck-on food. Wipe clean.

Tips for Heating Food Efficiently in the Microwave

  • Stir or Flip Often

    Movement allows the microwaves to hit new parts of the food and promotes heat transfer via conduction.

  • Cover Food

    Using a plate or an inverted bowl to cover the food traps steam, which provides more cooking via conduction.

  • Let Food Rest

    Letting food rest for a few minutes after cooking it allows hot and cool spots to even out through conduction.

Are There Kitchen Gadgets That Help Cook Food in the Microwave?

Equipment Review Microwave Chip Maker

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Equipment Review Microwave Pasta Cookers

Do any of these gadgets simplify and speed up the pasta-cooking process?

Equipment Review Silicone Microwave Lid

The Japanese-made Piggy Steamer, a 7-inch circle of thin silicone with a thicker, raised center shaped like the face of a pig, turns out to be not only whimsical but also functional.

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JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.