How Does a Microwave Oven Cook Food?
Regular ovens cook food by first heating air, which then heats the food. A microwave oven cooks by creating heat inside the food. Microwaves are pulses of electromagnetic energy that are beamed into food by an electronic device.
As microwaves pass through food, tiny molecules of moisture rub against each other, causing friction. The friction creates heat, which cooks the food. (Rub your hands together quickly, and you’ll feel the same friction heat.)
Microwaves heat foods containing water, sugars, and fats. They do not heat glass, paper, or plastic food containers. So microwaves are very energy efficient; they don’t waste energy heating everything in the oven.
Microwave ovens have two main sections, the control section and the high voltage section. The control section includes a timer, a system to control power output, and safety systems known as interlocks. The high voltage section includes parts that step up the power from the usual household amount of one hundred fifteen volts to a tremendously high three thousand volts!
Microwaving your food is the easiest and quickest way to prepare a meal. You just put in the food, press a button or two, and in a minute or so you have hot food ready to eat. Microwave ovens can be great time-savers. Total cooking time can be much less, allowing for greater retention of nutrients. A hamburger, for instance, cooks in only four minutes.
However, most consumers manage to overcook their food by leaving it in the microwave too long or by using too high of a power setting. The solution is simple and as important for safety as for good eating. Use the appropriate power setting for the food you’re microwaving, and make sure you read the manual!