Whether used occasionally for a bag of popcorn on movie night or religiously to prepare nightly TV dinners, the microwave is a fixture in just about every kitchen. First sold in 1947, the microwave oven wasn’t a common household item until the late 1960s. Chances are you’ve warmed up coffee, soups and snacks in your trusty microwave plenty of times over the years. But does the countertop contraption remain poorly understood and underestimated?
ChefSteps writes that microwaves can outperform conventional techniques when it comes to vegetables, quick soups and fried snacks (the team also shares some of its favorite microwavable recipes). First up is a look at how exactly the devices work — essentially, microwaves cook food by producing invisible electromagnetic waves (“microwaves,” duh) that force polarized water molecules within it to oscillate. These waves leave the magnetron and are distributed by a device called a waveguide into the oven chamber. In most models, a fan helps scatter the waves so that they are evenly distributed throughout the food. Still a bit confused? The video below breaks down the process simply.
So is this cooking method safe? The short answer is a resounding yes. Contrary to popular myth, microwave radiation is not related to nuclear radiation whatsoever. The ovens use the same kind of electromagnetic radiation as visible light and radio waves, which has nothing to do with radioactivity. But do they destroy all the nutrients in food? Again, this idea is nothing more than a myth. In fact, microwaving often preserves more nutrients than other cooking methods. The longer and hotter you cook something, the more nutrients you lose. Boiling and pressure-cooking can also result in the loss of additional nutrients to the surrounding water.
ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. The site is currently offering a free online class called Cooking Sous Vide: Getting Started, as well as a $10 class called Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics.
Check out these ChefSteps cooking lessons on Food Republic: