Microwaves are popular for cooking and reheating foods, but how do they work? Microwaves use electromagnetic waves to transfer heat into your food. These waves have been used in radar technology since the 1940s, but they’ve only been available for home use since 1945. And while it’s true that microwaves cook your food faster than conventional methods—and can even be used to keep food hot—there are some things you should know before using them.
1. Inside, a magnetron converts electrical energy into microwaves.
The magnetron is a tube that contains a vacuum. It’s the part of the microwave that actually converts electrical energy into microwaves, which are electromagnetic waves. This is how we get our hotdogs to cook in there: microwaves bounce around inside the tube until they hit something with enough energy (in this case, our hotdog), causing friction and heat to be generated.
The vacuum is important because it allows microwaves to bounce around and hit the hot dog over and over again.
The electromagnetic waves inside the tube have a wavelength of 12.24 cm and are generated at 2,450 MHz. This is important because at this specific frequency, microwaves cause water molecules to move around and heat up very quickly.
2. The microwave energy is then directed into the cooking chamber.
The microwave energy is then directed into the cooking chamber. The microwaves bounce around inside the oven and get absorbed by your food. This means that your food is heated from the inside out, which is why frozen pizzas can cook so quickly!
Food molecules are made up of atoms that are held together by chemical bonds, which are essentially electromagnetic vibrations between two different atoms. When you heat up a piece of food in a microwave, these electromagnetic vibrations become stronger—the electrons start to move faster because they’re being zapped by so much radiation at once.
The increased speed creates heat; this is how microwaves cook your food from within!
3. Inside, the microwaves push atoms back and forth, causing them to move at a much faster rate than normal, generating heat.
So in short, when a microwaved potato is placed in front of you at the end of your microwave cooking session (or sooner—more on that later), you’re looking at a hot little ball of matter. But what exactly does the microwave do to make it so?
First off: What even is electromagnetic radiation? It’s exactly what it sounds like—a form of energy found throughout the universe that travels through space as waves. Electromagnetic radiation includes things like visible light, radio waves, and x-rays. When these waves pass through an object such as potato, they interact with its molecules and cause them to vibrate faster than normal, resulting in an increase in temperature—and thus cooking!
Inside each atom are three smaller particles called protons, electrons, and neutrons; they all have different masses but they all have one thing in common: They all have positive charges equal to their respective masses (protons are very heavy; neutrons are somewhat heavier than protons). Electrons orbit around nuclei made up mostly of protons with some neutrons mixed in there too (that’s why some atoms have more mass than others).
4. This heat cooks the food in a fraction of the time it would take via conventional cooking methods (though not as quickly as a toaster oven).
Microwaves heat food by vibrating the molecules within it. This causes them to heat up faster than other methods of cooking, so you can have a hot meal in less time. While this sounds like it would produce unevenly cooked food (like when you hold the spoon in your hand for too long), microwaves actually cook more evenly than other types of heating because they penetrate all sides of your food at once.
Unfortunately, most microwave ovens don’t come equipped with convection fans that circulate hot air around while they cook—but even if they did, this wouldn’t make much difference because microwaves are designed specifically to heat solid objects like meat or vegetables directly through their sides rather than by circulating heated air around them. The only advantage these fans would give is that they could distribute moisture throughout the dish; however, most people prefer a drier texture anyway because it helps retain nutrients better during storage after cooking time has elapsed (and also makes reheating easier).
5. Microwave ovens are more effective at even heating than a convection oven
Microwave ovens are more effective at even heating than convection clear glass cookware is required to allow the waves to enter and be reflected off the walls of the cooking chamber. Otherwise, they might not cook evenly — and could burn your hand if you try to remove your food before it’s done!
The microwaves are reflected off the walls of the cooking chamber, which means that no matter how large your meal is or how well you have it placed in relation to the source of radiation, it will be heated evenly and rapidly. You can watch as one side gets hot while another remains cold — but don’t try to remove anything before it’s finished or you might get burned!
Microwave ovens are effective at even heating because their waves are reflected by walls within their cooking chamber (to get at least some semblance of evenness). In contrast, convection clear glass cookware allows for more direct contact between heat and food items due to its higher surface area; however, this also means that surface temperatures can fluctuate much more dramatically depending on where they’re placed within the vessel — which could result in unevenly cooked meals if not positioned correctly closer toward one side than another (which would affect how much radiation exposure occurs).
Choose your cooking oil
Foods can be cooked quickly in a microwave oven by using some simple tricks. Of course, you should start with selecting glass or ceramic bowl that is very well sealed to avoid any loss of food quality due to moisture absorption.
It’s also important to choose an olive filter over what is labeled “microwave safe.” This material is specifically designed to prevent nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) from being destroyed by exposure to high temperatures when heated in a microwave.
Many glasses and bowls have metallic linings which can both reflect and absorb radiation. Thus it’s recommended to use absorptive materials like ceramics instead.
Next, you need to determine how much food you intend to cook. Since microwaving creates little, individual servings, large quantities will take longer to heat up and cool down than smaller amounts.
Finally, consider the type of food you are cooking and its overall nutritional value. For example, raw chips compared to a meal like broccoli would benefit more from rapid microwave treatment.
Know what will microwave and what will not
A small appliance that can be found anywhere at any time is the microwave oven. Although most people today probably think of it as fast food because they have grown accustomed to eating chips, fries, sandwiches, and burgers, the average person might be surprised to learn that millions of adults still do not know how to make use of one.
From students to professional cooks, few seem willing or able to handle an oven without a guide. Many end up spending half an hour searching for the right setting, getting nowhere with repeated attempts to recreate the experience from someone else’s recipe.
A menu does not become a meal simply by putting something inside your mouth. The real trick is learning how to combine the ingredients in your dish such that you can create a specific taste profile (taste being how we recognize different foods).
That means having some idea about where each ingredient should fall on our spectrum from sweet to bitter; i.e., savory vs. fatty.
Microwaves are helpful because they quickly cook food. But new players in the kitchen include pressure cooking, convection baking, and infrared technology.
Keep an eye on the food
Most microwavable recipes will tell you to keep an eye on their dish while it’s cooking to know when it’s done. Some even need watching.
But I also like to check through holes in the foam plastic that covers the microwave glass window. You can see inside the oven as you normally would, but there is more than one way to check whether your meal is ready.
One of them is to listen to sounds. If you hear a hissing noise, this means that steam is escaping from between the lid and the container holding your dinner. Hissing also could mean that the container is close to its boiling point.
If you hear a ping or a crackling sound, this indicates that parts of your bowl (or plate) are beginning to melt or fry. And if you add too much salt or fat to your recipe, you might get some spectacularly burnt flavor in your food, so pay attention to how your foods taste.
Listen to what they say about these meals (as best as you can). Then stick with those recommendations until you learn why they’re giving you such strange instructions.
Cooking with microwaves is safe and effective, but you need to understand how they work so you can use them properly
When you put food in the microwave, you may think it’s cooking. But it’s actually not—the heating is actually happening on the molecular level.
When you put something in a microwave oven and press “cook,” what happens? The machine emits electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths of about 1 cm (0.4 inches), which are absorbed by water molecules within the food and converted into heat energy. This process cannot be reversed; once those molecules get hot, they stay hot until their thermal energy is transferred away from them to other things or lost as waste heat… which is exactly why your morning coffee tastes so good at work!
The takeaway here is to be aware of how your microwave works, and how to use it properly. You can’t use a microwave to thaw your food or make steamed vegetables, but you can use it in conjunction with other cooking methods—or on its own when you’re in a hurry. And that’s not a bad thing. Learning more about your microwave will help you use it more effectively and safely. It’s just another tool that you have at your disposal.