Microwave Cooking

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Microwave cooking is neither dry nor a moist technique, but electromagnetic. High-frequency radio waves generated in the oven cause electrically asymmetrical water molecules to vibrate, and these molecules in turn heat up the rest of the tissue. Because radio waves penetrate organic matter, the meat is cooked directly to a depth of an inch or so. Microwave cooking is thus very fast, but it also tends to result in greater fluid loss than conventional means. Generally, large cuts of meats “roasted” in the microwave oven get badly overcooked in the outer inch while the interior cooks through; they end up dryer and tougher than standard roasts. Since the air in the oven is not heated, microwave ovens can’t brown meat surfaces unless they’re assisted by special packaging or a broiling element. (An exception to this rule is cured meats like bacon, which get so dry when cooked that they can brown.)