Reconsidering Microwave Ovens

This is going to drive Catherine’s ghost bonkers, but I think I might be coming around on microwave ovens.

I’ve never owned a microwave.

Sure, I’ve used one three or four times: a couple of times in the hospital, maybe a couple of times in a hotel room.

But I’ve always been deeply suspicious of them: fire, I have always said, is an element I can get behind.

A mysterious metal box that cooks food, but not containers? That’s voodoo.

Catherine never shared my deep suspicions: she kept a microwave in her studio, and would have eagerly added one to our kitchen had my veto not made this impossible.

On Sunday, though, I had supper with my physicist friends, the two people on Prince Edward Island perhaps best able to explain how microwave ovens work, and why I do not need to suspect them.

Microwave ovens, it seems, just make water vibrate, and when it vibrates, it heats up. And because food has water in it, the water heats up the food around it. That is all.

I’m reconsidering my position.

Bill and Michelle's microwave oven


Signe Andersen's picture
Signe Andersen on February 12, 2020 - 10:37 Permalink

I'm glad you got an explanation - I was going to comment just that. ๐Ÿ˜‰
You will also notice how liquids and foods with higher water contents will heat up quicker than items with a lower water content. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Eg. if you are reheating leftover mashed potatoes and gravy - the gravy might be bubbling, but the mash is still cold in the middle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on February 14, 2020 - 10:05 Permalink

Congrats! Better late than never

Kathryn's picture
Kathryn on February 14, 2020 - 11:28 Permalink

Peter, I must tell you that due to your technical knowledge on so many other subjects (that I know nothing about, usually), this really surprised me! I imagine that you have not been alone in this non-understanding; I just read a piece about someone whose boyfriend told her to pre-heat the microwave before putting in a cup of water for tea. . (and then laughed). I had an Amana Radarange (how is that for a scary name?) in my office test kitchen in 1980 and then got a Panasonic microwave at home in 1981 - one of the early huge ones that cost me $800 - and may still be working somewhere. When I moved to an apartment that supplied a smaller one more than 10 years later, I gave the larger one to my mother, who used it every day.
As you have had a bit of experience already, my basic advice is: read - and follow - the manual/user guide; get a basic m/w cookbook if one is not already available; never put metal inside; time is often measured in seconds - and you can always ADD time; be cautious in removing items as the contents will usually be hotter than the container (and especially if liquid is present). And here are food safety tips from Health Canada
Your Catherine is no doubt experiencing both speechlessness and laughter. . .