We’re all looking for shortcuts to make meals easier and faster. And, with busy schedules and late nights at the office, getting dinner on the table can be a challenge on some nights. But is it okay to use the microwave to cook food when time is of the essence?
Famed horror author Stephen King recently shared his hack to quickly get dinner on the table on Twitter. His secret? Microwave the salmon for three minutes… and maybe serve it with a salad.
But the followers of the author, who wrote novels like Pet sematary and the shine, sensed something fishy about the hacking of King’s life, and the social media platform ignited with reactions. A twitter user replied, “Still writing horror I see #thefishinthemicrowave.” Another one joked, “Writing 12,000 words in an afternoon then eating Bounty poached salmon.”
Can you cook food in the microwave?
Of course, you box cook in the microwave, but should you?
“With people’s very fast pace of life, it’s something they should know how to do, but they may not know how to do it effectively where the food tastes good,” says Steph Chen, Founder and CEO of Anyday, a brand of cookware specifically designed for microwave cooking.
Chen suggests cooking anything water-based in the microwave for best results. “Anything steamed, stewed, boiled or braised is perfect for the microwave,” she says. “Essentially what the microwave does is it vibrates the water molecules in the food itself and that results in heat.”
How to cook safely in the microwave?
According to Josh Champion, owner of Take it Personal Chef Service, the key to having a microwave-safe meal is cooking food to the correct temperature. “The biggest mistake people make with microwave cooking is what we would call ‘standing time,'” says Champion, who holds multiple food safety certifications. “It’s just time that something [need to] stay in the microwave after the microwave beep sounds.”
For example, he explains, poultry must be heated to 165 F to be safe to eat, according to USDA guidelines. Due to the rapid and uneven cooking of a microwave, foods that need to be heated to a specific internal temperature must remain at that temperature for two minutes of standing time, compared to 15 seconds of standing time if a dish has been cooked on the stove or in the oven.
If you’re cooking leftovers, be sure to also remember the 165 F rule. “All reheated foods should always be brought to 165 degrees,” says Champion.
But not all foods need to reach 165 F. If you decide to microwave pork chops, for example, the USDA Food and Temperature Guide recommends cooking at 145 F. It is important to verify the proper internal temperature when microwaving any form of Meat.
Other microwave cooking tips
While vegetables come to mind when steaming food in the microwave, Chen also says that cooking cereal in the microwave can result in a delicious end product. “The microwave is surprisingly amazing for cooking any type of grain like rice, quinoa, farro, and brown rice,” she explains. “When you cook grains, you’re steaming them, and grains are difficult to cook on a stovetop consistently. Once you figure out how to do it in your microwave, it will come out exactly the same every time, which is amazing.”
Chen cautions that if you’re trying to brown or sear a food, the microwave isn’t the right tool to use for the whole cooking process. “You can start something in the microwave first,” she says. “So whether it’s chicken or vegetables [start with the microwave to cook it] then throw it under the broiler of a toaster oven, or just under the boiler of your regular oven, for a few minutes just to get that coal in.”
Chen says bacon is an easy starter meat for learning the idiosyncrasies of your specific microwave. Yes, just like people, all microwaves are different and work slightly differently. Chen suggests wrapping the bacon in a paper towel before heating it, then testing how long your microwave takes to cook it completely. “What you get there is usually extremely crispy bacon,” she explains.
Cookware companies, like Anyday, also make microwaveable lidded dishes designed for cooking bacon. “The lid is what prevents splattering and just after a few minutes your bacon is basically frying in its own oil,” she explains, “so you’ll have crispy bacon, and you’ll also have the fat of bacon that was returned that you can use for other things.”
Is there anything that shouldn’t be microwaved?
From a food safety perspective, Champion says there is absolutely no food that cannot be microwaved.
“I mean, you can literally throw a whole turkey in the microwave and as long as you cook it long enough in your microwave to cook the center to 165°F. [it would be edible]”, he says. “It would be a terrible product and you would not want to eat it, but nevertheless, it would still be safe because it will not make you sick.”
Eager to test your new microwave cooking skills? Chen provides his microwave meatloaf recipe.
Courtesy of Any day
8 oz (225 g) lean ground beef
½ cup (60 g) onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
¼ cup (20g) breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, minced onion, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, thyme or oregano, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce and egg and mix well. Wrap the mixture in a microwave-safe dish, pressing down to create an even surface.
In a small bowl, combine ketchup and brown sugar. Brush the top of the meatloaf with half the sauce, reserving the rest.
Cover with a vented lid and cook for 4-5 minutes or until meat is cooked through. Brush or spread remaining sauce on top of meatloaf while warm.
Let the meatloaf rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
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