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Microwaves: Advantages And Disadvantages

Microwaves have been around for a long time and, initially, there was some debate as to their safety. Today, the view is that these handy kitchen tools cook food that is just as safe as any other. However, microwaves do still have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Microwaves

Traditional cooking usually leaves a hot surface that must be allowed to cool once the cooking is done. When baking in a traditional oven, the walls are extremely hot, leaving the risk of burns. Microwaves do not have these problems. They stay cool to the touch throughout the unit.

Food is heated directly in a microwave, passing through the cookware. This generally leaves the dish cool. This is not the case with conventional cooking in which the cookware absorbs the heat around it. Of course, care must still be taken to check cookware in microwaves since heat can be transferred to it from the hot food inside.

The high cooking temperature of conventional ovens or cooktops can cause carcinogens to form on food. Microwaves cook at a much lower temperature, heating the food using it's own internal water, thereby eliminating the formation of carcinogens. Many avoid the carcinogenic formation when using conventional appliances by heating the food in the microwave prior to placing it in a conventional source.

Disadvantages of Microwaves

To keep food safe from bacterial contamination, it must reach a specific temperature. When microwaves are used to reheat food, if this safe temperature is not met, there is a risk of illness from bacteria.

Time is needed to impart heat throughout food. When cooking in microwaves, the food is only heated for a very short time. This may cause the food to be cooked unevenly. Furthermore, the microwaves only reach a specific depth in the food. That is why cooking directions and recipes typically recommend a short waiting period once the food is done. This allows the heat to continue penetrating the food.

Microwave energy is dispersed unevenly, potentially causing uneven cooking of the food. This is usually minimized by a stirrer fan which sends the energy throughout the oven. It can also be minimized by using a turntable that rotates the food, although this may still leave spots. In addition, different foods absorb this energy at different rates throughout the food.

To minimize uneven absorption of energy, it may be helpful to arrange the food so that energy is absorbed evenly. Frozen foods are particularly susceptible to uneven cooking since parts of the food that is defrosted first begins to be cooked while parts still frozen do not. Most microwaves come with a defrost setting that reduces or eliminates this problem.

Most find that the advantages of microwaves far outweigh the disadvantages and, with even further improvements by manufacturers, these appliances will continue to grow in popularity and provide us with a quick and easy way to cook our food.

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