Microwave cooking has brought forth a high degree of convenience that can never be replicated by other types of cooking processes. But a microwave oven is not an all-in-one kitchen appliance. There are several food preparation requirements that are better suited in a conventional cooking process, using a particular appliance and cookware.
The pros of microwave cooking
1. Ideal for reheating: Reheating previously cooked food is one of the notable uses of microwave ovens. This is ideal for preparing and consuming leftovers and ready-to-eat food items. Furthermore, proper reheating method can repress the growth of disease-causing microorganisms.
2. Defrosting food: Thawing frozen meat is part of the cooking process. Conventional thawing methods take too much time. In addition, defrosting meat in room temperature or warm water can lead to growth of disease-causing microorganisms. These organisms thrive between 5°C to 60°C. A microwave oven can quickly and safely thaw frozen meat given the appropriate setting.
3. Rapid cooking: Another advantage of microwave cooking is rapid heating. Some food items can easily burn or turn lumpy when heated in conventional pans. Examples are butter and margarine, other fats, chocolate, and porridge. Blanching vegetables through microwave cooking is also a better and safer alternative to blanching using boiling water.
4. Minimal nutrient loss: Cooking or reheating food using a microwave oven does not lead to significant loss of nutrients unlike in other cooking processes. Remember that exposing food under high temperatures alters it nutritional profile. However, microwave cooking minimizes nutrient loss because it heats food within a short amount of time.
5. Recipe variety: There is more to microwave ovens than reheating food. A notable advantage of microwave cooking is its versatility, especially in considering the different foods that can be cooked and prepared using a microwave oven. These include brownies and flourless cakes, potato chips, blanched veggies, and baked pasta, among others.
The cons of microwave cooking
1. Does not induce Mallard reactions: Browning or caramelizing food is generally not possible via microwave cooking. Unlike a conventional oven, a microwave oven does not attain the required 140°C to 150°C to induce Mallard reactions. Note that the Mallard effect is a chemical reaction that gives browned foods their distinctive flavor. In other words, limitation in recipes is one of the notable cons of microwave cooking.
2. Uneven heat distribution: Another disadvantage of microwave cooking, especially in reheating previously cooked food is the susceptibility to uneven heating. The physical properties of food and its components, such as the size and shape, as well as their different thermal profiles affect how they absorb microwave energy. This leads to undistributed heating and ineffective repression of microorganism growth.
3. Super-heated water: Most of the reported accidents involving the use of microwave ovens involve burns and injuries form improper food handling. Moreover, a noteworthy problem of microwave cooking is exploding water. Water that is heated beyond the boiling temperature without signs of boiling is called super-heated water. Slight disturbance may cause this water to suddenly burst or explode as it releases built-up heat.
4. Health and safety hazards: To reiterate, susceptibility to food-borne diseases due to improper reheating method and thermal injuries due to improper food handling are the disadvantages of microwave cooking. In addition, a damaged microwave oven can lead to exposure to microwave energy and chemicals used in its magnetron. Using non-microwavable containers such as low-grade plastics runs the risks of contaminating the food with undesirable chemicals.
5. Power hungy: Another problem with microwave cooking is energy inefficiency. A typical microwave oven consumes 1100W of electricity to produce a microwave power equivalent to 700W. This means that microwave ovens have a general energy efficiency of only 64 percent. Prolonged microwave cooking essentially consumes high amounts of electricity. It is in this regard that other cooking processes that use gas or induction technology are more economical.