July 25, 2014

Newest Microwave Features

Microwave ovens have been around for over forty years during which most people used them for exciting tasks such as heating leftovers, warming coffee and making popcorn.  There were those adventurers that added to their cooking repertoire by preparing whole meals in the microwave.

But how to improve a product whose entire purpose is to be simple? Oven makers right now are betting on steam. Sharp has a $1,000 microwave that uses steam to cook more thoroughly, keep food moist without adding fat and help heat penetrate better (consumers fill a water reservoir attached to the oven). Whirlpool Corp. offers steam in a combination microwave-ventilation hood, starting at $349. It’s a space saver because it goes over a gas or electric range.

Steam microwaves are aimed at people who are in the market for an oven with special features, but not necessarily a microwave. “For anyone looking for a steam oven, it’s much cheaper than the other options,”  says Jason Hughes, associate director of product planning and development at Sharp Electronics, a unit of Sharp Corp., in Japan.   Conventional steam ovens cost upward of $2,000.

Now could be an opportune time to introduce new features. The number of meals Americans prepared at home using a microwave rose 9.5% to 47 billion meals last year, the first usage increase in decades, according to NPD Group.

Consumers are “actually doing a lot more meal preparation” in their microwaves, says Bob Schiffmann, president of R.F. Schiffmann Associates Inc., a New York consulting firm.

New-and-improved microwaves face big challenges. “Not every customer’s lifestyle is the same,” says Sue Bailey, director of major-appliance product management at Viking Range Corp., which has introduced a $1,275 microwave in a pull-out drawer that sits under the kitchen counter. Viking says it may come out with a steam device. “Some want steam, some just want things a little more quickly, and others just want a little more space” inside, Ms. Bailey says.

“It’s a product that still hasn’t been perfected after all these years,” says David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel International Group, whose research indicates 93% of households have a microwave oven. “It still doesn’t do everything people want it to do,” he says.

It may be simply a matter of sex appeal. Boxy, noisy, at times smelling bad, the microwave oven hasn’t inspired the kind of lust and romance that a trophy refrigerator or oven marketed as professional-grade commands from upscale homeowners.

The average microwave lasts only about eight or nine years, Mr. Lockwood says, and many consumers own microwaves that cost less than $90. “The average buyer still wants the cheapest possible solution,” he says.

You can read about the history of the microwave oven in our article “The Microwave Oven-a Brief  History”

The Microwave Oven- a Brief History

I remember my parents first microwave; my father insisted my mother needed this newfangled  appliance, and she was equally insistent that it would, and I quote, collect dust.  Fast forward 35 years or so, and she’s using her newest stainless steel model daily.

I was a kid when that first microwave appeared and never gave much thought to the technological progress it represented – how it came to be sitting there- ’til now, so…

Here’s a quick overview of the history of the microwave oven:
1945
Percy Spencer of Raytheon Co. discovers microwave heating after finding that microwave energy had melted a candy bar in his pocket.

1947

Raytheon produces its first microwave oven. It costs between $2,000 and $3,000, and is intended for commercial use.

1960′s

Companies are developing countertop microwaves, like this Litton model.

1970′s

Microwaves start to become widespread. Primary buyers are men, who purchase them as gifts for their wives. (My Dad probably thought he had thought of a unique gift.)

Early’80′s

Orville Redenbacher introduces its first room-temperature microwavable popcorn.
1987
Barbara Kafka’s “Microwave Gourmet,” a cookbook for those who want to do more than heat leftovers and make popcorn with their microwaves, hits shelves.
2009

Heinz introduces the Beanzawave. It is 7.4 inches tall and is said to be the world’s smallest microwave. 

MicroFridge-Sized and Designed for the Dorm Room

MicroFridge, the industry leader in compact specialty appliances, today introduced the next generation in small space convenience. The new product line includes patent-pending Safe Plug® technology and also features a Dual Outlet Charge Station that enables people to safely and conveniently charge a range of popular electronic devices such as laptop computers, MP3 players, cell phones, digital cameras and more.

Combining a spacious refrigerator, freezer and microwave in a single unit, a MicroFridge appliance is perfect wherever space is limited and there’s a need for food and refreshments – including hotels, college residence halls, assisted living residences, military housing, offices and at home too. The compact MicroFridge refrigerator features over two cubic feet of storage space, while the separate freezer boasts a 0.75 cubic foot capacity. For food preparation, there is a fully programmable 700-watt microwave oven. The refrigerator’s Smart Store Door allows the upright storage of two-liter bottles or half-gallon containers to eliminate leaks and spills that can result when storing tall containers on their side. And the roomy zero-degree freezer ensures that items like ice cream stay perfectly frozen.

The microwave features three, distinct “Express Cook” settings, along with pre-programmed recipes for soup, beverages, pizza and popcorn; the beeper volume is adjustable and can also be set to mute.  The patent–pending Safe Plug power management system technology is another feature that makes MicroFridge truly unique, automatically shutting off the refrigerator and charging station when the microwave is on, limiting the maximum electrical draw of the unit to just 11 amps.
“This reduces utility expenses and is good for the environment,” said Jim Russo, Vice President Product Sales of Intirion Corporation – the makers of MicroFridge. “Traditional refrigerators and microwaves can pull nearly twice that amount, potentially overloading electrical systems and creating costly problems.”
MicroFridge’s Safe Plug technology also enables users to operate both the refrigerator and microwave utilizing only one electrical socket. The blue plug on the refrigerator unit plugs into the back of the microwave with only the microwave plug required to power the unit. This oneplug-to-the-wall operation saves valuable outlet space as well.
The new Dual Outlet Charge Station makes MicroFridge the only company to offer this design and technology, providing exceptional convenience to safely charge personal electronics.  Located in the front of the microwave, busy consumers can power up their laptops, MP3 players, cell phones, digital cameras, or any device that draws four amps of power or less. This eliminates the need to reach into inaccessible places to plug and unplug devices that require charging. And the integrated Cord Clip prevents cables from getting tangled or caught in the doors of the fridge or freezer while the Dual Outlet Charge Station is in use.

MicroFridge is ENERGY STAR rated and has achieved the highest rating for energy efficiency: CEE Tier 3 status. In addition, the Safe Plug technology further enhances the products’ energysaving benefit by temporarily shutting off the refrigerator when the microwave is in use.

Price and Availability
The MicroFridge combination appliance is used by college students across the U.S., and is also found in hotel and motel rooms, assisted living residences and on U.S. military bases. Models are available in classic black, white and stainless steel. The MicroFridge 2.9MF-7TP model combination appliance retails for $425.00 and is available for purchase, along with other models, direct from the manufacturer online at www.microfridge.com.

Cook Microwave Ready Meals Safely

After more than thirty people in twelve states contracted salmonella from microwaveable dinners, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a warning on February 12th about microwaving food.

“Foods cooked improperly in the microwave have the potential to make people sick,” said Graciela Padua, a research associate professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Padua added that one of the main reasons for the salmonella outbreak is because people simply don’t follow the directions on the food’s packaging. If consumers read the instructions more carefully, the risk of sickness would be minimized, she said.

When you heat up a microwave ready meal, be sure the food is heated thoroughly, all the way through the package. If possible, stir the food to distribute the heat and continue cooking until the entire meal is hot to the touch.

Admit it – You Love Your Microwave

Microwaves are one of the great conveniences of life. They heat up our coffee and lunch at work, make popcorn for snacks and heat up leftovers for a quick dinner.  While most of us admit to using the microwave for these tasks, there are fewer who find they truly cook meals using them.

“Everyone says that all they use it for is defrosting, reheating and making popcorn,” Johanna Burkhard says at a recent Microwave Myth Debunking session put on by Panasonic at Toronto’s Calphalon Culinary Centre, “but when I tell them to write down everything they’ve put into it over a week, they surprise themselves.”

Burkhard should know. She wrote the book on it. Or rather, one of the books on microwave cooking, hers being 125 Best Microwave Oven Recipes. Other best-sellers include The Well-Filled Microwave Cookbook and Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka, regarded as the bible on the subject.

Your may find that you mostly melt chocolate or steam some broccoli in your microwave but Burkhard shows that you can whip up several fast and nutritious dishes, including perfectly cooked asparagus with Gorgonzola and pine nuts, Mediterranean chicken, and an especially tasty one-dish meal of spicy ginger salmon with steamed vegetables.

Go ahead, try it:

JOHANNA BURKHARD’S SPICY GINGER SALMON WITH STEAMED VEGETABLES – 3 tbsp (45mL) orange juice – 4 tsp (20mL) soy sauce – 1 tbsp (15mL) rice vinegar – 1 tbsp (15mL) packed brown sugar – 1 tsp (5mL) cornstarch – 2 tsp (10mL) minced fresh ginger – 1 small clove garlic, minced – ½ tsp (2mL) chili paste or to taste – 2 centre-cut salmon fillets (5 ozs/150g each), skin removed – 1 cup (250mL) thinly sliced mushrooms – 2 cups (500mL) shredded Swiss chard or spinach – ½ red bell pepper, cut into 2″ (5cm) thin strips – 1 green onion, finely sliced

1. In a glass measure, blend orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Add ginger, garlic and chili paste. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, stirring once, until sauce comes to a full boil and thickens. Sauce will be quite thick. 2. Place salmon in an 8″ (2L) glass baking dish, pour prepared sauce overtop, cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap and turn back one corner to vent. Microwave on medium (50% power) for 3½ to 5 minutes or until fish is just opaque.

3. Layer with mushrooms, Swiss chard, red pepper and green onion. Cover and cook at medium for 3 to 4 minutes or until Swiss chard is just wilted and pepper is tender-crisp.  (I suggest serving this with rice.) Makes 2 servings.

Who Started it?

We are all so accustomed to having a microwave and dishwasher in the kitchen these days, but did you ever wonder who started it all?

In some cases the answer is Whirlpool, and they are proud of it.  Whirlpool introduced the first the countertop microwave and automatic washing machine. KitchenAid which is now owned by Whirlpool, brought us the automatic dishwasher.  Whirlpool also unveiled high capacity, front-load laundry units in the U.S.

Just a little bit of appliance history brought to you today by appliance.net.

A Blonde Walked into an Appliance Store…

A blonde went to the appliance store sale and found a bargain.

“I would like to buy this TV,” she told the salesman.

“Sorry we don’t sell to blondes,” he replied.

She hurried home, dyed her hair, came back again and told the salesman, “I would like to buy this TV.”

“Sorry we don’t sell to blondes,” he replied.

“Darn, he recognized me,” she thought.

She went for a complete disguise this time. A new haircut and new color, a new outfit, and big sunglasses. Then she waited a few days before she again approached the salesman. “I would like to buy this TV,” she told the salesman.

“Sorry we don’t sell to blondes,” he replied.

Frustrated, she exclaimed, “How do you know I’m a blonde?”

“Because that’s a microwave,” he replied.

You can read more jokes at askmen.com

Bread Bakers Can Use the Microwave

Now that my title has your attention, I’ll be a little more specific.  Whirlpool suggests that it’s Speedcook microwave can be used as a proofing box for maintaining an appropriate and steady temperature while proofing breads.  Home bakers who are trying to create their own artisan breads often find the loaves rising either too quickly or too slowly depending on the ambient temperature of the room.  Whirlpool suggests these steps to help bakers keep a proper temperature:

Using the convection setting:
Place dough in a lightly greased ovenproof bowl, and cover
loosely with shortening-coated wax paper.
1. Place a shallow, ovenproof container, such as a pie plate,
filled with 2 cups (500 mL) boiling water on the turntable.
2. Place the convection rack on the turntable, and then place
the bowl of dough on the convection rack and close the door.
3. Touch “Time/Temp/Power” on the Main Menu, then select
“Bake.”
4. Follow instructions on the display to program the proofing
time (about 45 minutes).
5. Touch “Temp 350°,” and then set a temperature of 100°F
(38°C) using the “-” control or number pads.
6. Touch “Start Preheat,” and then touch “Skip Preheat.”
7. Touch “Start” on the touch screen, or START control.
The display will count down the proofing (baking) time.
Check dough after 20 to 25 minutes. Proofing time may vary depending on
the type and quantity of dough. Proofing time may be
changed during the countdown by touching “Adjust
Settings,” and then following the instructions on the display.
When the cycle ends, the end-of-cycle tones will sound,
followed by reminder tones.
When proofing is done, remove bowl of bread dough and continue with your recipe as desired.

If you own the Speedcook and would like to let us know how this works, we’d love to hear from you.