August 20, 2014

How to Buy a Microwave Oven

Whether you are looking for a basic model for heating up leftovers or one with options for baking and broiling, we have tips and information to make your decision easier.

Counter top ovens are the least expensive starting at as low as $25 and ranging in size from a compact 17″wide by 13′ deep to a larger 24″x20″.  Although these are meant to sit on the counter, some come with brackets for mounting under a cabinet.  Over-the-range models hang over the range (seems obvious!) which saves space and doubles as the vent over the oven.  Most are 30″wide.  o may require professional installation which will add to the cost.  These start at around $150.  Built-in microwaves come in many sizes to fit with various kitchen designs. They can be recessed almost flush with a wall or cabinet and placed at any height.  I have seen family rooms with kid level microwaves for heating up snacks.  Built-ins require professional installation.  Prices start at about $225

Some features to look for in your new microwave:

  • Shortcut keys: One touch preset buttons for defrosting and preparing microwave favorites like popcorn. Also, one-touch buttons for adding additional time or quick heating.
  • Removable turntable: Makes cleaning much easier
  • Sensor Technology:Measures food temperature ad automatically adjusts oven power to prevent over- or undercooking.
  • Steam element: A nice addition for vegetables or rice
  • Child safety lock: Password required for use

Another interesting option is the microwave-convection combination oven.  This oven uses an internal fan to heat food more evenly than a standard microwave.  It also has an additional heating element that allows you to roast, bake and brown like a conventional oven, just not quite as effectively.  These ovens are priced higher than standard microwaves.

One last tip before you head out to the store- bring along the largest dish you plan to use in your new microwave, that way you can be certain it will fit!

Basic Appliance Care and Safety

If you are lucky, you rarely need to pay much attention to the appliances that run, some of them 24 hours a day, in your home. But to keep everything trouble free, it’s good to follow some basic guidelines for care and safety when using or installing appliances in your home. Handymanclub.com offers some simples steps for use with your washer, dryer, refrigerator, ranges, cooktops, even your water heater.

Ventilation and combustion (dryers, water heaters, ranges and cooktops)
• Clean the clothes dryer’s lint filter before or after each load. Check behind the dryer for trapped lint. Clear lint from the exterior vent often. Lint buildup results in inefficiency and excessive wear and can even pose a fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 15,500 fires each year are associated with clothes dryers.
• Use only metal ducting for gas dryers because they run hotter than electric machines. Rigid rather than accordion-pleated ducting is best for airflow.
• Never vent clothes dryers or water heaters into the house to supplement heating.

Plumbing (washers, refrigerators and water heaters)
• To prevent leaky or bursting waterlines, check washing machine hoses for signs of wear. Consider replacing rubber hoses with newer braided stainless steel hoses.
• Check the screens at either end of the water hoses and remove sediment that may have collected there. This is especially important after road construction or water-main work has been done in your area.
• Periodically check that the washing machine is soundly footed and level so the hoses and the drain hose do not come loose.
• If a dishwasher’s tub doesn’t empty after operation, detach the drain line from the household drain and clean any debris from the line.

Gas (dryers, ranges and water heaters)
• Never use an oven as a room heater — combustion pollutants resulting from fuel-burning appliances can cause illness or death. Have gas appliances serviced periodically to ensure they burn with the proper mix of air and fuel.
• Be sure all vented appliances are checked for backdrafting. (This is one reason that it’s important for a city building official to inspect newly installed vented appliances.)

Electric
• Diehard DIYers may bristle at this warning from the CPSC — nonetheless, it’s a lifesaver. Never attempt to repair a microwave oven — because they use high-voltage power, they can pose a risk of electrical shock even after they are disconnected from the power source.
• Use dedicated circuits for large appliances such as washers and dryers.
• Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.

LG Appliance Rebate

If you have been considering buying a new kitchen appliance, now might be the time to act. LG is offering a rebate of up to $500 on their kitchen appliances. The deal starts at $250 for two appliances and goes up to the $500 if you buy four. You can outfit your whole kitchen if you choose, as LG makes gas and electric ranges, dishwashers, refrigerators and microwaves, all of which are part of the rebate program. The offer ends May 12, 2008. You can view the details here.

Smallest Microwave Ever Built

Phil Davis is the Managing Member of iCubed International, the company that makes the smallest microwave ever built. “I was looking for a way to do a hot towel treatment before my shave,”
said Davis, “I figured the only way I could do that was to have a microwave in the bathroom. I went and got a tape measure, and it went from there.”
From there, it became what it is today: the world’s smallest patented,
personal-sized, portable microwave that is perfect for a number of uses: in
the bathroom to heat towels, paraffin waxes, lotions and more. In the
bedroom it can heat gel packs to soothe aches and pains, or heat that
morning coffee or tea without a trip downstairs. It’s perfect for any place
where space is at a premium: work or home office; home gym; family room;
nursery; wet bar; dorm room; work bench; pool house. It features a built-in
carry handle that makes it perfect for tailgate parties and picnics. It has
all the electronic controls and safety features you would expect, and it
plugs in anyplace that has a standard outlet. It’s quiet,
super-energy-efficient, measures just 10″ x 10.5″ x 12″ and weighs only 12
lbs. The iWave Cube input is 600 Watts.
Davis sees the uses of this microwave as diverse, helping boaters, RV enthusiasts, and truckers
equip their vehicles, to helping senior citizens and the physically challenged by alleviating their need to go back and forth to the kitchen.
It retails for $149.95.

Guidelines for Safe Microwave Use

Microwaves are so common a household appliance and have been in homes for so many years, most of us can’t remember a time when we weren’t “zapping” our food. Still, using an appliance daily, we can get careless with how we use it. These guidelines can help you “zap” safely.

Cookware, containers and wraps

Only use cookware that is specially labeled for use in the microwave oven. Never use cookware that has metal in its composition.

Use microwave-safe plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, glass, ceramic containers and white microwave-safe paper towels.

Silicone products can handle heat, and work well. But check product labeling before using silicone bakeware.

Don’t use plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, and other one-time use containers because they may contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which becomes soft and pliable, possibly allowing chemicals to transfer to food.

Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil.

Do not let plastic wrap touch foods while cooking.

Reheating

A microwave does not always cook evenly. Minimize any cool or hot spots by occasionally stirring during the heating process.

If you don’t have a rotating plate in your microwave, stirring is even more important as microwaves cook from the center, out.

Place a plain white paper towel (not brands made with recycled or colored paper printed with dyes), a white paper plate or microwave-safe lid over the food. That helps hold in moisture and contains any bubbling over or popping, splashing food – and extra cleaning time.

Cooking

Never deep-fry food. The temperature can get too high, creating a flash point.

The microwave is perfect for baking those last-minute potatoes. Use a fork to poke holes in the potato before cooking. Bake an average-size potato about 10 minutes or until soft to the touch, turning halfway through. Finish up in the oven for a crispy skin.

Defrosting

Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and plastic wraps because they are not heat-stable. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food.

Plan on immediately cooking foods that you defrost in the microwave. Do not pre-defrost food; some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during defrosting, and may speed bacteria development.

Use these tips along with your own common sense for safe microwave cooking. Also, when in doubt, check the user’s manual that comes with every microwave.

Cooking Safely in the Microwave

Microwave ovens can play an important role at mealtime, but special care must be taken when cooking or reheating meat, poultry, fish, and eggs to make sure they are prepared safely. Microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave “cold spots,” where harmful bacteria can survive. For this reason, it is important to use the following safe microwaving tips to prevent foodborne illness.

Microwave Oven Cooking

    * Arrange food items evenly in a covered dish and add some liquid if needed. Cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap; loosen or vent the lid or wrap to let steam escape. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and ensure uniform cooking. Cooking bags also provide safe, even cooking.
    * Do not cook large cuts of meat on high power (100%). Large cuts of meat should be cooked on medium power (50%) for longer periods. This allows heat to reach the center without overcooking outer areas.
    * Stir or rotate food midway through the microwaving time to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive, and for more even cooking.
    * When partially cooking food in the microwave oven to finish cooking on the grill or in a conventional oven, it is important to transfer the microwaved food to the other heat source immediately. Never partially cook food and store it for later use.
    * Use a food thermometer or the oven’s temperature probe to verify the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Cooking times may vary because ovens vary in power and efficiency. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
    * Cook foods to the following safe minimum internal temperatures:
          o Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145 °F.
          o All cuts of pork to 160 °F.
          o Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F.
          o Egg dishes, casseroles to 160 °F.
          o Leftovers to 165 °F.
          o Stuffed poultry is not recommended. Cook stuffing separately to 165 °F.
          o All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
    * Cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven is not recommended. The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria.

Microwave Defrosting

    * Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and because they are not heat stable at high temperatures. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food. ( There is some controversy about this.)
    * Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles, and fish immediately after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas of the food may begin to cook during the defrosting time. Do not hold partially cooked food to use later.
    * Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.
    * Heat ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meats, fully cooked ham, and leftovers until steaming hot.
    * After reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow standing time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 165 °F.

Containers & Wraps

    * Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers, and all plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use.
    * Plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers should not be used in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
    * Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
    * Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.

Cooking Safely in the Microwave

Microwave ovens can play an important role at mealtime, but special care must be taken when cooking or reheating meat, poultry, fish, and eggs to make sure they are prepared safely. Microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave “cold spots,” where harmful bacteria can survive. For this reason, it is important to use the following safe microwaving tips to prevent foodborne illness.

Microwave Oven Cooking

    * Arrange food items evenly in a covered dish and add some liquid if needed. Cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap; loosen or vent the lid or wrap to let steam escape. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and ensure uniform cooking. Cooking bags also provide safe, even cooking.
    * Do not cook large cuts of meat on high power (100%). Large cuts of meat should be cooked on medium power (50%) for longer periods. This allows heat to reach the center without overcooking outer areas.
    * Stir or rotate food midway through the microwaving time to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive, and for more even cooking.
    * When partially cooking food in the microwave oven to finish cooking on the grill or in a conventional oven, it is important to transfer the microwaved food to the other heat source immediately. Never partially cook food and store it for later use.
    * Use a food thermometer or the oven’s temperature probe to verify the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Cooking times may vary because ovens vary in power and efficiency. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
    * Cook foods to the following safe minimum internal temperatures:
          o Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145 °F.
          o All cuts of pork to 160 °F.
          o Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F.
          o Egg dishes, casseroles to 160 °F.
          o Leftovers to 165 °F.
          o Stuffed poultry is not recommended. Cook stuffing separately to 165 °F.
          o All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
    * Cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven is not recommended. The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria.

Microwave Defrosting

    * Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and because they are not heat stable at high temperatures. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food. ( There is some controversy about this.)
    * Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles, and fish immediately after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas of the food may begin to cook during the defrosting time. Do not hold partially cooked food to use later.
    * Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.
    * Heat ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meats, fully cooked ham, and leftovers until steaming hot.
    * After reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow standing time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 165 °F.

Containers & Wraps

    * Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers, and all plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use.
    * Plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers should not be used in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
    * Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
    * Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.

How Food Cooks – Conduction, Convection and Radiation

If you are feeling scientific and have begun to wonder how it is that the microwave or convection oven really cooks your food, or even what good old fashioned heat is doing to your meal, we’ve found your answers.  At drdavescience.com, a PhD candidate with a flair for explaining the scientific tells us how it all works. 

The science of heat

Cooking is the transfer of heat energy from some source to the food. In the kitchen there are three devices that are used to cook food: the stovetop, conventional oven, and microwave oven. Each of these devices are designed around a different method of heat transfer.

The movement of heat is so important that there is a name for it: Thermodynamics. By understanding how heat moves, we can gain insight into our everyday world. It is responsible for the weather, car engines, your refrigerator, cooking, and a host of other things that you may not have even thought about.

Heat is transferred in three basic ways listed below:

Conduction is heat transfer through direct contact. When cooking on the stovetop, the heat from the flame or electric grill is applied directly to the frying pan. This means that only the flat surface of the pan is sufficiently hot enough to cook anything and we must flip and toss around the food to cook it properly. conduction cooking a sandwich

It is important to note that most pans are made of metals, like copper, that conduct heat very efficiently and do not melt on the stovetop.

Convection is heat transfer through a fluid. The fluid can be liquid or gas and in the case of a convection oven, the fluid we care about is air.

An oven is a confined area that gets hot by flames or electric coils. The air inside is warmed to a desired temperature and, as a result, cooks the food from all directions. This method of heat transfer is responsible for pizzas, cakes, and other baked treats!

Keep in mind that ovens heat foods from the outside. The inside slowly heats up with time, and it is not uncommon to see food where the outside looks done, but the inside is uncooked. This is very important when preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, and there are special thermometers that measure the temperature of the food in the center of the turkey to show that it is properly cooked. (editor’s note:  All ovens cook by convection – where the hot interior air does the cooking.  What appliance manufacturers call “convection ovens” have an additional heating element and an extra fan to make the air circulation more efficient and effective, boosting the heat transfer from the air to the food, and thus altering the way the food cooks -faster, dryer etc..)

Radiation is the transfer of heat using electromagnetic radiation. A microwave oven uses very strong radio waves (a form of electromagnetic radiation), which are very weak and not hot. So how does it work? microwave oven

Microwave ovens work by spinning water, fats, sugars and oils inside the food. This causes friction, which then heats the food and cooks it from the inside.

Please do not be confused by the word radiation or electromagnetic radiation. In science, these terms are very general and mean a lot of things. Radiation comes from many sources, some are beneficial and others are harmful. For example, solar radiation from the Sun is responsible for heating the Earth and the light we see is a form of electromagnetic radiation.

As you know, heat is very important in the cooking process. Now you have the basic knowledge of heat transfer.