Got a microwave at home? Almost every household has one, but very few people make the most of them. Microwave technology has come a long way in recent years, and most microwave ovens now offer a whole host of different functions and tricks to make your life easier. This article explains how to use the most common settings on your microwave, what they can do, and how to save time and energy by using your microwave instead of your oven.

The Knowhow

First things first - what type of microwave do you have? There are various different types, each with its own unique specification. There are built-in microwaves (which form an integral part of your kitchen), microwaves which serve as small-scale substitutes for a traditional oven, and microwaves designed to cook different types of food at the same time.

Convection oven microwaves v. conventional microwaves
Auto-reheat
Two-level cooking
The Pizza Oven
Defrosting

Convection oven microwaves v. conventional microwaves

A conventional microwave emits waves which can diffuse through materials such as glass and plastic; this means that food can be cooked in a wide range of different containers.

Convection microwaves use radiant heat (heat which is directed at specific objects, rather than the surrounding atmosphere). Convection ovens allow the user to perform baking functions such as roasting and grilling foods.

The most important factor to bear in mind with convection microwave ovens - and the main reason that they tend to be more expensive than a standard microwave - is that they allow the user to cook several foods (which demand different cooking techniques) simultaneously in a single microwave.

This works by making use of a heating element (to brown and grill foods), while elsewhere in the compartment a heating fan bakes, steams or roasts the remainder.

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Auto-reheat

The auto-reheat buttons are a simple time-saving device. It's well-worth spending a few minutes programming the details of your favourite foods into your microwave, so that you can cook them more quickly using the auto-reheat buttons at a later date. Auto-reheat remembers the average cooking time for a specific item (e.g. a chicken or a baked potato), and creates a quick-launch programme for that item in the future. This way; rather than re-entering the cooking instructions every single time you cook your favourite food, you simply hit the auto-reheat shortcut and leave the microwave to it.

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Two-level cooking

Another great time-saver; you can use your microwave in much the same way as you use your regular oven. Dual-level cooking involves using a special grill to cook several foods (all of which would usually need to be cooked at different times in different cooking appliances) at the same time. If, for example, you wanted to cook a Sunday lunch in a convection microwave, you could roast parsnips and roast potatoes on the top level, and the meat on the bottom level. The vegetables could then be steamed at a later date.

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The Pizza Oven

Many microwave ovens now offer a pizza oven function. This uses a special plate to crisp up pizza bases, and a grill function to cook. The pizza oven is easy to use, and makes a nice alternative to conventional gas or electric Oven baking.

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Defrosting

Most food products now come with their weight clearly marked on the packaging. Look for the weight (check that the number given is not the weight per 100g) and key this into your microwave. You can then leave an item to defrost, and your microwave will automatically determine when the food is ready.

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Updated On:

Nov 30, 2012

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