Make the most of your microwave
MANY urban, upper middle class households possess an oven or microwave these days. Though baked food is not much of a craze in Indian homes, most housewives put their ovens or microwaves to good use for baking cakes or puddings or the latter simply for heating food. To put your microwaves to optimum use it is best to understand their mechanism and the ways in which you can take care of them and get the most out of them.
Microwaves cook with invisible radiation rather than heat as in the case of conventional ovens. they have become popular because they cook food in a fraction of the time used by conventional cooking ranges and ovens. For example, baking a potato takes almost half an hour to one hour in a conventional oven, whereas it can get cooked in about 4 minutes in a microwave.
Microwaves are good for thawing frozen food quickly, for cooking fresh or frozen vegetables and for preparing light meals or snacks faster. they can be used to reheat cooked food without affecting its texture or flavour—a boon for family members who may be late for meals or eat at different times.
A microwave melts butter or chocolate without lumping or burning it and it also requires less clean-up and releases less heat in the kitchen.
It is however not without its drawbacks. it may cook unevenly, leaving some hot and some cold spots. it can bake cakes and pies in less time but it won’t brown them and give them a crust.
Keep the food at the centre of a microwave-safe glass, ceramic or plastic dish. Do not use a metal container or one with metal edges. Metal can cause an electric arc that may damage the oven. Place the dish in the centre of the microwave so that the food will cook evenly on all sides.
To cook juicy meat, use drip pan made of oven-safe material or a rack specially designed for microwaves.
Meats can be cooked uncovered but most vegetables and combination dishes need to be covered with a lid or plastic film so that they won’t dry up. Leave a corner of the film turned back to let hot gases escape.
When cooking or reheating uneven-shaped foods, arrange the thicker or denser parts around the outside of the dish and the thinner or more tender parts at the centre.
A microwave begins cooking the moment you start it. So don’t wait for it to warm up. time the cooking from that point, as per the manufacturer’s manual.
To clean a microwave, cover any spill with a damp paper towel and turn the oven on high for 10 seconds. When the microwave is clean, wipe off the spill.
To clean burnt grease stains from a conventional oven, pour 1 cup ammonia into a glass or ceramic bowl and leave in the cool oven overnight. in the morning, wipe the oven clean with a solution of 1 cup ammonia in a bucket of water. wear rubber gloves while doing the cleaning.
When baking, protect the oven floor by placing aluminum foil directly under the pan that is likely to drip.
If you need to clean the oven floor use washing soda. Don’t use abrasives or steel wool scrubbers.
(Compiled by Chetna)