You Are At: AllSands Home > Food > Howto > Easy microwave cooking
"Stick it in on High for two minutes" is a phrase that summarizes many people's complete understanding of cooking things in a microwave. Okay, so maybe something really big will take longer than two minutes, but no one's really sure how long, so you set it for TEN minutes and watch to see what explodes.

Rather than employ this hit-or-miss method of cooking, try thinking about a few simple aspects of the food you're cooking. This will help you determine the best way to cook it in your microwave.

FOOD CONTENT: BONES/FAT, DENSITY, AND MOISTURE. The very nature of the food itself determines much about the way it should be cooked. Meat can be a tricky item to cook in the microwave. If the piece of meat you're cooking has even fat distribution and no bones, the meat should cook fairly evenly. If it has fat pockets in certain areas or a bone running through the meat, you'll want to turn the piece of meat frequently during the cooking process.

Meat is also one of the more dense foods you'll cook in a microwave. Dense foods require longer cooking times than light foods such as bread or brownies. In fact, these lighter items require such short heating times that cooks often overcook them and end up sucking every drop of moisture from an innocent piece of bread. Adding a bowl of water beside a piece of bread when you heat it can help to alleviate this risk.

Some meats, such as fish and poultry, have a high moisture content and will therefore cook more quickly and require less turning than drier items. Foods with very low moisture content should have water added to them while you cook them in the microwave.

SHAPE, SIZE, AND QUANTITY OF FOODS: The ideal food to cook in a microwave will have small, moist, even pieces that are all the same size. Of course, as you know, food is rarely like that. When possible, you'll want to cut your food into the smallest possible evenly sized pieces before cooking. If what you're cooking has parts that are thin and parts that are thick, you'll want to take care that the thicker parts are toward the outside of the microwave. Things toward the outside receive more of the microwave's cooking power.

Increasing the quantity of food you're cooking requires increasing the time the food will take to cook. Doubling a recipe won't necessarily mean doubling the cooking time, however. You'll want to increase the cooking time by about half and then check the food and add more cooking time (if necessary) in small increments.

As you read the information above about the nature of the food you'll be cooking you may have noticed that there are a few techniques you can use to ensure that your food cooks correctly regardless of its nature. These included TURNING the food (this also means STIRRING, which you can think of as a way of turning many pieces of food at once), ARRANGING the food (with the thickest parts toward the outside), and ADDING WATER to the food. In addition to these techniques, you can COVER part of the food with small pieces of tinfoil (this won't hurt your microwave as long as the pieces don't touch each other or touch the microwave). This is especially helpful when you have food with a few thinner pieces or corners that will overcook.